Thursday, November 8, 2007

Maryland Gifted and Talented Conference

I was asked by the supervisor of Gifted Education to present the work I had done with our Renzulli Enrichment teacher at the 2007 Maryland Educators of Gifted Students conference in Howard County, MD. We were essentially going to be presenting the same presentation as what we did for MICCA. So all we needed to do was massage it for the audience at the conference. What was most exciting for me was that Dr. Sally Reis, the wife of Dr. Joseph Renzulli, was going to be the keynote speaker.

We arrived a little late but caught the last 20 minutes of her talk. It was very validating to hear her speak of the way we look to educate our gifted children. Frederick County Public Schools uses the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). Obviously, Dr. Reis was a big promoter of this model. Until now I hadn't seen any research to support this model, although it appeared to me to be very credible without the research. After sharing how schools who have adopted the Schoolwide Enrichment Model out perform schools who do not use the model on standardized testing, it occured to me that we should be using this model for all students. .

Students all have their own interests that are usually not what is presented in class. One of the stark realities of preparing students for the workplace of the 21st century is that most of the jobs that our students will be applying for have not been invented. When does anyone over the age of 30 remember seeing an ad for a software design engineer in the local paper when they were in grade school? It is well documented that as technology and information advance, there will be a greater need for students who are self reliant, independent learners, critical thinkers, and have strong math, science, and language skills. So the challenge as an instructional leader is to find a good balance of instruction that provides these basic skills while fostering the thinking, language, and personal skills needed to compete in an increasingly globay economy.

The SEM is a great way to differentiate instruction for students in a classroom. It usually starts with a general exploration followed by some more direct group or individual training, and summarized with a self-selected project to demonstrate mastery. Let's face it, even jobs such as a cashier or waiting tables requires many skills that students can acquire from a learning model such as this. Students who are motivated to learn, learn better, retain more, and have greater self esteem.

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