Anniversaries make us pause and pull out memories. We think back about the early days when people joined together and about why they did so. We think about that purpose and how it may have changed through the years.
In IDRA’s case, that purpose has not changed. As long as excellence in schools is available to only a few students, IDRA will keep its purpose – its mission – to create schools that work for all children.
In this issue of the IDRA Newsletter, we focus on gifted and talented students who are English language learners, minority or economically disadvantaged. As the articles in this newsletter examine, procedures for identifying gifted and talented students have shortchanged many children by using inappropriate tools and an inappropriate language. Then, when “atypical” students are placed in gifted and talented programs, they often face an inappropriate curriculum and environment.
IDRA envisions schools that create more inclusive identification and assessment processes that rely less on English language proficiency and specific cultural experiences and more on procedures that recognize giftedness through such means as parent surveys, observations, criterion-based performance and portfolios. Thus, other qualities of giftedness would be recognized, such as skills in logical and creative thinking, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and using knowledge in multilingual situations to solve problems and face real-life challenges.
To this end, IDRA has worked in various ways, such as the following.
- IDRA provided training and technical assistance to administrators and teachers to improve gifted and talented programs. Examples include Project Superior funded by the U.S. Department of Education to make gifted and talented programs more inclusive, accessible and productive and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Program in Immigrant Education through which IDRA helped a middle school implement innovative strategies for serving secondary level recent immigrant populations.
- IDRA worked with a group of educators convened by the Texas Education Agency to seek answers to key questions about equity and excellence in various arenas including gifted and talented programs.
- IDRA designed and implemented a model dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, demonstrating that “non-traditional” students have extraordinary gifts and talents.
IDRA will continue to be committed to working with policy-makers, educators and parents to assist them to raising the right questions in assessing how equity and excellence are being addressed in gifted and talented programs that propose to serve all students. Such questions include:
- Does the vision embrace student diversity, and is this reflected in the identification and programmatic processes?
- Are equity and excellence part of the criteria for assessing the quality of gifted and talented programs? Is inclusion defined in terms of accessibility of linguistically and culturally different learners to these programs and to learning?
- Is there a multi-pronged, multi-criteria identification and assessment process that ensures inclusivity of diversity?
- What evidence exists that gifted and talented programs have not overlooked minority students, poor students or students who are learning English?
- How is instruction modified for gifted students who are not proficient in English?
This is our continuing commitment to the future, to equity-based excellence and to creating schools that work for all children – including “atypical” gifted and talented children.
Comments and questions may be sent to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©1998, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]