A. Harry Passow: Scholar and FriendE. Jean Gubbins
Joseph S. Renzulli
University of Connecticut
The field of education often reflects the ebb and flow of ideas of scholars and practitioners, which at first blush sound new or cutting edge. Then we realize the ideas can be traced back to earlier viewpoints so well constructed they stood the test of time. Studying the evolutionary ideas results in a sense of admiration and respect for the person who penned the earlier thoughts. Dr. A. Harry Passow was such a person whose ideas make us proud to have known him as a scholar and friend. Dr. Passow died March 28, 1996, and his personal and professional legacies to the world are immeasurable. We treasure our encounters with him, whether they were face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations, or reading the numerous books and articles by such an incredible wordsmith. Harry's many gifts and talents were evidenced in initial encounters with him. Just listening to him tell a story made you realize that he was destined to write. His words and ideas flowed so gracefully. He captured your attention with his gentle demeanor, sound grasp of relevant research, and keen perspectives from experiences. Over 40 years ago, Harry talked about issues that sound so current in the field of gifted and talented education in the 1990s. He was acutely aware of the importance of developing the talents of young people, studying the scholastic underachievement among bright students, determining the effects of ability grouping, and opening opportunities for disadvantaged learners before some of us even realized the importance of these issues. In 1979, Dr. A. Harry Passow served as the editor of The Gifted and the Talented: Their Education and Development, The Seventy-eighth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. He assembled a team of scholars to prepare chapters on nurturing and educating students with high abilities. In a closing chapter entitled "A Look Around and a Look Ahead," Harry delineated some generalizations and principles that could have been written in response to educational issues of the 1990s. A few statements illustrate the prophetic relevance:
- A design for a curriculum for the gifted and talented should provide for differentiation of goals, content, instructional strategies, resources, and evaluation.
- The desired balance between basic general education and specialized education in the program for gifted and talented students should determine the selection of content and instructional strategies.
- Various gifts and talents emerge, can be identified, and can be nurtured at different developmental levels.
- Gifted and talented students need access to a variety of "teachers"'instructors, mentors, counselors, and role models.
- Programs for the gifted and talented must be viewed as an integral part of an ongoing educational program of the school system and not as an appendage or a luxury. (Passow, 1979, pp. 447-451)
- philosophy or rationale;
- definitions of gifted and talented;
- identification procedures;
- differentiated curriculum and instruction;
- counseling and support services; and
- program evaluation.
Frasier, M. M., & Passow, A. H. (1994). Toward a paradigm for identifying talent potential. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.Harry never shied away from critical educational issues; he always approached them with the sense of an historian, the intellect of a philosopher, and the analytical skills of a researcher. In the past few years, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about grouping practices. Some people thought it was a new issue; others realized that it was cycling back into the education scene. In 1962, Harry prepared an article for Educational Forum (Volume 28) entitled "The Maze of the Research on Ability Grouping." He reviewed research findings and discussions dating back to the 1920s and summarized the difficulties in generalizing from the research. He noted that the problems of equating and synthesizing research findings stem from the following:
Frasier, M. M., Garcia, J. H., ∓ Passow, A. H. (1995). A review of assessment issues in gifted education and their implications for identifying gifted minority students. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
- The studies vary considerably in scope of aim and purpose.
- The studies differ in the number of students, the number of groups, and the size of the classes involved.
- The studies differ in their duration--ranging from a semester or less to a year or more.
- The studies differ in the adequacy of the selection bases and the means of matching experimental and control groups.
- The studies differ in the "treatment"i.e., the differentiation of curricula and methods of teaching.
- The studies differ in the deployment of teachers in various groups.
- The studies differ in the instruments and techniques used in evaluating changes in students.
- The studies have generally failed to assess the effects of grouping on teachers and administrators. (Passow, 1962, pp. 285-288)
The school is the catalyst for talent identification and talent development. (Passow, 1995, p. 55)In many ways, Dr. A. Harry Passow was a catalyst for the field of gifted and talented education. With his gentle manner and incredible wisdom, he guided us for decades. His words will always be with us and our personal memories of him over the years will remain in our hearts.
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