Friday, October 26, 2012

We Need To Better Identify Talented Students from Low Income and Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Greater accountability, better trained teachers, expanded access to supplemental programs and the removal of policy barriers are among the recommendations a newly released report offers to reverse the nation's neglect of its high-potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Unlocking Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students, released by the National Association for Gifted Children, offers a set of priority recommendations that emerged out of a two day National Summit on Low-Income, High-Ability Learners that brought together more than 50 leading experts in the field to address these critical issues. Unlocking Emergent Talent and the Summit were developed in part through a generous grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

"For decades, our nation has failed to heed our obligation to develop our high-ability and high-potential talent, the students of today who will drive our national prosperity tomorrow. Summit participants explored the many challenges in this area, but more importantly, focused on identifying well-supported and replicable solutions to reverse this neglect," Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, President of NAGC and Professor of Education at Northwestern University, said. "Unlocking Emergent Talent provides a blueprint policymakers, teachers, administrators and researchers can take up – beginning today – to remove barriers to access and other impediments and ensure no high-ability or high-potential student falls through the system's cracks," Olszweski-Kubilius.

As part of the two-day Summit held in May in Washington, experts including teachers, directors of supplemental programs, researchers and policy experts identified numerous barriers to access for students from low-income backgrounds to gifted and related programs. Obstacles include:

*Limitations on the concept of giftedness that fails to focus on high-potential;

*Misconceptions that few high-ability students exist in low-income settings;

*Inadequate training of teachers to identify potential, particularly in such settings;

*Supplemental programs that are not easily accessible or affordable; and

*Students who may reject a gifted label out of fear of being ostracized.

The report identifies factors common to successful programs and services – such as a rigorous curriculum, greatly expanded learning time, development of psychosocial factors such as motivation, resiliency, academic self-concept that are critical to achievement, and other support services and identification systems that rely on multiple factors and that are not limited to only one point during a student's academic career. It then recommends both policy and practice reforms that would expand uptake of these successful interventions so they can reach a larger number of students.

"We know effective strategies to identify and support high-ability learners from low-income backgrounds and to help students remain on track in spite of setbacks or obstacles, do exist. The challenge is to disseminate these interventions so they can be widely replicated and to make them as affordable and accessible as possible," Olszewski-Kubilius said.

In addition to recommendations in practice and policy, Unlocking Emergent Talent also recommends a research agenda in the areas of psychosocial issues, barriers to participation in gifted education programming and the characteristics of instructional strategies that have been shown to be successful with this special population of students.

"NAGC looks forward to working with a policymakers, teachers, administrators and researchers to move the recommendations of this report forward so that we can unlock all talent – documented and emergent – and rebuild our nation's commitment to a systemic talent development system," Olszewski- Kubilius said.

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