Poverty is the universal issue, which is affecting many areas of life in the zones of political and economic instability and in emerging and developed countries. In particular, poverty may be the most important factor impacting attainment of high achievements in education amongst other student differences. While not all schools have students of diverse ethnicity, race, and religion background, almost all schools would have some students who are living in poverty conditions. Hence, there is a need to give individual support to high-ability, low-income students (Burney & Beilke, 2008).
This topic is important to research because poverty is not so easily identifiable as a factor in the field of gifted education. There are numerous research studies on the impact of such elements as ethnicity, race, gender, cultural background, language, or school location on students’ high achievement. The importance to research the topic of the paper lies in the fact that it is not easy to identify prospective high-achieving students who, in addition, may be living in poverty. This is detrimental to the principals of equal opportunities given in education and the complication is that poverty may have a high impact on students’ performance.
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This research can be justified by its practical use in classrooms, in particular, supporting the belief in one’s own ability to master tasks, which can be influenced by motivating activities. It is very important to give stimulation in order to boost confidence of gifted students in poverty, for instance, by giving them challenging tasks. It has been determined that for those students who demonstrate high ability, their personal beliefs of own competence are often at the core of gaining motivation and, therefore, leading to exercising control in achieving high performance (Burney & Beilke, 2008).
The Impact of Poverty on Students’ Achievement
The up-to-date research in the area of the impact of poverty on gifted students’ achievement contains philosophical beliefs and empirical research applicable to the issue. It also contains recommendations to help teachers boost the confidence of gifted youth and ensure the equity of education as an important part of equity in the democratic society, which nurtures its future. This analysis is particularly relevant in the field of gifted education.
For the purpose of this research, four current scholarly articles have been selected, summarized, and analyzed. Burney and Beilke (2008) have focused on the definition of poverty as it relates to various areas of family life and argue that its implication is by far broader than purely financial limitations. The case under analysis is comprised of a socially underprivileged locality school with statistically 65 per cent of students living under the established poverty line and almost 100 per cent of students of Afro-American background. These students were given a chance to attain a cost-free college education, but only under the condition that they successfully graduate from school. Surprisingly, the outcome of such program was far from expected: in that particular year less students successfully graduated from school in comparison to the previous years (Burney & Beilke, 2008).
Some of the limiting circumstances, which are directly connected to poverty, have been identified in relation to gifted students with the main one being limited access to the resources that are required to build foundational skills for successful further studies and motivation. This refers to financial resources and common family interests and moral support required to support gifted children. In the ethnically and culturally diverse community, the myth of difference in values in different cultures may prompt an unnecessary belief and stereotype that a representative of certain cultural background places less value on education and success, which may lead to overlooking gifted children from those cultures. It is interesting that the findings of Burney and Beilke of Ball State University (2008) are confirmed in the earlier research of Baldwin of Connecticut State University (2004), precisely that children from poor households are underrepresented in the state and school Gifted Programs and various rigorous courses. Baldwin refers to the professional magazine Gifted Child Quarterly where there was an ongoing discussion and dialogues devoted to the lack of culturally diverse and underrepresented community groups’ students over the past five decades. Although this clearly demonstrates that there is a major concern about this issue, there was only a superficial analysis of many influential issues and variables. These issues can be grouped into three major topics: identification and selection of gifted students, curriculum and programming, and the choice of teaching staff along with their professional development (Baldwin, 2004).
Baldwin has conducted a case research with the outcome, which has largely undermined the scoring of IQ and overall attitudes existing in education towards underprivileged children. This case study has shown the outcome of stimulating students in the classroom on the basis of 100 per cent Afro-American group of students who previously did not reach the IQ score of gifted students. It has turned out that the research has undermined the validity of IQ scores results, which basically determines if students are gifted. In this particular case, 24 students were identified who would not have been admitted to a Gifted Program, but for the teacher who would have advocated them by recognizing their potential and developing a motivational environment to pursue their innate abilities (Baldwin, 2004). It is worth noting that this case study can be applicable to a mixed group of students, not only of Afro-American descent. The key to the research is that with the motivation, the potential of students can be identified and encouraged to flourish, thus bringing them to the Gifted Program. Later in this paper, it will be recommended in what ways this motivation can be applied in the conventional classroom approach.
The grey area is the approach to giftedness and conceptions about the ways intelligence is demonstrated. Students with poor background may have such talents and gifts that might manifest in other ways, which are not recognized in the system of traditional values and behaviors. For instance, some of these manifestations may be in the field of creativity and expression, but due to the student’s vocabulary choice and poor grammar and the lack of social experience, their talent may not be acknowledged as one of the indicators of their potential talent. Some of the knowledge of students from poor background like, for example, sports, music, and other culture may not be considered as a valuable knowledge. Complex domestic environment may stimulate development of negotiation and communication skills, which are used to solve problems and avoid conflict, but are not recognized in the criteria for Gifted Programs (Slocumb & Payne, 2000).
Even when students from poverty are placed in the Gifted Program, risks exist, which can impede on their learning and progression in these programs. Some of them are the feeling of inadequacy as compared to wealthier students, low confidence, and poor self-image and they may stay in the way of student’s academic success. Not less important is the students’ lack of financial resources to gain access to learning materials, which are necessary to perform up to the academic expectations of the Gifted Program. Social status in the group of gifted students and the fact that some of the established friends are not in this program present further constraints on the ease of access of gifted education for the poor. There are many hidden undercurrents to poverty, which are not directly obvious to teachers and they can lead to teachers trying to remove the child from the program for the benefit of a group rather than trying to make necessary adjustments. The possible lack of help and support from family members may be another complication when any issues need a three-way discussion with the teacher, student, and family (Slocumb & Payne, 2000).
Critique and Recommendations
Designing a suitable Gifted Program in school is often dependable on the identified number of gifted students and, therefore, on financial and other resources. While some areas have schools with enough students to offer such special Gifted Program within the school, others may have identified a small number of their students as gifted and this may be related to the community where this school operates. Some schools may have additional pull-out hours for gifted students, which may be insufficient to address the need and not serve the purpose of the Gifted Program. Even those schools that have a full Gifted Program face challenges, in particular, in the way of support for teachers.
In terms of developing the potential of gifted students, their awareness of their own high potential is required for their high performance; at the same time, it is not a guarantee of such performance. A stronger motivation is needed from teachers to help students develop and up-keep their efforts and hard work to attributing high achievements. High grades and achievement are potentially leading to the likelihood of enrolling students to post-secondary courses and further lead to improved chances for obtaining a well-paid job and overall increased earnings, thus breaking the cycle of poverty. Better education can give prospects for students to escape the limitations of poverty not only for themselves, but for their families, parents, and future generations.
Strategies for success in reviewing the Gifted Education Program include the importance of early identification and intervention in the overall improved general school program, changed perceptions of intelligence, and allowing for more flexible access to Gifted Programs. On an individual level, developing strength and resilience of students who are prepared to exercise high efforts and commitment along with attracting and recognizing the important role of the family support are important points to be stressed in the improvement of the Gifted Program strategy.
Along with recognizing the need for improvement of the Gifted Education policy, the following recommendation can be made in the existing programs:
- Ensure effectiveness of identification and then placement of students from minority groups and possible preparatory classes for gifted programs;
- Review flexibility of teaching strategies and curriculum design, which would be the most effective for students from various cultural backgrounds;
- Involve the community in supporting poorer students demonstrating high ability;
- Review the current IQ tests and, possibly, remove its major role as an indicator for the giftedness;
- Review the role of creativity as one of the assessment tools for high potential identification.
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It should be said that poverty is the world issue and it will undoubtedly take many years to be resolved. The new globalized environment has brought along the faster pace, increasing technical progress and making the world smaller with integrated borders. One of the benefits of globalization is the fact that it has increased wealth, however, not for everyone and not everywhere. The existing poverty generates poor nutrition, poor hygiene living conditions, less employment chances, and more diseases. In the social sphere, which can also be evident in schools, children from poor background can experience bullying due to” low status” and depression, to name a few.
British politician Peter Hain said that globalization presented opportunities. When well managed, it will help in driving forward efforts for building prosperity and diminishing poverty. Badly managed, it is bound to increase the gap between the rich and the poor (Cole, 2012, p. 7). Educators have to put their best efforts in order to help reduce this gap between the rich and the poor on the foundation level.