Upcoming Special Issue of “Psychology in the Schools” on Serving the Gifted in the Schools

Much has changed in the world, as it has in education and the gifted field, since the start of the new century. And most futurists recognize that change is occurring at an increasingly rapid, almost breathtaking, pace as we find ourselves in the second decade of the 21st century. We have seen rapid global weather changes, sudden and often inexplicable political shifts in how countries govern – both in the USA and internationally, and grand transformations in the use of social media, economic indices and predictions, technological and medical advances, and even approaches to homeschooling, teaching, child rearing and parenting. Most recently, we are dealing with a novel coronavirus pandemic that has challenged our public health, economic, political and social fabric.

One area of focus that has not been part of this revolution of change is the gifted field and gifted education. For a number of reasons, the field of gifted education and the practice of serving the gifted in the schools has not enjoyed appreciable change for almost one hundred years. This lack of change in how we understand and serve this unique, special needs, group of students in the real-world of the schools is certainly not due to a lack of research or innovative best practices literature published in the gifted journals. It is rather that innovation—which is affecting so many fields of human endeavor today—has not gained much traction in the schools.

This was the la raison principale why Steven Pfeiffer, lead author of the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS), accepted the invitation to organize a special issue on the gifted for school psychologists. The idea was to provide readers of Psychology in the Schools with the most recent and exciting new ideas, research findings, federal policy, information on gifted curriculum and instruction, and ways to identify, motivate, challenge, and understand gifted students.

The special issue for which Pfeiffer serves as guest editor is slated for publication in the coming months: It will be a fall/winter 2020 issue of Psychology in the Schools. The journal is published by Wiley and is available at most University libraries and online at www.wiley.com. The contributors to the special issue consist of a group of recognized authorities in their respective areas of research, practice, and advocacy for the gifted, including, David Dai, Kristen Stephens, Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Del Siegle, Kris Wiley, Dante Dixson, Linda Silverman, Frank Worrell, Carol Smith, Susannah Wood, Susan Assouline, Denise Winsor, Bobbie Gilman, and Megan Foley-Nicpon. It’s a lineup of All Stars!

One reason for a special issue on the gifted written specifically for school psychologists is that national surveys of members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) indicate that they are not well-equipped to serve gifted students in the schools. For example:

— Only half of NASP members report receiving training in assessment of the gifted, and less than half report receiving training in characteristics of the gifted. Perhaps more telling, 37% report receiving no training in gifted assessment, characteristics of the gifted, curriculum and instructional methods for the gifted learner, unique socioemotional needs, or the “twice exceptional” student.  

— More than half of NASP members indicate that their graduate training dedicated “little” time to the gifted student, and 37% report that their graduate programs dedicated “no” time to learning about the gifted.

— More than half of NASP members (66%) report “never or rarely” conducting gifted evaluations; only 17% report consulting with teachers about gifted students, and the great majority rate their level of expertise in consulting with teachers on curriculum or instructional needs for gifted students as “low.” 

There are other socio-cultural, and political reasons for why change in serving the gifted has been very slow to take hold in the schools. Many of the contributors to the special issue discuss the various reasons. Sadly, ‘innovation waves’ in our understanding of and in the provision of cutting-edge and evidence-based services and programs for the gifted has not kept pace with other changes across our society.