Our Opinion: Identify and challenge ‘gifted’ students

Being a ‘gifted’ student isn’t always a gift.

Proposed legislation discussed last week by members of the Senate Education Committee would begin to rectify the situation by requiring school districts to identify programs for gifted students.

People — both students and adults — have different learning abilities, aptitudes and styles. In a classroom, a teacher must establish a pace of learning. Some students might need more attention to prevent them from falling behind. As a consequence, gifted students may receive little attention.

When lawmakers in 2005 rewrote the Foundation Formula for distributing state aid to local public school districts, they removed a grant process to channel money to gifted programs.

The intention — to enhance flexibility among local districts — was commendable.

The fallout, however, was elimination of many gifted programs.

Senators on the panel heard from the Gifted Association of Missouri’s Sue Winter, who said “many of the gifted programs in the state have suffered cuts, many of which have not been documented since there is no reporting requirement.”

Her testimony came in support of legislation by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. His proposal would require school districts to “include in their annual school accountability report card whether the school district currently has a state-approved gifted program and the number of students being served.”

Schaefer referenced the emphasis being placed on math, science and technology education and the concern that U.S. students are falling behind students from other nations. “The data I’ve seen,” the senator said, “indicates 85 percent of gifted kids go into math and science.”

The panel heard no opposition and was urged by a number of education groups to advance the measure. We’ll add our support. The tracking requirement, added to an existing annual report, does not seem unduly burdensome or expensive for school districts. And it would provide a vital step toward challenging and encouraging gifted students to thrive.

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