Are Pull-Out Programs Effective for Gifted Students?

Most recent research suggests pull-out programs may not work.

Students using a digital tablet.
Students using a digital tablet.. KidStock/Getty Images

A pull-out program is one in which a gifted child is taken out of their regular classroom for one or more hours a week and provided with enrichment activities and instruction among other gifted students.

Pull-out programs may begin as early as first grade, but more typically start in third grade. They are usually content specific; that is, they they generally provide enrichment in language arts (particularly reading) or in math.

But the use of pull-out programs has not been shown to be universally successful, due in part to their duration. Some research has shown that gifted children should be grouped together for an entire school day instead of for a limited segment. And most pull-out programs have not been not tied to significant academic progress, since they tend not to be standardized and stray from the curriculum that students' other classes are following.

There have also been questions about the social ramifications of pulling a child out of regular classes, since it can create a perceived divide between gifted and traditional students. It can be a challenge for teachers to persuade students not selected for gifted enrichment that there isn't something wrong with them. The same may be true for the gifted students, who may miss out on other class activities. If gifted students get the impression they're "better" than their classmates, this could lead to bullying or isolation.

When used for students who have learning disabilities, pull-out programs may tend to further stigmatize children who are already struggling in school. An alternative approach is called a "push-in," which in special ed brings the student's therapist into the main classroom, and incorporating the instruction there.

But push-ins can have similar isolating effects for special education children if not done with sensitivity.

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