In first grade, I was called to the guidance counselor’s office to talk about taking a test which, unknowingly to me, would change the trajectory of my education for the better. After passing the test, I was put in classes with like minded peers, exceptional teachers and recieved support from gifted specialists. The test, specific classes, gifted-certified teachers and gifted specialists are all aspects of the gifted program. Maclay doesn’t utilize the gifted program, and since I transferred to Maclay during tenth grade, I lost the resources and help from the program that are crucial to success that I was used to receiving.
The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) defines gifted students as students who have superior intellectual development and are capable of high performance. To get into the gifted program, a student must take the entrance exam and score two standard deviations above the mean or higher in order to meet the intellectual criterion for the gifted program. In conjunction with the psychologist’s testing, a checklist of gifted student behavioral characteristics is completed by one or more teachers familiar with the student. Florida parents, school boards and community members within each school district partner to provide academic, social and emotional support for gifted students, typically by using gifted specialists. While the structure of the program varies between districts, gifted students are usually grouped together in their classes, given resources and support that are available from grades K-12 and provided with teachers who are certified to supply an appropriately challenging learning environment.
The characteristics of gifted children often include hyperactivity, coupled with lack of focus and boredom. Most gifted students feel misunderstood at school as their behavior and intellectual level doesn’t fit the “norm”, which is why gifted specialists are available to help with any issues a student is having. Considering the fact that Maclay has a small population, it can be even worse for a student to feel like they don’t fit in. In a gifted program, students find peers with similar intellectual pursuits and may find it easier to socialize with those peers, therefore making them more comfortable socializing which can make it easier to make friends.
The stress from high school can lead to burnout and trouble finding the motivation to keep working. The support from gifted specialists can help with avoiding gifted kid burnout, defined by the Davidson Institute as chronic exhaustion that stems from a mismatch between the individual and their current educational environment. This type of burnout is unique to gifted kids because of their neurological make-up which can cause perfectionism, asynchronous development and hyperactivity that may fuel the intensity of the burnout. Since this burnout is common amongst gifted kids, having resources and support available is crucial for the success of the program and the individual.
Since Maclay is a college prep school, the workload is already rigorous with classes such as APs and Advanced Honors, so some may argue that the gifted program isn’t necessary. While AP and Advanced Honors classes offer an advanced level of coursework, they are not the same as a gifted education program. The AP program is designed to provide college-level classes for high school students, whereas the gifted program is designed to help students whose entrance test shows they have a certain IQ. The best way to incorporate the gifted program into Maclay would be to let gifted kids take AP and Advanced Honors classes, but provide them the resources they require to help them through their high school years.
The resources that were provided to me through the gifted program shaped who I am today and how I perceive my education. Since Maclay highlights and takes pride in the advantage of going to Maclay and notes that every child learns differently, then integrating the gifted program into Maclay’s curriculum would increase the advantage and make sure that every child is given the resources they need to succeed in the classroom and life.