Gifted Students in Rural Communities

Rural gifted students are faced with challenges that may not exist in urban areas. According to Flyod, McGinnis, and Grantham (2011), challenges include: “(1) limited resources; (2) limited accessibility to resources; (3) scarcity of funding; (4) isolated geographic location; (5) distance from universities, libraries, and other cultural activities; (6) difficulty in obtaining trained personnel; (7) few choices of advanced courses; and (8) different cultural values” (p. 28). The lack of resources and prepared teachers are a huge issue for rural gifted students. A small population of gifted students within a school can also cause issues with resources and funding. A few gifted students within a school might be forgotten about or ignored. I have a friend who teaches in a different school system than I do, and they have not had gifted classes this entire school year. The previous teacher left after last year, and the system never filled the position. Funding seems to be the main issue. There are not many gifted students in the school, so there needs have been easily forgotten. I understand the issues discussed in the text about rural gifted education because I live in area surrounded by rural schools. One school where I work is fairly far away from the city. I know of students who have never been into the city. They may only live thirty minutes from the city, but they have never visited it. This causes problems for gifted students because they are not able to experience cultural activities that students living in the city can experience. Gifted educators must work hard to ensure that these issues are not evident in their schools. They must fight hard to ensure that the needs of all students are being met.

Although gifted students living in rural areas are faced with many challenges, rural gifted students have a lot of advantages that other students may not have. The advantages include “(1) maximizing strengths within the rural community, (2) promoting parent involvement, (3) utilizing technological innovations, and (4) incorporating systemic staff development” (p. 37). Teachers can maximize these benefits to help students succeed. Rural communities are typically small which means small class sizes for gifted students. People within the community are supportive, and the community-feel within the environment is a positive asset for gifted students who may struggle in school. Technology resources are great for students in rural schools because it gives them access to new things which may not be familiar to them. Gifted educators must work to reach the needs of rural gifted students. Training for general education teachers on the needs of gifted students might not exist in rural schools, so gifted educators must work with other educators and administrators on the ways to best reach gifted students’ needs. Gifted educators should offer staff development opportunities for their colleagues. A system-wide staff development on gifted education with a guest speaker who has research experience in gifted education would help all educators to better understand their gifted students. Although gifted students in rural schools have some challenges working against them, the rural community in which they live can rally together to support these students.

Reference

Floyd, E., McGinnis, J., & Grantham, T. (2011). Gifted education in rural environmetns. In J. A. Castellano, & A. D. Frazier (Eds), Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds (pp. 27-46). Waco, TX.: Prufrock Press.

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Underachievement in Gifted Students

Underachievement is a common characteristic among gifted students. Besnoy, Jolly, and Manning used Schultz’s example (2002), “Underachievement is a complex issue involving social interactions, perceptions, and expectations that remain unexplored and would be best thought of in a multidimensional way” (p. 402). A lot of factors relate to underachievement, and it contains a lot of characteristics. The authors point out that “Donmoyer and Kos (1993) identified the following characteristics of children most susceptible to underachievement: (a) low-socioeconomic status, (b) minority group connection, (c) parental education level, (d) single parent family, and (e) feelings of alienation and low self-esteem” (p. 403). Although these characteristics might be more likely to show underachievement, children with these characteristics are not the only ones who struggle with underachievement and are not definitely going to show underachievement. No one can pinpoint the exact cause of underachievement, but research does help educators better understand it.

Strategies are not exact answers for every student, but they are useful in helping students. “Whitmore (1980) identified three types of effective strategies [which are] (a) support strategies, (b) intrinsic strategies, and (c) remedial strategies” (p. 404). Underachievement must be addressed from an early age. Educators cannot wait until middle school or high school to try and reverse underachievement. It must be addressed as soon as it begins to show in elementary school. A sense of pride in a student’s work can help them to feel like their work matters and can help remove underachievement tendencies. Students can also feel engaged when they are learning about their interests. Educators have a lot of influence on students, especially in the early years of school, so they should not take these opportunities for granted. Inventories are great in a gifted classroom because the educator can learn students’ interests and design a curriculum that engages students. Another important area in the gifted classroom is counseling. Meeting students’ affective needs, such as underachievement, is crucial in the gifted classroom. Areas work differently for different students, so it is important to get to know your students so that you can find the way to best reach their needs.

Educators and administrators must learn about the struggle that many gifted students have with underachievement. If a gifted specialist works in a school that has a lot of students who are susceptible to underachievement, then a serious action plan should be put in place to help reach the needs’ of the students. A school wide plan can help all students dealing with underachievement in the elementary grades before reaching middle school and high school. Gifted education teachers can also encourage their students, especially those who struggle with underachievement. Giving students activities that peak their interests will help them to stay interested and on task. This could be a catalyst in which they begin to excel in the classroom. Every student is different, so it is critical for educators to get to know their students and how to reach their needs. Overall, underachievement must be targeted early and techniques need to be in place that will help students who struggle with underachievement.

 

Reference

Besnoy, K., Jolly, J., & Manning, S. (2011). Academic underachievement of gifted students. In J. A. Castellano, & A. D. Frazier (Eds), Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds (pp. 401-415). Waco, TX.: Prufrock Press.

Gifted English Language Learners

The article, Identifying Gifted and Talented English Language Learners, explained that there is some disagreement over the characteristics of ELL gifted/talented students. The article noted, “Research has described gifted English Language Learners as having varying degrees of the following characteristics: •acquires a second language rapidly, •shows high ability in mathematics, •displays a mature sense of diverse cultures and languages, •code switches easily (think in both languages), •demonstrations an advanced awareness of American expressions, •translators at an advanced level (oral), •navigates appropriate behaviors successfully within both cultures” (p. 12). I think that identification with ELL students is difficult because there is a lot of grey area. More research needs to be done on identification with ELL students. When identifying students from different cultures, it is important to understand their culture. This is a lot of work for the evaluator. Unfortunately, time and money seem to get the best of the identification process for ELL students. The person identifying the students may not have a complete understanding of the student’s culture; therefore, they cannot effectively identify ELL students. It is important to understand an ELL student’s Language Proficiency. In my district, there should definitely be some changes made to best reach ELL students. Right now, when I give the screener to all of the second grade students, the directions are in English. If a student does not know English, then they will not be successful on the screeners. It definitely is not fair to ELL students. Quantitative and nonverbal areas should be the focus. Verbal screeners would not be accurate for these students.

I do not think that gifted ELL students should attend a different program than other gifted students. Aguirre and Hernandez (2011) explained, “We are striving for excellence for all students; therefore, we need to be instrumental in eliminating the barriers that keep gifted bilingual or SLLs from participating in programs for gifted and talented students” (p. 276). In an ideal gifted program, all gifted students in an entire school system would be able to attend a gifted center. Within the gifted center English Language Learners could attend classes to specifically meet there needs. I believe that gifted ELL students would greatly benefit from a center-based program. This way many different ELL students from different schools could come together. ELL students could work together sometimes, but they would also be able to work with other non-ELL gifted students. They could attend a small class designed specifically for gifted ELL students for part of the time they are at the center. They would also be able to work with other gifted students who are not ELL. I believe this would benefit non-ELL gifted students as well. According to Aguirre and Hernandez (2011), “Schools need to provide a healthy, constructive climate where gifted SLLs [Second Language Learners] will grow academically; will develop socially and emotionally; will feel safe; are free to take risks; and are provided a sense of belonging and pride and control over their own learning experiences” (p. 276). Having a place for a variety of gifted students would be extremely beneficial for every gifted student.

References

Aguirre, N., & Hernandez, N. (2011). Differentiating the curriculum for gifted second language learners: Teaching them to think. In J. A. Castellano, & A. D. Frazier (Eds), Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds (pp. 273-285). Waco, TX.: Prufrock Press.

Belin Blank Center. (2008). Identifying Gifted and Talented English Language Learners. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from https://muw.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-321151-dt-content-rid-13161371_1/courses/Spring-2015-1-ED-594-E01/IdentifyGiftedTalentedELL.pdf

Plucker’s Presentation on the Excellence/Equity Gap

Plucker discussed the excellence/equity gap in his podcast. Plucker has done a lot of research on the topic, which can be read about in his articles or listened to through his podcast; both have links listed below. The bulleted list is notes taken from the information in Plucker’s podcast.

Notes during the presentation:

Not the minimal results, but the highest results!

– Opportunity and achievement to everybody, not losing the kids with the highest potential

– Achievement Gaps = Minimum Competency Gaps

– How many students are really performing at their best/highest competency?

– Excellence gaps

– Students race, ethnicity, socioeconomic (free/reduced lunch vs not) status- white and Asian American students often perform advanced on national tests. Other groups have 0-2% score high…HUGE gaps!

– Socioeconomic gap is huge- minority students and poor students- not performing at high levels. Will become a huge economic problem as they become majority of our citizens and they haven’t been given the opportunity to develop their skills

– If not born in a certain group, then you’re chance of scoring advanced on tests is almost impossible.

– There is a moral and ethical requirement to make sure every student can perform at their level. The point here is that that shouldn’t be the sole focus of 90% of American education policy, and it is.

– Untapped talent- We aren’t bringing them to the level they could be at!

– Equity vs excellence- this is equity and excellence!

– The Law of Unintended Consequences- Think about it when creating these new policies. How does this affect everyone?

– Now we think about how does this affect special education students?

– The KEY to what policy makes need to think about- What’s the impact on advanced students? How would this policy help us get more students performing at advanced levels?

– Accountability Systems- How do they treat excellence?

– Get kids to the highest level they can handle! Not just the top of their grade.

– Excellence is one of the most important things in America!

– Why would you limit students? Pretty good and pretty well is NOT enough! Excellent opportunities!

Application:

The huge achievement gaps that he discussed at the beginning were very surprising. I did not realize the achievement gaps were so large for different races and socioeconomic classes. I loved the passion he has for making certain every student performs at their highest achievement level. The issues he discussed are so real for us as gifted educators. Just getting by seems to be more of a focus than excellence. As gifted teachers, I think that we should advocate for excellence and equity. We should be working to help others understand more about excellence for every student. I was shocked when he explained that some teachers have a rule that students can only go so far ahead. Students should be given the chance to excel if they are able. We must help our students excel and advocate for their rights! All educators and administrators need to be aware of the needs of gifted students. Gifted teachers and specialists must take it upon themselves to educate others on ways to best reach gifted students.

References

Link to Plucker’s reports: http://cepa.uconn.edu/research/mindthegap/

Link to Plucker’s podcast: http://school4schools.com/blog/student-success-podcast-no-5-talent-on-the-sidelines-the-excellence-gap/

Link to Plucker’s article: http://webdev.education.uconn.edu/static/sites/cepa/AG/excellence2010/ExcellenceGapBrief.pdf

Misdiagnosis of Gifted Students

The misdiagnosis of gifted students is all too common. The behaviors and language of students typically becomes how they are identified. Many times non-English speaking students are misdiagnosed. “A likely explanation for this phenomenon is the widespread lack of teacher training in the area of gifted education, combined with school personnel’s unfamiliarity with behaviors typically expressed in other cultures” (Beljan, 2011, p. 318-319). I think that it is extremely important to help educate others, especially educators, on gifted students.

As individuals who are studying gifted education, I think that it is our responsibility to help educate those who work with gifted students on their characteristics and needs. This can help with misdiagnosis that can occur. On page 321, Beljan noted that placement tests are typically based on one language which might not be the native language of the student. I like the plan that Arizona put into place, as discussed on page 321, to help better identify gifted students, no matter their cultural background. The matrix that they use blends qualitative and quantitative data to better help identify the students who are gifted. So much of chapter 15 seems to point to the lack of training that people have in gifted education. I get very frustrated when I think about how uneducated I was on gifted education when I taught second grade. I wish that I could have served my students better in the general education classroom. Beljan further backs up his argument for better training in gifted education on pages 326-327: “When the educational staff understands how cultural norms manifest as problems, they can better address instruction by identifying learning strengths versus learning challenges.” There is no room for stereotypes and prejudices in gifted education, or in any part of education for that matter. The key is that teachers must remember to look at students’ abilities when considering giftedness.

Another important issue for educators to remember when identifying gifted students is to consider their culture. Students who come from a different culture might not portray the specific behaviors that would be classified as gifted; however, this does not mean that they do not have these behaviors. For example, Beljan explained, “Outward manifestations prevalent in culturally and linguistically diverse students add to the factors, structures, and systems in place in the schools that prevent identification and appropriate services for these students” (p. 321). The values accepted in one culture can be very different in another culture. It is imperative that these differences are taken into account when identifying gifted students. Although it is a large undertaking, it would greatly benefit students if the gifted evaluator took time to understand their culture. Getting to know the students on a deep level and understanding their culture at home would help them to be better understood in the classroom which would also help them to be better understood when it comes to gifted identification. It seems like the most feasible way to do this would be for gifted educators to train general education teachers on what to look for in gifted students. Giftedness is not a trait, but instead it is a behavior. Overall, there should always be a global perspective when considering giftedness.

Reference

Beljan, P. (2011). Misdiagnosing students. In J. A. Castellano, & A. D. Frazier (Eds),Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds (pp. 317-332). Waco, TX.: Prufrock Press.