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Myth: Gifted Education Is Elitist

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Myth: Gifted Education Programs are Elitist 

The idea that gifted education is elitist derives in part from the label. Many people reject the notion that some of us are “not gifted.” While philosophically, everyone has gifts and is in their own way, special; when the term gifted is used in education, not everyone is gifted. NAGC defines a gifted person as someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.   People also think of gifted as elitist because so often it is only associated with white upper-class populations. In fact, this could not be further from the truth. A lack of funding for programs and services in low-income neighborhoods, coupled with false expectations about children of poverty and inappropriate assessments for identification has led to an under representation of this population. Gifted students come from all backgrounds, including English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged children, and even special education classrooms. 

• There are many challenges in assessing, identifying, and serving gifted students from diverse backgrounds. The following webpages illustrate the steps being taken, and that need to be taken to serve high-ability students from diverse backgrounds.

• Below are articles and books that discuss the lack of a single homogenous group of gifted children and adults and how giftedness is not fixed at birth, but rather is developmental:

Baum, S.M., & Owen, S. V. (2004). To be gifted and learning disabled: strategies for helping bright students with LD, ADHD and more. Mansfield Center, CT:  Creative Learning Press.

Borland, J. H.  (2005).  Gifted education without gifted children:  The case for no conception of giftedness.  In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.).  Conceptions of giftedness (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-19).  Cambridge University Press.

Borland, J. H.  (2009).  Gifted Education without Gifted Programs or Gifted Students: An anti-model. In J. S. Renzulli (Ed.).  Systems and models for developing programs for the gifted and talented (2nd ed.)

Frasier, M.M., & Passow, A.H. (1994). Toward a new paradigm for identifying talent potential.  Storrs: University of Connecticut. National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Needham Height, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Neihart, M.; Reis, S. M., Robinson, N.M., & Moon, S. M. (Eds.). (2002). The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2000). The underachievement of gifted students: What do we know and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly, 44, 152-170.

Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M.  (2003). Conception of giftedness and its relation to the development of social capital.  In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.),  Handbook of gifted education (pp. 75-87).  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon.

Renzulli, J. S. (1978). What makes giftedness: Reexamining a definition. Phi Delta Kappan, 60, 180-184, 261.

Renzulli, J. S.  (1982).  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Copernicus:  We regret to inform you . . . .  Gifted Child Quarterly, 26, 11-14.

Renzulli, J. S. (1986). The three-ring conception of giftedness: A developmental model for creative productivity. In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 53-92). Boston: Cambridge University Press.

Ross, P. O. (1993). National excellence: A case for developing America’s talent. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education.

Sternberg, R. J., & Davidson, J. (2005). (Eds.). Conceptions of giftedness (2nd ed.). Boston: Cambridge University Press.

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