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Abstract

Providing effective professional development in laboratory schools around topics that can be divisive, such as preparing a school environment for expansion of gifted education services, can be quite difficult. However, doing so based on data collected through a needs assessment can be invaluable to the planning process. As part of a needs assessment in preparation to enroll 100 new gifted students, students and teachers (N=171) from a unique setting in which a residential school for gifted high school students is housed within a laboratory school were surveyed using F. Gagné and L. Nadeau’s (1991) Opinions about the Gifted and Their Education instrument. Clustering participants based on their responses identified 3 distinct clusters showing varied support for gifted education. Most laboratory school students and teachers opposed special services for gifted students. A group of supporters, made up of some laboratory school and residential school teachers and approximately a third of residential school students acknowledged the needs and social value of gifted students to some degree and strongly supported gifted education. Most students in the residential school (59%) were conflicted, recognizing the needs of gifted students and the value of giftedness, but showing opposition to gifted education. In addition to its usefulness in designing effective professional development, the needs assessment identified attitudes that have implications for the larger gifted education community.