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No Child Left Behind: gifted children and school counselors.

A gifted-education researcher discusses the potential effects of No Child Left Behind on gifted children and adolescents as well as implications for those who counsel such children in public schools. With the primary purpose of stimulating thought, discussion, and action, she addresses the marginalization of gifted and other at-risk children in the current educational climate and provides recommendations for school counselors.

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After working in education for 20 years as a teacher, coordinator, and professor, I attended my very first parent-teacher conference as a parent. My daughter attended kindergarten, and I was eager to learn about her performance in school. Her teacher had taught kindergarten for more than 20 years and had a magical way of making her class of 22 five-year-olds feel comfortable and happy. When it came time for our conference, I pulled the primary-sized chair up to the primary-sized desk and sat across from the woman who was my daughter's first teacher. She calmly explained that my daughter was doing just fine in school, and then proceeded to report how my daughter had performed, based on the state standards identified for kindergarteners. She told me that my daughter could count to 10 and that by the end of the year, according to the standards, she would be able to count to 100. I quietly asked if she had ever asked my daughter to count to 100 and was told, "No, that standard isn't expected until spring." She went on to explain that I had nothing to worry about because my daughter had met all the standards. In other words, the teacher was communicating that she had done her job. Never mind that my daughter had impressive mathematical skills prior to kindergarten. The teacher had not checked out her existing skills or knowledge. Her job was to address the standards as dictated by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001).

In fact, my daughter could count, add, subtract, and explain fractions and negative numbers among other benchmarks that did not exist in the state standards for kindergarteners. She asked me one day, "Would it be a tragedy if a person spent an entire day on the planet and didn't learn anything new?" I had to agree. As a second grader she continues to ask when she will be given some hard work. However, I wonder how many more years she will still want hard work.

In my daughter's new school, all of the students who scored poorly on the state test were encouraged to enroll in a 6-week course that met every day before school prior to the fall testing. This course concentrated on preparing the students for the state test. Her school is touted to be a high-quality, blue-ribbon school, yet all curricular information sent home to parents emphasizes that everything done in school relates to the overarching state standards and to what is tested on a yearly basis.

In another school that I visited, the principal had a consultant work with her staff for 2 days on "Strategies for Increasing Your School's Test Scores." This consultant explained to a group of concerned inner-city, teachers that they need not worry about the students who scored in the bottom quartile or about the students who scored in the top quartile, because the students in the middle had the power to improve the most. She encouraged the teachers to give these "middle" students the most attention if they wanted to improve their scores. In effect, the district and administration used taxpayer dollars to give the teachers permission not only to leave behind the lowest-scoring children, but also to ignore the highest-scoring students.

These examples provide little hope for students who may need extended, accelerated, or enriched curricula, or for the teachers who might be willing to provide such modifications for their students. NCLB (2001) is, in effect, creating a climate of controlled learning and sending a message to administrators, teachers, students, and parents that the school's job involves teaching to the standards--nothing more and nothing less. When students meet the standards, the schools have met their obligation to "educate."

I begin with these examples because, in the wake of NCLB (2001), students across the country in countless districts and classrooms experience the same quiet marginalization of their prior knowledge, and consequently of their future potential, as the standards have become the educational target. In fact, Johnson (2005) recently described a new law in Texas that rewards students who have shown proficiency on the state test with 2 weeks off from school (during the school year) while teachers concentrate on preparing the other students for the test.

In the following sections, I will address the effects of NCLB (2001) on educational practice and the subsequent marginalizing effect of these practices on the education of gifted children. For each issue raised, I will recommend actions that school counselors, as leaders and advocates, can take to help school districts meet the needs of students already identified as gifted and, equally important, students who, with appropriate educational opportunities, might emerge as gifted. Because NCLB mandates testing in major subject areas for students and using test results to determine if groups of students, teachers, and schools perform at proficient levels, schools have placed major emphases on testing, preparing for the tests, and aligning curricula, programs, course offerings, and support services with the tests. These efforts may he detrimental to overall educational processes, not only for high-performing students, but also for students from at-risk groups for whom NCLB purports to deliver quality educational opportunities (Gentry, in press). Most of these identified effects relate directly to the emphasis on testing and accountability resulting from NCLB.

EFFECT #1: FOCUS ON ONLY WHAT IS TESTED

A focus on only content tested leads to curricular reduction and an emphasis on test preparation, with test performance itself seen as the educational outcome. This focus on content raises the question of whether the tests accurately and fairly measure what they purport to measure: student achievement.

Curricular Reduction

Under NCLB (2001), districts must show adequate yearly progress on state assessments, which have been aligned with state standards. As a result, areas not assessed by the high-stakes tests have been eliminated by many districts--for example, electives, music, art, elementary science and social studies, foreign language, gifted programs, and even elementary recess (Amrein & Berliner, 2002: Clarke et al., 2002; Kohn, 2000; Popham, 2001). All students, especially those from impoverished backgrounds, benefit from an enriched schooling experience. However, NCLB requirements push the focus away from enrichment and toward preparing for required assessments. As curricular and programming options narrow, and as schools define learning more and more narrowly, fewer and fewer students fit the schools (Eisner, 2001; Moon, Callahan, & Tomlinson, 2003). Moon et al. found that students from impoverished backgrounds were unlikely to be exposed to challenging curricula and instructional methods and suggested that the focus on testing restricts educational opportunities for those most in need. Rather than reaching more students, educators reach fewer students under NCLB.

What Can School Counselors Do?

With enhancing student achievement and accomplishment as a primary goal of school counseling (Educational Trust, n.d.), counselors can advocate for educating the whole child and for offering a rich variety of educational experiences (including electives at the secondary level, the arts, and elementary subjects such as science and history, in addition to reading and math) to develop gifts and talents in a diverse body of students. School counselors can help administrators and teachers understand the need for recess and exercise to promote cognition and learning (Hillman & Buck, 2004) and the need for advanced programs for gifted students (U.S. Department of Education, 1993). For some children, electives, instruction differentiated to meet their needs, or special programs may be their only avenue to feeling success and satisfaction in school.

Time Spent Preparing for Tests

With high-stakes tests, educators spend more time preparing for tests, with consequent detrimental effects on student learning, including decreased graduation rates, increased dropout rates, lower scores on other nationally and internationally comparative tests of learning, and increased student expulsion and retention (Amrein & Berliner, 2002; Clarke et al., 2002; Moon et al., 2003; Pedulla et al., 2003). Preparing for tests is neither interesting nor meaningful outside of the current school climate, yet too many children and educators spend countless educational hours doing just that. In fact, in states with high-stakes graduation exams, overall academic achievement, as measured by ACT, SAT, and Advanced Placement scores, declined (Amrein & Berliner). Amrein and Berliner attributed these declines to too much time spent teaching to the state-required test and too little time on more substantive learning. Such declines make entrance to top colleges and universities less likely, as universities do not consider how well students perform on non-standardized state assessments. Gallagher (2004) pointed out that schools need gifted students' high test scores to bolster the overall averages, and, with current emphasis on inclusion, if average and below-average students are doing test-taking exercises, then so are the gifted students. Time spent preparing for tests takes time away from more meaningful, contextual learning.

What Can School Counselors Do?

School counselors can advocate against special "test-preparation workshops" in favor of enriched learning experiences that engage students and help them generate excitement about coming to school. Students' greater investment in school likely will translate into better attendance, greater ability to focus, and enhanced learning, all likely to ultimately affect test scores. By considering their charge of delivering learning opportunities that address academic, career, and personal and social development, school counselors can be instrumental in ensuring that these important issues are not eclipsed by preparation for assessments. They can advocate for thematic, interdisciplinary teaching rather than instruction of isolated skills. They can track performance on national comparative measures such as college entrance exams and Advanced Placement exams and raise questions if these scores begin to decline. They can intervene with students who choose to drop out, learn what aspects of school did not benefit them, and advocate for changes to better meet their needs. As an advocate for quality instruction, school counselors can help their teacher colleagues have the courage to teach important content in a manner that engages and reaches students.

Test Results Become the Target of Education

By focusing on what is tested, educators have a clear target. However, if the target becomes the only end, then for students who already know the content or who learn it rapidly, school becomes a series of unchallenging exercises. For them and for other students as well, school becomes an uninspiring test-preparation mill. Sadly, this narrow means-to-end orientation leaves little room for what Eisner (2001) called "the development of intellectual dispositions ... where risk taking, exploration, uncertainty and speculation are what it's about ... curiosity and interest in engaging and challenging ideas" (p. 369). Yet under NCLB (2001), schools across the country have placed test scores as their indicator of quality and have focused their business of schooling on the test-score target.

High test scores are not necessarily indicative of quality schools (Popham, 2001) and are correlated with socioeconomic status and other variables over which schools have little control (Barton, 2003; Kohn, 2001). In fact, quality schools reflect much more than high test scores. A recent national study for the National Center on Educational Statistics identified 13 quality-school indicators from recent research related to student learning, including the skills, assignments, and experiences of teachers; class size; use of technology; curriculum content and instructional pedagogy; and school leadership goals and learning environment--and none of the indicators included test scores (Mayer, Mullens, & Moore, 2000).

What Can School Counselors Do?

Working with staff and students to assess school climate and affective variables could help to inform the school about factors that contribute to quality school experiences for students. The "right" environment is one that is conducive to learning, and if the sole focus of the assessment is a test, which by its very nature fails to account for the environment, then it follows that both areas of excellence and areas needing improvement may be overlooked. School counselors might encourage others to report areas of achievement that reach beyond the test scores. For example, in what projects are students and teachers engaged? Are there opportunities for service learning, mentorships, and apprenticeships, and are these opportunities integrated into academic planning with individual students? What activities are students involved in to develop leadership, creativity, and problem solving, and what are the effects of these activities on student engagement, learning, and school satisfaction?

Tests of Questionable Validity

Many of the tests in use by states to measure adequate yearly progress under NCLB (2001) yield scores of dubious validity (Popham, 2001; Smith & Fey, 2000), which correlate with socioeconomic status and shallow thinking (Kohn, 2000). Such scores may simply predict other test scores while having little to do with measuring actual student achievement (Popham). When the stakes are high, according to Nichols and Berliner (2005), the meaning of the scores becomes questionable at best and uninterpretable at worst. These issues illuminate the danger of placing too much emphasis on limited, high-stakes measures of "achievement." Such emphasis can serve to undermine quality schooling (Popham), leaving gifted and other students locked into a system that cares more about test scores than actual student learning.

What Can School Counselors Do?

Because school counselors may be involved in the selection and reporting, and often in the interpretation, of cognitive, aptitude, and achievement tests, they might want to determine and share what validity and reliability evidence exists for the NCLB (2001) measures. In some instances, states use criterion assessments that have had little or no psychometric work on their validity and reliability. School counselors therefore could help their colleagues understand both the uses and the limitations of the measures used by the schools. They also might help to advocate for the use of psychometrically sound measures at the state level. School counselors also can play a valuable role in addressing school morale issues related to the pressure of having to administer and be accountable to such measures. It should be noted that though testing is required, the schools' educators are in charge of the emphasis placed on tests. For example, sometimes it might be better simply to administer the measure without emphasis on its importance. In this regard, because of their attention to the whole child, counselors might be able to help colleagues determine how to approach testing with the well-being of children in mind.

EFFECT #2: DEFICIT-BASED APPROACH TO EDUCATION

NCLB (2001) has created a mindset that focuses on deficits and improving weaknesses. Such a focus contradicts empirically supported motivation theory, in which students need to feel empowered, efficacious, and able to self-regulate to be able to learn effectively and with confidence and motivation (Patrick, Gentry, & Owen, 2006). Exercises to improve test scores often consist of remedial drill exercises of little interest to students or teachers, and these exercises take time away from more powerful learning activities and do not encourage creative pedagogy. The fix-the-weaknesses approach has resulted in the elimination of gifted programs, advanced classes, and enrichment programs in favor of remedial programs (National Association for Gifted Children, 2005). The attitude that education should fix weaknesses rather than develop talents is pervasive. Basic proficiency has become the only end.

Remediation

Popham (2001) explained that if remedial drills actually do raise test scores, then the tests measure only low-level outcomes. If students come to school and the focus is always on what they least enjoy and do least well, then why should they engage in school? Gifted education has long involved gifted students in areas of their strengths and interests (U.S. Department of Education, 1993). It has been suggested that the methods used in gifted education can benefit all students (Renzulli, 1994), that gifted education can provide innovative means of reaching more children (U.S. Department of Education), and that engaging students in learning requires interest, challenge, choice, and enjoyment (Gentry & Gable, 2001). Yet this very type of motivational learning is withheld from lower-performing students, who slip further and further behind despite efforts to remediate them (Moon et al., 2003). Further, as educators focus on remediation, they focus less on developing students' talents, and all students lose. Gifted students lose opportunities for advanced learning, and other at-risk students lose opportunities to develop their strengths, because their weaknesses become the focus of their education.

What Can School Counselors Do?

Providing what Bloom (1985) termed "early years experiences" to at-risk students has promise of helping to engage students in the learning process and to ameliorate some of the deficits with which these students begin school. School counselors can advocate for including strength-based components as they work with students on their academic program planning. School counselors might initiate an enrichment summer school or an enriched after-school experience in which students become involved in their interest and strength areas, rather than the traditional remedial placements that these children often see, and thus develop positive attitudes toward schooling. The school counselor then can become involved in interpreting data from student assessments to determine the success of an enriched versus remedial approach to assist students who have been identified as at risk of school failure.

Loss of Teachers and Students from Schools

Teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers, making poor teacher retention a national crisis. Fifty percent of new teachers now leave the profession within their first S years of teaching (Hunt & Carroll, 2003). An increased dropout rate, as high-stakes tests become the norm, raises questions about the educational system in general and the language of a law intended to "leave no child behind" (Amerin & Berliner, 2002). Attrition and dropout rates for teachers and students are highest in poor and urban areas, further exacerbating the educational crisis for at-risk youth (Hunt & Carroll). New teachers are charged with delivering a test-based curriculum with little room for individualization, under threat of being labeled "failing." New research, in the context of NCLB (2001), regarding deficit approaches to teaching needs to be conducted to understand the role of this approach in teacher attrition and student dropout rates. If quality young people are no longer attracted to the profession and others leave in droves, the implications for the future quality of schooling are staggering. All children need and deserve high-quality teachers.

What Can School Counselors Do?

School counselors can work to keep potential dropouts in school by focusing on student strengths, personal and social attributes, and future plans. They also can help to facilitate mentor relationships for new teachers. School counselors can help educators and parents understand that when deficits are a major focus, both adults and students become dispirited and thus are more likely to drop out or leave. Finally, and importantly, in their role of career guidance, school counselors can steer bright young people, interested in teaching, toward a career in education.

Elimination of Gifted and Talented Programs

With a focus on raising scores of the lowest-performing segments of the school population, and with the NCLB (2001) language of proficiency, rather than of excellence, already minimal services for gifted children have been cut and funds reallocated to remedial programs (Golden, 2004). Fear of sanctions for failing to make adequate yearly progress or for disparate scores between groups has pushed districts to focus on students with low scores and ignore those with high scores. With no mandate to serve gifted children, coupled with the false notion that such students will make it on their own, requiring no differentiation of school curricula, programs for gifted children have existed at the whim of local politics and local budgets for many years. In the NCLB educational climate, with a focus on accountability, gifted programs have begun to decline across the nation because already limited budget dollars have been targeted toward improving test scores (National Association for Gifted Children, 2005).

What Can School Counselors Do?

Research has shown that school counselors have a significant and positive influence both on the lives of the children and on the school environment (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005; Borders & Drury, 1992; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). Therefore, counselors can make the case for gifted education in a continuum of school services. For school counselors to counsel students in academics and career decisions effectively, appropriate educational opportunities must exist in the school setting. For students to be competitive in the college admission process and in the world of work, they must receive a quality education concerned with excellence as well as with test scores. School counselors might be able to help educators and community members understand that programs for gifted students and talent development programs are essential to quality education, allow students to make continual educational progress, and address the educational needs of students.

Proficiency as the Goal

NCLB (2001) contains emphasis on proficiency without an equal emphasis on excellence. Many have pointed out that such an unbalanced emphasis not only hurts gifted students, but it also puts at further risk the very students the legislation claims to help: minority and poor students (e.g., Amrein & Berliner, 2002; Elmore, 2003; Golden, 2004; Neill, 2003; Tomlinson, 2002). Conversely, for high-performing gifted students who easily obtain proficiency, simple focus on that end clearly leaves them educationally underserved. Yet, under NCLB, too many districts appear to believe that once a student reaches proficiency, the school's job is done. The National Excellence Report (U.S. Department of Education, 1993) stated that gifted children require special services because the regular curriculum fails to challenge them and acknowledged that many gifted students have already mastered half or more of the required curriculum before it is presented to them. These students and many others have the capacity and right to move well beyond proficiency, yet they may require special services or consideration for this to happen.

What Can School Counselors Do?

With regard to all of these issues, an important counselor role is advocacy (ASCA, 2005). School counselors can advocate for preassessment of content, for if educators know that some or many students already know what they are about to teach, they might teach those students differently. School counselors can continue to encourage students to take advanced classes that move them beyond proficiency. They can seek out talent-search programs and opportunities for talented students to dually enroll in high-school and college courses or to graduate early and go on to college or other postsecondary training (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004). For students who demonstrate proficiency, opportunities for advanced learning are essential for continued learning.

EFFECT #3: STANDARDS--THE SAME FOR ALL AND THE EROSION OF CHALLENGE

Of major concern for gifted students is the assumption under NCLB (2001) that all students can attain the same high standards, when, in fact, if all students meet the standards, then the standards are undoubtedly too easy for many students. The NCLB assumption has led states to lower standards so that they can show the desired levels of proficiency (National Association for Gifted Children, 2005; Nichols & Berliner, 2005), exacerbating the lack of academic challenge for some students. Children differ in capabilities, yet they are being measured with the same yardstick, and group measures lead to unfair comparisons of unequal groups as well as mask individual student differences. The focus on measurable standards and proficiencies for all students has led to the erosion of challenge for gifted students.

Same Standards for All

Inherent in NCLB (2001) is the assumption that more students can perform at higher levels, and this is certainly true. In practice, however, this assumption has been interpreted to mean that all students will become proficient using the same grade-level standards, whether they are ready or whether they already know it. This one-size expectation fails to account for individual differences on variables linked to performance over which schools exert little control, such as socioeconomic status, environmental experiences, aptitude, school readiness, and home environment (Barton, 2003; Kohn, 2000; Ohanian, 1999; Popham, 2001).

Further, it has been well documented that students from poverty, suffer from "summer loss" in achievement, whereas their middle-class counterparts gain during the summer months (Bracey, 2002; Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2000). Children vary in their learning rates, their aptitudes, their backgrounds, and their experiences. To expect sameness defies the ability of educators to nurture children as unique individuals. Some students need more and others need less (Vygotsky, 1962), and all need to believe that they can do what they are being asked to do (Bandura, 1997). Responsiveness to individual differences requires measures that allow educators to see students as individuals.

With one-size-fits-all standards, and under the auspices of NCLB (2001), no one is being asked to show growth of individual students. Instead, educators are being asked to show group comparisons and "adequate yearly progress" for various groups of children. With this approach, individual students become lost, and the environment created is not conducive to enhancing the achievement of gifted students or the achievement of students who have potential for high academic achievement in specific content areas. NCLB has created an environment in which school administrators have no incentive to concentrate on educating gifted children or developing talents of individual children. It will take years before we know the actual effects of this legislation, but early studies and observations are not encouraging (e.g., Amrein & Berliner, 2002; Moon et al., 2003; Nichols & Berliner, 2005).

What Can School Counselors Do?

The most important role that a school counselor might play is as an advocate for individual student-learning gains. Educators can and should be held responsible for ascertaining where individual students begin and how much progress they make during their school experience. The use of gain scores for individual students can do much to alleviate the inclination to compare only group scores. According to ASCA (2005), appropriate tasks for a school counselor are interpreting student records as well as interpreting cognitive, aptitude, and achievement tests. School counselors could actually begin a trend that keeps the focus on individual students' gains, rather than on group-to-group comparative scores. Changing testing from fall to spring, or testing in the tall and again in the spring, and using a measure without a ceiling would help to facilitate understanding of individual gains.

Lack of Challenge

Neihart (2002) discussed the importance of appropriate challenge for children. Challenge is difficult to experience in a system that promotes grade-level standards and group assessment of these standards. According to Neihart, appropriate challenge in school can alleviate many other social and emotional concerns for gifted children. Without challenge, gifted children do not learn to struggle, to persevere, to work hard, and to attribute their success to hard work, among other important lessons that come with meeting a challenge. NCLB (2001) fails to encourage educators to provide appropriate levels of challenge for these students. Such a system places gifted students at serious risk of underachievement, in terms of realizing their potential. The societal implications of undereducating and underdeveloping talented youth in our educational system are sobering. It will be these youth who will solve, or tail to solve, important problems in the future (Davidson, Davidson, & Vanderkam, 2004). A society's value and ability to contribute to global humanity rest with its youth and with its ability to prepare its youth for productive citizenry.

What Can School Counselors Do?

School counselors might consider interventions for students who experience boredom due to unchallenging curricular opportunities. For example, a school counselor might assist in the implementation of preassessment and the development of other options for students who already know or who can learn the curriculum in content areas quickly. Is it possible for students to test out of a class in which they already know the content, or is seat time required for credit? A school counselor could promote dialogue about such an important concern and influence policy. School counselors also be might instrumental in encouraging their teaching colleagues to consider the importance of challenge for their students by providing information concerning the social and emotional benefits of experiencing appropriate levels of challenge in school. Finally, concerning challenge, school counselors can help individual students and small groups of students to understand the need to embrace challenge and develop strategies for self-advocacy as they seek appropriate challenges in school.

EFFECT #4: CHEATING AND THE MESSAGE TO STUDENTS

Many instances of cheating by educators in response to high-stakes testing have been noted in the media. Popham (2001, p. 22) called this "test-pressured cheating," and Nichols and Berliner (2005) noted that higher stakes mean that the meaning of the scores becomes increasingly questionable. Countless accounts of cheating have been reported, probably the most egregious surrounding the scandals in Texas (CBS News, 2004; Dobbs, 2003; Haney, 2000; Schemo, 2003), but all reflect the intense pressure put on educators, and thus on students, to produce results on NCLB tests. Furthermore, in the many schools where blatant cheating does not exist, more subtle forms of corrupt test preparation can exist (Clarke et al., 2002; Nichols & Berliner, 2005). Troubling is the message that cheating sends to the students: that the end justifies the means. When adults cheat or engage students in inappropriate test preparation exercises to create a testing advantage, they suggest to their students that high scores are worth compromising values. That message reflects a lack of integrity in the very people who should model integrity, honesty, and ethics.

Like their teachers and administrators, students face increasing pressure to increase performance on the tests. The risk exists that children will judge that their worth is based on their test scores. In addition, as educators emphasize the importance of the testing, student anxiety increases (Jones et al., 1999). For a student who does not perform well on tests and who is placed into remedial or test preparation classes, self-image can become a problem, efficacy can wane, and achievement can decrease. Tests become more important than learning when learning is reduced to a series of exercises in which students learn content and then select the right answers on an accountability assessment--regardless of probable public perceptions, the "learning" can be reduced to test scores. The message becomes "You are what you score," a sad message for the student who does not score well. There are inherent dangers when, due to the pressure from NCLB (2001), educators become preoccupied with preparing students for the test rather than educating them for productive lives.

Gifted children often are more attuned to complex issues related to justice and fairness than their age peers are (Neihart, 2002) and thus may find it difficult to reconcile a teacher's "helping" them with a test in the case of corrupt test-preparation practices. They may more readily pay attention to and struggle with a news story concerning educators who cheat in the enterprise of state testing. They also may feel more responsibility to score well and experience more disappointment and guilt when they do not score well. This may be especially true of those students who have learning disabilities, which coexist with intellectual giftedness. When they then face less challenge and more rote preparation, underachievement may result (Patrick et al., 2006).

What Can School Counselors Do?

As school counselors work with teachers on guidance curriculum lessons or advisor-advisee programs (ASCA, 2005) and with students on personal and social issues, they can address integrity and ethics and can help students focus more on learning than on test results. School counselors can help others understand how high-stakes messages to students and emphasis on tests can be detrimental to students' sense of learning, progress, and efficacy (Eisner, 2001). School counselors can take the lead in helping others understand individual gain scores. Finally, they can assist students and colleagues with putting high-stakes accountability concerns into perspective by focusing on what education can do to help students be and become productive citizens in our democracy.

SUMMARY

These are troubled times in education, and even more troubled times in gifted education, with the narrow focus brought to education by NCLB (2001). Gifted children exist in all of our schools, as also do students of untapped and unrecognized potential. Yet, under NCLB, despite its intention to "leave no child behind," more and more children are marginalized in a bare-bones educational system. Services to gifted children have been cut, and funds, in contrast, have been allocated to remediate students. Students drop out at alarming rates in a system that focuses not on their possibilities but on their weaknesses. When poorly performing students leave schools, administrators, under great pressure to report improved test scores, may actually be relieved because the absence of low-performing students helps the bottom-line average test score. Then, with fear of being labeled failing, educators underreport or de-emphasize these dropouts, and more and more children for whom the legislation was intended are not only left behind, but are pushed out of the system, which no longer has anything left to offer them.

The first step to solving a problem is recognizing the problem. The vignettes with which I began this article are real examples of the effects of NCLB (2001). There are many more such examples in countless schools across the country as educators struggle to find meaningful focus in the chaos of the largest federal education initiative ever. Intervention for individual students and quality education for identified gifted, at-risk, and underidentified gifted and at-risk students begins with one educator and one child at a time. It seems that school counselors are in a unique position not only to work with children, but also to bring to the table conversations concerning some of the issues raised herein.

The author gratefully acknowledges Christine Meus for her careful reading of this article.

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Marcia Gentry, Ph.D., is associate professor of educational studies and associate director of the Gifted Education Resource Institute, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. E-mail: mgentry@purdue.edu
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Title Annotation:No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
Author:Gentry, Marcia
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:6629
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