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Developing Giftedness

Tingley-021 color On occasion a study will appear that simply verifies what some of us in the field suspect is true. That doesn’t mean the study is useless; on the contrary, it give quantitative support for qualitative observations. 

Such is the case in the study done on a pilot project called Project Bright IDEA, which worked for five years (2004-09) in some North Carolina school districts.  Five thousand children in kindergarten through second grade took part in the project, which was federally funded because of the high percentage of low income kids involved.

The results, first reported in The Cary News and also in Ed Week, validated the premise of the project:  You can teach kids gifted behaviors by treating them like gifted kids.

Teachers in the program received special training in working with gifted kids.  Instruction included high level language, problem solving, and challenging work.  After three years the percentage of kids identified as gifted in third grade almost doubled in comparison with students who were not included in the project.

Reporter Jane Stancill notes that retraining all teachers to use “gifted” strategies would be expensive.  Of course, retraining teachers is expensive, but it’s nothing in comparison to the enormous costs of a “dumbed Computer-girl down” curriculum for low income and minority students and for the nation’s future.  No one is served when students’ potential is denied, and in the larger picture, retraining teachers to improve their skills is less costly than removing them and starting fresh.   Of course, improving skills is one thing; improving possibly embedded attitudes towards some students’ potential is another.  Both, however, can change when the results are shown to be positive.

What we know for sure is this:  Kids respond to the way you treat them.  I used to have a poster on my office door that said, “They won’t always remember what you taught them.  But they’ll always remember how you treated them.”  When I listen to my own kids talk about their former teachers, I know that’s true.  It’s all about expectations.




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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.