It’s been nearly 20 years since Americans started facing the fact that other countries’ students were out-performing their students in the classroom and on standardized tests. In subsequent years, the results have gotten worse … much worse. What has happened to creativity and innovation … once thought to be hallmarks of U.S. education? After years of pouring in billions of dollars and re-vamping the educational system numerous times, Americans and their politicians seem to be mystified as to why things aren’t getting better.
Well, I can think of a few reasons why. How about teaching students ‘how’ to take tests and score better does not make for better students. And when kids spend the majority of their time in school taking tests, there’s precious little time for actual teaching. Or, why didn’t anyone consider looking at the educational systems in those countries that were doing better to understand what they were doing to promote learning and analytical thinking. Who in authority truly understood the endgame? I’d say it was a perfect storm from my point of view.
Test scores can improve, for a while, if the student only has to memorize answers and then recall them for tests. But, what if the student could ‘figure out’ the answer without having seen the question before? What about those ‘aha’ moments as referenced by Jan and Bob Davidson in Genius Denied? Why do the answers to these questions seem to confound educational policy wonks? And how great of a role does politics play in the nation’s education policy? Answer those questions and you’ll soon realize why we’re in the mess we’re in!
So, what does this have to do with gifted education? It has a lot to do with it! Why do we ignore at best and obstruct at worst the educational needs of our best and brightest? This speaks volumes to why the U.S. educational system is in such disarray! Being smart or even aspiring to have the answers is demonized in our society. In countries that far out-score our students, intelligence is valued and nurtured; not categorized as elitism. Why do Americans rationalize giving athletes full scholarships to play games in college and hedge on providing the same benefits to their best performing academic scholars?
Creativity and innovation are never going to be found lurking in the corners of classrooms that are being pushed to make Annual Yearly Progress targets. Schools will continue to be places where students have to go to; not want to go to. Things will never change until those in a position to legislate the changes are persuaded to consider what is really at stake.
Globalization isn’t going away. Everyone must finally understand the risk involved in ignoring the unmet needs of gifted students. Highly-abled students are being forced to seek out educational platforms that meet their needs; wherever they exist. Technology will provide the conduit and intelligence the way. We face a crossroads. Which direction we take will decide the future standing of our nation on the world stage. It’s time for America to return creativity and innovation to our classrooms.