Perhaps you’ve heard a student mention being in a gifted program and wondered what they were talking about. Maybe you are a parent with a student who you feel might do well in a gifted program. Whatever the reason is, you’ve come to the right place to find out what a gifted program is.
This article will discuss what a gifted program really is and how students are often selected for gifted programs. We will also be discussing some of the most common pros and cons of gifted programs. This is not meant to be an argument for or against gifted programs, but simply an article to give you the information you may seek about these programs.
What Does it Mean to Be in the Gifted Program?
Many schools offer gifted programs, sometimes called gifted and talented or GT, among other things, to supplement the education they are providing. This is a separate class that gifted or bright students attend during which they are given a more challenging academic curriculum than what their peers are doing.
GT programs tend to have smaller class sizes and lead to close relationships with the teachers who teach in the program. They provide a space where students who feel that school is easy for them can be challenged. Some GT programs work hand-in-hand with the school’s curriculum, while others have a completely different curriculum that the students get to work through alongside their standard curriculum.
How Does the Gifted Program Work?
Gifted programs work differently depending on the school you are in, the style of the gifted program, and the student’s age. We’ll break down some of the common key features among gifted programs for elementary and middle, and high schools.
In elementary school, it is often challenging to have advanced math or honors English since most students generally spend most of their day in one classroom with one teacher. This means that one teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects and is responsible for balancing all of their students’ needs. Sometimes, managing gifted students in the classroom can be challenging, so many elementary school gifted programs support the teachers.
In many elementary schools, a gifted program is a time every few days where the students involved are pulled from their regular classroom and brought to a different classroom. This means that it does typically remove the students from their normal school day and sometimes leads to students needing to make up any work that happens while they are away. This style of program is most common in elementary school since it is the only place in a school system where students can be so easily pulled from a classroom and be able to catch up without too much of a problem.
Middle school and high school
Most students move from classroom to classroom in middle school and high school, depending on what subject they are taking. This means that it is often much easier to incorporate a gifted program into a club block or offer accelerated or honors classes in different subjects. This leads to a very different style of the gifted program but is generally much easier for a school to manage than any of the alternatives.
This style of the gifted program allows students to continue with a gifted program for math, but not for English. Allowing students to choose which classes they want to push themselves in and which classes they don’t can give students more of a sense of autonomy over their education.
How to Qualify for the Gifted Program? What are the Requirements?
Qualifying for a gifted program is something that is highly debated. There is no set standard of what makes an academically gifted student, and it can be tough to judge, especially during the early years of elementary school. During this time, many gifted programs rely heavily on teacher recommendations to place students in the best programs for them within the school they attend.
One major challenge with figuring out which kids would do best in a gifted program is managing parental expectations. Many parents push their kids hard throughout school and are under the impression that if their child is placed in a gifted program, they will rise to the occasion and fulfill all the necessary requirements. This, however, is not often the case, and much of the motivation that a student needs to do well in school and a gifted program needs to come from inside, especially at a young age.
As kids get older, there are more testing options available. Some gifted programs or classes in middle school or high school will use test results to help figure out which students should be placed in these programs. Some schools phase out gifted programs in middle school and high school to have more honors, accelerated, or AP course options, which are meant to fill the space that a gifted program would occupy.
What are the Benefits of the Gifted Programs?
Gifted programs can have a lot of benefits for the students involved in them. This can make them a highly desirable program that many parents will fight to have their kids placed in. These academically gifted students are often able to thrive in the space created by a gifted program.
Gifted programs are often great places who feel at home at school to continue to feel more confident and comfortable. These programs tend to be home to many students who doubt themselves socially, and having space where they feel comfortable can give them the confidence they need to grow as people.
Gifted programs are designed to help provide more rigorous academic challenges to students who find school to be easy. These often come in the form of large-scale puzzles or challenges that force students to work together and use all their academic knowledge to solve the problems. This is the style of problem that will help to keep even the most intelligent students engaged.
Improves Social Skills
Students are generally best able to develop their social skills with students to whom they relate well. This means that by grouping together gifted students, they are more likely to relate to one another and be comfortable expressing themselves and working on their social skills.
Launching Pad for Future Success
Students who are a part of a gifted program at any point in their education are more likely to attend higher education and continue on to have a successful career than other students. While this is hard to attribute directly to the gifted program, since these students are bright and motivate students regardless of their involvement in a gifted program, it is a place that allows these students to grow together and push one another farther.
Pushes Teachers to Teach to a Higher Level
While the benefits that we’ve discussed so far all relate to the students who participate in gifted programs, there are some benefits for the teachers who teach in these programs as well. Many teachers are given more freedom when teaching in a gifted program as opposed to teaching in a typical classroom. This provides the teacher with more room to grow in their own teaching practices and to continue their own education through teaching different lesson plans outside of the set curriculum.
Gifted Program Pros and Cons
Although there are a large number of potential benefits for the students and teachers involved in a gifted program, there are also a large number of pros and cons associated with having a gifted program in a school. These are only some of the significant pros and cons since every gifted program is run entirely differently.
Keeps students engaged
This pro is along the lines of many of the benefits that we’ve discussed above. In general, students will be more motivated to learn if they feel that they are at a similar level to those around them. This is often used as an argument for offering a variety of levels of a subject in middle or high school as it allows students to learn at a better-suited speed than the larger average speed.
Learning surrounded by like-minded peers
Being surrounded by other gifted and motivated students can be a motivating experience that can benefit many students. First and foremost, these gifted programs are around to help provide a place for gifted students to thrive in a typical school environment.
Attracts high caliber students to the school
If a school can list that they have a good, gifted program, they may be able to attract higher-caliber students to their school. This can help with school funding and ultimately influence zoning for school placements. This is getting a little more into how gifted programs are run and how they impact the greater school politics, but this is an essential aspect of gifted programs that should be considered.
There are many arguments out there against dividing students. Dividing students based on academic ability is often very subjective and often leads to many of the students not listed as gifted feeling discouraged or beginning to doubt their own abilities. Although school is the only way we currently have to get a good sense of the knowledge that a student possesses, there are tons of reasons out there that students may be intelligent and unable to perform well in a school setting. Gifted programs are a huge disadvantage to these students.
Can promote socioeconomic and racial disparities
While gifted programs aim to divide students based on academic ability, they often divide students along socioeconomic or racial lines. This can exaggerate many of the socioeconomic and racial disparities that are already so engrained into our current school system.
Can be costly to run well
Any extra program, be it a gifted program or a special education program, or an ESL program, is costly to run and is even more expensive to run well. Schools operate on a tight budget, and balancing the constant needs of their students with the need to do well on testing in order to secure more funding is a constant struggle. While we all have our own beliefs about how schools should prioritize their funds, it is a continual challenge for administrators who almost always have less money than they would like to support more programs than they can.
Finding a balance between providing a space for gifted students to be able to grow and flourish while still making other students feel valued and respected is hard. These pros and cons are not straightforward, which is why the conversation around gifted programs across the country is so heated. Parents and educators on both sides of the argument have strong reasons why schools should or should not have gifted programs, with no clear winner to most of these arguments.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Gifted Program?
Despite the controversies surrounding dividing students of any age based on perceived ability, there can be some great benefits for students and teachers who participate in a gifted program. Gifted programs provide an excellent place for students to grow and push themselves outside of the typical classroom, but unfortunately quite costly and controversial to run. This means that choosing to enroll your student in a gifted program is something you should do once you have gathered the necessary information.