Educating Gifted Children

September 14, 1979

Report Outline
Recent Educational Adjustments
History of the Gifted Movement
Cultural and Sexual Barriers
Special Focus

Recent Educational Adjustments

Ambivalence About the Exceptionally Bright

Earlier this year a married couple in McHenry, Ill., sued their local school district for $1 million. They claimed the school district had failed to provide their 10-year-old son with an education equal to his abilities. First labeled a behavior problem and then said to have a learning disability, the boy was found to have an IQ of 169. Because of his undisciplined behavior, he at first was denied admission to a 12-week program for gifted children — a program his father described as “mostly arts and crafts with a few field trips run by a volunteer.” After the boy was given permission to enroll in a high school Spanish class, the permission was revoked when the local school board expressed concern about establishing a precedent. The principal of his elementary school described him as “the kind of child a teacher dreams of having once in a lifetime.” “But,” he added, “now that we have him we don't know what to do with him.”

The Illinois case points up the plight of America's gifted and talented youth. Special programs for the gifted have mushroomed in recent years. State and federal funding for such programs has increased significantly. But according to a recent survey, “the United States still falls far short of meeting the educational needs of this special segment of its population.” Dr. Dorothy A. Sisk, director of the U.S. Office of Education's Office of Gifted and Talented, estimates that only 12 percent of the nation's exceptionally bright children and youth are receiving all the educational services they require. John Grossi, director of gifted and talented policy for the Council for Exceptional Children in Reston, Va., said recently that only 41 percent of gifted and talented youth are receiving any special educational services.

Ambivalent attitudes in this country toward those with uncommon talents contribute to confused and often contradictory public policy concerning education of gifted students. Most educators now acknowledge that the social, emotional and educational problems of the exceptionally bright can be just as complicated as those of the physically and mentally handicapped. Yet the problems of the gifted do not easily arouse the public's sympathies. There is a widespread belief that gifted children, because of their extraordinary abilities, ought to be able to make it on their own, and that limited educational resources are better spent on those who cannot.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Gifted Education and Tracking
Mar. 28, 1997  Educating Gifted Students
Jul. 30, 1993  Intelligence Testing
Dec. 28, 1990  Why Schools Still Have Tracking
May 15, 1987  Magnet Schools
Sep. 14, 1979  Educating Gifted Children
Oct. 28, 1959  Education of Gifted Children
May 07, 1958  Elite vs. Mass Education
Nov. 23, 1955  Schooling for Fast and Slow Learners
Elementary and Secondary Education