Aid the Gifted but Disadvantaged, Secretary Urges Schools in Report

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Washington--The Education Department last week issued a report examining nine programs that it said have succeeded in identifying gifted but disadvantaged students and harnessing their abilities, particularly in science and mathematics.

"This report looks at programs that are doing the job--setting high expectations for disadvantaged students, giving them a strong, stimulating curriculum, and expanding their horizons," Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos said in a statement.

Although the study was launched in 1987, long before Mr. Cavazos became secretary, the report echoes his favorite theme: a call for schools to "educate every student to his fullest potential."

"No Gift Wasted" was prepared for the department by Judith A. Alamprese and Wendy J. Erlanger of the Washington-based cosmos Corporation. They gathered information from 29 school districts or schools with programs for gifted students and substantial numbers of disadvantaged students, and conducted case studies at nine of them. Except for the Salina, Okla., school district, all nine are located in urban or suburban areas.

Common Characteristics

The two-volume report discusses common characteristics of the exemplary programs and also examines each in depth.

It concludes that "gifted and talented" programs that are successful with disadvantaged students share the following features:

Selection processes that do not rely solely on standardized tests. The report suggests that educators use criteria such as teacher recommendations and classroom perform4ance, and evaluate prospects over an extended period of time.

Extra instruction time, enrichment programs, and "hands-on" teaching methods. Successful programs often provide after-school, weekend, and summer activities, including museum visits, opportunities for students to pursue independent projects or courses at local higher-education institutions, according to the report.

It also argues that "hands-on" instructional methods and projects that apply science to real life work better with disadvantaged children. As examples, it cites methods that allow students to use computers or objects instead of pencil and paper in learning abstract concepts, as well as projects in which students perform experiments or build structures.

Support services. The report urges schools to: set achievable goals for students, such as winning an academic contest or passing an Advanced Placement test; provide career counseling and exposure to role models; and offer "social-emotional support" through "active involvements in students' lives" by teachers and counselors.

Effective use of community resources. Educators should enlist the support of parents, community organizations, businesses, and higher- education institutions, the report says.

Supportive management. The report urges administrators to allow flexibility in the implementation of policy so that schools can better tailor their programs to student needs, provide additional resources and staff to develop specialized programs, and coordinate programs for "gifted" pupils at the elementary and secondary levels and in a number of schools.--jm

Vol. 08, Issue 32

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