Today we’re featuring a thought-provoking blog from Edweek’s Deeper Learning series written by our friend and colleague Melissa Daniels.

Daniels writes about Gifted and Talented Education.  Check out the full article here.  One of my favorite quotations comes towards the end (spoiler alert!):

Each year, when I speak to prospective families, inevitably one or more parents ask if we have a gifted and talented program. I share the story above as a way of explaining that we believe that ALL students should have the rich learning opportunities that I had on those special Fridays in fifth grade. We do not identify certain students as gifted and talented; instead we believe that all students have their own gifts and talents. We do not track our students; instead we embrace the challenges of differentiation and personalization so that all students engage in deeper learning.

All students deserve the opportunity to engage learning that asks them to tackle real world problems, grapple with complex ideas, and create the innovations that can make our world more just, more healthy, and more sustainable!

What’s more, even if you agree with the paradigm that some students are inherently “gifted” and should be provided with a different education than the majority of students, you have to acknowledge that the system for identifying students for gifted and talented is inequitable. Minorities are underrepresented in these programs.  As Singleton et al. (2008) writes:

Whether it is teacher perceptions, systemic bias, or negative stereotypes which impede placement, fewer children of color are entering gifted programs.

When we seek to classify students rather than serve each individual student’s unique needs and build on their passions and strengths (doing this work is true differentiation that doesn’t lower the ceiling, but acknowledges students have different interests and skill levels), we inevitably do students a disservice.  I’m not saying that students aren’t different from one another, but simply that using those difference to classify and then say one group is better than another leads to inequities and lost opportunities.  Instead we should, as Daniels writes, “embrace the challenges of differentiation and personalization so that all students engage in deeper learning.”

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