Florida Rep. John Legg, vice chairman of the House K-12 Education Committee, and Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Steve Wise are rightly addressing an underserved demographic of Florida public school attendees: gifted students who are often unchallenged, institutionally discouraged and, in some cases, fail to reach their potential.
As detailed by the St. Petersburg Times, both politicians are advocating policy changes that may address some of these issues by providing some oversight to the funds allotted to schools’ gifted programs and classes. The Times goes on to report that the current situation does not require schools and districts to explain how the money is spent and how much time is devoted to gifted students. The bill would require all students to be tested for giftedness, rather than just those students whose parents request the testing.
This move alone will help to keep gifted children from falling through the system’s proverbial cracks, in the event neglectful parents don’t notice or care about their child’s potential or bother to bring it to educators’ attention.
Gifted children generally get the short end of the stick in the American education system, according to John Cloud, author of the Time magazine essay, “Are we failing our geniuses?”
Though gifted children don’t have the intellectual barriers that would serve as an incentive to quit school, the dropout rate for gifted students is the same as that of other students. Gifted students in the United States, moreover, score more poorly on math standardized tests when compared to gifted students in other countries, Cloud writes. Compounding this problem is an increasing hesitance in school districts to bump young gifted children to a grade where the work level is appropriate, including rules that may bar grade-skipping altogether.
Furthermore, with the advent of the No Child Left Behind legislation, funding to gifted-education programs is barely a 10th of what is spent on special-education programs, $800 million compared to $8 billion, reports Cloud.
The social and intellectual encumbrances of stifling gifted children are predictable and inexcusable, considering how easily they may be prevented. When given the right challenges, according to Time, the isolation that statistically goes along with unaddressed giftedness occurs with less frequency.
“Research shows that gifted kids, given appropriately challenging environments – even when that means being placed in classes of much older students – usually turn out fine,” Cloud said.
Considering the sobering data highlighted by Cloud in Time, Legg is dead-on in his assessment that Florida – and America – is failing the gifted, telling the Times: “The national trend is that we’ve dropped the ball when it comes to our gifted kids.”
It’s time Florida and America picked up this ball, and they can start by monitoring and making better gifted-education programs.