“The words ‘gifted and talented’ are probably among the most controversial in the field of education,” says University of Connecticut Professor Joseph Renzulli in a recent discussion about enrichment instruction. Renzulli, the founder and director of UConn’s National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, says he regularly receives calls from parents and teachers asking for guidance with regard to deciding which students should be identified as “gifted.”
In fact, Renzulli notes a fundamental change in thinking has taken place in recent years. Whereas “gifted” students used to be identified based on test scores — a child who scored 130 on an IQ test was considered gifted, but a child who scored 129 was not — we now know that gifted students reveal themselves in ways that don’t always show up on an intelligence test. As Dr. Renzulli notes, Thomas Edison, Louisa May Alcott and Walt Disney each received scathing grades during school, with Alcott’s teacher noting that she would never write anything with popular appeal.