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Cultivating The Gifts of All Students Part 1 of 2

Access Creates Equity

Cultivating The Gifts of All Students

By: Brian Butler

Blog 1 – Part 1 of 2

Asking The Right Questions?

Educators is it our moral obligation to have the same expectations of the children who we serve in schools as we do for our own children or a child that is special to us in our personal lives?

I am going to begin this blog with a challenge to the reader. My challenge to you is to wipe the slate clean and to be open to viewing Gifted Education (Also Known As/AKA Advanced Academics in some districts) through New Eyes. These New Eyes which should see Gifted Education as our floor, accessible to all and not just a select fortunate few. Research both old and new supports my position that all students have the capacity for high intellectual performance. We’ve just turned a blind eye to it, ignored it or just outright have disregarded the research. In fact, the following quotes from prominent researchers support my contention:

“…having been the director of Gifted Programs in a district as large and diverse as New York City, I found that gifted education is a pedagogical resource we can learn from to guide education of ALL students. The philosophy of gifted education is what ALL parents want for their children. And our country would benefit if we offered to ALL students what gifted education currently provides to only a few-pedagogy that elicits high intellectual performance to motivate self-directed learning and self-actualization.”

Dr. Yvette Jackson, The Pedagogy of Confidence, 2011, p.87

Wendy Berliner, co-author of the book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, says “studies suggest children can be taught the right principles to make them more talented as those with innate skills. She adds that with supportive and encouraging learning environments the average child can perform just as well or better than one believed to be "gifted".

Carol Ann Tomlinson and Edwin Lou Javius wrote… “research finds that sorting, this 21st century version of school segregation, correlates strongly with student race and economic status and predicts and contributes to student outcomes, with students in higher-level classes typically experiencing better teachers, curriculum, and achievement levels than peers in lower-level classes (Carbonaro & Gamoran, 2003). Further, when lower-performing students experience curriculum and instruction focused on meaning and understanding, they increase their skills at least as much as their higher-achieving peers do (Educational Research Service, 1992). …Virtually all students would benefit from the kind of curriculum and instruction we have often reserved for advanced learners—that is, curriculum and instruction designed to engage students, with a focus on meaning making, problem solving, logical thinking, and transfer of learning (National Research Council, 1999).”

For Each to Excel Pages 28-33 Teach Up for Excellence Carol Ann Tomlinson and Edwin Lou Javius, February 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 5,

For whatever reason, the traditional idea of gifted education has supported this myth of the Bell Curve, supremacy and/or a caste system in our schools. We have continued to ask the wrong questions regarding gifted education. The question we keep asking is, “How do we get more kids of color, school dependent kids, English Language Learners into Gifted Programs?” That’s the wrong question! The question we should be asking is, “How do we create the conditions, belief the mindset so that all schools can give each student a gifted education? How can we recognize the genius, awaken and cultivate the genius in every single child?”

You will notice that I used the pronoun “we” in the above questions. Why? Because it will take the teacher teams in a school to pull this off for every single child. Of course, an individual teacher can have the belief and high expectations that all students have the capacity for high intellectual performance, but to do away with the educational lottery for kids, (the luck of the draw…”I was lucky enough to get the teacher who believe that all kids can learn at high levels”) and to make it systematic, the team’s collective efficacy and collective responsibility for each and every student will ensure that a gifted experience for every child comes to fruition. But surely enough it will take fearless belief, expectations, and confidence from each educator to pull this off!

Do you Believe that all students are capable of high intellectual performance?

If you do or don’t it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy!

How can schools make Gifted Education/Advanced Academics a pedagogical resource for ALL Students? Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where I interview Morgan Huynh, my former colleague who was the Advance Academics Resource Teacher, at Mason Crest Elementary School, the first ever DuFour Award Recipient in 2016. Morgan will talk about her collaboration with the administrators, the grade level teacher teams, English language Teachers, Special Education Teachers and other support staff that ensured access to Gifted Education/Advanced Academics as a pedagogical resource for ALL Students at Mason Crest.

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