What is Giftedness?
It depends on whom you ask. In many ways, giftedness is cultural. Certainly what would be considered gifted by the Aborigines in Australia would look different than what gifted looks like in China, which looks different from what gifted looks like in Arizona.
Giftedness is also related to the socio-economics of the environment. Students of poverty are gifted in many ways different from students who have been exposed to an abundance of resources and opportunities.
As a result, identification can be difficult. Because it is complicated to define and identify giftedness, not many states even have laws that require districts to identify and serve their gifted populations.
Here is something to celebrate: Arizona has a mandate for gifted education! The mandate has been unfunded in recent years, but what remains are clear expectations for schools and districts to identify and serve the needs of their gifted students. More specific information about the mandate can be found at the Arizona Department of Education website under Arizona Revised Statutes Title 15-Education.
In Arizona, districts identify students by using a state approved test. While no one in gifted education believes one test demonstrates the full range of being gifted, it can give an indication of who may be capable of working above and beyond his/her age level peers. Students who score well on these tests are already achieving at high levels or have the potential to achieve at high levels. These are students for whom curriculum and instruction must be differentiated to accommodate their higher level of challenge. For students who may be at a disadvantage in taking a standardized test, many districts and schools use a matrix that includes test scores as well as other indicators for identification.
The Arizona law is about the business of making sure districts provide proper challenge and social and emotional support commensurate with each student’s needs and high abilities. Identification is for the purpose of enabling districts to provide proper learning opportunities for these students. School identification is not a predictor of life success or a means to label students as future Nobel Prize winners. Success for all is a combination of ability, task motivation and creativity. In addition to intentionally nurturing above average abilities in students, curriculum and instruction should include many opportunities for creative and higher level thinking as well as support for task motivation and learning habits that successful people employ.
For more information on giftedness, visit the website of the National Association for Gifted and Talented, the organization of which AAGT is an affiliate.