Here’s an article that has been retweeted a couple of times on Twitter. This article raises an interesting question: If you identify large numbers of children as gifted and talented, and if by gifted and talented you mean able to work above grade level, is grade level too low?
The context is a county where achievement in maths and reading are used as the main identification criteria for gifted and talented students, so we cannot apply all the ideas in the article to every situation. These criteria for identification would be considered narrow in most New Zealand schools, for example.
However, the question of who we identify, how many we identify, and what that means is important everywhere. I think it depends to some extent on what the goals of our gifted and talented programme are. If you are aiming to have a strong ethical and altruistic component in your programme, because you want to create amazing, trustworthy leaders in many fields, a broad scoop may be appropriate. There are actually quite a lot of leaders out there. Also, leadership potential might well trump achievement in reading when you identify candidates for this programme.
If your aims are to support children who are academically outstanding to the point of having few true peers, to combat their feelings of loneliness as well as to assist them in achieving their full academic potential, you will do these students no favours by also including students on the 80th centile by IQ test. Your social goals will be sabotaged by your inclusiveness, because there will be children in your group who cannot empathise with those who are likely to need empathy the most. Your academic goals will be hampered by children who cannot sustain the pace that those you set up the programme for require in order to be challenged. You also risk the child on the 80th centile mistakenly thinking he or she is not particularly bright, because you have set this child up as a candle against the sun.
The goals of these two different programmes would both be worthwhile. Given the enormous variety of definitions for gifted and talented, I wouldn’t have a problem with deeming both of these to be gifted and talented programmes. However, you simply couldn’t swap children between these programmes without a second thought – their purposes are different, so their populations must be different in quality and different in quantity or proportion.
As to expectations at certain grade levels, while I believe they are often on the low side, they exist for another purpose again. Achieving above grade level correlates with giftedness but few would feel that it defines it, and there are many degrees of achievement above grade level. If 40 % of a given population are achieving two years above the grade level for that same population, that would get my attention!
Overall, the most useful answer to “How Many are Gifted?” is probably “Why?”