With Gifted Education, Access Is Everything

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dear Extra Credit:

I take exception to your claim that you haven't found much correlation between success in life and gifted education during childhood. If you talk to successful gifted people, this might be true. If, however, you talk to gifted people who have not succeeded, I believe you will see a different picture. There are estimates that 20 percent of the dropout population is gifted. (This, of course, is a difficult number to determine given the differences in the definitions for gifted and for dropout.) There are also rough estimates that 20 percent of those incarcerated are also gifted.

And not surprisingly, the majority of these are low-income minorities who are the least likely to have access to gifted programs in school. One of the best articles I've seen on this issue is "Giftedness and High School Dropouts: Personal, Family and School-Related Factors" (2002) by Joseph S. Renzulli and Sunghee Park. The full article is available at http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1b/5a/46.pdf.

The following two findings are notable. First, gifted students dropped out of school because, among other reasons, they didn't like school and/or were failing. And second, 48.2 percent of the gifted dropouts were in the lowest quartile socioeconomic level, while only 3.6 percent were in the highest quartile. These low-income, minority gifted students most likely disappear off the radar. It would be interesting to know how many of these gifted dropouts had access to quality gifted programs and, if not, what difference that might have made in their lives.

In light of the above, I was rather surprised to see you challenging JoAnn DiGennaro [Extra Credit, Oct. 11] to provide data showing that most gifted and talented students are falling between the cracks. Yes, I know she wrote "most," but do we really need to show that gifted students from middle and high socioeconomic groups are also falling between the cracks at the same rate in order for us to take the above issue seriously? I don't believe for a minute that you're okay with the state of gifted education as long as it's just poor, minority students who are failing to achieve. And this doesn't begin to address gifted students who fail to achieve for other reasons: gifted learners with special needs, gifted ESL students, gifted underachievers, etc. Please take the above information into consideration in your future writings about gifted and talented education.

Laura Carriere


Prince George's Association for Talented and Gifted Education


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