“Gifted students will do fine on their own.” 

 “Gifted programs are elitist.” 

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC for short) based out of Washington, these are just a few of the myths and misconceptions about gifted students that exist. Could they be preventing educators from appropriately educating millions of advanced students in our school system today?

NAGC compiled a list of the top 4 myths about gifted learners. Here, we will describe each and shed some much needed light on the facts behind the myths. This list was developed from a longer list of myths explored in a special of Gifted Child Quarterly (GCQ) in the Fall of 2009.

Part 2a

MYTH #1: Gifted Students Don’t Need Help; They’ll do fine on their own

TRUTH: Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.

MYTH #2: Teachers Challenge All The Students, So Gifted Kids Will Be Fine In The Regular Classroom

TRUTH: Although teachers try to challenge all students they are frequently unfamiliar with the needs of gifted children and do not know how to best serve them in the classroom. A national study conducted by the Fordham Institute found that 58% of teachers have received no professional development focused on teaching academically advanced students in the past few years and 73% of teachers agreed that “Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school – we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive. This report confirms what many families have known: not all teachers are able to recognize and support gifted learners

MYTH #3: Gifted Education Programs Are Elitist

TRUTH: Gifted education programs are meant to help all high-ability students. Gifted learners are found in all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups.  However, many of these students are denied the opportunity to maximize their potential because of the way in which programs and services are funded, and/or flawed identification practices.  For example, reliance on a single test score for gifted education services may exclude selection of students with different cultural experiences and opportunities. Additionally, with no federal money and few states providing an adequate funding stream, most gifted education programs and services are dependent solely on local funds and parent demand.  This means that in spite of the need, often only higher-income school districts are able to provide services, giving the appearance of elitism.

Part 2

MYTH #4: Gifted Students Make Everyone Else In The Class Smarter By Providing A Role Model Or A Challenge

TRUTH: Average or below-average students do not look to the gifted students in the class as role models. Watching or relying on someone who is expected to succeed does little to increase a struggling student’s sense of self-confidence.2 Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels and become bored, frustrated, and unmotivated when placed in classrooms with low or average-ability students.

Contrary to popular belief, not all bright and gifted students flourish without special help. Many purposely limit their achievement in order to gain acceptance from their peers. Others become so bored that they clown, disturb others or daydream. Most regular assignments provide little challenge for bright and gifted children/youth and they become accustomed to working much below their capacity. They actually learn “how not to learn.” Some “turn off” to such an extent that they are identified as having behaviour or learning problems. Even those who appear to be doing well in school may be using only a small part of their abilities.

All children/youth, including the bright and gifted, deserve to be accepted for who they are and to have the opportunity to realize their potential as fully as possible. Bright and gifted learners should not be left to develop by chance.

In our next article, we will discuss some strategies that parents can use at home to support gifted learners.

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