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'Gifted' as a Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Many teachers are of the mindset that to raise student achievement, you have to raise the bar.

A study of a program piloted in 11 North Carolina school districts takes that ideology to a new level: It concludes that "at-risk" students perform better academically when taught as if they are "gifted."

As reported in The Cary News, a Raleigh, N.C., newspaper, the U.S. Department of Education evaluated Project Bright IDEA, a program in which teachers at schools with a high percentage of low-income students received intensive training in strategies for teaching gifted children. Within three years, the study found, "the number of children identified by their school districts as being academically and intellectually gifted ranged from 15 percent to 20 percent. That compared to just 10 percent of children in a control group," according to the paper.

Some believe the study has implications for reducing the achievement gap between black and white students.

William Darity, professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, told The Cary News, "We disproportionately locate black and Latino kids in those environments where they get the dumbed-down instruction. So one of the exciting things about Project Bright IDEA is the premise that you provide this high-level curriculum and instruction to all the kids."

Any thoughts on this? Could this finding change the direction of education reform? Or is it simply a reaffirmation of a common-sense approach (i.e., keep your expectations high)?

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