LESSONS LEARNED FROM EVALUATING PROGRAMS POR THE GIPTED PROMISING PRACTICES AND PRACTICAL PITFALLS
The world of gifted education is often guided by good theory and research, but sometimes we are not aware of some ofthe practical advice that can be derived from the evaluations of other programs for gifted ad talented students. In this article, I have used my experiences as a program evaluator in identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of programs to suggest common áreas of weaknesses in these programs recommend basic practices that have contributed to the success of gifted programs. The recommendations for administrators and teachers are organized around five categories which were first suggested by Renzulli (1975): program philosophy and
deftnition, student identification and placement, the curriculum, teacher selection and training, and program organization and operation. The basic premise for all high quality programming stems from a sound definition of giftedness and a philosophy for serving gifted students that is consistent with the definition and which is based on principies that are in accord with other educational philosophies of the school. In addition, the philosophy of providing services should be aligned with the needs of the gifted student that are suggested by the definition that has been adopted. When careful consideration is given to this aspect of program development, there is increased likelihood that other components will also be high quality.
Naturally student identification and placement should be an out growth of the definition of giftedness. Further, placement should be according to the needs of the students, not on the basis of fitting all gifted students to one programming arrangement and one curricular offering. It is also important that curriculum be based on the characteristics of the identifted students. One of the major shortcomings in curricular options for gifted students is failure to provide a curriculum that both satisfies Passow criteria (1982), that this curriculum should be curriculum that other students could not do, should not do, and would not do. In addition, the curriculum should be based on sound developmental principies, should reflect attention to increasing complexity, abstractness, pace, openness, independence, insight and transfer, and sophisticated levels ofresource use. Further, program offerings should provide opportunities for appropriate cognitive, social and emotional development of gifted students. The dimensión of curriculum associated with assessment must also be modified for gifted students to ensure they are leaming to strive for excellence in the absolute sense rather than relative to peers and that they are leaming to créate products reflective of the practitioners and researchers in the disciplines The aspects of teacher selection and training are based on both skill and attitude toward teaching the gifted. Teachers should be selected because they have a knowledge of the characteristics and needs of gifted students, because they have a sound knowledge of the discipline(s) they teach, and because they have the repertoire of teaching strategies to deliver a high level
and engaging curriculum. Finally, teachers need a continuing, sound, coherent and focused staff development program that provides coherent support in delivering a program focused on the needs ofthe students. Finally, successful programs are based on careful education of the general staff ofthe school, on a clearly delineated administrative leader with skills in program development and the time to apply those skills, and on adequate resources for the instructional tasks at hand.
The last variable which is included in the category of program operation is evaluation, and I offer suggestions for the evaluator as well. These range from identification and involvement of the individuáis who are most impacted by the program, of evaluation of both the documents and the
practice ofthe program, and for maximizing the impact of the evaluation process.