Many highly able and motivated students have a wide range of interests that make selecting a career difficult. Having an adequate, diverse, and well-trained supply of scientists and engineers depends, in part, on what thousands of high-ability students decide every year to do with their lives, which is influenced by access to varied, challenging coursework taught by highly skilled teachers.
Although the recent concern about the nation’s ability to meet its economic and security needs has led to an increased focus and investment in math and science learning and teaching skills, few of the classroom and teacher training initiatives are focused on top students. Providing challenging coursework means ensuring opportunities for advanced classes beginning as early as the elementary years. Currently, most gifted children spend the majority of their time in regular classrooms without access to challenging coursework or teachers knowledgeable about the special learning needs of our most highly able learners.
Not all teachers recognize the classroom indicators of giftedness, and even those teachers who are aware that there are high-ability students in their classrooms report that they don’t have the time and their schools don’t encourage them to spend time working with these students.
And, even where teachers have time, the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) found that 61% of classroom teachers had no training in teaching highly able students, limiting the challenging educational opportunities offered to advanced learners. Highly skilled teachers must be not only competent in the content area in which they teach, but also in the education strategies necessary to support advanced learners including differentiation, acceleration, and curriculum modification.