I came across two articles recently on gifted students. One is quite good, the other somewhat useful but over the top (and the tone is distracting from the content, in my opinion).
NOW, to start, if you don't agree that there are gifted students or the need for gifted education, please don't comment. Because many readers here already know that conversation.
Tomorrow we will find out what the Advanced Learning Taskforce has to say about how Seattle Public Schools might view these students and their programs. This work may or may not guide what changes the Board approves district staff to do.
I offer these articles as both educational and thought-provoking.
Nearly every "gift" that a child has can come with/have a double-edge to it. For example, athletes are only as good as their health/lack of injury. Gifted kids have the ability to go faster and farther but often have behaviors that backfire on them from this ability.
No one has a better child or a perfect child; we all have children with gifts, flaws and struggles.
In the first article, the authors point out that states that do well overall in testing, usually have better scores on BOTH the high end and the low end.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
The first article comes from Education Next and it's called Ending Our Neglect of Gifted Students by Chester E. Finn, Jr. Mr. Finn has co-edited a book with Richard Sousa called "Educating Smart Kids, Too". (Yes, I am aware that the book is published by the Hoover Institution Press and they are a right-wing think-tank.)
Yet gifted youngsters are widely neglected. Because they’re already
above the “proficient bar” in academic achievement at a time when most
federal and state policies are fixed on boosting low achievers over that
bar, schools and teachers have little incentive to focus on their
educational needs or to devote resources to their schooling. And if we
can extrapolate from the Ohio data—that state accounts for about 3.7
percent of all K–12 students in the land—the United States may contain
as many as six million high-ability youngsters whom it is not educating
to the max. (The National Association for Gifted Children estimates
about half that number. The fact that nobody really knows also attests
to the vagueness of these definitions and to disputation even among
advocates as to what exactly qualifies as giftedness.)
Sousa and Finn say this neglect takes four forms:
1) We’re weak at identifying “gifted and talented” children early unless their parents push for it.
2) We don’t have enough gifted-education classrooms and specialized schools
(with suitable teachers and curricula) to serve even the existing
demand, much less what might be induced by more thorough talent
identification. Faced with budget crunches and federal and state
pressure to close achievement gaps and turn around awful schools, many
districts are cutting their advanced classes. In political, policy, and
philanthropic circles alike, educating high-potential children ranks low
on the priority list. It seems faintly elitist—and there’s a widespread
belief that “these kids will do fine anyway.”
3) Surprisingly little is known about what strategies, structures, and programs work best in educating high-ability youngsters.
4) When students finally reach high school, especially if they live in poor
neighborhoods, they may find just a smattering of honors or AP classes,
nothing like the ample course offerings of well-resourced suburban
districts and elite private schools.
It’s time to end the bias in American education against gifted and
talented pupils and quit assuming that every school must be all things
to all students, a simplistic formula that ends up neglecting all sorts
of girls and boys, many of them poor and minority, who would benefit
from more challenging classes and schools. Smart kids shouldn’t have to
go to private schools or get turned away from Bronx Science or Thomas
Jefferson simply because there’s no room for them.
I think #2 is what we will see from Seattle Schools in the coming years (unless the Board suddenly takes gifted education seriously).
One issue that both articles point out is that many of the strides our
country makes to get ahead - in science, engineering, medicine, etc. -
come from gifted people. This is NOT to say that you have to be gifted
to be a good doctor but the great changes come from great minds.
The second article, from an interesting gifted education website, Crushing the Tall Poppies, is called Suffering in Silence: Who's Really Paying the Price for the Neglect of our Gifted Children? by Celi Trepanier. For me, using the word "suffering" in relation to gifted education is somewhat hyperbolic but then again, when parents think of education and their own child, it is a central issue to both parent and child.
The article echoes much of what is said at this blog when the attempt is made to discuss this issue:
Our gifted children and their families have been suffering silently
because giftedness with its inherent emotional and social issues is a
contentious and touchy subject to address within society and also with
Most often, schools fail to understand and recognize giftedness and all of its characteristics and behaviors.
In a separate article, the author says:
My child is gifted which means he is not automatically academically
successful. It means his thinking and learning seem to transcend what
goes on in his regular classroom. And when specialized gifted
programming taught by teachers who understand his way of thinking and
learning is not available to him, he stops paying attention in class, he
may get fidgety, he will likely start talking when he shouldn’t, and
often becomes disruptive in class by asking a lot of questions that go
further and deeper than his teacher’s lesson plan was prepared to go. I
could go on, but my kid just doesn’t fit into this regular class no
matter how hard he tries.
That sounds a lot like what I have heard from AL parents here.
While I found what the author had to say less interesting, I found her quotes from parents familiar and sad:
“My 9yr old son had so many challenges in the classroom that the
teachers wanted him on Ritalin and were offended when I suggested he
might be gifted. It took me having a “come to Jesus ” meeting with the
principal to be heard. He went through the rigorous gifted testing and
was classified as highly gifted. It is a struggle every day. People who
don’t deal with this, don’t understand.”
“Other kids (and parents) don’t understand his intensity and label
him weird. I have “friends” who tell me “something is wrong with him”
and others who wonder snidely how I “got” him in the gifted program.”
“I have long since stopped talking about my PG son to people outside
my immediate family. To numerous to count the times that I have gotten
the side-eye or passive aggressive comment about my son’s abilities.
With those abilities comes the out-of-nowhere anxiety, and the
asynchronous emotional behaviors.”
“After winning the spelling bee every week, the teacher gave her a
hard word that wasn’t on the study list and when she got it wrong, the
whole class laughed at her. Then when she started getting the hard words
right, she wasn’t allowed to participate in the spelling bee because it
“made the other kids feel bad about themselves”.(2nd grade).”
This blogger has numerous links at the end of the article to different articles and posts.