The article ‘Administrators of Special and Gifted Education: Preparing them for the Challenge’ by Mulligan, Neal and Singleton can be considered as a timely and relevant piece that has long been ignored. The enactment of the Public Law 94-142 - Education of All Handicapped Children Act also known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 is a major milestone in the United States’ education system. However, the act that aims to rehabilitate and educate children with special needs and disabilities through government funding and resources has its gaps and inadequacies. One particular gap that was identified is the lack of provision pertaining to gifted children under this law. According to Milligan et al, “The passage of IDEA marked the culmination of the efforts of advocates and stakeholders regarding the education of children with disabilities. Yet, the only circumstance, under which a gifted child's rights may be addressed under IDEA, or any disability legislation, is when the gifted child is also identified as having a disability”. IDEA identifies children with special needs only those that have mental and physical disabilities yet it failed to identify gifted children as having special needs as well. As a result, “gifted education is not federally mandated; thus, there are no federal funds available to operate programs at the local level”. Currently, programs that address the educational needs of the gifted are mostly state initiatives without extensive support from the federal government as compared to the already established educational system of the disabled. As a result, gifted children get lesser attention as compared to those that have disabilities.
The former U.S. Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr. has been credited with highlighting the importance of providing special education to gifted children and was influential in providing criteria for identifying gifted children. According to Marland, being gifted went beyond I.Q. and should consider other areas of giftedness such as abilities and creativity. Marland’s proposal led to several psychological studies pertaining to giftedness. As a result, states have different criteria and definition for giftedness with varying levels of acceptability. Basing on the current demographics, almost all states recognize and have established a definition of giftedness with the exception of Massachusetts and South Dakota. Out of these 48 states, the definition of being gifted varies depending on the established criteria adopted by the state. Intelligence still remains as the strongest identification criteria for someone to be considered as gifted followed by achievement and creativity. Also, it is a known fact that minority students do not get a good representation in the gifted education programs of the United States. As observed by Kaufman, “About half of the states recognize that some groups of students are less likely to do as well on traditional methods of gifted identification and would benefit from flexible and non-traditional gifted identification procedures”.
Despite state efforts to augment the gap in the education of the gifted, funding still remains one of the biggest barriers to achieving a successful education program at par with what children with disabilities have achieved through IDEA. According to National Association for Gifted Children, 14 states does not provide funding to local districts for gifted education while other states only provide limited funding. The educational needs of the gifted requires special attention and perhaps more challenging than the educational needs of those that have disabilities. For one reason, gifted children possess abilities that make them far more superior than their peers that combining them with the average student could result to the squandering of their talents. There are approximately three to five million students who are considered as gifted that are not receiving specialized education tailored to their needs. As observed by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), most gifted students receive the majority of their K-12 education in regular classrooms that are taught by teachers who have not been trained to address their educational needs. Milligan, Neal and Singleton emphasize the importance of cooperation between stakeholders to achieve the goal of providing special education to gifted children. Just like how special education for disabled students gained state and federal recognition, advocacy, according to Milligan et al, is essential to achieving results. Advocacy implies collaboration among stakeholders of the special education for the gifted that includes the government, school administrators, parents and teachers.
Apparently, one of the biggest challenges that require attention is the training of teachers for gifted education. Since gifted students differ from typical students in terms of learning style, depth and complexity of understanding, and potential, teachers should be trained to address these areas. Also, an educational program that is tailored to the needs of gifted students would require a relatively new and separate curriculum and teaching approach. Such unique curriculum and educational system would require extensive support from stakeholders; most especially it would require extensive funding not only from the state but from the federal government as well. The proposed resolution to the problem regarding the inadequate educational program for gifted children is to include the gifted education under the IDEA umbrella. Once gifted education becomes mandated and federally funded, programs that would support gifted education can be initiated with ease. Proposals such as development of graduate programs aimed at producing competent administrators and teachers for gifted education is among the central objectives while a broader identification program that would include identification of high-ability students would benefit from an increased funding.
Kaufman, S.B. Who is Currently Identified as Gifted in the United States? January 2012. October 2014 <http://www.creativitypost.com/education/who_is_currently_identified_as_gifted_in_the_united_states>.
Milligan, J., Neal., G., Singleton, J. "ADMINISTRATORS OF SPECIAL AND GIFTED EDUCATION: PREPARING THEM FOR THE CHALLENGE." Education (n.d.): 171 - 180.
National Association of Gifted Children. Gifted Education in the U.S. n.d. October 2014 <http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/gifted-education-us>.