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As Michigan's struggling schools get attention, gifted students overlooked

Sep 1, 2016

The Next Idea

There are frequent and spirited discussions about students who aren’t getting what they need to succeed in Michigan’s public schools.

Nanette Janecke of Western Michigan University is adding another group of students to that conversation: gifted students.

They’re students who could achieve a lot, but who – in most Michigan school districts – aren’t given many tools for success, Janecke said.

She thinks, for gifted students, education in Michigan is in a “dire” state.

“Because in Michigan, the state requires nothing in terms of identification of gifted students, in terms of programs for gifted students, and there’s no money for gifted students,” Janecke said. “Five to ten percent of the students in this state are gifted, but zero percent of the money is allocated to those students and what they need.”

That five to ten percent translates to between 75,000 and 150,000 gifted students in Michigan.

“That’s a big chunk of the students in Michigan who get nothing in their school day that’s directly aimed at their educational level,” she said.

While Michigan is lacking in resources, strategies and funding to support gifted kids, as Janecke said, other states are further along.

“A number of states around the country allocate money,” she said. “A good chunk of states at least require the state to identify students, and that’s the place where we have to start.”

But the current state of school funding in Michigan doesn’t leave much left in the kitty for extra spending. Janecke said even so, there are ways to help gifted students.

“A lot of the things that they can do are things that don’t cost money,” she said.

One example is called acceleration, or grade-skipping. That’s where students move ahead a whole grade, or just in their best subjects.

Another example is called cluster-grouping, where the brightest students learn together in one classroom.

For more, including how exactly gifted students could benefit from this extra attention in school, listen below.

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