GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME SEVEN, NUMBER THREE
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Because of classroom organization changes resulting from educational reform and school system budget reductions, the gifted field is now searching for new directions in many states including centers of gifted power such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York. The history of this field during the last twenty years has been mainly a story of increases in gifted awareness, and the design of progressively more effective programs. However, the resource, self-contained, and special school models of the 1970s and 1980s are now under fire as being exclusionist, and as "going against the grain" of educational reform. Despite whether you agree with applying the ideas of heterogeneous grouping and cooperative learning to gifted children, we must face reality: The educational reform movement has influenced state and local boards of education to reassess, reorganize, and sometimes, to eliminate gifted programs.
We must present alternatives for gifted programming that simultaneously address the exceptional intellectual and social needs of the gifted, and help to achieve the major goal of reform -- educate students to successfully function and compete in the 21st century. Our survival as a unique area of education will depend upon whether we can apply gifted education concepts to all children; thereby helping both the gifted and non-gifted realize their highest potential. Teachers who are trained as differential educators of the gifted should now be prepared (through their university course work) to function effectively in dual roles, as educators of the gifted and as specialists who enrich the learning of non-gifted students.
The two articles included in this issue address the future of gifted education as related to educational reform pressures. Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli, Director of The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, discusses significant modifications in his Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) which concentrate upon developing the gifted teacher's dual role of providing differential education for gifted children, and enrichment opportunities for non-gifted children. Throughout his career, he has engaged in a variety of research and development activities dealing with identification systems, program development models, a curriculum development model, and a model for evaluating programs for the gifted and talented. He has contributed many books and articles to the literature in this area of special education and has served on the editorial boards of various journals, including The Gifted Child Quarterly and the Journal of Education for the Gifted. He has been a consultant to numerous school districts and agencies, and served on the White House Task Force on Education of the Gifted.
The article by Dr. Karen Rogers examines the future direction of gifted education in our nation. She asks us to consider three possible scenarios concerning this future, and to ask what we can do to assure that the future will bring appropriate learning opportunities to all gifted students. Dr. Rogers is currently a Professor of Education at St. Thomas University, St. Paul, Minnesota. She is most widely recognized for her statistical and conceptual analyses of the impact of grouping practices upon gifted students. Although her work has clearly shown that these students function most effectively in special programs for high ability students, her findings appear to be ignored by the leaders of educational reform. For her outstanding analytical work in the gifted field, Dr. Rogers received the Early Scholar Award from the National Association for Gifted Children in 1992.
Our Comments and Responses Section includes a statement by Dr. Theodore Sizer, Director of the Coalition of Essential Schools, regarding Dr. Bruce Gurcsik's article (Gifted Education Press Quarterly, Winter 1993 Issue) on Sizer's Re: Learning Program. This section also includes Dr. Gurcsik's and Dr. Michael Walters' responses. These commentaries illustrate the need for more Buberian dialogue among all educators regarding the future of gifted children in our nation's public schools. The final essay in this issue, written by Dr. Walters, is a tribute to John Steinbeck, a highly gifted American writer and Nobel Prize winner in literature. Walters discusses the photographic images created by his stories. Steinbeck exemplified many characteristics of highly gifted individuals -- exceptional writing ability, analytical and organizational thinking, curiosity, humor, imagination, creativity, great concern for the human condition, and high levels of task commitment. Use his books and stories as models for all gifted students who are interested in studying the giants of American literature. Have a reflective, relaxing and stimulating summer!
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Ph.D. Publisher
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR THE SCHOOLWIDE ENRICHMENT MODEL
BY JOSEPH S. RENZULLI, DIRECTOR
THE NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTER ON THE GIFTED AND TALENTED
THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
Gifted programs are under severe attack in the United States, and the "quiet crisis" that we wrote about in 1991 (Renzulli & Reis) has evolved into too perilous jeopardy for our most potentially able students! To give you some idea about the extremes to which ideologies are being carried, one state department of education has recently announced that it will withhold state funding (not just G/T funds) from districts that do not do away with all forms of ability grouping (Education Week, January 13, 1993). Many other states and districts are examining national trends toward total hetero-geneous grouping and standardized curriculum models. These developments have resulted in several program eliminations, reductions, and modifications. Accompanying these ideologies, there has been a good deal of negative press about special programs and the people who support them. Advocates of services for gifted and talented students, even the liberals among us who favor more flexible approaches to talent development, are being accused of taking a stand "against our democratic ideals." Somewhere in all the rhetoric about improving our schools, we seem to have lost sight of an ideal upon which our education system and the very foundations of democracy are based. Simply stated, this ideal asserts that the uniqueness and individuality of every person should be honored and respected. Translated into educational terms, the ideal requires that all learning experiences for all students should be arranged so that whatever paths students travel, and whatever distances they travel on these paths, these experiences must be appropriate to their unique abilities, interests and learning styles. If we do not develop specific techniques for achieving this ideal, our educational system will degenerate into a homogeneous, one-size-fits-all curriculum that continues to drive down the overall performance of North American stu-dents. We are already at the bottom of most international comparisons, and recent studies comparing 1980 with 1990 data indicate that we are falling even further behind.
In an attempt to counteract some of the declines in special services, and at the same time, to promote more integration between regular and special programming, we are reformulating the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) into a comprehensive plan for total school improvement. Our purpose in reconfiguring the model is not to circumvent national trends, but rather to offer some solutions for achieving equity and excellence that are based on the know-how that has emerged over the years on enrichment learning and teaching. It is difficult in a limited amount of space to describe the details of these new improvements, but I hope to have a paper prepared soon that describes our new work on the reconfigured model. The basic purpose of these new developments is twofold. First, we are attempting to provide schools with a systematic plan to implement or maintain commitments to the development of high levels of talent in young people, regardless of the direction that a school might take as far as its reform agenda is concerned. Second, we want to do everything possible to insure that there is a viable and exciting role within the school for persons who have strong backgrounds in enrichment learning and teaching. We will be recommending some changes in the role that G/T teachers have traditionally played, but a major part of their role will remain focused on direct services to targeted students. These components include the Interest-A-Lyzer, performance based assessment, learning styles assessment, and the preparation of a Total Talent Portfolio that will consist of an updated version of the Strength-A-Lyzer. This expanded approach to identifying talent potentials is essential if we are to make genuine efforts to include more minorities and other traditionally overlooked students in a plan for total talent development.
This approach is consistent with the more flexible conception of developing gifts and talents that has always been a part of my orientation. It draws upon some of the new work that has emerged, such as Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983), and as has always been the case with SEM, the reconfigured model will be practical, systematic, and inexpensive to implement. We are also recommending and developing procedures for the use of more thinking skills activities and general enrichment in the regular classroom. In the reconfigured model, the role of the G/T teacher, which we prefer to call the Schoolwide Enrichment Teaching Specialist, will consist of both direct services to any students engaged in "high end" learning (e.g., Type III Enrichment, mentorships, advanced Type II mini-courses, out-of-school experiences, etc.) and leadership activities that will infuse the know-how of enrichment learning and teaching techniques into the overall school program. A part of our work in facilitating this process is the preparation of categorical data bases that list a broad array of thinking skills activities and enrichment materials, as well as other data bases on academic competitions, publishing opportunities for young people, methodological (How-To) resource books and materials, summer programs, and staff development materials that have been successfully implemented in schools with widely varying demographics. We have always argued that a large amount of gifted program activities should be made available for all students, and that the SEM should serve as a vehicle for sharing the know-how of enrichment learning and teaching with the entire school. The reconfigured model will push this concept even further by enlarging the role of the Schoolwide Enrichment Team and developing genuine partnerships between SEM specialists and teachers and administrators. We believe, however, that direct services in the form of high level follow-up and appropriate referrals to advanced resources and services are a "lifeline" for underchallenged students with high potentials. For this reason, we will continue to advocate enrichment specialist positions as well as greater use of talent development techniques by the general faculty.
The essence of our new work is the application of SEM know-how to the overall process of school improvement, and the development of some additional know-how that addresses factors related to increasing the challenge level for all students. For example, Curriculum Compacting is a "damage control" process that has been effectively used for high achieving students who are underchallenged by the regular curriculum. But a large amount of research has show that "dumbed down" textbooks and a focus on minimum outcome based competencies have lowered the achievement levels for large numbers of the school population. Experience has shown that the billions of dollars spent on compensatory drill and practice approaches to remediation have produced negligible results for disadvantaged students. We need to apply some of our proven techniques for compacting and enrichment to the entire curriculum, and we must replace excessive drill and practice with accelerated content and thinking skills activities for all students. Accordingly, we are working on some procedures for a more proactive approach to curricular modification that will provide guidelines for enrichment teams that want to "surgically" remove excess practice material from unchallenging textbooks. It is our hope that experienced G/T teachers who have familiarity with compacting and staff development will provide the technical know-how and leadership to implement this process.
WHERE ARE WE GOING WITH SEM?
Three considerations are guiding our work as we go about the task of reconfiguring the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. These considerations are the central role that the act of learning should play in the process of overall school improvement, the importance of making better use of time, and the need for a systematic approach to school change procedures.
FOCUS ON THE ACT OF LEARNING
School improvement must begin by placing the act of learning at the center of the change process. Organizational and administrative structures such as site based management, school choice, ungraded classes, parent involvement, and extended school days are important considerations, but they do not address directly the crucial question of how we can improve the act of learning. An act of learning takes place when three major components interact with one another in such a way as to produce the intellectual or artistic equivalent of spontaneous combustion. These three components are a learner, a teacher, and the material to be learned (i.e., curriculum). Each of these three components, in turn, has its own important subcomponents. Thus, for example, when considering the learner we must take into consideration: (1) the abilities and present level of the learner in a particular area of study, (2) the learner's interest in the topic and the ways in which we can enhance present interests or develop new interest, and (3) the preferred styles of learning that will improve the learner's motivation to pursue the material that is being studied. Motivation or effort is the secret ingredient for successful learning, and some researchers (Stevenson, 1992) have argued persuasively that it is precisely this ingredient that accounts for the high levels of achievement among Asian students. As part of our expanded work, I will be preparing a (hopefully) teacher-friendly guidebook that will spell out specific procedures for infusing enrichment learning and teaching techniques into general curricular activities. This work will draw upon much of the material already included in The Enrichment Triad Model and related writing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME
Although it would be interesting to speculate why schools have changed so little over the centuries, at least part of the reason has been our unwillingness to examine critically the issue of time. At some point in history, between the time that Socrates met with young people in the marketplace in Athens and the advent of formal schools, the complexities of educating large groups of students gave rise to a formal organizational pattern that has become known as "the schedule." The arrival of textbooks with their ramifications for "coverage," and eventually, state regulations requiring prescribed amounts of time for various subjects further locked the school day and week into a formula for orderliness that has remained virtually unchanged since at least the turn of the century. If the ways in which we currently use school time were producing remarkably positive or even adequate results, there might be an argument for maintaining the traditional schedule. But such is not the case.
Although it is acknowledged that schools without schedules would probably be chaotic, the almost universal pattern of school organization that has emerged over the years has contributed to our inability to make even the smallest changes in the overall process of learning. This universal pattern is well known to educators and lay persons alike. The "major" subject matter areas (Reading, Mathematics, Language Arts, and Social Studies) are taught on a regular basis, five days per week. Other subjects (sometimes called "the specials") such as Science, Music, Art, and Physical Education are taught once or twice a week. So accustomed have we become to the rigidity of this schedule that even the slightest hint about possible variations is met with a storm of protest from administrators and teachers. "We don't have time now to cover the regular curriculum." "How will we fit in the specials?" "They keep adding new things (Drug Education, Sex Education, etc.) for us to cover." Our uncontested acceptance of the elementary and secondary school schedule causes us to lose sight of the fact that at the college level, where material is ordinarily more advanced and demanding, we routinely drop from a five meeting per week schedule to a three day (and sometimes even two day) per week schedule of class meetings. And our adherence to the more-time-is-better argument fails to take into account research that shows quite the opposite. For example, international comparison studies report that 8 of 11 nations that surpass U.S. achievement levels in mathematics spend less time on math instruction than do American schools.
Some of the current reform proposals have indeed recommended changes in the schedule, but most of these proposals suggest extending the school day and year. These recommendations ignore the fact that extending school time without primary attention to the quality of learning will only increase the number of students who are bored to the point of refusing to learn what is already perceived to be irrelevant material taught by pedantic methods. These methods place primary emphasis on the needless repetition of vast amounts of material that has already been covered. Numerous commentaries on textbooks have summarized large numbers of research studies about the repetitiveness of a widely acknowledged, "dumbed down" curriculum in our schools. It is this research that has given rise to procedures in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model about specific ways for making modest alterations in the school schedule. The purpose of these alternative options for scheduling is to guarantee that at least some time will be available in each school week during which enrichment learning and teaching will take place. It is further argued that participation in these types of learning situations will provide teachers with experiences that are more valuable to their overall professional development than the thousands of hours they typically spend in traditional educational workshops. Our experience has shown that a small amount of time devoted to learning situations that focus on non-structured enrichment learning and teaching, and small amounts of time devoted to analyzing the circumstances and impact of these situations, has a spill-over effect on all teaching contingencies.
GENTLE AND EVOLUTIONARY (BUT REALISTIC) APPROACHES TO SCHOOL CHANGE
The approach to school improvement being recommended in this model is realistic in the sense that it focuses on those aspects of learning and development over which the schools have the most influence, and therefore the highest probability of achieving success. U.S. schools are being bombarded with proposals for change. These proposals range from total, "systematic reform" to tinkering with bits and pieces of specific subjects and teaching methods. Often, the proposals are little more than lists of intended goals or outcomes, but limited direction is provided about how these outcomes can be achieved; and even less information is provided about the effectiveness of recommended practices in a broad range of field test sites. Even worse, are the mixed messages that policy makers and regulators are beaming at schools at an unprecedented rate, messages that are often incompatible with one another. One state, for example, mandated a core curriculum for students, but then evaluated teachers on the basis of generic teaching skills that had nothing to do with the curriculum. Schools are encouraged to raise their standards, and advocates of site-based management encourage teachers to become more active in curriculum development. But these same schools are rated on the basis of test scores tied to lists of state specified, outcome based competencies. A recent study (Madaus, 1992) showed that the most widely used tests measure low level skills and knowledge, and that teachers are pressured to emphasize this kind of material because it will show up on the tests. The study also reported that teachers and administrators felt the tests forced them to compromise their ideals about good teaching.
The multiple layers of government that fund, regulate, and admonish schools to change have launched so many new initiatives that fragmentation has been exacerbated, educators have become frustrated, and the inevitable result is that little if any real improvement can be found in the schools. When researchers asked educators how they would evaluate educational reforms, they said, "There's nothing but chaos. Our best strategy is to ignore them and close our doors and go about our business." (Education Week, 10/9/92, p. 30)
It would be easy to jump on the restructuring bandwagon with yet another grand design or string of rhetoric for radical and revolutionary school reform: "Throw out all the textbooks!" "Replace or retrain all the teachers." "Let the parents select the building principal." "Set world class standards and develop curriculum frameworks." "Replace the existing curriculum with interdisciplinary, multi-cultural, theme-based units." "Bring technology into the schools and form school/business part-nerships." All these things make for exhilarating speeches, but the realities of school life, coupled with an already overburdened system of regulations, inadequate funding, vested interest groups, and recent commitments to new initiatives would inevitably lead to more of the fragmentation and chaos discussed above. It is easy to "talk a good game" about school improvement, and on rare occasions we throw uncommonly large amounts of money at staff development, curricular revision, or projects that promise to start yet another showcase school. We have been doing these things for years, but in the overwhelming majority of America's classrooms nothing changes. One need only look at a recent review of research from the national Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools (CORS, Fall 1992) to verify this conclusion.
In spite of this gloomy scenario, we believe that school improvement can be initiated and built upon through gentle and evolutionary strategies for change. These strategies must first and foremost concentrate on the act of learning as represented by the interactions that take place between and among learners, teachers, and the curriculum. In the early stages of the change process, these strategies should make minimal but specific suggestions for change in existing schedules, textbook usage, and curricular conventions. And these strategies should be based on practices that have already demonstrated results in places where they have been used for reasonable periods of time. We also believe that the individual school building is the unit-of-change for addressing school improvement, and that effective and lasting change can only occur when it is initiated, nurtured, and monitored from within the school itself. Outside-of-school regulations and remedies have seldom changed the daily behaviors of students and teachers or dealt effectively with solutions to inside-of-school problems (Barth, 1990, pp. 11-15). A simple but sincere waiver of top-down regulations, a plan that involves consensus and shared decision making on the parts of administrators, parents, and teachers, and incentives for specific contributions to the change process are the starting points and the only "big decisions" policy makers need in order to initiate a gentle and evolutionary school improve-ment process.
The change process recommended in this model begins with an examination of the major factors affecting the quality of learning in a school. These factors exist along a continuum of internal (to the school) to external, and each factor is inter-dependent with the others. Thus, for example, an internal factor such as the building principal may be externally influenced if the principal is assigned by central administration; and the curriculum may be externally influenced by state regulations or district-wide textbook adoption policies. All of these factors have three salient characteristics. First, they are always present, and regardless of micro or macro change initiatives, they always will be present! Second, each factor exists along a continuum of negative to positive influence on the quality of learning. Third, each factor is almost always going through a process of change, for better or worse. Our goal in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is not to replace these essential factors, but rather to apply the strategies and services that define the model to the improvement of the respective factors. We view this process as a "cross-cut" approach to school improvement, and the main targets of the change process are those factors that have a direct bearing on the process of learning.
In my mind's eye, I view the automobile as a metaphor for our reconfigured SEM model. The school is the automobile (hopefully a Porsche), and the principal is the driver, hopefully bold and daring like Mario Andretti or Amelia Earhart. The faculty is the engine, loaded with power and constantly
being tuned-up to make it more efficient and effective. The Schoolwide Enrichment Team is the spark plugs, igniting the energy with above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty activities. And the SEM specialist is the ignition and the distributor, initiating new developments and sending the energy to the appropriate places. We have learned a great deal about enrichment learning and teaching over the several years that we have trained personnel and experimented with various components of the model. The atmosphere is ripe for a broader application of the strategies and techniques that have served us well in special programs, and I invite you to join us in this new effort to make all schools laboratories for talent development. I also hope that you will share these thoughts with your school and district leaders so that they will consider supporting your efforts to promote superlative learning in all students.
Barth, R. S. (1990). Improving schools from within. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gardner, Howard. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Madaus, George F. (Feb. 1992). The influence of testing on teaching math and science in grades 4-12. Boston College: Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy.
Renzulli, Joseph S., & Reis, Sally M. (1991). The reform movement and the quiet crisis in gifted Education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 35, 26-35.
Stevenson, Harold W. (1992). Learning from Asian schools. Scientific American, 267, 70-76.
PAINTING VISIONS OF THE FUTURE:
WHERE DOES GIFTED EDUCATION FIT IN?
BY PROFESSOR KAREN B. ROGERS ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
As the 1990s flow inevitably into the year 2000, prognostications about the future of almost everything -- from objects and beliefs to practices and trends -- are increasing in geometric progressions. And for practices and institutions with spotty histories of successful survival in the past, such prognostications become increasingly important. In preparation for this article, I skimmed three future trends books, thinking I would get loads of ideas about future education generally, but none of them made prognostications about the future of education at all. The one I felt was typical of this type of visioning was called, Future Vision: The 189 Most Important Trends of the 1990s. In it there were chapters on population, politics, money, shopping, leisure, food, home, health and fitness, media, environment, and the workplace, but not one WORD devoted to trends in education. I'm not sure what that says. Is education not important enough to envision as a future set of trends or is it so full of trends right now that no pattern emerges?
At any rate, that meant that I had better do some visioning of my own without books about the future to help me. In helping to plot my own trends about educating the gifted, I traced the case histories of two gifted children and one "school of the future" across the last 40+ years, trying to extrapolate from them about the future of gifted education. Here are the case studies on which to plot our trends and paint our future vision:
CASE STUDY ONE: school years 1949-1961
Kay entered school at 4 1/2 years of age. In first grade, she was allowed to read independently at her own pace, ultimately completing the 1-8 basal reading series by the beginning of grade 4. She skipped fifth grade. In grades 7 and 8, she was part of an enrichment program of creative dramatics, foreign language, and typing. During high school she was placed in the "advanced track" for her major academic subjects, sharing only arts and sports classes with a heterogeneous mix of students. During the spring semester of her senior year, she enrolled in two history classes for college credit at the local junior college.
OUTCOME: Graduated with honors from a prestigious university, completed two master's degrees and a Ph.D., ultimately employed as a university professor.
CASE STUDY TWO: school years 1974-1986
Jane entered first grade at 4 1/2 years. She was grouped for accelerated instruction in reading and mathematics through fifth grade. In middle school, she was placed in enriched mathematics, English, social studies, and science. In eighth grade she took the SAT, scoring highly, and subsequently attended a SMPY program of accelerated mathematics held at the local university; she received two years of high school math credit for one year's attendance. Likewise, in high school she was grouped for specific, advanced instruction in mathematics, English, social studies, and science. She completed three years of German in one year, by being allowed to progress at her own pace in that subject in her Sophomore year. She took the Advanced Placement exams in Calculus and English Literature as a high school senior, receiving 10 college credits of mathematics and 6 English credits when she attended the University. At college, she took placement exams in foreign language, and music theory, picking up another 23 credits for college work.
OUTCOMES: Graduated from a prestigious university Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and completed a double Master's degree from a selective Ivy League school at last report.
CASE STUDY THREE: School years 1989-1992
A large midwestern urban school district decided to develop a "school of the future," a school that would ultimately individualize the education of its extremely diverse population of schoolchildren. The curriculum was developed from scratch by four "master teachers," paid very well for the additional case loads, design responsibilities, and admin-istrative roles they would take on in this model. Textbooks were avoided: Only real-life, relevant materials would be used in instruction. Children learned through two primary modes: (1) small group enrichment units, self-selected by the students according to their interests; and (2) completion of skills work according to a Personal Learning Plan, managed by computer and delivered instructionally by computer. The master teachers in this school worked very hard with their low achieving, "at risk," and special education students in remediating for gaps or deficiencies in their learning and curriculum. None of the teachers had training in gifted education, but felt these students would be kept busy as part of cooperative groups for the enrichment units and by being able to self-select their own enrichment. The school bought heavily into the philosophy that the only real differences in children are differences in the time it takes to master content. There was a strong belief that "all children can learn from the same materials and ultimately through careful avoidance of ability grouping and encouragement of cooperative learning, all children would develop the potential to learn the same amount of material in the same amount of time. Such ideas were first espoused by Benjamin Bloom and Thomas Guskey in the 1970s and had hit "big time" in this district as Outcomes- based education in the 1990s.
OUTCOMES: Testing administered at the beginning and end of each school year showed slight declines in achievement progress annually in most areas of curriculum, except for progress maintenance in science and social studies; a large decline in mathematics computation, concepts, problem solving, and comprehension was exper-ienced through the second year, despite some highly creative math enrichments in Logo, Tessellations, and Tangrams. Standard deviations on all test score means were cut in half across the three years. The low quartile made slight overall gains in their scores. The middle quartile of ability made slight declines, and the upper quartile made significant declines in their mean scores during this period of time.
In looking at the present, then, we can foresee a couple of possibilities for the future of gifted education and what it might look like for gifted learners. We could be presenting gifted children with a menu of possible services and subsequently selecting from them as many as necessary to meet specific needs, OR we could be creating a Vonne-gut-like world in which everyone is forced to be average. Ballet dancers wear weights on their ankles and arms so they can move more awkwardly and slowly; the bright learners receive an electronic beep through their brains at three-second intervals to interrupt any brilliant thoughts or ideas they might be having, and so forth. Both futures can be derived from case studies of our past.
In thinking in more general national terms, it seemed to me we needed three different kinds of visions for the future. Hence, I developed three different scenarios of what the future of gifted education might look like. As you study each of the scenarios think about the positive and negative implications of each and decide for yourself, which is the most satisfactory one for the greatest number of individuals and which is the most likely to occur in the future.
SCENARIO ONE: "THE BEST CASE" SCENARIO
The U.S develops a national plan of action to fund education as its first priority. Defense has gone by the wayside. Curriculum reform projects are funded with huge grants specifically designated to boost the performance of gifted learners after several years of test score regression to the mean. People such as Jerome Bruner, the truly great educational theoretician of our times, creates several new curricula which rival his earlier efforts of the 1960s -- MACOS, PSSC Physics, BSCS Biology. The new curriculum has punch; it has challenge and it has all the advanced, accelerated, enriched, interdisciplinary, and procedural knowledge that gifted children need so that they have "meat" to do their higher order thinking around. Furthermore, there is money and money to provide specialized training for a carefully selected corps of teachers of the gifted: teachers who are very bright, who wouldn't think of standing up in front of a class of students reading from a curriculum guide, who expect to develop their own instruction for gifted learners, who are excited and thrilled to have such students -- teachers who spend much time on their own pursuing their own intellectual interests, activities like reading the Great Books or learning a new language, rather than tatting lace or water skiing. These teachers have been guaranteed that from this point on, gifted education will be a consistent part of regular education. Their programs will never again be threatened in April, rallied for in front of school boards in June, and resurrected at the last moment in August before school starts up again. And funding is provided to totally transform schools, making liberal use of the grouping management strategies the research supports for maximum cognitive gains for gifted children: homogeneous grouping for advanced instruction, cluster grouping, enrichment pullouts, individualized accelerative options, and sparing use of mixed-ability cooperative grouping.
Of course, in this scenario, similar funding levels have provided for curriculum reform projects and the special training of a corps of teachers devoted to regular and special education children. These developments have taken place, because we have discovered once and for all that all learners do not learn the same amount or the same things in the same amount of time, and we have come to value these differences, not to see advanced learners as "high status" and low ability learners as "low status," or vice versa. The outcomes for all learners come to place an emphasis on the arts, on aesthetics, on literature, and on the world's great thoughts, in part as a reaction to oversaturation of television and movie violence, inane television sitcoms, and monosyllabic news anchors with carefully sprayed hairdos.
SCENARIO TWO: THE "MIDDLE OF THE ROAD CASE" SCENARIO
A national report is issued outlining the need for intelligent, well-trained leaders for our nation. Government, for example, has hit a new low with its highest leaders unable to spell potato correctly or know that Mexico is not in South American or that Latin is not spoken in Latin America. This report rallies government agencies and Congress to provide money for the development of curriculum and teacher training programs for students with gifts and talents. To become first in the world in math and science, the government realizes that its brightest students will get us there. To solve the increasingly complex problems of our environment, world politics, the U.S. budget deficit, and the general decline in ethical values, there is a realization that it will be our brightest children who will solve these problems and get us back on track. To help the increasingly elderly population and provide for the increasing numbers of children born with disabilities and dependencies of one form or another, the nation realizes they want the bright ones to assume these roles. So brilliant curriculum is developed for this group -- identified as the top 15% nationally. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics recommendations are purely and appropriately implemented. The National Science Foundation funds huge projects for differentiated science teaching and curriculum for GT learners. The basic "skills" of the total curriculum reform effort come to include values and ethics, social responsibility and community service, environmental sciences, economics, and government policy, in preparation for solving society's ills.
The remainder of the population continues to be taught using the school reform methods developed in the 1990s : outcomes-based education, cooperative learning, elements of effective instruction, heterogeneous classrooms, a curricular focus on caring and sharing, a mastery approach to basic skills, and total integration of students with disabilities in the regular classroom.
SCENARIO THREE: THE "WORST CASE" SCENARIO
The school reform movement has hit the nation in a big and resounding way. Gifted and special education programs have been eliminated and primary responsibility for the learning of all children is placed on our current corps of teachers and their unions. In order to manage the increased diversity of their classrooms, teachers focus on teaching to the middle or lower ability students in their classrooms. There is an emphasis on bringing UP the performance of our cultural minority groups, the economically disadvantaged, the "at risk" populations. There is literally no time for classroom teachers to provide challenge or meet the educational needs of gifted learners. In many cases, the gifted students are utilized to help their classmates who struggle.
When national norms on standardized achievement tests across the nation's schools begin to plummet, the national educational agenda responds by pushing for national tests to be newly developed to replace these older achievement measures. Business, human resource development, and military testing personnel are called in as consultants in the development of this national assessment.
A set of standard competencies are also developed for teachers. They are required to demonstrate their mastery of basic skills in order to obtain a "national certificate of mastery," and later can develop portfolios of testimony about how they have touched children's lives as they work toward a "master teacher" national certification.
School Organization Changes. Schools work in "families" or "clusters." One enters them to see children cooperating well as they work on shared tasks. They are happy at school and teachers are happy too. Other than push for a national student assessment and national set of standards for teacher certification, the government has removed itself from educational policy-making. Decision-making authority has moved to individual school sites that vie to see which building can produce at the highest levels with the same level of meager resources. Site-based teams decide what schools will teach and how school dollars will be spent.
Now comes the time when you must decide which scenario is most likely to be painted in the future, and which is most generally satisfactory. Person-ally, I believe the second scenario will ultimately prevail. It isn't the best. It does not provide new and better ways for educating 85% of our school population, but it will put our brightest kids in a position to solve our societal problems and to take care of those having difficulties coping with society as it is. In the long run, it probably would make our country stronger, but it is far from ideal.
What can we do to ensure the best for whichever scenario actually does occur or for some fourth scenario not even described as of yet? How can we paint our brightest vision of the future?
1. Support good grouping practices for gifted and talented learners and try out new reforms with moderation for groups of learners having difficulty in school. Document all reforms or changes made to ensure that what is used as replacement or reform is superior to what it replaces.
2. Press our state and national governments to make education their primary spending priority. It IS their responsibility, not that of businesses, corporations, private citizens, or school boards. 3. Don't vote for anyone who doesn't see education as the primary national agenda.
4. Quit blaming the schools and teachers for what's wrong with society.
5. Quit depending on schools and teachers to have the "answers" for what's wrong with society.
6. Insist that schools focus on the academic preparation of students, and have parents take over teaching their own children things like getting along with others, how to say "no" to drugs, and how to develop a sense of values and ethics.
7. Expect parents to take over providing academic enrichments and challenges for their children when the schools run out of money to do so.
8. Provide parents with training in social and communication skills development, chemical dependency, values clarification, and psychological issues and with ways to provide enrichment and challenge when they don't know how to do such things for their children.
The picture of gifted education is not totally clear in 1993. Visions of its future are like abstract or even impressionistic pictures of tomorrow. The realistic details of the canvas are only beginning to be revealed. I hope that each and every one of you will pick up your paintbrushes and contribute to the final masterpiece.
RESPONSE TO BRUCE GURCSIK'S CURRICULUM REFORM????? LOOK NO FURTHER THAN YOUR GIFTED PROGRAM FOR HELP! (GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY, WINTER 1993 ISSUE)
A. In his piece on curriculum reform, Bruce Gurcsik claims that he was "underwhelmed" by what he saw in a Re: Learning classroom. He believes the principles of Re: Learning which he witnessed, student centered learning and the development of critical thinking skills, are not new, as they have been apparent in some classrooms -- including those for the academically precocious -- for years.
Most good ideas in education are not new -- Plato, among others, had some excellent thoughts on the subject. Student centered learning and the development of critical thinking skills are certainly not revolutionary ideas. What is revolutionary is the notion that all students must be exposed to this sort of exemplary teaching. Too often, we use our better resources and our best ideas to help only the "gifted" youngsters. In the process, we have relegated the other students to classrooms where they are not asked to think critically nor pushed to do authentic work. If another country imposed such a system upon us -- to coin a familiar phrase -- we would assume it to be undemocratic and an act of war.
Some Essential schools in Re: Learning states have made tough decisions to assure that all students -- not just the gifted ones -- learn to use their minds well. That is what is new. Theodore R. Sizer Chairman, Coalition of Essential Schools Brown University Providence, RI.
RESPONSES TO DR. SIZER'S COMMENTS
B. Frankly, I cannot understand Dr. Sizer's response. Rather than recognizing the pioneering efforts of educators of the gifted toward the development of "quality" educational programs and seeking their help, he retreats to a confrontational posture which implies that these efforts to challenge a portion of the school population with meaningful work are elitist. Furthermore, he implies that we have channeled the best resources to the gifted at the expense of non-exceptional learners, when in reality the gifted learner had to escape the inappro- riateness of regular classroom instruction. That escape was not always under the best conditions. How many gifted educators have conducted class in the cafeteria, a hallway, a foyer or other inadequate space? How often did we conduct our classes without books, lab materials, supplies or support from a like-minded colleague or sympathetic administrator? How many of us have individualized our programs in spite of caseloads in excess of 100? How many have balanced a sandwich on the dashboard while driving to the next assignment? The truth is that regular education has failed its constituents, while gifted education in spite of enormous obstacles has been a resounding success! Now, the naysayers led by Guru Theodore Sizer are looking for a way out and cannot muster the courage to ask for help or acknowledge our work. Of course all of us want the best resources and best ideas for every learner. We have maintained that the best education for the gifted and others would include a regular classroom that was a rich and exciting learning environment. But this was an impossible dream. While extensive modification of the curriculum and improvement of instructional practices are desired outcomes, many of us would be happy with an occasional exemption from a redundant homework assignment for the gifted student.
No Ted, you missed my point. There is help for you and your colleagues, and it is still no further away than your nearest gifted program classroom. I just hope that your negative response is not another example of continued convergent thinking on the part of regular educators. I am still underwhelmed! Plato would be too. Bruce Gurcsik Coordinator of Gifted Programs ARIN Regional Educational Service Agency Shelocta, PA.
C. Theodore Sizer uses two deceptive rhetorical "sleights of hand." The first is the gimmick of constructing a straw man. He creates a false dichotomy; either one is for an elitist approach which emphasizes exclusive gifted education classes or one is for an inclusive democratic and hetero-geneous classroom. Obviously, these are not the only choices for gifted children, e.g., the Renzulli Revolving Door Model, Gardner's Teaching for Multiple Intelligences, and the Fisher & Walters Sensibility Analysis of Giftedness. The deception lies in the straw man of "elitist" gifted education which carries with it the baggage of undemocratic racial and gender discrimination, and class bias. The adherents of differential education for the gifted are made into straw men who represent all that is politically and morally incorrect in American education. The main problem with this rhetorical trick is that it closes real debate through emotional extortion and pseudo claims of being inclusive. The second "slight of hand" trick is to claim possession of an educational lexicon that uses words in an ideological manner. Are we supposed to accept the premise that only recently, so-called critical thinking skills have been advocated for classroom teaching? Whatever happened to the concepts of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, George Herbert Mead, Leta S. Hollingworth, Virgil Ward, and Benjamin Bloom? If one controls the "Orwellian Memory Hole," then past thinkers lose not only their present relevancy, but even their historical existence! Dr. Sizer, there are a few of us who realize that critical thinking is not a recent invention, but part of the proud and illustrious Pragmatic tradition of American philosophy, rooted in the best of American social and humanitarian thought and action. These profound thinkers realized that intellectual excellence and uniqueness must be developed in the public schools. In other words, Dr. Sizer, great thoughts are part of the critical thinking of gifted personalities. Michael E. Walters Educator New York City Public Schools
JOHN STEINBECK (1902-1968): A LITERARY PHOTOGRAPHER
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Photography is a valuable tool for teaching gifted students to write because it appeals to two important aspects of their sensibility -- composition and insight. Gifted individuals possess more than the average perception of most photographers. Their ability to compose various elements of a scene into a meaningful and interesting "whole" reveals insights which go beyond the actual scene depicted on film.
John Steinbeck wrote as if he were taking mental photographs. His books are composed of psychological vignettes which represent the interaction of humanity with the environment. Out of this literary composition, the reader can derive insights about the human condition and its environment. Steinbeck has been described by his critics as representative of both the naturalist and proletarian trends in American literature. However, he is also rooted in the impressionistic mode of perception and thought. He, like the French Impressionist painters attempted to capture the magic moment of time and place. Photography is essentially an impressionistic achievement. Steinbeck's literary style demonstrates how photography and writing are related. Some excellent examples of his novels and stories which show this relationship are The Red Pony (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Cannery Row (1945), and The Pearl (1947).
"Almost everything a child learns in school today is concerned with facts -- literature is concerned with feelings, with the quality of life." Charlotte Huck
"Through engagement with others, literature lets us imagine what it would be like to be different." Denis Donoghue
"A good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense." Vladimir Nabokov
"Photography has arrived at the point where it is capable of liberating painting from all literature, from the anecdote, and even from the subject." Picasso