New York City, where close to 2000 students qualify for only 300 seats spread out over five boroughs for a citywide gifted and talented program, while over 4000 qualify for district programs that are handed out by lottery and, in the words of Doug Morse, director of "Kindergarten Shuffle," we have not "school choice" but "school chance," might want to pay some serious attention to a new study by Duke University, which asserts that "All students should get a gifted education, even if they are not subsequently identified as gifted....It's not about who is in the class, but the quality of instruction."
According to: http://today.duke.edu/2011/03/darity.html
Schools that seek to help students who are underrepresented in advanced programs should treat them as gifted young scholars, an approach that can result in many of them actually performing at a gifted level within a few years....Developed by researchers at Duke University with state educators, the five-year study of 10,000 kindergartners and first- and second-graders suggests that raising expectations could be a key to enhancing the academic performance of at-risk students nationwide.... The program trains teachers to treat all students as if they are gifted. Darity and Gayle say the project works because it nurtures students regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, gender or learning ability (emphasis mine).
None of this is exactly ground-breaking research. Studies on the Pygmalion effect (http://www.ntlf.com/html/pi/9902/pygm_1.htm) have been going on for years, proving that:
When teachers expect students to do well and show intellectual growth, they do; when teachers do not have such expectations, performance and growth are not so encouraged and may in fact be discouraged in a variety of ways. In the famous Oak School experiment, teachers were led to believe that certain students selected at random were likely to be showing signs of a spurt in intellectual growth and development. At the end of the year, the students of whom the teachers had these expectations showed significantly greater gains in intellectual growth than did those in the control group. This was especially pronounced in first and second graders and in fifth and sixth graders, though less so in third and fourth grade students. Without becoming inundated by a sea of numbers, we can see from one example the degree of significance found. First graders in the control group showed a gain of twelve IQ points; students in the experimental group showed a gain of 27.4 IQ points. Overall, taking the students from the first through the sixth grades, the experimental group showed a 12.22 point gain versus an 8.42 gain for the control group. In short, the group of whom more was expected did significantly better.
My favorite part of the Duke study, however, is the following:
"We are literally changing the knowledge, skills and dispositions of teachers so they believe children can learn," said Mary N. Watson, the director of the exceptional children division of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, who helped develop the project.
Gifted teachers are much, much rarer than gifted students. However, presumably, all teachers will improve with experience in the classroom. If they are weak in a certain subject area they can go back to school for additional knowledge. But, the notion that teachers need to be schooled to believe that "children can learn" is staggering.
Shouldn't that be the one thing an adult is required to believe before they decide to be a teacher?
Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, tell us whether you think NYC should adopt the Duke approach and educate all students as if they are gifted, regardless on the test scores of four year olds?