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Education Reform’s Focus on Low Achievers Hits Gifted Students

Posted November 14, 2011 6:10 PM by Mark Cutler

I heard some disconcerting news last week from the field of education. According to a report by the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC), most states lack the critical infrastructure necessary to ably identify and teach our high-ability and high-potential students.

The Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 12 article framed the story by stating that "[a] national focus on the lowest-achieving students has helped boost their academic performance, but it has left the country's brightest young minds behind, prompting calls to rethink how schools teach top kids."

To me, the study and the article raise a serious issue about our country's strategy for improving education. The focus on improving the academic performance of the lowest achieving students is absolutely necessary and the results over the past 20 years--the average score in fourth grade reading for the lowest 10% was 174 out of 500 in 2011, up 15 points from 2000, according to the Journal--are somewhat encouraging.

However, if our brightest students are going to be the entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow, they cannot be neglected due to the assumption that they will be fine on their own while high-performing students in other developed countries continue to improve their academic performance.

The NAGC found that only 31 states require schools to identify gifted and talented children, only 26 states mandate education services aimed at them, and only 23 set aside funding for these students. However, the report recommended "low-cost but high-impact policy changes" by removing barriers, including bans on early entrance to kindergarten.

If potentially "low-cost, high-impact" policies are available, let's give them a try and measure the results.