So the programs that do exist vary tremendously - from none at all in some towns to well-structured, well-funded programs in others, says Ina Woolman, coordinator of gifted education for the Rhode Island Department of Education.
Support for gifted education has always been cyclical, says Woolman
."In 1980, about when we started the State Advocates for Gifted Education (which no longer exists), I read somewhere that interest and support for 'gifted education' waxes and wanes on about a 20-year cycle," she
"This has happened nationwide, not just in Rhode Island," Woolman
says.I believe the support comes from an understanding that more children are better supported [by enrichment programs], and that education for all kids improves when it is infused throughout the school.It is also considered that the broader participation is more equitable."
At the same time, Woolman
says, there is concern that such programs can neglect the kids who really need to move way ahead in various ways - academic and otherwise.
"Enrichment programs can and should support kids who really learn differently, faster or broader, but they don't always do it," she
"Where [gifted] testing is done in Rhode Island, as in any state, its purpose is usually to determine which students get into the school or district program," says Woolman
."Sometimes, testing is done to decide how best to serve the [particular] child, rather than to qualify them for a specific program, but I believe that is probably rare."
The complexity of determining who is gifted has led more schools to emphasize enrichment programs for all children over pull-out classes for some.
"Many districts do not decide who is gifted, but instead provide a program which recognizes students' interests and abilities and offers individualized or group activities and support in response," says Woolman
"[This program is offered] along a continuum, from just a small response to something quite evolved and very different from the 'regular' program - without ever saying 'this kid is gifted and that one isn't.'" Woolman
is a firm believer that test scores do not prove giftedness and that there's no "yes" or "no" answer to whether a child is gifted or not.She
advises parents who are interested in having their child tested to consider what they hope the testing will achieve and what they will do if their child is identified as gifted.
...Here are some tips from Ina Woolman, coordinator of gifted education for the Rhode Island Department of Education.