Monday, May 13, 2013

Changing a name

The Davidson Institute sends me a list of gifted-related headlines each week. This past week, a short article from Davis, CA announced that the school board had voted to change the name of the gifted program from "Gifted and Talented Education" (GATE -- a common acronym) to an "Alternative Instruction Model."

When I hear such news, I'm struck by two things, which point in different directions.

On one hand, I generally suspect that few school boards are excited about the concept of gifted education. Indeed (if I'm reading the story right), the Davis board seems to be moving away from self-contained gifted classes, and to in-class enrichment. This is a problem. It basically means watering down gifted education and depriving gifted children of the opportunity to be challenged with their intellectual peers.

On the other hand, I don't dislike the idea of calling gifted education something else. The "gifted" label can become a bit of a lightning rod, which is one reason that school boards like getting rid of gifted education. It seems to satisfy some false egalitarian urge, as opposed to being what it really is (choosing to under-invest in part of their student population). An "alternative instruction model" is, in reality, what gifted education is. Some children's needs cannot be met in a regular classroom. They need alternative instruction, just as children with other special needs do. Calling gifted education something more neutral could turn the whole discussion from something political to something more practical. Here's what we do to help some children learn best. Here's what we do to help other children learn best.

What do you think of alternative names for gifted education?


Gary Franczyk said...

Its just the equivalent of making words more politically correct by making them less specific and more vague.

I don't care for it, and its a cop out because of fear of those that don't like the 'gifted' label.

However, I wonder if Davidson is moving to the in-class enrichment model because its more attainable. I'm ok with this if there is very little chance of getting my kids into a dedicated classroom. I would love to see the differentiated instruction on top of the once a week pull-out classes. The pull out classes are good, but the core curriculum of math, reading, writing, and vocabulary are still on the whole-classroom pace.

MissArrowette said...

Although I find the shift in terminology problematic, if it helps keep gifted education in schools and even garners them more positive attention, I think it would be worth it.

My main concern with the shift into in-class enrichment is something I've seen in my old school district. While they shifted classrooms to hold better mixes of student achievement levels, you still have teachers with NO gifted education training suddenly being asked to provide appropriate enrichment for gifted students. Unless part of all continuing teacher education requirements is going to be mandatory courses in gifted ed, I don't see how gifted students are going to end up anything but short-changed.

While I know our district ceased offering dedicated gifted classrooms for various reasons (developing snobbery of those in the gifted classroom, bullying of gifted kids by those not in the gifted classroom, etc) I'm not sure the damage to the curricular needs is less of a problem than those that caused the shift.

Anonymous said...

Alternative Program
sounds like the program for kids who were expelled and need intensive behavioral supports.

Anonymous said...

I recently have been able to figure out that not everyone that goes through my college's honors program is considered gifted. In our family, we have been using gifted to mean a person who routinely achieves standardized testing results that are the equivalent of a intelligence quotient of 130 or greater. Is there a preeminent expert who could advise on a national level how we, in the United States for example, should be making such definitions. In our state, the verbage is gifted in the legislation, but depending on the school district the terms are gifted, mentally gifted, intellectually gifted, academically gifted or gifted and talented. As far as I know, gifted and talented is the top 15% of a school class academically and includes students who excel in the fine arts.

Nother Barb said...

Our district replacement LA and/or math program names don't contain the word "gifted", "talented", or even "education". They are just words. But if you search for "gifted education" on the school website, you arrive at those programs, just as at Davis JUSD website. Changing program names isn't going to alter whom we are trying to serve.

There seem to be some other issues going on in the Davis school district and a name change may help to push additional services into place and in so doing, eliminate some other problems that appear to be unique to that ditrict. By the way, AIM was chosen over other names because the acronym is the easiest to say. No, really; I watched the video. The reasons for considering a name change must have been discussed in another meeting.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what they call it. My children attend public school in a small, rural district which, until recently, had a center based gifted program at the elementary level. Between three elementary schools, and with a generous definition of "gifted", one classroom per grade 3, 4, and 5 could be created for "gifted" children, generally with teachers who understood and excelled at teaching gifted kids.The disbanding of the program left gifted children in heterogeneous classrooms, generally bored out of their gourds with the exception of math, for which they were pulled out, and with teachers who don't understand, don't like, or are so busy with the other 90% that they can't help, gifted kids. And these gifted kids were "clustered" per NAGC guidelines; it simply falls apart when the numbers of kids are so low. "Attainable" doesn't cut it for gifted kids. If it is true that Davidson is changing its advocating, shame on Davidson. They should advocate for the best.

Anonymous said...

Laura, Why doesn't anyone ever seem to care about the old-fashioned "Bell" curve and the effect having a gifted student in a regular classroom must have on the other students' confidence. The gifted child who is functioning productively beats the other students on every test and standardized test. The gifted person has a strong, innate sense of fairness and feels terrible constantly beating out the other students. To me, human intelligence is like flowers; they are beautiful and varied and all are necessary and needed. Having the gifted students together gets rid of the focus on grades and puts the focus where it needs to be for them - accomplishing the meaningful work that they love!

Nother Barb said...

There seems to be a bit of confusion with who changed the name. Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a champion of gifted education who supports this blog. It is the Davis (California) Joint Unified School District who has changed the name of their gifted education program.

Laura Vanderkam said...

@Nother Barb - thanks for answering that. There did seem to be some confusion between the Davis/Davidson two elements of this post! The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is very supportive of gifted education (obviously) and recognizes the right of gifted children to learn at a challenging pace in an environment with their intellectual peers. The Davis CA school district is an entirely different matter.

Thrive said...

Interesting topic! After 9 years in gifted education, I've witnessed the bias and "ruffled feathers" of staff and administrators who do not empathize with the special needs of gifted students; rather they seem to hold some animosity towards this perceived group of elite learners. Perhaps by changing the terminology, others may let down their defenses and see that these learners honestly do have special learning needs, regardless of whether or not their IQ is intimidating.