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Is Gifted Education Expensive?

July 21, 2011

Acceleration levels the playing field of opportunity because any cost to the family or school is minimal. – A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students

If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin

Having Gifted Education Can Be Inexpensive

Budget constraints are often cited as a reason to cut or not implement gifted education, but there are numerous types of gifted education or acceleration and many are very inexpensive to implement.  Early admission to kindergarten, grade-skipping, or subject matter acceleration are essentially free.  Other options such as magnet classrooms or magnet schools can have initial start-up costs with teacher training or redistricting to open up space at a school.  However, the costs after that are can be similar to a standard classroom or school and funds are just shifted with the students instead of added.  For all programs, there are testing costs to identify the academic levels of students, but shouldn’t this be something schools are expected to do?

Many schools practice differentiation in the classroom.  For some schools, this is reading groups or additional worksheets for advanced students.   Other schools have cluster grouping, curriculum compacting, and telescoping to accelerate gifted learners.  All of these are done in the standard classroom.  If your school system states they practice differentiation, ask them which of the above methods they use.  Just having reading groups is inadequate and additional worksheets that don’t provide acceleration punish students for excelling.

Other forms of acceleration such as mentors can be more expensive as they can require additional teaching resources.  Pull-out programs can add 1/2 to 1 teaching resource per school.  School-sponsored extracurricular programs can create additional facility and personnel costs.  Enrolling high school students in college courses will cost either the school or parents money.  While schools often are compensated for special needs children, they are not compensated for resources spent on gifted students in many states.  These forms of gifted education may be too costly for many schools experiencing budget cutbacks..

Not Having Gifted Education Can Be Expensive

Gifted children who are not accelerated can create additional costs for school districts and society.  Bored children can become turned off to learning or be troublemakers.  Gifted students who are not in accelerated programs drop out at higher rates, have more psychological problems, and more often become underachievers.  Many gifted students, particularly girls, hide their giftedness so that they can fit in.   All of these are antithetical to the goals of education and often schools expend guidance and remedial education resources to assist gifted children who have diverted their energy from learning to more unsavory interests.  (I was called to the dean’s office for hacking the school’s computer system.  I was one of the good kids.)

Gifted students in gifted programs have better self-esteem and have an easier time making friends.  Being with other similarly gifted children provides a support network and cuts down on them bullying or being bullied.  Being with like children who do not ostracize them for their intelligence allows gifted children to learn better social skills and means of communication.  As our school district expends money fighting bullying, it should consider that gifted programs which increase approval of gifted students, boost their self-esteem, and aid with social skills help treat the root cause of bullying instead of addressing the symptoms.

Gifted children also learn differently from other students.  Johns Hopkins professor Julian Stanley found that the repetition and review that helps other students learn makes gifted students “significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content”.  Preliminary research shows this likely may be also true for foreign language, literature, and writing.  Not having gifted education can actually undermine the subject mastery schools endeavor to provide.

Not having gifted education in a school district also often results in parents of gifted children removing them from those schools for other options: local public schools of choice, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, parochial schools, and home schooling.  Each time students leave, their funding leaves too.  Many school districts are reducing services because of falling enrollment.  A good gifted and talented program will attract students who will bring their funding with them. I have been contacted by families looking to move into the district and wondering if the schools will meet the needs of their gifted children.  An honest “no” often means that they consider neighboring districts that have gifted programs.  Foundation grants for those children and their siblings are lost and there is an economic toll on the city as another family will not buy a home here, do their local shopping and dining here, and pay taxes here.

Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead and others have also examined the economic costs to the United States from failing to help gifted students develop their talents.  Through lack of gifted education and even external suppression of intelligence, promising young people do not become all they could be.  While some governments attempt to control gifted students in programs to advance the countries’ economic, technological, and military might, the United States has overlooked this group of gifted individuals who would often choose to make our world better through science and art.  Consequently, our country is importing many knowledge workers instead of helping our children succeed in these areas.

By implementing low-cost or no-cost gifted education programs, we can help gifted children succeed in schools and in life.  This, in turn, will help our communities by creating better citizens and fully utilizing the talents gifted individuals have.

Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE.  Together we can make a difference for gifted students!

The Importance of Gifted Education Series
I. Why I Am Passionate About Gifted Education
II. Why Is Gifted Education Necessary?
III.  Is Gifted Education Equal Education?
IV. Is Gifted Education Expensive?

V. How Does Gifted Education Help Everyone?

VI. What Are Characteristics of a Gifted Child?
VII. Why Grades Don’t Matter to Me
VIII. The Procrustean Bed of Education
IX. The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
X. I Want My Kids to Fail

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