Many districts, faced with budget shortfalls, are trimming their gifted programs. So I was encouraged to see an article from Wisconsin's State Journal highlighting a new program in the Madison School District. A group of parents had filed a complaint with the state that the district was not upholding various education laws requiring identification and services for gifted students. As the article puts it, "The district also has historically blanched at grouping students by ability."
It's too soon to see what the effect will be. The idea is that there will be a lot more grouping by ability, with gifted education treated somewhat more like special education. Children with the most profound needs that can't be met in a traditional classroom will get services outside the classroom, and grade acceleration will be an option. All sounds good.
But what I liked most was this line: "Sue Schaar, the district’s new talented-and-gifted program coordinator, said the new program differs from past practice by focusing on services, rather than labeling students."
This is what gifted education, ideally, comes down to. Over the years I've started to think that much of the resistance to the idea of gifted education in general stems from this word "gifted" or the phrase "gifted and talented" -- which implies that some kids are somehow better than others, even if this is not the intention. We're prone to many euphemisms in education (like "special education") and the word "gifted" is yet another in a long list. But the word just doesn't matter. You can call it something neutral, or even negative if necessary. The point is that children will have their educational needs met, and will be challenged to the extent of their abilities, ideally in an environment with their intellectual peers. Services, not labels. The only reason for the label is to get the services. If there would be some way to downplay the label, that would be great.