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July's Corner 2010

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Declaration of Educational Independence

Like many educators, I have set aside a bit of rest and relaxation time during the summer, and as a result, I’m writing this month’s Teacher’s Corner a little early, on the evening of July 4, 2010. Perhaps it is the fireworks blazing in the sky, and the thunderous echoes that follow them. It may be the anticipation of attending this nation’s oldest parade in the morning. I think it is this rich historical tradition, combined with the recent threat of the termination of the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program that has inspired me to use the Declaration of Independence as the backdrop to this installment.  I assure you that when I sat down tonight I had intentions of writing about Independent Projects, Management Plans, and students that have inspired me as a teacher. That can wait. Here is a rough working of what I have so far. 

When an educational system that gifted and talented students and their teachers find themselves in fails on all levels; academically, financially, emotionally, and socially, it is necessary for those involved to dissolve the standards and practices that have connected them and to believe in the power of advocacy, stating their beliefs about what works and why something different is needed.

We know the following, grounded in educational research and theory, that gifted students are individuals, possess certain abilities and strengths, can embrace creative productive thought, and seek to provide answers to the problems of the world. Each individual student is unique in his/her own way, and talent, whether latent, emergent, or manifest, should be nurtured and encouraged. Whenever a Department of Education hinders, denies, or fails to recognize these students and the services they need, it is the rights of the students and teachers to institute new policies and procedures for identification, curriculum delivery, and assessment, ensuring student safety and happiness. For when schools find themselves at a loss, as many have and will, the level of knowledge and advancement of creative thought and problem solving is halted, and as a result, the future of a nation is at risk. The recent report State of the Nation in Gifted Education demonstrates the patchwork quilt that has resulted and lets the facts be known. Here are a few.

  • There is no federal mandate or requirements to serve gifted and talented students. 
  • The Department of Education dedicates just 2 cents of every $100 K-12 federal education dollars to this student population. 
  • 13 states provided $0 in state funds to support gifted education in 2008-2009, another 5 states spent $1 million or less.
  • Only 5 states require all teachers to receive pre-service training in gifted and talented education.

Clearly, something different is needed. We have pleaded our case to Congress, and told them of the benefits of gifted education pedagogy. We have reminded them of the circumstances of what has been provided to us and the resulting innovation in all fields. We know the following, and more can be found in the document Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education.

  • The needs of gifted students are generally not met in American classrooms.
  • The use of acceleration results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners.
  • The use of enrichment and curriculum enhancement results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners as well as other students.
  • Gifted education programs and strategies are effective at serving gifted and high-ability students in a variety of educational settings and from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations.

Let those who are disinclined to support gifted education services hear the words of NAGC President Ann Robinson close this declaration. “Forty years ago we realized the impact of a sustained commitment to academic excellence when we celebrated the landing of a man on the moon. Future breakthroughs and discovery in science, medicine, and technology will be impossible if we fail to identify and serve today's brightest young minds. The time to act is now.”

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