Monday, June 27, 2011

Education for gifted students: all for nothing?

Not every kid progress at the same pace through school, this is why some occasionally need to repeat their grade. How to handle gifted children is more controversial. Should they be allowed to skip a grade? Should they be offered special classes? Or should they simply follow the normal stream at the risk of getting bored? A good argument for devoting additional resources to them is that they will likely be the future leaders and entrepreneurs, and those are deemed to be the engines of growth.

Sa Bui, Steven Craig and Scott Imberman study the issue in the United States. Interestingly, the US has been steering towards channeling additional funding towards lagging students through the "No child left behind" laws, ironically implemented by a Republican administration. Gifted programs suffered from this reallocation, and the question whether this had an impact on the outcomes of gifted children. Comparing fifth-graders who were the last eligible for a gifted student program to those how just missed out, Bui, Craig and Imberman hardly find a difference. The science outcomes are better when looking at a randomization experiment for eligibility to a gifted student magnet school. This may be due that in such schools, classes are at a higher level and teachers may be better (and parents may get more involved). However, students may be suffering from a lower class rank among their peers. So it may all come to a draw. There is no easy solution.

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