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Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Gifted Student Report Cards—Every State Needs One

Historically, gifted education has battled to receive the same attention as other educational areas.

While the focus on gifted and talented students has seemed to improve since the days of Sputnik, the field has a way to go. For instance, consider funding. During the 2015 fiscal year, gifted education received $10 million compared with special education, which was given $11 billion, and Early Learning, which will receive $75 billion over 10 years. In 2017, special education—$13 billion; gifted education-$12 million (of course, there’s about double the number of special education students in U.S. schools, but that still doesn’t account for the wide disparity).

Support for gifted education widely varies at the state level. Some states lack gifted program mandates and/or funding. According to the Davidson Institute, nine states have no mandates or funding for gifted education--none. The passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which took effect in recent years, provided some title funds to states and local education agencies to train teachers in gifted education and also featured other improvements, such as asking states to report student achievement data for advanced students. Certainly, this represents a move in the right direction.

But for gifted education to receive the attention it truly deserves, I think additional accountability measures would have to be put into place. Essentially, states would have to follow exemplar model states, such as Ohio, Oregon, and North Carolina, which have been reporting gifted and high-performing students as a separate category. Ohio, for instance, instituted a gifted student performance indicator on school report cards in 2014-15.

Measures should be put into place that require states to follow suit—reporting gifted students as their own subgroup, with perhaps incentives tied to performance. Gifted student report cards could provide additional data, such as reporting learning gains made by low-income gifted students and those considered in underrepresented groups—since there has been long-time concern that these students receive less attention.

Of course, these gifted report cards would filter through the states’ accountability plans but really place pressure on local school districts. As Plucker and colleagues (2015) wrote, we must “hold LEAs accountable for the performance of high ability students from all economic backgrounds. State K-12 accountability systems often drive the discussion of priorities in local school districts, and those systems should include measures of growth for high-ability students and other indicators of excellence, including distinct indicators for high-ability, low-income students” (p. 2).

Unfortunately, when it comes to education, what gets measured gets the attention, and without accountability in place in the form of gifted student reports, gifted education will remain behind other educational areas. This idea of accountability and improvement was seen, for instance, when researchers (Warne & Price, 2016) examined how changes in legislation in Texas impacted gifted education and found that when accountability laws were present, identification of gifted students improved in public schools.

What it comes down to is this: gifted students need their own state/ school report cards, that each year report out performance indicators and include gifted students in state accountability plans as a separate, subgroup. Only then do I believe they will begin to get proper attention.

 

References

 

Plucker, J., Giancola, J., Healey, G., Arndt, D., & Wang, C. (2015). Equal talents, unequal          

 opportunities: A report card on state support for academically talented low-income

 students. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

 

Warne, R. T., & Price, C. J. (2016). A single case study of the impact of policy changes on

 identification for gifted programs. Journal for the Education of the Gifted39(1), 49-61.