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Saturday, January 15, 2000

Opportunities coming
for bright students,
advocate says

An education leader urges
federal funding be used to
challenge underachievers

By Crystal Kua


More federal support for gifted and talented students is on the way for programs in Hawaii and the rest of the nation, according to an expert.

"We're at a very exciting crossroads in education," Sally Reis, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut and president of the National Association for Gifted Children, said yesterday.

Reis is the keynote speaker today at McKinley High School at the 23rd annual State Conference for Gifted and Talented, sponsored by the State Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented, the Department of Education and the Hawaii Gifted Association.

Gifted and talented students make up about 8 percent of the student populations across the country, she said.

Advocates of gifted education are poised to protect programs that provide challenges for bright students, who may be underachieving for socioeconomic, cultural and other reasons.

"It's the thing that keeps some of our kids in school," she said.

Reis said more federal funds could lead to more educational opportunities for gifted and talented students, who now sometimes get special instruction in regular classrooms. Those opportunities could include summer enrichment programs. "Let Hawaii decide what you want."

With funds specifically designated, gifted and talented programs won't have to compete with special education for funding, Reis said, noting that Hawaii and other states are struggling to comply with federal mandates for special education.

And as Hawaii and other states move toward creating standards, educators need to consider that gifted students may find them too easy, she said.

Some states are addressing the needs of gifted students in their standards, she said.

"Many of them (standards) are not high enough," Reis said. "What happens when bright students meet standards in September or October?"

Reis added that in some regions, Hispanics and blacks make up the majority of the student population, yet gifted programs disproportionately serve white students. She predicted class-action lawsuits for diversifying services.

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