In Debate Over New York’s Gifted-Students Program, an Expert Gets Spotlight
Joseph Renzulli’s method aims to offer students of all abilities hands-on projects that tap into their interests
By Leslie Brody
Wall Street Journal
Sept. 2, 2019 2:20 pm ET

Joseph Renzulli, an 83-year-old pioneer in gifted education, says please don’t label a child “gifted.”

Instead, call her a gifted mathematician, singer or poet. “I talk about the development of gifted behaviors,” he says, “rather than ‘you’re gifted and the kid next to you is not.’ ”

Dr. Renzulli’s work was touted by a diversity panel that surprised many New York City families last week with its call to end the district’s current form of gifted programs, and to scrap the standardized test for 4-year-olds that determines entry.

The panel, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, cited Dr. Renzulli’s “schoolwide enrichment model” as an alternative.

Rather than separating young children deemed gifted into their own classrooms, Dr. Renzulli promotes a broader effort to offer students of all abilities hands-on projects that tap into their interests. When all children get such opportunities, he says, those who show strong motivation, creativity and leadership can dive into deeper work but don’t need to be siloed.

“Give more kids the chance to throw the ball around and we’ll find out which should be quarterback,” says Dr. Renzulli, a professor at the University of Connecticut.

He has a minority stake in a company, Renzulli Learning, offering a database that lets students and teachers find projects online that appeal to their particular interests, skill levels and learning styles, whether dissecting a virtual mummy, designing a playground or inventing a board game.

Some parents don’t believe such an approach can nurture academic excellence. And some education experts caution the model is extremely hard for teachers to execute when facing classes of 30-plus students with wide ranges of ability and preferences.



There is a "g" factor, and academic abilities in math and language are positively correlated. So "gifted" or high-iQ can be useful labels.