Someone recently asked me a great question about the Gifted Programs in our schools. To quote: this person is “concerned about continued support and funding for the gifted program, which [she sees] as Special Needs, because so many of these students need a particular type of learning environment in order to be engaged with their studies and to thrive socially and academically. Your thoughts?”
Interestingly enough, I was just at a School Board meeting on the 19th that had the “Gifted Program Evaluation” on the agenda. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to see how successful the program was, and that’s not really what it was. Instead, it was a very nice video presentation that showed a number of students who clearly enjoyed and benefited from the program. It was wonderful, just not exactly what I had hoped to see. 🙂
That being said, I don’t think I could agree with this person any more about the Special Needs of gifted students – they are just different needs. And another serious part of this issue is that these gifted students can find themselves on the other side of the Special Needs continuum if those needs are not addressed. The challenges and frustrations of dealing with non-challenging work can lead to all kinds of behavioral and emotional issues that eventually have to be addressed. Regardless of the need, the end goal is the same: we are all striving for our students’ success (to borrow a phrase).
So – to try to answer the question more specifically – I absolutely believe that Gifted programs need continued support and funding, and in this current economic situation, this may not be an easy thing to maintain. I do, however, think it may be a bit easier to handle the difference than some of the programs for the “challenged” kids (for lack of a better term). Whereas students like my son need personalized, all day, all week paras and SpEd teachers, the Gifted students may be able to expand beyond the brick walls of their own schools – and they may be able to do it at much less cost with much greater rewards! I would be very interested in doing some research into some of the advanced collaborative programs I have seen using local businesses, universities, (other than dual credit for HS), and even the internet. I think there is some great potential there, not just in collaborating with relatively local schools, but on both a national and international scope.
I have to say, I was very surprised to learn that the High School does not have any kind of gifted program, relying on dual-credit and similar programs to fill that need. I got the impression that this might have been a financial decision, but I am curious if this is something that could be expanded. I haven’t had the chance to talk to anyone yet, but I am interested in learning more. I did learn that there are a total of 94 elementary and middle school students in the Gifted programs, but I am concerned about what is happening to them when they leave the middle school – I will have to do a little more research into it, but it has given me some food for thought. What I can say absolutely is that the special needs of all the students in Warrensburg need to be addressed.
On of my personal goals is to make my actions count for those kids. As I have said before, we need to move forward, no matter how good things are now. So whether I’m on the School Board or not, I want to help make good things come for all our kids, challenged, gifted, or mainstream.