Q:

I have four children, all of whom are gifted. My 16-year-old daughter is an advanced and motivated learner. She has always been in the so-called "gifted" classes, and has never had a problem with me refusing to call it that. I simply won't label a population as those who have gifts because this excludes all others from the possibility.

Have you ever been to an elementary-school gathering and witnessed the supposed superiority of this population? Those children are no more gifted than any of the other children -- they are just more advanced learners. That is a beautiful thing, but so are the endless other gifts that each child possesses. I grew up in New York and was in advanced classes throughout my school years. That meant I got to work harder and at different levels from other kids. It didn't mean that I was gifted and they weren't. How can we stop perpetuating the stigma and label this program correctly? -- Concerned

A:

The gifted label has both positive and negative aspects. It does serve to identify children who have extraordinary potential for achievement in one or more areas and to allow them to be placed in challenging programs. Some children, however, who are labeled gifted are teased by their peers, have parents and teachers with too high expectations, or don't feel they have to put forth any effort. And the label also suggests that other children are not gifted.

With or without labels, students know that they have been placed in groups. Labels may offend adults more than they bother the students.

Many states are striving to do away with the gifted label and identify these children as ones who need special services. They are putting them under the term "Differentiated Learners" -- a group that includes special education, Title I, English as a Second Language, and any other group within a school building. Also, some schools simply offer a variety of educational services to all -- thus eliminating the stigma of elitism that the term "gifted" suggests.