Education has taken a major swing in the last five years with its new focus on the Response to Intervention movement.  Through the RTI program, students that are in the bottom 20% of their class are to receive Tier I interventions in their regular education classroom.  While many resources define this as differentiated instruction, many others define it as direct, small group instruction.  This all sounds like a great plan to help those that may be struggling or need additional support to succeed, however, there are some students in which this may actually have a negative impact on…the gifted students.

Gifted students can be defined as students who are talented, have a natural talent or gift,  and have intellectual superiority over their peers.  These are students that generally think above their grade level, learn information quickly, are very curious, enjoy challenges, and have strong expressive skills.  The characteristics of a gifted child are numerous and need to be considered when educating a child of this intellectual capacity.

However, with the focus on the lower end of the standardized testing bell curve, these children are often left to fend for themselves.  The push for improving scores on testing has caused the focus to move towards the students needing support to succeed.  The gifted child is considered as “doing just fine” and will do well on the test no matter the amount of additional support they may receive.  So, the focus is placed on the students that are in the bottom of the class.

I can honestly say that this is WRONG!  All children deserve the same amount of attention from a teacher no matter their learning capabilities, whether it be deficient or superior.  I often think about this during my time with my students in their RtI Tier I groups.  Fifteen to twenty minutes of time is required to be spent with my small groups to help improve their mathematical abilities because of an area that they are deficient in.  Unfortunately, in a 42 minutes class, the same time is not afforded to my gifted students.  It is a personal, moral battle that I struggle with as I witness my mathematically talented students work together without me challenging their thoughts, while I work with my Tier I students to understand the basic concepts.

It is time for a change.  The United States falls further and further behind when compared to other countries.  Could it be the drastic cuts in gifted education funding?  Could the focus be on the wrong group of students?  Illinois has completely cut funding for gifted education programs.  Come on Illinois…these are the future Bill Gates of the world.  These are the students that will create the cure to cancer and the solution to the global warming crisis.  Why are we not focusing on these students?  How can we compete in the world market when we are not helping our top students to excel?  It is a disservice to our country to not push these students to do great things!

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Without the funding, providing students a challenge in the regular education program is now placed in the hands of teachers who are being forced to focus their time and instruction on improving the data that they collect on the students.  Many of us are not trained to educate the gifted student.  Training is of the utmost importance to truly understand these students.  If not, teachers will begin to see their gifted children become complacent, doing what it takes just to get by because they are not being challenged.  They will become discipline problems out of boredom, not because they are bad children.  They will lose their love for learning because they are no longer feeling valued or feeling as though they are smart.

What can we do to make the situation better for this small group of students?  Training.  Districts need to train their teachers to challenge these students, while at the same time being able to provide the lower students with support.  Money.  Funds need to be given in order to help districts create and maintain quality gifted education programs.  Parents.  Parents of gifted children need to push for their students.  They need to make sure that their child is being challenged and receiving the additional support needed to tap into the intellectual mind of their child.

NGLB, No Gifted Left Behind, is something that was left out of the NCLB idea.  While RtI will help many students that would have previously fallen through the cracks, the new child that will fall through the cracks is the gifted child.  Educators, parents, administrators…it is time to take a stand and make sure that our gifted children are not left behind to become run of the mill intellectual thinkers.  We must challenge them, provide them with opportunities to flourish and utilize their talents, and push them to their fullest potential.  Do not leave the gifted behind.

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