Thursday, November 03, 2005

Some See TAKS as Failing Gifted Kids

The system is highly problematic as well for the most challenged students who need as well to be taught higher-order thinking while engaging life and their studies meaningfully in a critical manner and in ways that connect to their experiences outside of school.


Web Posted: 11/03/2005 12:00 AM CST

Karen Adler
Express-News Staff Writer

Since President Bush's federal education law took hold of American schools five years ago, educators have been forced to focus on those students most likely to fall through the cracks.

So the casualties of emphasis on standardized testing may be the best and brightest students, advocates for high-achieving students say.

About 4,500 educators and parents of gifted and talented students from across Texas are in San Antonio this weekend for the annual conference of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented.

"The whole emphasis is on the test, and the test is a minimum skills test," said Nancy Hopkins, a gifted and talented teacher and facilitator for the Harlandale School District. "If you look at that as a measure or an end-all, what you're doing is limiting everyone to the minimum standard."

José Laguna, the father of two gifted children in the Judson School District, said too much time is spent on preparing students for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

"We have become performance oriented and not children oriented," he said. "We need to challenge everyone."

Gifted children have as many needs and challenges as special education students, just on the other end of the spectrum, said Marcy Voss, special programs coordinator with the Boerne School District.

More emphasis on testing has resulted in more rote learning, she said. That's not good for any student, she said, and especially bad for gifted students.

In Texas, all school districts must identify and serve gifted students at all grade levels. Districts get state funding for gifted students, but typically kick in local funds too.

It's up to the school districts to decide how to serve gifted students. An elementary student may go to "gifted and talented day." Other schools have labs for students who can use more challenging lessons.

In middle or high school, students can take advanced classes, or college courses.

When Max Carduner was a student at Castle Hills Elementary, his mother said, he always got up early on gifted and talented days, but during the rest of the week, the alarm clock woke him up.

"I loved the GT program because we built all kinds of stuff," said Max, now a seventh-grader at the Krueger School of Applied Technology in the North East School District. "We had logic problems that really challenged me and I thought they were really interesting."

Lamenting troubles of gifted students doesn't earn sympathy.

People think that if kids are smart, they'll learn for themselves, said Priscilla Lurz, coordinator of gifted and talented and enrichment programs for the Northside School District.

But brushing aside gifted and talented kids has serious implications, said Rick Peters, the president-elect of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented. If America wants to compete in the global economy, it's crucial that schools and lawmakers help gifted students reach their potential, he said.
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