The United States must move past its focus on minimum achievement standards for all and put more energy behind identifying and developing the talent of students who are capable of more—especially students from low-income backgrounds and students learning English, the National Association for Gifted Children said in a new directive this week.
Too often, these students “literally languish in our schools,” write Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, president of the NAGC, and director of public education Jane Clarenbach in “Unlocking Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students.”
The report crystallizes ideas discussed at a summit earlier this year.
Among the recommendations for educators and policymakers:
- Expect more than proficiency from many more students through policies, funding, and practices that consistently support high expectations and high achievement.
- Provide multiple strategies to support student achievement at the highest levels, and expand access to rigorous curriculum and supplemental services and programs.
- Expand preservice and in-service teacher training n identifying and serving high-ability, low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse students.
- Support emergent talent as early as possible, establishing a commitment to achievement at an early age.
- Engage communities to support in-school learning and supplement curriculum with outside-of-school opportunities. Minimize a student’s zip code and socioeconomic status as the determining factors for receiving a rigorous, high-quality education.
- Identify successful program models and interventions that work with low-income, high-ability students from different geographical, cultural, and racial backgrounds.
- Remove policy barriers that impede participation and access.
The report notes that while much attention is paid nationwide to narrowing the achievement gap, the fact that few students are reaching advanced levels doesn’t get nearly as much ink. The writers note, for example, that the proportion of low-income students performing at advanced levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams remains “shamefully low,” with only 1.7 percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price scoring at the advanced level on the 8th grade math exam between 1998 and 2007. Meanwhile, 6 percent to 10 percent of students from higher-income families scored at that level. In addition, since 1998, 1 percent or fewer low-income 4th, 8th, and 12th graders scored at the advanced level on the civics exam, compared to at least 5 percent of their higher-income counterparts. <Read more.>