Could the 'Gifted and Talented' Label Be a Curse for Your Child?

Many parents are likely thrilled when they are told that their child is 'gifted and talented'. Who wouldn't like to be told that their child is, among other things, intelligent and observant? Despite the positive connotations, however, 'gifted and talented' could be a phrase you wouldn't necessarily want to hear when it comes to your student.

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Defining 'Gifted and Talented'

According to the broad definition from the U.S. Department of Education, 'gifted and talented' is defined as: 'Children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience or environment.'

Generally, children are assessed according to standardized testing results as well as observed characteristics and behaviors. Creative thinking, inquisitiveness, good memorization and perfectionism could all be traits of gifted and talented children.

The National Association for Gifted Children's revised standards for identifying gifted and talent students and developing related programs are designed to be used in all pre-K through high school institutions and several state departments of education across the country have adopted them.

Starting Too Young?

According to a recent story from Education Week, the new standards being adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education could mean that preschoolers will be evaluated for being 'gifted and talented'. This means children as young as three can be assessed and labeled!

'When we saw pre-K, that's when we went ballistic,' said Ana Sol Gutierrez, a Maryland state delegate and president of the Montgomery County Education Forum. The Forum is opposed to the 'gifted and talented' label. Gutierrez herself feels that labeling children at such a young age creates 'winners and losers' and could place minority or low-income students on the wrong side of that line.

What's more, it's generally understood that children often develop in fits and starts. While one student might, for example, begin reading early, this does not mean that he or she will necessarily be a 'gifted and talented' child a year or two down the road.

Labeling children in this way could place undue expectations on them that could harm rather than help their later development.

Added Pressure

Do gifted and talented students have to be perfect all of the time? Certainly expectations are raised once students are labeled as such. If an 'average' student happens to do better than the gifted and talented one, is the latter seen as a failure?

The Davison Institute for Talent Development outlines several 'vulnerabilities' of gifted and talented children. While certainly not indicative of all children, some may experience difficulties with social adjustments, self-identification, the demands of high expectations, potential alienation due to a possible lack of peers at their developmental level and learning in 'regular' classrooms.

These types of pressures could actually end up being detrimental to a child's development. Again, not all children will experience such difficulties, but if there is the chance your child could if they were labeled as gifted and talented, is such recognition worth it?

There's certainly a lot to be said, it seems, for 'average' students who work hard, learn at an acceptable pace, do well on tests and by all indications have successful and accomplished academic careers.

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