Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gifted Goal Setting

I was subbing not long ago and while I was cleaning up the room, some other teachers were having a planning session there.  They were discussing goal setting for their gifted students.  Whenever I hear people discussing gifted students, I listen.  They knew I was there, so I don't feel like it was eavesdropping - just interest.

What were their goals for their gifted students (elementary age)?  Academically:  they should score a 4 on the state tests in either math or reading (depending on their area of identification).  How would they accomplish this?  They should be included in the higher group of math class or the higher groups in their classes for reading.  Affectively:  they should display good social behaviors.  How would this be accomplished?  They should attend the counseling sessions for GT identified students. 

I am still thinking about these as goals, but I am disappointed that they seem so canned.  Are all of these GT kids so similar that they have nearly the same goals?  Are high scores on state standardized tests our best measure of acceptable achievement?  Is simple attendance at group counseling sessions a measure of success? 

A few years ago, I had a job as a GT coordinator for a school.  I wasn't in the job when the goals for these students were developed, but I did have to evaluate the achievement of the goals at the end of the year.  I was pretty taken aback by some of the goals.  I don't remember them exactly, but they were on the order of:  "Get A's on all of my work."  "Win the hockey tournament."  "Turn in 80% of my homework."

It seems to me that we need to think a bit more about this goal setting requirement.  What is a good goal?  How can we encourage kids and teachers to set good goals?  How detailed do the plans have to be for achieving the goals?  Who decides if the goal has been met?  How often do we look at setting goals?  Who is involved in setting them?  Ideally, the goals need to be set for each particular child.  Achieving a 4 on the state test in math may be a good goal for many students, but it is rather limiting.  Is the only math worth learning that which will be tested on the state tests?  What if the student could have achieved that 4 without learning anything new for the whole year?  What if the student is a model student, does all of the work, gets all of the answers right, but has no idea why math is of any interest other than just filling in bubbles or clicking boxes? 

Teachers are overworked and I do not blame them for looking for simple, canned goals, especially since they are required to set these goals with little (or no) training in gifted education.  But I am sad for the GT kids.  One teacher remarked, as they were entering the goals on their computers, that they do these things already.  They have groups for math and reading and the bi-weekly counseling session.  In essence, she was pointing out that they don't need to do anything different.  Goals set; learning plan implemented.  Now it was just up to the state test to determine if the kids met their goals.  Done.

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