Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews recently addressed the issue of how public schools can best serve talented and gifted children. He published a number of insightful reader comments from parents and educators that illuminate the concerns of helping these students reach their highest potentials. One reader suggested that parents should home school gifted children. What do you think? Can public schools accommodate gifted children?

The May/June 2009 issue of Principal will be dedicated to talented and gifted children, focusing on what schools are doing to support these students and, in the wake of No Child Left Behind, whether or not schools are meeting their needs. For information about how to submit an article about this or other topics, visit the Principal Web page.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

I feel that gifted students sometimes are lost in the shuffle of education. There is so much focus on the middle to low students on getting them proficient on state tests, that teachers feel gifted students can do it on their own without any help. Thus, a gifted student is left feeling unmotivated and left out. I believe there should be more focus on gifted students and feel that homeschooling is not the answer. School is more than learning it is also socializing. To deny a child the opportunity to experience school life is a travesty. I would meet with teacher and administration to see if more challenging assignments and projects could be assigned. This could increase motivation and avoid the lack of trying most gifted students fall into.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

While there are clearly challenges in tailoring curriculum to meet the needs of gifted students, there are also many social learning elements that students who attend school experience that cannot be reproduced in a home school setting. Students who are gifted have gifted individual education plans that should be tailored to their needs and it is the responsibility of the school system and the parent to be sure that these are appropriate for the individual student. School prepares children to participate in the workplace, in their communities and in various social environments. Very few of us work in our homes and therefore home schooling does not simulate the experiences we are trying to prepare students for.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

Having been a teacher, advisor, and coach in the public education system for over ten years, I truly believe that public schools can offer a solid well-rounded education. A democratic society is also dependent and formed around an educated, collaborative community. However, schools must also offer flexibility for gifted students to maximize their potential. I feel the current grade-by-age structure at the high school level is antiquated. Students need to be given options such as dual-enrollment, early graduation (if all standards are met), and job shadowing opportunities. Holding all students to the same graduation "age" regardless of proficient level really flies in the face of the system established by NCLB and the idea of the best quality education for all students. Districts need to differentiate education and challenge the established trends if we truly want the best for all children. As stated by Chem Kid and KStaab, the social element is critical for success at the next level. Even though technology has cut into the personal contact of today’s generation, those "people skills" are still a necessity. The bottom line is greater differentiation for our children and increased flexibility by schools and also society.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

Public schools can definitely accommodate gifted children. Gifted children need to be challenged and engaged in order to be successful. I feel strongly that the curricula designed for the classes that these children take, needs to allow for discussion. Children learn the most when they are learning from their peers. Engaging students in an inquiry based discussion allows them to process thoughts, communicate ideas, listen to new ideas, debating, and are able to form new opinions and ideas. In college, the upper level courses are based on professional discussions. Students share their thoughts and what they bring to the table is unique. The deeper level of learning is reached when students are able to listen and respond to others about content. The more ideas that enter the mix, the better. Learning from peer interaction is something that parents homeschooling their children would not be able to accomplish.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

I can understand that in many instances gifted students can get lost in the shuffle and with the demands of meeting state standards and NCLB, the lower performers may receive more attention, while emphasis is placed on new and innovative ways to bring them up to par. However, I do believe that rules are rules and in this instance the student was missing many assignments that needed to be turned in for a grade and did not follow protocal. In every day life, there are not too many people that are concerned with you being gifted or not. This student needed to get the job done first and then would be able to expand his knowledge of the subject area. With that being said, public school can educate the gifted student. Choices and options need to be give so that they are not "bored" and technology must be integrated to push 21st Century Learners to meet their potential. I disagree with homeschooling and agree with CPV in that children learn with their peers and from collaboration and communication with others in a multitude of settings.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

I have taught English and Honors English for six of my 18 years as an educator, and I have had students much like the young man in the article. This really is a double-edged sword. If we allow for different expectations, are we sending the message that the student does not have to perform? That is not a message to send to someone who hopes to be gainfully employed some day. With a strong curriculum in place, I do feel that the performance of a gifted student can be measured differently--there is no reason why the product has to be the same for every child all of the time. A curriculum with differentiated performance tasks for assessment would help alleviate this problem.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

I do not believe talented and gifted children should be home-schooled in order to best meet their needs. While it is challenging for us classroom teachers to keep them challenged, I believe that school districts would benefit to hire a teacher to oversee gifted education. That teacher could help gifted students find their own way to learn to their strengths. Technology has tremendous potential to meet such children "where they are." Students could conduct independent studies, take part in distance learning, design projects, get involved in community projects, invent something, correspond with students in another country, or learn Chinese, just to name a few ideas. I think districts just need to be less afraid at failing to meet their needs, and more creative and confident in taking steps to do so.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

The most notable goal of NCLB is to have all students proficient in the areas of math and reading by 2014. The focus is in the acronym. No child will be left behind, but he or she may not be challenged either. School districts must spend time and money in raising the standardized test scores of students that are scoring basic or below. They avoid school improvement by moving these students to levels of proficiency in math, reading, and writing. There is no bonus for students that score advanced. I know there are many excellent educators out there that meet the needs of all of their students in differentiated classrooms. I am also sure that there are many schools that offer an excellent gifted program. However, with NCLB the driving force of public education gifted and talented students will always be less of a priority in the numbers game.

re: The Talented and Gifted Child

In education I have served as a teacher, reading specialist and literacy coach. I have taught in over 5 public school systems. Each district has focused heavily on the lower achieving students. It was only in one district where equal weight was given to all types of students. The district did an expceptional job of differentiating instruction. The teacher had the ability to enhance the instruction for gifted students yet remediate for the struggling students. It all comes down to the district's approach. With professional development in differentiating instruction, teachers could better meet the needs of ALL learners. It makes me think of the debate - do some less advantaged kids really catch up by 3rd grade or are the gifted kids just unchallenged and seem the same as the rest of the class?