Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 23, 1995

Miles Presents State with Plan to Better Teach Gifted Students

By Christine A. Rowett

     The director of research at the Center for Talented Youth is
among professionals who have recommended that schools in Maryland
consider placing students in classes based on abilities rather
than age.
     Carol Mills, co-chair of the Maryland Task Force on Gifted
and Talented Education, said some students do not reach their
potential in the current school structure.
     "If you group students together [based on ability], you can
effectively teach them at appropriate levels," she said.
     Critics of grouping students, Dr. Mills said, argue that
social skills will suffer if children of the same age are not in
classes together. She said research does not support that
     "A range of services should be available if schools hope to
optimally educate students with a variety of abilities and
talents," she said. "A 'one size fits all education' doesn't make
     The recommendation is among the more than 30 suggestions
recently presented to the state board of education by the
21-member task force. In the next few weeks, the board will
decide whether or not to publish the findings, Dr. Mills said.
     The task force was formed in 1993 to examine gifted and
talented education throughout Maryland. The recommendations were
based in part, Dr. Mills said, on a report titled "National
Excellence" issued by the federal Department of Education. 
     "Students who are academically talented--whose abilities are
so far beyond the norm--have educational needs that are clearly
different from others," Dr. Mills said.
     One of the major recommendations calls for a mandate that
would ensure that all schools in the state provide services for
gifted and talented students.
     "There's never been a mandate that these students be
served," said Dr. Mills, who was recruited for the task force by
state superintendent of schools Nancy Grasmick.
     Currently, Dr. Mills said, services for highly able students
vary throughout the state.
     "The kind of education you get often depends on where you
live," she said. "If a county is going to cut their budget,
that's often where they cut. To some people, gifted education is
seen as a luxury," she added.
     Many of the recommendations--including flexible grouping--do
not require funding, Dr. Mills said.
     "It doesn't necessarily cost money," she said. "It allows
academically talented students to move through a curriculum
faster and without grade-level constraints."
     The task force said every school in the state should employ
at least one person trained in gifted and talented education who
should coordinate services for students. It also offered
suggestions regarding the current processes of identifying gifted
and talented students.
     "Kids are identified in different ways across the state,
sometimes in a rigid, narrow way," Dr. Mills said. "Kids come in
different sizes, have different needs."
     The report calls for identifying gifted students using an
ongoing process that is "flexible, free of bias, open to students
from all backgrounds and designed to recognize a variety of types
of abilities and talents."
     Dr. Mills said she is sure the board will vote to publish
the report. Then the recommendations will be up to public debate.
     "The whole educational scene is in transition," Dr. Mills
said. "There's a strong public movement to improve all
educational standards."

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