In Kansas, gifted education is part of the special-education mix. State law stipulates that each public school student in the gifted category have an individualized education plan, or IEP, just like students with a disability. IEPs describe the unique educational needs of the child and outline a plan to meet them.
Leigh Geis, who teaches gifted students at West Junior High School, said a document outlining appropriate schooling for advanced students was useful. But she said putting gifted education under the same regulations adopted for students with disabilities is a mistake.
Leigh Geis, who teaches gifted students at West Junior High School
"It needs to be streamlined so we are not spending 40 percent of our time on paperwork," she said.
Kansas law does permit the state's 304 public school districts flexibility in identifying gifted students. Standardized tests, teacher insight and parental lobbying guide the Lawrence district's 15-person gifted program staff in selecting the children thought able to quickly master new concepts with willingness to push themselves at school.
The idea is to give students at high risk of boredom a chance to do more challenging work.
"A lot of research was done in the '70s, which showed very bright students were dropping out," said Judith Lacey, gifted education coordinator for Lawrence schools.
IEPs prepared by gifted teachers allow students to follow a wide range of interests.
For example, Lawrence High School junior Cailinn Drouin restored a 1968 BSA motorcycle last semester under the guidance of a gifted program teacher.
At West Junior High, ninth-graders Grant Redding and Jonathan Blum directed a short film for their most recent gifted education project. If all goes well, they'll enter "The Halls of Cochise" in the KAN Film Festival. "This program helps us do stuff we're interested in, rather than what they're doing in class," Redding said.
More often than not, teachers supplement coursework of gifted students in subtle ways. In elementary school, a student might be given the chance to read a more challenging novel than others in the class. A junior high school student interested in computers may be given time to write software programs. At the junior highs and high schools, advanced students have enrolled in classes at Kansas University.
Blum monitored a KU computer science class last year as part of the gifted program.
"It was a more advanced class than they have at the high school," he said. "I learned a lot."