Jenny D. raised some interesting points about the role of gifted education in an age dominated by NCLB and rigorous standards for all students. I know a few other bloggers have also written about their views on gifted ed. I can't resist jumping in on this---after all, my M.Ed. is in gifted ed.
There are two big issues here. One is coming to some sort of consensus over what "gifted" means. Secondly, what tool(s) should we use in order to identify it in students?
I am not one of those people who believes that everyone is gifted in one way or another. Strengths and weaknesses? Sure. Kids with high IQs? Maybe. The district I work in has relegated its definition and identification of "gifted" students to CogAT scores of 130 or above in one or more areas of the test: verbal, quantitative, non-quantitative. Student scores on state tests can also be factored in. I really dislike this model. There are no interviews with parents or school staff. There is no assessment of a student's creative aptitude. We aren't identifying "gifted" kids...just smart ones. Even though we do screen all students twice during their elementary years, our numbers of identified kids tend to be disproportionately high (15% of the population) and from a middle-class anglo background. Furthermore, gifted students in this district are placed in magnet classrooms where they are asked to work above grade level in all subjects---even if they only placed high in math on their CogAT. I---and many others---shake our heads over this state of things, but there isn't much we can do at this point.
If we as educators are involved in the other end of the bell curve--special ed---why would we not be involved with the upper end? Our tools are better honed for students with learning disabilities. I think the lack of research for the upper end of the spectrum comes from a belief that those kids will do all right no matter what we do---so why worry about them?
As Jenny D. points out, long-term studies of identified gifted students seem to show that these students don't reach their potential. But if we expect them to be leaders, researchers, or change agents in the world, why do we then school them the same as other kids and then shake our heads when the results aren't different?
I support the advent of standards for the classroom. I strongly believe that every student should have access to a rigorous education---something that in the past was reserved for those labeled "gifted" or highly motivated students. But this doesn't mean that gifted education needs to be dumped any more than we would rid the system of SPED. We do need to change the way we define and identify students. We also need to think about how we support those students in order to pursue their talents.
Update: Please do consider checking out Graycie's thoughts on this topic, along with her follow-up post to one of the comments.