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Recently ITAG member, Marcia Wall, attended the National Association for Gifted Children conference and brought back this news to share ~ Thank you, Marcia!

Is Talent Development at Risk?

by Marcia Wall

Talent development has been an important concept for many leaders in the field of Gifted education. How do we nurture and grow high ability and creative thinking into productivity?

Talent development encompasses not only students who have been formally identified as Gifted based on high scores on ability or achievement tests, it refers to many more students who are sitting in classrooms throughout our state with the potential for great achievement and productivity. Our students come from diverse backgrounds. A few students enter our classrooms spewing information about obscure topics, toting books under their arms two or three years above the classroom reading level.  Other students need the extra encouragement, rich experiences, and exposure to challenging material to emerge from their cocoons.  If those experiences and challenges don’t happen in the regular classroom, these students’ capabilities may never surface. Our more obvious identified gifted students need the same kind of nurturing educational experiences and exposure to challenging materials daily to maintain and continue their levels of achievement and productivity.

From partnering with colleagues in the field of neuroscience we know that the brain is an ever changing organ where synapses grow with stimulation and are pruned away when they are no longer used. Intelligence is fluid.  That the old expression “use it or lose it” is alive and well, and being proven in our classrooms.

In September of this past year, the Fordham Institute released the results of a longitudinal study that looked at test scores of our brightest students since the 2002 “No Child Left Behind Act” was signed into law. Tracking the individual scores of nearly 82,000 students on computerized adaptive tests, the study found that of the students who scored at the 90th percentile or above in math as 3rd Graders, only 57.3 percent scored as well by the time they were 8th graders.  Analysis of scores also found that of more than 43,000 6th graders who scored in the top tenth on the reading test, only 52.4 percent were scoring as well when they were tested as tenth graders.

The study raises questions about public schools being forced to make trade-offs. Michael J. Petrilli, the executive vice president of the Fordham Institute and a former U.S. Department of Education official under President George W. Bush says, “We’ve been making good progress for kids at the bottom and for poor and minority kids-that’s important. It just can’t be the only thing we do.” Is helping the kids at the bottom improve and closing the achievement gap hurting kids at the top?

A coalition of advocacy and education groups would like to see changes in NCLB, currently the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  These acts were designed with a commitment to children and schools that quality education is a civil right, and the lack of it for ALL children is the civil rights issue of our time. It is time we join with others in a commitment toward advocacy that promotes talent development and accountability for quality education for ALL students.

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