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Students possessing superior intelligence do not necessarily possess superior coping skills. One of the greatest challenges to teachers of gifted students is harnessing their great mental powers and redirecting them to acceptable, divergent pathways. Unfortunately, many students who are gifted and talented do not have the benefit of such guidance. They are at the mercy of their own whims, either by self-imposed defiance or the result of behavioral consequences. Who are these kids?

Many of them are minority students who fell through the classroom cracks and missed a referral to gifted education. Perhaps a quiet Latina sitting in the front of the classroom, making straight A’s was overlooked (teachers favor the ones who do not disrupt the class). A boisterous, but extremely articulate, African American youth who does no written work yet recites the constitution on demand may receive numerous referrals to the academic dean, but none for I.Q. testing. Students like these are prime targets for the halls of academic superiority or the streets of gangland territory. What has happened to our system of meeting students’ individual needs?

Teachers are under tremendous pressure to do just that—deliver instruction to comply with district and state standards that meet each student’s individual learning preference—along with keeping track of attendance, filing the myriad forms required of each student, grading papers and tests, recording grades, calling parents, planning instruction, documenting behavior, disciplining students, and teaching.

Educating students is a daunting task indeed. Identifying gifted students who may be at risk of failure, or who are just not challenged enough, is as important as maintaining the academic continuum in the classroom. Talented minority students would benefit from the specialized training that gifted students receive. Gifted students from the lower end of the socio-economic scale are at risk as well. When their special, idiosyncratic needs are neglected, they will seek to fulfill them elsewhere and not usually within the confines of academia.