Saving gifted education has been the topic of recent news reports in and around Washington, DC. It is a reasonable argument that maintaining America’s global competitive edge makes it imperative that we don’t neglect the identification and nurture of outstanding talent in our midst.
Remember that iconic Apple commercial from the late nineties that launched the “Think Different” slogan? With glimpses of Albert Einstein, Dr. Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan, and other luminaries that have graced our social consciousness, the commercial is an ode to the oddballs among us. Richard Dryfus, I think, provides the voiceover that goes, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
So, please join me, if you will, for a series of articles on improving gifted and talented education. Keep an open mind, as we take a short sojourn on a mission to save the crazy ones. Perhaps, we will be tilting at windmills with Quixotic fervor, perhaps we will overturn mountains, perhaps we will accomplish little. But we can take heart in the fact we tried.
Let us, as we make our way down this road, accept the realities of the roadblocks ahead. The most pervasive, if not justifiable, is the reality that minorities, by which I mean Hispanics and African-Americans, are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs across this nation. Throwing caution to the winds let us address that problem head on. ‘Cos if we don’t, we run the risk of undermining gifted and talented education.
So, where do I begin? Where do I start? With Shirley Bassey’s voice ringing in our ears, let us begin.
Since 2007 I have often alluded to, or written about the Renzulli gifted identification paradigm. The Montgomery Public School (MCPS) system, has seemingly adopted this methodology, albeit with significant changes. The Renzulli method, according to Professor Joseph S. Renzulli, Director, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut, is based on a broad range of research accumulated over decades.
Renzulli believes that the research on highly productive people tells us that they are characterized by three interlocking clusters of ability. These clusters, reproduced in the graphic (please click to enlarge) are above average (though not necessarily superior) ability, task commitment, and creativity. The behavioral manifestations of each cluster are described, in a summary fashion, at the previously provided web link.
It is important to realize, Renzulli cautions, “that all the traits need not be present in any given individual or situation to produce a display of gifted behaviors.” Furthermore, this definition emphasizes “the interaction among the clusters rather than any single cluster.”
However, the well above average ability cluster, emphasized in the graphic, is a constant in the identification system.
In the next segment, using documents obtained from MCPS, we will look at how well above average ability is identified.