The gifted education specialists across the state should be involved in rescuing Minnesota’s school age population and its economic future because Gifted Education emerged out of a desperate need for a better prepared school age population across the nation when our international competition with the USSR was challenged by the laughed of Sputnik. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), provided the leadership in those early years of its existence, to states who began building gifted programs in their schools. In 1972, the Marland Act was passed, with the support of NAGC, and states began building a strong cohort of gifted specialists. Gifted Education came to the rescue of a nation. We reached the moon and continue to lead the world in space exploration, despite setbacks.
Fast forward a few decades, and we now faced with a different challenge. But, the focus of this legislation is Minnesota. Here our population is changing rapidly as more students of color enter our schools. We know another challenge we are facing is the changing workplace and the fast disappearing jobs requiring repetitive tasks. During this same time, NAGC, has changed and is demanding change in our practices. A growing body of research offers evidence that, “high-ability students from lower-income families are far less likely than wealthier students to be identified for advanced level course work and opportunities.* They are also less likely to achieve at high levels, despite their aptitude. Lacking access to the enriched academic opportunities, differentiated learning, and counseling afforded to wealthier students, high-ability, low-income children are becoming what one team of researchers has termed a persistent talent underclass — underserved and therefore prevented from fully developing their talents.” Equal talents, unequal opportunities: A report card on state support for academically talented low-income students. Plucker, Glynn, Healey, and Dettmer. (March, 2018). Fordham Foundation.
According to research over the years, “gifted identification is closely tied to income and race. Students from low-income families and students who are black or Latino are much less likely to be identified as gifted than more-affluent students and white or Asian students. While districts are implementing practices that impact the demographic distribution of students of color in gifted programming,it is a noble but not widespread practice. Many gifted students of color are waiting for the challenge.” NAEP’S Good News for High Achievers: A decade of universal but uneven growth. Advancing Educational Excellence, Thomas Fordham Foundation, April, 2018.
“Guiding children to the very highest levels of academic achievement falls low on the priority list of most schools today, far below equity, diversity, and extra-curriculars. Were Plato with us today, he might scold us with a warning that “By not cultivating excellence, you are dishonoring it.” Not only is this tragic for many students, it flies in the face of national realities. The truth is, many of the most admired becomers from our past were talented people who were given special help along the way. Douglass received surreptitious reading lessons during his childhood. Edison was home-schooled by an attentive mother. Robert Goddard was given a telescope, microscope, and subscription to Scientific American during formative years. Steve Jobs was encouraged and aided in following his unconventional fascination with technology.”Closing America’s High Achievement Gap: A wise giver’s guide to helping our most talented student Reach their full potential. Andy Smarek.(2013). The Philanthropy Roundtable.
The inequities in access to readily available healthcare and supplies; in access to locally available foodstuffs and supplies; in access to educational resources, has been made transparent by the effects of the pandemic and by the response to the death of George Floyd. Both factors have had a greater negative impact on those at the lowest quartile of family income. It has become another challenge.
These are the challenges we face today. Current practices in gifted education are missing a large population of our students. With this legislation gifted specialists across the state can rise up and change practices to better reach more students and develop their talents, along with preparing all students K-12, with the skills they need for this changing world. And change their life pathway.