The Belin-Blank Center mission statement promises that we will “empower and serve the gifted community through exemplary leadership in programs, research, and advocacy.” In this issue, you will read about the many programs for students and teachers that help us to fulfill our mission. The purpose of this message is to talk briefly about research and advocacy.
Our research agenda is broad, spanning the specifics related to twice-exceptionality and more general issues related to instruction. The most recent issue of Gifted Child Quarterly, v. 57 (2), pp. 135-147 includes an article by Assouline, Colangelo, Heo, and Dockery. You probably recognize the first two names; the last two, Heo and Dockery, are advanced doctoral students. Not only was this important research published in the top-ranking gifted journal, we were pleased that two graduate students were involved in this study. But what’s the big deal about this study? In essence, this study found that the everyday school life of nearly 70% of high-ability students is spent in under-challenging learning environments. Perhaps if this were the ’60s or ’70s this might not surprise us, but with all of the activity going on in gifted education and with the nation’s focus on STEM, we find it disconcerting that there are only pockets of differentiated instruction for high-ability students. In fact, we should all be shocked that 87% of upper elementary students (participants in our BESTS program) who are highly capable in science have only the regular classroom as an outlet for their interest. This is not a criticism of the regular classroom, but it is an indictment of an educational system that knows what needs to be done for bright students and their teachers, yet is not doing it!
This article concludes with a question: “Why are so many bright students academically misplaced when we know exactly what they need?” (p.145). We hope to gain partial answers to that question – and others – at the 11th Wallace Research and Policy Conference, March 22-25, 2014, Washington, DC. We have been busy putting into place the logistics for this biennial conference, and I will continue to report on developments over the next several issues.
Research informs policy, and policy is critical for systematically advocating for individual students or programs that will best serve gifted and talented students. We get to do this each and every day, which is why the Belin-Blank Center is at the forefront of research, policy, and advocacy.