I hope everyone had a great holiday break. Gifted Exchange is back and ready for another semester of gifted education news and discussion!
Today's topic: does the gifted label matter?
In Montgomery County, Maryland, parents and school officials are debating that question. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the schools are "erasing" the gifted label that, "sorts second-grade students, like Dr. Seuss's Sneetches, into those who are gifted (the Star-Bellied sort) and those who are not." (You can already tell the reporter has a bit of a chip on his shoulder with that one). Two members of the school board wrote in shortly thereafter and said this was not exactly the case -- the whole matter was still up for discussion. But it's an interesting question either way. Do gifted kids gain anything by being labeled gifted?
On one side, there is the argument that the gifted label doesn't matter. What matters is that kids' needs are met. One of the most effective means of meeting students' needs -- acceleration -- doesn't require any sort of label. You just send a kid to a different grade if he seems to have mastered the material in his current one. Likewise, people become less excited about the gifted label in high school, because such schools are more likely tracked (with honors classes, AP classes and the like) than elementary school. No need to label, you just sign up for the more challenging classes. The Washington Post discusses some districts where there are accelerated programs, but kids are not necessarily labeled as such.
In Montgomery County, a full 40% of students qualify (under the district's definition) for the gifted label. On some level, this starts to seem a bit absurd. Avoiding labels gets rid of the awkwardness of exactly who is gifted or not (is a kid who just needs a little bit of enrichment gifted? Maybe. Is someone who needs 3 full years of acceleration? Probably).
On the other hand, as parents have pointed out, once you've stopped labeling something, it's easy to pretend it doesn't exist. We don't live in a world where kids of differing levels all wind up being challenged to the extent of their abilities. When districts do label kids, then that at least creates pressure to do something for those with the label.
What do you think? Is it important to have a label? Or do you know of districts that meet kids' needs well without it?