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Are Gifted and Talented Children More Academically Successful Because of Nature or Nurture?

Are Gifted and Talented Children More Academically Successful Because of Nature or Nurture?

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - April 1st, 2011

Are G&T kids more academically successful because of their natural gifts or because they are afforded a special environment? Any child fortunate enough to place in the NYC Gifted and Talented program (or any other G&T program in the USA) is undoubtedly expected to perform at a higher level, and the results show that many do.  But do the higher expectations for high-performing kids mean that the standards are lowered for everyone else? Do OLSAT test results or a child’s score on the WPPSI make a difference?

Obviously gifted the children are selected for accelerated learning programs because they are able to demonstrate that they are gifted and advanced learners in some capacity.  But a recent study conducted in the North Carolina school system has raised the question of whether the learning environment in Gifted and Talented programs has more to do with the success of these students than some might care to admit.

The North Carolina DOE studied over 10,000 children in a program called Project Bright Idea to try to explain the underrepresentation of black and Latino children in advanced and gifted classes.  What they found was that teaching kindergarteners and first and second graders with methods that were usually reserved for gifted students led to 20% of the students being identified as academically and intellectually gifted within three years in the program.  While the project produced positive results among each of the groups taught under Bright Idea, the results varied among the different subsets of children; while some groups produced a 5-14% increase in gifted identification after three years, one set beat the control group by as much as 36%.

While the creators of Project Bright Idea do not dispute that some children exhibit signs of academic giftedness earlier and require an accelerated learning environment, these findings call into question the practice of segmenting kids out at such an early age based on Bracken  and OLSAT results and leaving the other kids behind.

Given the right opportunities and more time to develop, can more kids benefit from learning at the accelerated level?  Just because a child does not perform well on their OLSAT test, that does not mean they might not benefit from higher expectations and well-trained teachers that gifted and talented programs in New York City and other cities can provide.

The success of Project Bright Idea has spawned two “Project Bright Tomorrow” elementary schools that are focused on extensive teacher training and curricula that are customized for the students in each classroom.

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