I have been thinking lately the definition of gifted because my daughter is admitted to the high potential program. It seems that the definition of gifted varies by people and by schools as well and there is little consensus on a satisfactory definition. Gagné (1991) differentiated between the concepts of gifted and talented by defining giftedness as above-average competence in human ability, and talent as above-average performance in a particular field. Giftedness refers to human aptitudes such as intellectual or creative abilities. Talent however is demonstrated in an area of human activity such as mathematics, literature or music. Munro (2001) further differentiated between the concepts of gifted and talented by defining talented students as displaying exceptional ability in areas in which they have been explicitly taught, and gifted students as those who display exceptional ability in certain areas without explicit teaching. In 2005, the Department for Education and Skills in Great Britain (DfES) broadly defined the top 5-10% of pupils per school as gifted and talented. Conservative definitions tend to restrict the areas that are included in the categorization of talent or giftedness, and how many people will be regarded as gifted – for example the top 5% of any given measure of ability. These definitions also tend to use a single dimension such as high intelligence (as measured on an I.Q test), to define giftedness. More liberal definitions would suggest that there is no meaningful difference between those who score in the top 3-5%, and the 10-15% who come just below and so would advocate that 15-20% should be included in the gifted category.
<Source of the definition of gifted vs. talented: http://www.nicurriculum.org.uk/docs/inclusion_and_sen/gifted/gifted_children_060306.pdf >
Now back to our school, to qualify for our school’s level one high potential program, the student has to be recommended by the teacher, have NWEA scores of above 97 percentile consistently over the previous three tests and score at the top two percent in the IQ test. However, the rule isn’t always so strict. In the case of my daughter, since she is in kindergarten, she only had two NWEA test scores (NWEA tests are conducted twice a year in our school district, once in October and then in March). However, since she scored at between 95 and 97 percentile for Math and Reading respectively in October and then at 99 percentile for both Math and Reading in March, her teacher has recommended that she be tested for her IQ. One day we were notified that she would be tested during that week. Out of curiosity, I decided to ask her if she was taken to a room to play with a teacher whom she had never met. She got upset with me after asking her this question for two days. I decided to give it up and leave it there. After two weeks, we got a letter in her folder notifying us that my daughter had just been tested that day and we should expect to receive another notification of her result and if additional testing is required. About 2 days later, we were notified that my daughter scored at the top one percent in the IQ test and is therefore enrolled in the level one high potential program. A month before she was even asked to be tested, her teacher started to implement ability grouping math teaching. My daughter told us that she was learning 2nd grade math with nine other kindergarteners. I was quite surprised. Maybe she is gifted.
The other day, I accidentally stumbled upon a site discussing the Regional Gifted Centers (RGCs) of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). It sounds like the high school entrance exam in Taiwan in the old days when kids compete to get into Jienguo High School and Taipei First Girls’ High School except that the entrance exam for Chicago Public System’s Regional Gifted Center starts at a much earlier age, at kindergarten and 1st grade. I was surprised to see so many parents obsessed with their kids’ ability to enter the gifted program and trying all sorts of methods to cram their kids’ intelligence and to prep them for the big test. Can you boost a person’s intelligence by cramming? The thing I heard that was out of my comprehension is that one (maybe more) of the 13 RGCs in the CPS does not have recess and snack time, so that the kids can utilize all their school time in learning. Is that healthy? I thought this kind of unhealthy learning environment would only happen in Asia.
The author of the site discussing Chicago city’s regional gifted center seems overly overwrought with the fairness of the test when the test time is extended due to some kids needing to go to the restroom and that the administrator is trying to make sure that each kid is ready to progress before moving on. In his/her mind, the test result will be skewed with the additional 30 minutes crammed in there. I still don’t understand his/her issue, if his/her child is truly gifted, that additional 30 minutes should not make any difference at all. The test should be just one measure to test the kid’s potential, not achievement.
I don’t agree with the author’s belief in prepping or cramming the kids to increase their chance to get enrolled in the gifted program. If the kids are not truly gifted, how much more prepping and cramming you will have to do along the way to keep your kids in the program. If prepping and cramming can get your kids in the gifted program, is it truly a gifted program? Nevertheless, my definition of gifted may be too narrow.
If the kids are forced to learn, they might grow up resenting learning. In addition, cramming kids on concept that they are not ready to grasp would be a torment to the kids as well. The more we cram the kids, the more likely they will turn into testing robots and lose their incentive in learning on their own.
My son is in 3rd grade now and is starting to learn 5th grade math. Based on his progress, he might start learning 6th grade math in November. He will be in the accelerated math program in 4th grade. Is he truly gifted? We don’t think so. We would probably consider him a bright child, just better than the average kids but did not meet the criteria for giftedness. Maybe he is gifted, as loosely defined by US Department of Education in 1993, “Children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment." It speaks of talent, which includes all areas of a child's life academic, artistic, athletic, and social. Then if that is the case, many kids in our school with the ability to be enrolled in the accelerated instructional program can be considered gifted. For as far as I know, there will be 25 kids in the accelerated math program that my son will be in.
So, why dwell on whether your child is gifted or not? What we should do is to help make learning an interesting journey for the kids, to provide them as much challenge as we can to make their lives more interesting and to prepare them to enter the society and be a contributing member.
As I was writing this article and reading news during my lunch hour, coincidentally, there was a news article about a girl as young as six years old entering national spelling bee contest. That I would call truly gifted. http://news.yahoo.com/girl-6-youngest-ever-national-spelling-bee-152759597.html
Written by Elisa English
On May 29th, 2012