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The History of Gifted Education

A timeline covering the history of gifted education in the United States

Liz Ratliff

on 23 October 2010

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Transcript of The History of Gifted Education

Gifted Education
A Timeline
Travel through time
with me to learn about
how Gifted Education
was developed in the US
First, we need to go far away...
And way back...
To the Ancient Civilizations.
In Ancient China, gifted
people were identified and
drafted as civil servants.
I know what you're thinking.
My, how the times have changed.
In ancient Rome
and Greece, social rank determined who received education. Wealthy boys were the most well-educated.
It was believed that giftedness was
a Divine Gift so those children became
manuscript writers for the Church.
Copying books by hand -
Sounds like tons of fun, huh?
Luckily,this gifted guy named Gutenberg came along and invented a mechanical printing press.
But that's another story for another time.
Let's go forward now.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise...
Too far! Too far!
How about 1869
in a little country
called England?
Here, we meet
Francis Galton.
He's just published
his most famous book:
"Hereditary Genius."
Galton believes that
"distinguished persons come from distinguished families."
i.e. Intelligence is hereditary.
He got that idea from his cousin Charles
who had written his own book called
"Origin of the Species."
Ok, so maybe there is something to the "distinguished family" theory.
Let's go to France now to
see what they're working on.
Alfred Binet has been hired by the government to develop a test that can identify "dull" students who would benefit from being placed in special classes.
That's Binet, not a "dull" child.
Previously, teachers were responsible for identifying dull students. However, teachers tended to be biased based on the child's behavior.
Binet tried various tests but had no luck separating dull from normal students
until he measured memory, judgement, reasoning, attention, and comprehension.
While he was doing all this research, he also
developed the concept of "mental age" which means
that a child could look like this:
But have the intellectual ability of this:
About 15 years before Binet's work really took off,
there was an American guy named James Cattell who had
been voicing the need for a test like the one Binet
would create.
Because Cattell had raised awareness of the issue,
Americans readily accepted Binet's test when it was developed.
So let's go to the US...
It's 1916 and Lewis Terman's team at
Stanford University has just completed
the Americanization of the Binet test.
They call it the Stanford-Binet Test.
Very Creative.
So now Terman has this nifty new tool
and he wants to use it.
In 1922, he uses the test to identify 1,000 gifted children for a longitudinal study.
Terman defines "gifted" as having an
IQ above 135 as determined by the Stanford-Binet test.
(Most of his subjects have scores over 140.)
In 1928, Terman adds 528 more children to his study.
Collectively, the kids are known as "Termites."
In his study, Terman traces the physical, pyschological, social, and professional developments of the children.
He finds that gifted children are superior in virtually every one of those areas.
Not only are they better students but they're also psychologically, socially, and physically healthier than average.
So, instead of imagining this:
The image of a gifted person
should be more like this:
(That's Jodie Foster - successful actress and gifted woman)
Terman also found that students who were
allowed to advance through school according
to their intellectual ability were more successful. Gifted students who were not allowed to move at an accelerated rate developed poor study habits.
i.e. they didn't study because they didn't need to
Sound familiar?
This caused some issues when they got to college and suddenly found that they did have to study.
Terman also found that the parents' values had a major
effect on the children's
Critics say that Terman's definition of giftedness was too limiting and that it ignored artistic and creative genius.
I mean, only 1% of the population has an IQ of 135...
So those people are definitely gifted, but a lot of people thought 1% was too small.
Leta Hollingworth was not one of them.
Hollingworth (the "Nuturant
Mother") opens the Speyer
School for children who
have high IQs.
Hollingworth teaches 50 students
divided into 2 classes.
One of her classes has an
average IQ of 145. The other
has an average of 165.
(Most of today's IQ tests can't go beyond 150.)
So at the Speyer School, students spend
half their time working on the
normal curriculum and half the time on
enrichment activities.
Hollingworth found that, in a regular school,
children with an IQ of 140 waste about half of their time.
Kids with an IQ of 170 waste almost all of their time in school.
Hollingworth also pays attention to the
emotional health of the students by providing
some much needed counseling.
Gifted children are vulnerable.
They may be teased by adults or denied
access to advanced materials.
No wonder some gifted people dislike authority figures.
Let's move on to 1957.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Did I mention that it's October?
Sputnik flies across the night sky, representing human potential.
Russian potential to control space.
American potential to be destroyed.
The US sees a dire need to
improve education, especially for gifted students.
Sadly, in 5 years, we lose interest in
improving gifted education.
Time to go to the 1970's.
Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon
establish committees to study the gifted.
Everyone knows they exist but no one
is quite sure what to do with them.
Sidney Marland is the guy in charge of this research.
He reports to Congress that things are terrible for
gifted students.
There's no funding (or guidelines!) for gifted programs.
Teachers aren't trained to deal with the students.
Marland's report is instrumental
in the establishment of
gifted education
Marland defines gifted students as "children...identified by a professionally qualified person who, by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance."
Marland also acknowledges that a child can
be gifted in any one of the following areas:
general intellectual ability
specific academic aptitude
creative productive thinking
leadership ability
visual and performing arts
psychomotor skills
However, some schools misinterpret this
and believe that gifted students must
be high-achieving in all of those areas.
In 1978, due to a misuse of government funds, one of those areas is eliminated from the definition of gifted.
Care to take a guess?
Yep, psychomotor skills. Schools were using the money to install lights on the sports fields.
This is why we don't have
honors dance classes.
In 1958, Paul Witty defines gifted students as "any
child whose performance in a potentially valuable line
of human activity is consistently remarkable."
For some reason, people think this definition is too liberal.
Now (1978), there's this guy named Joseph Renzulli.
Renzulli says that a definition of gifted must meet the following criteria:
based on the best available research
gives direction about training of teachers and education of students
is capable of generating research that confirm the validity of the definition.
Renzulli also creates the
"3-ring Model"
Except for Calvin Taylor who says that all children are gifted in some specific area.
Parents probably ate that up.
By Renzulli's model, 15-20% of the population is capable of gifted behavior (at certain times, under certain circumstances).
This is closest to the definition that we use today.
Renzulli also thinks that giftedness is a behavior that can be developed.
Which leads to the current goals of gifted education:
1. Providing students with maximum opportunities for self-fulfillment
Remember Maslow's Hierarchy?
2. Increasing society's supply of
problem solvers and producers
(inventors and creators,
movers and shakers)
In 2010, gifted students have access to many programs including:
AP classes
honors/advanced classes
magnet programs
specially trained teachers
It's a long way from copying books by hand.
Way more fun, though.
In 1983, Howard Gardner proposes the
theory of multiple intelligences.
Full transcript