Friday, July 07, 2017

Conversation on HCC - Part One

Let's talk about giftedness first.   (Note that this thread is not about HCC so any comments about it will be deleted.  I will once again state that no one will be allowed to name-call or sneer at someone's children.)

To start, after decades of thinking about this issue, here are some conclusions I have come to about how some parents think about giftedness.

Let's just start with the idea that ALL children have gifts to share - leadership, empathy, artistry, humor - many good things.  But...

-You can have a child who is musically or athletically gifted and people don't blink but, say your child is academically gifted, and it is as if you are saying your child is better than other children. I don't know why that is but people get very defensive, almost as if they believe that if someone says their child is gifted, that means you are saying their child is dumb.  Not true but that seems to be a sometimes reaction.

- There are those who think there are only profoundly gifted people and the rest are just "bright", "had help/advantages" and "will be all right, no matter what."

-Many people believe there are gifted students but some of those also believe those students do not need/deserve a separate classroom.  There are many reasons for that.
  •  They will not be socialized properly by not being with many types of students.  At my sons' elementary schools, they took half the grade-level Gen Ed classrooms and matched them with the gifted classroom students for PE and music.  That way, every single kid in their grade-level probably had some interaction with all the students in their grade-level.  It can be done.
  • Kids learn from each other.  This is true and all kids have gifts to pass onto other children.  But that happens in the gifted classroom as well.  (And, no one's child is there to "teach" another child.)
  • Taking bright learners out of the class hurts a class.  But remember, all kids have gifts including leadership and so those who are natural leaders will likely rise to the occasion.
  • Teachers and principals don't like it.  They don't like it because the brightest kids drive classroom discussion and interest.  The teachers and administrators fear the loss of those kids from their classrooms.
  • As well, with the advent of NCLB and now ESSA, there are test scores to be considered for both teacher and school. Take out those bright learners and your average goes down.  That also means actively discouraging parents from applying or hiding that info.  Not good.
Seattle Schools has an extremely poor record on gifted education, with parents glad just for anything.  This is not to say that those who ran/run Advanced Learning don't care.   They do but it's not any kind of priority for this district even as the program misses the many, many gifted students of color.

Whining about equity should not be enough for this district nor should foot-dragging on reform (which is precisely what is happening now).  And there are real things that can be done as we will explore in Part Two.  For now, here's info about gifted children.

Levels of Giftedness from 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options by Dr. Deborah Ruf
Five Levels of Giftedness: The Scores & a Summary of What They Mean

Level One:  Moderately Gifted to Gifted
  • IQ scores of 120-129 represent the 90th-98th percentiles
  • what most of us think of as bright
  • make up a large proportion of students in gifted programs
  • like being read to before age one
  • can do simple addition and subtraction before age four
  • reading 2-3 years beyond grade level by age seven
  • parents realize children are not being challenged and contact someone for help between grades two and four
Level Two:  Highly Gifted
  • IQ scores of 130-135 represent approximately 98th – 99th percentiles
  • can pay attention while being read to by five to nine months
  • can count to 5 (or higher) by age two
  • know many sight words and may be reading by age four
  • master most kindergarten skills by age four
  • are independent on the computer by age four and a half
  • are impatient with the repetition and slow pace of school by age six to seven
Level Three:  Exceptionally Gifted
  • IQ scores of 136-140 represent approximately 98th – 99th percentiles
  • independently look at and turn pages of books before ten months
  • question Santa or the tooth fairy by age three or four
  • rarely go through any stage of phonetically sounding out words
  • intense interest in mazes between ages four and five
  • spontaneously read (with or without instruction) before kindergarten
  • read 2-5 years beyond grade level by age six
Level Four:  Exceptionally to Profoundly Gifted
  • IQ scores of 141+ represent the 99th percentile
  • books are a favorite interest by three to four months
  • knows the entire alphabet by fifteen to twenty-two months
  • at four or five years can perform many academic and intellectual functions of an eight-year-old
  • reading for pleasure and information by age five
  • can play adult level card games and board games by age five and a half
  • most are capable of completing all academic work through 8th grade by 3rd or 4th grade
  • these are the kids that attend college at ages ten, eleven, and twelve
Level Five:  Exceptionally to Profoundly Gifted
  • IQ scores of 141+ represent the 99th percentile
  • knows numbers, letters, colors, and shapes before they can talk
  • can speak in full, complex sentences by fifteen months
  • have kindergarten skills by age two
  • spontaneously reads, understand fairly complex math problems, and has existential concerns by ages four to five (with or without instruction)
  • frequently one parent must postpone their career to advocate for their child’s education
From the gifted website, Hogies:
Children of IQ 133 appear in the population at a ratio of approximately 1:40. 
In general, an elementary school teacher could expect to encounter a child like that every couple years.

Children of IQ 169 appear in the population at a ratio of less than 1:100,000. If an elementary school teacher taught 30 students each year in a professional career of 40 years, the odds against her having such a child in her class are more than 80:1.

Teachers of hearing impaired and intellectually handicapped children have avoided the temptation to treat their clientele as if they were a homogeneous group. Until some 10 years ago, however, educators and psychologists working with intellectually gifted students were trapped in precisely this mind-set.  Fortunately, this perception is breaking down, and educators with a special interest in the gifted and talented are beginning to acknowledge the need to recognize degrees, as well as types, of intellectual giftedness. Our next task is to raise the awareness of classroom teachers and school administrators.

An exceptionally good piece from NPR's education reporting, Who Are The 'Gifted And Talented' And What Do They Need?

1. How do you define giftedness?
"There's research that these other things like motivation and grit can take you to the same exact academic outcomes as someone with a higher IQ but without those things," says Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist who studies intelligence and creativity at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the book Ungifted. "That's a really important finding that is just totally ignored. Our country has a narrow view of what counts as merit."

Of course, as the definitions get broader, the measurements get more subjective and thus, perhaps, less useful. Some centers for gifted children put out checklists of "giftedness" so broad that any proud parent would be hard-pressed not to recognize her child. Things like: "Has a vivid imagination." "Good sense of humor." "Highly sensitive."

1(a). How many students should be designated gifted?
It can be useful for education policy purposes to think about giftedness as it relates to the rest of the special education spectrum. Silverman argues that just as children with IQ scores two full standard deviations below the norm need special classrooms and extra resources, those who score two standard deviations above the norm need the same. By her lights, the population we should be focusing on is the top 2.5 percent to 3 percent of achievers, not the top 5 to 10 percent.

Scott Peters disagrees. He's a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater who prepares teachers for gifted certifications. He says the question that every teacher and every school should be asking is, "How will we serve the students who already know what I'm covering today?"
2. How do you identify gifted students?
Research shows that screening every child, rather than relying on nominations, produces far more equitable outcomes.

Tests have their problems, too, says Kaufman. IQ and other standardized tests produce results that can be skewed by background cultural knowledge, language learner status and racial and social privilege. Even nonverbal tasks like puzzles are influenced by class and cultural background.

Experts worry that identifying children only at the outset of school can be a problem, because abilities change over time, and the practice favors students who have an enriched environment at home.

Experts prefer the use of multiple criteria and multiple opportunities. Portfolios or auditions, interviews or narrative profiles may be part of the process.
 3. How do you best serve gifted students?
Peters says many districts focus their resources on identifying gifted or advanced learners, while offering little or nothing to serve them.

While this emphasis on diagnosis over treatment might seem paradoxical, it's compliant with the law:
In most states the law governs the identification of gifted students. But only 27 percent of districts surveyed in 2013 report a state law about how to group these students, whether in a self-contained program, or pulled out into a resource room for a single subject or offered differentiation within a classroom. And almost no states have laws mandating anything about the curriculum for gifted students.

Helping gifted students may or may not take many more resources. But it does require a shift in mindset to the idea that "every child deserves to be challenged," as Ron Turiello says.

That's why, paradoxically, many of the gifted education experts I interviewed didn't like the label "gifted." "In a perfect world, every student would have an IEP," says Kaufman.

"The whole NCLB era, and really back to the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 1960s, was about getting kids to grade level, to minimal proficiency," says Peters. "There seems to be a change in belief now — that you need to show growth in every student."

From the Gifted Development Center, a 30-year center for gifted children located in Westminster, California.

The Gifted Development Center has been in operation since June, 1979, and we have assessed over 6000 children in the last 30 years. By concentrating totally on the gifted population, we have acquired a considerable amount of knowledge about the development of giftedness. In 1994-1995, three noted researchers spent post-doctoral internships assisting us in coding our clinical data to enable statistical analysis: Drs. Frank Falk and Nancy Miller of the University of Akron, and Dr. Karen Rogers of the University of St. Thomas. Here are some of the highlights of what we have learned so far (partial):
  1. Parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children: 84% of 1,000 children whose parents felt that they exhibited 3/4 of the traits in our Characteristics of Giftedness Scale tested in the superior or gifted range. Over 95% demonstrated giftedness in at least one area, but were asynchronous in their development, and their weaknesses depressed their composite IQ scores.
  2. Giftedness can be observed in the first three years by rapid progression through the developmental milestones.
  3. When parents fail to recognize a child’s gifts, teachers may overlook them as well. Rita Dickinson (1970) found that half of the children she tested with IQs of 132 or above were referred for behavior problems and not seen as gifted by their teachers or parents. Parent advocacy is critical for gifted children’s emotional and academic growth.
  4. Children and adults can be assessed at any age. However, the ideal age for testing is between 5 and 8 years. By the age of 9, highly gifted children may hit the ceiling of the tests, and gifted girls may be socialized to hide their abilities. 
  5. IQ testing in childhood clearly demonstrates the equality of intelligence between males and females. Until the IQ test was developed, most of society believed in the “natural superiority of males.” Even now, the fact that most of the eminent are men leads some to believe that males are innately more intelligent than females. On the contrary, we have found more than 100 girls with IQ scores above 180.  However, parents are more likely to bring their sons for assessment and overlook their daughters, and this inequity appears to be getting worse.
  6. Gifted girls and gifted boys have different coping mechanisms and are likely to face different problems. Gifted girls hide their abilities and learn to blend in with other children. In elementary school they direct their mental energies into developing social relationships; in junior high school they are valued for their appearance and sociability rather than for their intelligence. Gifted boys are easier to spot, but they are often considered “immature" and may be held back in school if they cannot socialize with children their own age with whom they have no common interests.
  7. Gifted children are asynchronous. Their development tends to be uneven, and they often feel out-of- sync with age peers and with age-based school expectations. They are emotionally intense and have greater awareness of the perils of the world. They may not have the emotional resources to match their cognitive awareness. They are at risk for abuse in environments that do not respect their differences.
  8. This asynchrony is often seen in large discrepancies between index scores on the fourth edition of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV). In these cases, the Full Scale IQ score should not be used to select gifted students for programs. Instead, the General Ability Index (GAI), which omits Working Memory and Processing Speed, provides a better estimate of the child’s reasoning ability. The GAI has been endorsed by the National Association for Gifted Children
  9. Creative children, culturally diverse children, mathematically talented children, children with attention deficits, highly gifted children, learning disabled children, and underachievers often are visual-spatial learners who require different teaching methods. Visual-spatial learners usually think in pictures or rely on “sensing” or feeling, whereas auditory-sequential learners usually think in words. Typical educational strategies are a better match for auditory-sequential learners than for visual-spatial learners.
  10. Gifted children have better social adjustment in classes with children like themselves. The brighter the child, the lower his or her social self-concept is likely to be in the regular classroom.  
  11. Perfectionism, sensitivity and intensity are three personality traits associated with giftedness. 
  12. About 60% of gifted children are introverted compared with 30% of the general population. Approximately 75% of highly gifted children are introverted.  
  13. Mildly, moderately, highly, exceptionally and profoundly advanced children are as different from each other as mildly, moderately, severely and profoundly delayed children are from each other, but the differences among levels of giftedness are rarely recognized.
  14. There are far more exceptionally gifted children in the population than anyone realizes. Approximately 18% of the 5,600+ children we have assessed in the last 30 years are exceptionally gifted, with IQ scores above 160 IQ. As of January 1, 2009, we found at least 988 children above 160 IQ, including 281 above 180 IQ and 87 above 200 IQ.
  15. Many cases of underachievement are linked to chronic early ear infections (9 or more in the first three years), with residual effects of auditory sequential processing deficits and attentional problems.  
  16. Gifted children may have hidden learning disabilities. Approximately one-sixth of the gifted children who come to the Center for testing have some type of learning disability—often undetected before the assessment—such as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), difficulties with visual processing, sensory processing disorder, spatial disorientation, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Giftedness masks disabilities and disabilities depress IQ scores.
  17. Giftedness is not elitist. It cuts across all socio-economic, ethnic and national groups (Dickinson, 1970). In every culture, there are developmentally advanced children who have greater abstract reasoning and develop at a faster rate than their age peers. Though the percentage of gifted students among the upper classes may be higher, a much greater number of gifted children come from the lower classes, because the poor far outnumber the rich (Zigler & Farber, 1985). Therefore, when provisions are denied to the gifted on the basis that they are "elitist," it is the poor who suffer the most. The rich have other options.
  18. The more egalitarian gifted programs attempt to be, the less defensible they are. Children in the top and bottom three percent of the population have atypical developmental patterns and require differentiated instruction. Children in the top and bottom 10 percent of the population are not statistically or developmentally different from children in the top and bottom 15 percent, and it is not justifiable to single them out for special treatment. More and more school districts are realizing this in this new millennium, and are providing in-depth services for those who need them the most. Self- contained, multi-age programs for the gifted and radical acceleration are gaining in popularity.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You actually wrote this after attending the school board retreat (rhetorical question)?

Your entire post is totally out of whack in terms of gifted best practices.

Confirmation bias incarnate.

ChrisKorsmo Delete?

Safe Zone said...

Thank you, Melissa!

I read an interview with gifted kids who'd been accepted very young into an early entrance to college program, a residential program for young profoundly gifted kids, where they asked the kids what they wished had been different. And one thing they all said is that they'd wished someone had talked to them about what it meant to be gifted, what it was, what it wasn't. Instead it is so often hushed up. The kids can tell they're outliers and their age-peers can tell they don't fit in. But they're left on their own. The acronyms are cryptic. Even parents often don't discuss it openly with their own children.

We could really help these kids if we could allow them to be themselves and give them someone safe they can talk to about it. Help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and their obligations to put their powers to use to do good in this world.

There were only three gifted-friendly adults in my child's neighborhood elementary school (God bless the resource room lady!!! She totally got it.) And a lot of gifted-vicious adults. No 5-year-old should be flung into a pit of lions with adults who hate the very idea of giftedness. For shame, educators, for shame.

Anonymous said...

@ ChrisKorsmo Delete?, I just reviewed the De Bonte presentation and I don't know what you're talking about re: this being "out of whack" with gifted best practices. How so? For one, the focus of Melissa's post isn't really best practices. And two, where it does deal with practices, I'm not seeing a lot of disagreement. Rather, there's consistency re: things like the need to be with other gifted students; the need for appropriate curricula and teaching practices; the importance of early identification; etc.

What's so

Outta Whack?

Anonymous said...

Out of Whack is the fact that using cut-off scores for CogAT and Binet, etc. in the internet age (which inevitably spawned rampant practice books and referrals to testing centers) means that first-encounter "cognitive tests" for the children of informed parents is an oxymoron.

We are all adults here. Quit the pretend routine. Even the test makers acknowledge this fact.

De Bonte literally spells this out. Reread as non-HCC parent. Try again .


Anonymous said...

See De Bonte, NAGC and/or anyone with clout in gifted education regarding the biases in these so-called cognitive or intelligence tesrs...

For Shame

Anonymous said...

I know parents of bright and motivated kids who were in gen ed classes in MS, along with a lot of kids who didn't have the home support needed and showed up to class unmotivated and unprepared, not having done homework, etc. That's frustrating for a kid who is bright and interested in learning. So the middle school went "blended", which may be more fair in that the kid who drag a class down with behavior and lack of interest are diluted by being mixed into more classes. It's an improvement for those motivated kids who aren't in a separate class, but a decrease in quality for those who were in "honors". My kid had the same teacher in 7th and 8th for a certain class, honors in 7th and blended in 8th, and the latter was a much worse class. A fair number of students didn't do the readings or homework so the quality of discussions was much lower, and the class behavior as a whole was worse and so less was taught and learned.

The move to blended was definitely a worse experience for my motivated kid. But probably an upgrade for motivated kids not in the honors class. I can see the problem administrators face. I'm not sure what I would do. Hard to optimize everyone's experience, though they try to sell you on the differentiation crap that teachers do not have the time or resources to do. Ultimately, we went private, where the school offers honors and where parents have skin in the game. One kid in honors and one not, but overall, both are learning, which is, after all, the point.


Anonymous said...


Misbehaving and/or non-focused classmates are a problem for any focused student--HCC or not.

Here's the deal: You choose to live in a major USA urban area for your own reasons; you choose to partake in its public schools; you find out (cluelessly/belatedly) that more than a few classmates of your kid are on a different trajectory (PTSD; video games addiction, whatever).

You realize your finances and/or principles aren't in synch with your kid's reality at school.

There is this HCC program you hear about. You prep your kid. You might even have to appeal.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions,

Or,you could be honest like me and support vouchers like me.

Regards, Betsy

Crisco said...

I get the vitriol about the scoring of specific tests and cut-offs that are not equitable. That makes sense in a general sense, but it doesn't make any sense in response to this post, right? Because here Melissa's not talking about giftedness and school. She's talking about giftedness. And what she's quoting reputable sources as saying is that "Parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children." and that "Giftedness is not elitist. It cuts across all socio-economic, ethnic and national groups." And those things are true.

The problem only comes in with the scoring of the tests being used to determine who qualifies to meet some cut-off for something. But in a gifted person the actual giftedness itself is there whether or not any test recognizes it. Gifted people are gifted even if they never take any test. Michelangelo? Gifted. Did he even take the CogAT? Hell, no.

Condoleeza Rice says her IQ was tested at 136… She learned to read music at 3 or 4 and frequently skipped grades in school. Even if her IQ had never been tested, duh, she's gifted.

Tiya Miles? Hello? Gifted.

Phiona Mutesi? Gifted.

Vinodhini Vasudevan? Gifted. She got a perfect score on the SAT at the age of 12. But even if she hadn't ever taken the SAT, she would still be gifted.

In this post Melissa is not talking about what to do with gifted people. She's talking about their existence. And they exist. Completely aside from testing. And parents are great at identifying giftedness in their children and giftedness is not elitist. It cuts across all socio-economic, ethnic and national groups.

Michelangeo and Condoleeza Rice and Tiya Miles and Phiona Mutesi and Vinodhini Vasudevan exist. Little kids like them exist. In Seattle. And have educational needs. Needs that are not necessarily the same as other kids their age.

And instead of working to meet those needs and all the other educational needs of all the kids, y'all are saying the kids don't exist and the needs don't exist and that giftedness doesn't exist. Well, duh, giftedness exists whether you give it your stamp of approval or not.

Anonymous said...

No, MW was quoting numbers. Big problem. Inexcusable.

David Lohman, CogAT author, is very conservative about the term "gifted".
He says it should only given to those who ACHIEVE a noteworthy result, which is a rarity.

There are students with special needs who fit the "gifted" child profile.
Their special needs must be addressed by schools.

Can they be targeted by a number, especially if they are not from the educated class of parents? What if they don't "behave" and are also Black or Brown?

Case Closed

Lynn said...

Those numbers are not CogAT scores, they're IQ test scores. There's a difference - and Lohman's comments are not relevant when discussing IQ scores.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy the idea that there is extensive test prep going on for gifted ID tests.

I also didn't get the sense De Bonte is against any and all use of these tests, even if they are biased to some extent.

It's easy to complain about what's not perfect, but harder to fix. What's your solution to these problems? With currrent funding and political realities, how do you propose gifted students be identified without using such tests?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Clearly - very clearly - some of you did not read all that I wrote/reprinted. Probably fewer of you went to the links which expand on the issue of giftedness.

But the issues of who is gifted by behavior are in this post and it is readily addressed that many gifted students sometimes do act out (mostly out of frustration). It is NOT all about who comes from what background - it's common traits including behavior.

I also include several passages about the spectrum of giftedness - again, read the entire post and you'll see that. It would be great if teachers and JSCEE staff understood this and maybe we'd have a better program.

Lynn is right; I'm not talking about identification in this post. See that "Part One?" There will be a "Part Two" and maybe even "Part Three."

Anonymous said...

David Lohman, CogAT author, is very conservative about the term "gifted".
He says it should only given to those who ACHIEVE a noteworthy result, which is a rarity.

I'm sorry, but that's absurd. So if a gifted student doesn't achieve something noteworthy, that's supposed to be proof that they were never really gifted in the first place? If a gifted student drops out--or worse--due to boredom, being an outcast, etc, then that lack of achievement is also proof they must not have been gifted after all?

It's very convenient to tie giftedness identification to noteworthy achievements, as it removes responsibility from schools to serve these kids well--or even at all. If they don't succeed, they never needed services in the first place, right?. If they do succeed despite the absence of appropriate services, then good on them--they earned it, and finally "deserve" to be called gifted, right? Even though they are the same person they always were?


Crisco said...

What he's talking about is generally called "eminence" (achieving something amazing/distinguishing oneself and thus proving one's giftedness). Eminence is very rarely achieved by children under the age of 18. Most eminent gifted people only achieved eminence later in their lives.

Einstein himself failed the entrance exam he took at age 16 to try to get into the Swiss Federal Polytechnic university.

So while he was school-aged, he had not achieved eminence. But that doesn't mean he wasn't gifted. And it didn't mean that he didn't have unusual educational needs. He did not fit into the standard student mold. He failed to reach the required standard in the general part of the university entrance exam, but he obtained exceptionally high scores in physics and mathematics. So high that the principal pulled him aside and encouraged him INSTEAD OF DROPPING OUT AND ENDING HIS SCHOOLING to go to high school for a year and then retake the entrance exams.

Boom. That's what we need, Seattle. Teachers and principals who will encourage students to learn, to progress and to achieve as best they can. To learn and grow every single year.

Eminence can't be the measure as we're talking about children and gifted children don't generally achieve eminence until adulthood if ever.

Floor Pie said...

I really believe that we as a culture simply don't have a handle on giftedness yet, just as we don't have a handle on autism spectrum disorder yet. The real-life children I work with are so much more than the research behind their labels. The lines are absolutely fluid, and there's no clear answer to how the population as a whole is best served.

This past school year, I had the pleasure of working with middle school 2E students in a resource room setting (social skills and study skills, one 50-minute period a day). Their classmates were students with learning disabilities who have not been identified as gifted. It was a small class (about 10 students), but more representative of our school's diverse population than the HCC classes were. The amazing thing is how these kiddos came together as a community, and how they were able to figure out how to flow with each other's strengths and deficits. Every student had something to teach every other student.

I don't know that it would be possible to replicate that experience with a larger class size, but what if we could? It could be amazing.

Anonymous said...

I found those "5 levels of giftedness" by Dr. Ruf to be not particularly helpful. The criteria/examples are often too specific, and the IQ ranges don't match with what's reported elsewhere (including Hoagies). While I agree that it's helpful to consider both IQ and personal characteristics together, I think there are a lot of unique combinations and not so easy to put together a matrix that accurately assigns levels of giftedness based on a handful of bullet points. I'm also not convinced it's that important or helpful to assign labels for all the different levels.

That NPR article on "who are the gifted and talented" was confusing to me. On the question of how to define giftedness, it basically says grit is just as or more important to long-term success (which wasn't the question), and that giftedness checklists aren't that helpful (agreed, but again, not answering the question). For how many students should be id'd as gifted, one cited says 2.5-3% of the top IQ scores, and the other pushes back that it's actually a matter of how to serve every child (so again, not answering the question).

I found the last excerpt, from the Gifted Development Center, to be the best overview of giftedness in children. It addresses a lot of the realities and challenges in recognizing and responding to giftedness. I'm not sure about the visual-spatial vs. auditory-sequential bit, though... I also don't think their comment giftedness being more common in the upper classes was particularly helpful or well-reasoned. Then again, I haven't seen anyone do a complex, thoughtful analysis of how much giftedness we should expect to see in all population groups, if we are to assume that giftedness occurs at the same rate in all races under ideal conditions, but accounting for real-world disparities in actual conditions and the perpetuation of many factors via genetics (e.g., lower IQ persons are likely to make less money, so their children are not only more likely to have lower IQ since there seems to be a genetic component, but they are also more likely to experience the negative effects of poverty). It's complicated, but the research doesn't seem to account for all the complexities and interdependencies.

It's Complicated

PG Parent said...

I agree that Dr. Ruf's 5 levels of giftedness are weirdly strict and narrow and bizarrely proscriptive. I think what's useful about them is more just the idea that giftedness is a range and not all one monolithic thing. Also potentially helpful is some of the information about:
- how far ahead some kids are academically (if only teachers knew this and knew that this is normal for these kids)
- how early some children meet developmental milestones
- how it can take parents of children on the lower end of the gifted-IQ-spectrum until 2nd to 4th grade (!!!!!) to realize their child isn't being challenged at school (this is horrifically obviously to parents of many kids at the other end of the scale MUCH sooner)

Richard said...

Thank you, Melissa, for this excellent first of what I expect will be an excellent series of important posts. Too often, the notion of giftedness is something that is denied outright by adults, including many educators, and often parents of gifted kids have to have conversations that talk around the main issue (giftedness) rather than tackle it head-on, all because the second you use the word "gifted" people roll their eyes or just don't understand. Giftedness is a word in generic use, so people assume they know what it means, but the term has a very specific technical meaning (or a range of specific technical meanings, as there is no one uniform definition). When we talk about the needs and differences of gifted kids, we are not talking about the stereotypical high achievers we all know from the media (Hermione Granger, Sherlock Holmes, Doogie Howser, etc.) or the hilarious but beloved geeks (Sheldon Cooper, Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, Malcolm in the Middle, Urkel, etc.). Yet so many people, even professionals in education, hear "gifted" and instantly fall back on those stereotypes. Our real kids instantly get lost under all the stereotypes, and that does not serve them.

There was a web meme a couple of years ago encouraging people to teach their gifted kids to be sure to go sit with the kids sitting alone at lunch. One of the dumbest memes I've ever seen (which is saying something, because memes are memes). But the meme was conjured up by someone who evidently didn't realize that the kids sitting alone at lunch are all too often the GIFTED kids whom no one understands and who have no intellectual peers be befriend. That is a microcosm of how giftedness is viewed by the general public and how gifted kids are betrayed and even harmed by educational and social environments that simply cannot meet their developmental needs.

The several technical definitions and data of giftedness can be confusing, but personally I boil it down to a couple of core things that most researchers--and many parents--tend to hold in common:

Richard said...

1. A fairly high IQ but only in the presence of certain other traits (below). I don't think it's useful to have a certain cut-off number, since IQ can vary over time and by other demographics, but an IQ well above the norm is nonetheless a strong sign of giftedness. IQ tests are more accurate than CogAT tests, by the way, so people who object to "appeals" should bear in mind that the CogAT is even less scientifically rigorous than a proper IQ test, and an IQ test is sometimes the only way to get around developmental issues that the CogAT is not designed to acknowledge (see #3 below). A high CogAT score reflects mainly only academic preparedness and "eminence," as another commenter notes, and not IQ directly or giftedness per se. There is no actual direct test for giftedness; you generally need to see high IQ with other traits.

2. Gifted kids tend to be incredibly intense in one or more areas of life. The kind of intensity that gives people pause at times, like, "Wow, what's wrong with that kid?" kind of intensity. Not always academic intensity: it can be emotions (high highs, low lows), imagination (immersive), sensations (strong enjoyment or avoidance of guck, water, tabs in clothes), etc., as well as academic. Grown-ups unfamiliar with this intensity thing freak out and see abnormality, mental health issues, etc., where none exist. Professionals trained in identification of psychological and learning disorders need to know how to do the differential diagnosis against giftedness alone so they recognize giftedness per se as well as giftedness masking another condition (2E kids).

3. Gifted kids tend to be incredibly asynchronous. They are super ahead in those areas of intensity, but often way, way, way behind in other areas. This is where the stereotype comes from, where the gifted kids do well in math and physics but have an awkward gait or can't catch a ball. Or maybe can't even write that well. The truth is that gifted kids often lag in major key areas. Gifted kids are the ones who can learn fluent French in a couple of years or do calculus at age 10 while not being able to keep their notebooks organized (executive dysfunction is common) or not being able to throw or catch a ball or not being able to hold a pencil and write well (motor deficiencies).

Whenever you notice these three things--likely high IQ, noticeably strong intensities, and pronounced asynchronous development--that's likely a gifted kid, and that is likely a kid who will not thrive socially, emotionally, or academically in an environment lacking other such kids and lacking educators trained in the developmental needs of such kids.

Brain Fire! said...

Teachers and school administrators often (correctly) perceive that gifted children have the intensities and/or anxiety Richard describes, but they (incorrectly) believe that these result from parents pushing the children to succeed academically. These issues are often present in gifted children, but they come from the giftedness, not from parental pushing. It’s because (according to fMRIs) their brains are on fire.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa! And no thanks to the person who has the same drum they are beating with the same nearly-close-to-english-grammar stick but post under too many names to count.

I would add perhaps a vague tweak to this post. Seattle Schools put its Accelerated Progress Program in alignment with the State by calling it Highly Capable services. I don't know if that means I am off topic but even the State and the District agree that finding "gifted" students is not a thing they choose to do. What the District is doing is likely to exclude twice exceptional,low socioeconomic status, transitional housing and english learning students. That is too bad.

95% reading
95% math
98% CoGat

Those are tough numbers but I don't think those kids who hit them are all gifted. But they are all "highly capable." My kids who have gone through the program scored in the top 3 percent on their SAT scores so the program works. I had no doubt they were candidates nor did the District.

Candidly I think we should focus on "highly capable" which is easily tested versus "gifted" which is an amorphous term relating to something given to them, can't be tested and smacks of entitlement. Then figure out how to get the kids who haven't made it in from the low socioeconomic, 2e and english learners with the ability into the program with either scaffolding before or seat-of-you-pants catch up after placement.

Live Life

Anonymous said...

"What the District is doing is likely to exclude twice exceptional,low socioeconomic status, transitional housing and english learning students. That is too bad."

That's right. I agree totally. My parents who were not college educated and came from backgrounds of poverty, had zero experience with gifted ed. Where I grew up gifted was housed under "special ed". My brother had difficulty in school and personality traits in which he was first identified for a program for emotionally disturbed kids. It was small affluent surburban district with alot of resources. They later realized he was "gifted". They moved him into a gifted class in 5th grade, where he thrived and made some friends. His younger years were rough.

sps alum said...

It is interesting to me that highly gifted or profoundly gifted students are often described as socially inept due to their extreme difference of cognition. I understand this is anecdotal. I have 2 gifted children. One is in the 99th percentile, or 2 standard deviations above the mean on IQ tests. That child is similar to those described who struggled to relate to others, or make friends, was socially inept & bullied in gen ed environments. The other is profoundly gifted, 3 standard deviations above the mean in IQ tests. That child is such an empath. Can relate to anyone, and saw the perspective of the teacher & all the students. Has close friends of great cognitive diversity, including developmentally disabled. And could learn in any environment, even gen ed & special ed inclusion. Always popular, won all kinds of school elections, positions. Since that is the elder child, I assumed the younger one had some social deficit which we treated with social skills training, work with a therapist, etc. By high school there was significant improvement in social ability including ability to make a diversity of friends, see things from another’s perspective, and communicate with different age groups. Since the brighter child didn’t have social deficits it never occurred to me to leave those unaddressed in the sibling.

Anonymous said...

@ Betsy,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Now that I know I am on the road to hell with my good intentions, and that the only honest answer is vouchers, I will start supporting vouchers. I plan to pull my kids out of the private schools where they are thriving and put them....Um, where am I supposed to put them again? Just tell me, I'll do whatever you say, being as it's honest and the way to heaven.


Richard said...

@sps alum

Yes! The other thing about giftedness is precisely what you've noted: it never looks the same from person to person. Intensities and asynchronicities can mix and match in infinite variations. No two gifted kids will be the same (and, of course, that's true of all human beings—it's just that many people somehow think gifted kids should fit a single mold). What they do have in common is a need for an adapted educational and social environment free of punitive actions and intellectual restrictions that will allow them to thrive despite what makes them different. We want all kids to fulfill their potential and grow, but gifted kids so often have myriad obstacles set in their paths so they cannot fulfill their potential or truly grow. The reality is that many gifted kids can do OK in mainstream classrooms, as you've seen, but many (if not most) do not.

@Live Life

You raise a valid point that focusing on the highly capable instead of the more nebulous gifted student may be more practical so long as it doesn't slow down the needed fast pace of instruction or moderate the required acceleration. You also identify an important problem in talking about gifted education, which is namely the word "gifted" itself. Too many people hear it and, ignorant of its technical meaning, think it means "something given" and so it smacks of "entitlement," as you say. Really, it's all about an intrinsic or inborn difference (mix of high IQ/intensities/asynchronicities) that can present major social, emotional, and academic obstacles to such kids. That is a constant stumbling block any time this conversation is had in public. The nomenclature is an extremely difficult problem to get around time and time again—as Melissa herself has indirectly noted in this very thread.

Anonymous said...

How do you know your child's IQ?


Outsider said...
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Richard said...

(However, a few studies have shown that parents are accurate predictors of high IQ something like 84% of the time, so if you have a strong inkling your child is unusually "bright," then formal IQ testing may be a good idea.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll just note that most states used the term "gifted" or "talented and gifted (TAG) or (GATE)." I agree that "gifted" has a sound that many parents do not like but if that's how states call those students that's worth pointing out.

Here's a page from the National Association for Gifted Students about state definitions.

Federal Definition of Gifted and Talented

"The term ‘gifted and talented,” when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities."

From Wiki:
The Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act was passed in 1988 as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Instead of funding district-level gifted education programs, the Javits Act instead has three primary components: the research of effective methods of testing, identification, and programming, which is performed at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented; the awarding of grants to colleges, states, and districts that focus on underrepresented populations of gifted students; and grants awarded to state and districts for program implementation.[15]

Annual funding for grants must be passed by US Congress, and totaled $9.6 million US in 2007,[16] but the money isn't promised. While he was President, George W. Bush eliminated the money every year of his term, but members of Congress overrode the president to make sure the grant money is distributed.[17]"

See that "huge" number for all 50 states? $9.6M.

About NCLB and gifted students:
"The act imposes punishments on schools, administrators, and teachers when students do not achieve to the plan's designs, but does not address any achievement standards for high functioning students, forcing schools and teachers to spend their time with low achieving students. An article in The Washington Post declared, "The unmistakable message to teachers -- and to students -- is that it makes no difference whether a child barely meets the proficiency standard or far exceeds it."

Anonymous said...

IQ-less asked: "How do you know your child's IQ?"

The obvious answer would be "from IQ testing."

Was there an implied question in there, along the lines of "why on earth was it so important to you to know your child's IQ?" If so, ask that directly.

For us, IQ testing was a part of the neuropsychological testing to identity suspected learning disabilities in our suspected (and confirmed) 2e kiddo. We never saw the need to do IQ testing in the other kids though, even when suspected to be extremely high.

Situation Dependent

Anonymous said...
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SPS Alum said...


I learned a child's IQ because a teacher requested psych-ed evaluation since they couldn't get a read on kid from the standard assessments. The other child had psych-ed evaluation as participant in a study.

Psych-ed evaluation includes IQ tests among other things.

Anonymous said...

gifted is such a loaded term, and one the state has abandoned in favor of highly capable, that I'm surprised it's used here.

Highly capable is more accurate and less demeaning to those who are not so designated.

In my day down in California we were called MGM, Mentally Gifted Minors.Weird enough to be ambiguously a badge of honor.

My opinion is that preperation by parents has screwed it up. Kids can learn how to take the test, in fact parents can find and use hundreds of sample tests.

Then there's private testers who may or may not be scrupulous.

Money does talk.

So what to do?

Obviously there are lots of kids who are "highly capable", but exactly how capable is now hard to discern until they enter a program and teachers can observe them.

A skilled and trained teacher can spot a high IQ student very easily.

Society wants numbers, however. Cut-offs, clear delineation. So we have test prep, etc, because subjective evaluations will not stand in our system.

Sports and music are terrible analogies. They both have extensive weed-out systems. Capability means nothing if not accompanied by performance that matches.

School isn't like that and shouldn't be. A highly capable student is an asset that our society feels should be exploited if possible. A highly capable swimmer not so much.

I mean if Arnold Swartzenegger hadn't been a bodybuilder, so what? But if Richard Feynman hadn't become a physicist?

Big, big difference.


Anonymous said...

Obviously there are lots of kids who are "highly capable", but exactly how capable is now hard to discern until they enter a program and teachers can observe them.

A skilled and trained teacher can spot a high IQ student very easily.

The reason more objective tests are used is because, no, teachers can't necessarily "spot" high IQ students easily. Low performance and underachievement in the classroom can mask capabilities (isn't that the argument for not identifying some students?). Neither SPS nor Washington State require any type of gifted ed training or certification, and on top of that, SPS seems to think any teacher can work with highly capable students.

And does SPS really care "exactly how capable" a student may be? The "services" as currently delivered are not designed for the outliers. They seem to be making their best effort to place a ceiling on those students.

What, exactly, is your point, QED? It doesn't follow. (And preparation by parents "has screwed it up?" Preparation like reading to your child from a young age? Or teaching them the alphabet? Or taking them to the library?)

Melissa Westbrook said...

I rarely do this but:

"gifted is such a loaded term, and one the state has abandoned in favor of highly capable, that I'm surprised it's used here."

Did you even read what my last comment said?

"Gifted" is the technical term used throughout the country. It's not my favorite either but there you go. Because this post is about what "gifted and talented" looks like thru the technical lens, I used it.

As well,

"Sports and music are terrible analogies. They both have extensive weed-out systems."

But I didn't use sports and music as analogies for finding kids; I was talking - again, if you read what I wrote - about the reaction from parents over kids being talented in sports and music versus academics.

Anonymous said...

@ QED, why is "gifted" more loaded than "highly capable"? To me, "gifted" has always implied natural ability, often accompanied by passion in the area(s) of giftedness. It's not a value judgement, and doesn't imply anything about the ability of others to also accomplish a lot through hard work. "Highly capable", however, implies that those not id'd as such are NOT highly capable, when that's not the case at all. If we are using gifted and HC to mean the same thing, gifted seems the more accurate and less judgmental term. I suspect, though, that they are referring to slightly different groups. Many don't think gifted students "deserve" something special, whereas it's ok to reward high achievement because it's often based on hard work, fitting into the system, etc. (By the way, I don't see why you think the MGM term was better, and I certainly don't get the "badge of honor" comment. I also don't recall a lot of anti-gifted sentiment when I participated, and at least in my district, MGM was a very different--and not all that impactful--program.)

I don't buy your argument that test prep is the problem. Who are all these parents enrolling their kids in SBAC and CogAT and WISC-IV practice sessions? And where are all these kids who "cheated" their way into HCC and clearly aren't qualified for it? I don't think they exist, at least not in meaningful numbers...

So you think the answer is that "A skilled and trained teacher can spot a high IQ student very easily"? Seriously? On the contrary, research shows that teachers do a terrible job of recognizing giftedness in minorities, and racial disparities in gifted eligibility are often reduced when more objective criteria are used instead. The reality is that many teachers are biased, whether they recognize it or not. On top of that, we also have the issue of teachers focusing their efforts on struggling students, often ignoring the needs of their most gifted students. Teachers need to know not only what to look for, but they need to have the time and inclination to do it, too. In our experience, some teachers essentially look the other way as soon as they realize a student has met the standards, even if they realize that in week 2. Good enough!

As to "exploiting" HC students, I'm opposed to exploiting students in general. But we should teach all students, and they should all get a program that is relatively consisted with their needs--whether that be special ed, general ed, or gifted ed.

But people get so hung up on the terminology.... How about if instead of "gifted" or "highly capable" or something we go with something completely neutral or even something with negative connotations? Maybe "alternative ed" (sounds like reform school, so the anti-gifted might like that!) or "ostrich school" (they're fast! and weird!) or...

name game

Anonymous said...

QED' "A skilled and trained teacher can spot a high IQ student very easily.

I don't think this is always the case, especially if the child (like my brother) has behavior and other issues. I can imagine that in Seattle we have lots of poor kids with behavior and other issues who are not being identified. Seattle teachers have as many as 30+ kids in a classroom.

In my brother's case the school psychologist stepped in and did further testing when he had an IEP in special ed. It was a very small district, with small special ed classes that was highly resourced.

Stanley W said...

I object to two things I've read here:

1) QED said "A skilled and trained teacher can spot a high IQ student very easily." Teachers can be highly trained, skilled, experienced, conscientious, hard-working individuals with their hearts in the right place and yet still miss students with high IQs. Firstly, the teacher's training might not have covered giftedness and the issues related with it. How much training do Washington state teachers receive in giftedness? And secondly, the majority of teachers of exceptionally gifted children don't recognize these students' academic precocity because the undemanding work the children are presented with offers the children no opportunity to display their ability. If you ask a five-year-old and a twelve-year-old to add two and two, and they both answer "four," does that mean they have the same ability in math?


2) Floor Pie describes her experience working in a resource room setting with students with learning disabilities (some identified as gifted and some who have not been identified as gifted but more representative of our school's diverse population than the HCC classes). She writes, "The amazing thing is how these kiddos came together as a community, and how they were able to figure out how to flow with each other's strengths and deficits. Every student had something to teach every other student."
I object to the description of this as "amazing." Gifted kids are not more likely to be racist or classist or mean than other children. And you will never find research that shows that they are, because they're not. They're just kids with an atypical learning need. That's it.

Miraca Gross did an extensive study of exceptionally gifted children and determined that they had an unusually high and persistent interest in equity and social justice issues. She studied them when they were between 5 and 12 years old, but then checked back in with them ten years later and found that a remarkable number of them were involved in volunteer work for social justice causes. Gifted individuals are part of the fabric of our communities. Many of the parents running clothing drives and book drives and working to improve equity in our schools were designated as "gifted" (or whatever it was called then) when they were in school and participated in whatever their schools' gifted programs were back in the day. Many of the the people devoting countless pro-bono, volunteer, unpaid hours of work to running Washington's Paramount Duty and the Seattle Council PTSA and many of the people volunteering to improve equity in your local schools were all in gifted programs as students and that is the trajectory for many of the kids currently in the "gifted" programs in Seattle schools. Many will go on to become fierce (and powerful) activists for civil rights and disability rights and medical advances and improved care for the homeless. And you can see this in the kids right now, today and everyday, if you just talk to them.

Floor Pie said...
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Floor Pie said...

Stanley W., I didn't say "amazing" for the reason you assumed. But I guess I could see how you might have read it that way, so let me explain.

In my experience, at the middle schools where I have worked, students tend to be mistrustful of difference -- much more so than preschoolers or elementary schoolers. This is developmental and one of the reasons why cliques become so prevalent at this age. Rolling with each other's differences just gets more challenging at this age for ALL of them. Out of fear, anxiety, shame, hormones, or some combination thereof, they can be unbelievably mean to each other regardless of their race, class, or abilities. I wouldn't characterize ANY of my students as racist, but at this age there are a lot more pitfalls when differences of any kind are involved.

In the special ed setting, this can get extreme. It is not unusual for a boy with a learning disability that's been poorly handled in the past, causing him a lot of baggage, to show up on the first day of school, see a white student demonstrating autistic behaviors, and turn right around and refuse to be in the same classroom. It's not unusual for a white 2E student to very earnestly, with the best of intentions, blurt out some strong well-intentioned opinions that are hurtful to the students of color in the room. It's not unusual for ALL of the boys to need practice in listening attentively when a girl is talking.

They all learn to tolerate each other better over the course of the school year, but they don't always come together as an authentically loving community. So, when students of this age with significantly diverse backgrounds DO come together as a community in which they genuinely trust each other and have each other's backs, that IS amazing.

I hope that helps you understand where I'm coming from a little better.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reference to Miraca Gross.

"...possibly the greatest gift we can give to a gifted child is a teacher who recognizes the gift, who is not threatened by it, but rather rejoices in it and works with joy to foster it."


Clarification Needed said...

Zach DeWolfe is running for Seattle School Board. His comments need to be clarified. Sounds like he supports Honors for All approach to advanced learning.

MLK Gifted said...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gifted. He skipped two grades in high school and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at age 15, where he was a "popular student [...] but an unmotivated student who floated though his first two years. Note that he was 15 to 17 years old while he was an unmotivated student, floating through school. He had not achieved any "eminence" yet. And we don't need his CogAT score or his IQ score to know that without a doubt he was gifted. Even if we don't know anything about his life from after he was 15, successfully skipping two grades in high school is enough.

Obviously he did go on to achieve "eminence," but it didn't happen when he was a student in elementary, middle or high school. What would have happened to him if he hadn't skipped 9th grade? If he'd just sat there bored for the whole year? He skipped another grade later in high school. Because he was gifted. What would have happened to him if the school hadn't let him skip those grades? How would he have felt about school? How would it have changed his trajectory in life?

He wrote: I remember another experience I used to have in Atlanta. I went to high school on the other side of town—to the Booker T. Washington High School. I had to get the bus in what was known as the Fourth Ward and ride over to the West Side. In those days, rigid patterns of segregation existed on the buses, so that Negroes had to sit in the backs of buses. Whites were seated in the front, and often if whites didn't get on the buses, those seats were still reserved for whites only, so Negroes had to stand over empty seats. I would end up having to go to the back of that bus with my body, but every time I got on that bus I left my mind up on the front seat. And I said to myself, "One of these days, I'm going to put my body up there where my mind is."

studies have shown showed that the most successful interventions occurred when the children were identified earlier, rather than later, in their elementary schooling and were either accelerated or placed in a class with other gifted children. She claimed that it was between the ages of 4 and 9 that the social difficulties experienced by children with IQs of 160+ were most acute. Miraca Gross's study found the same thing. The seeds of what happened in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood have been sown in the first 3 years of school. Many of the young people in her study who experienced social rejection in their early school years deliberately underachieved for peer acceptance through much of their school career. Some deliberately moderated their performance in the hope that it would make them more acceptable to their class teachers.

Martin Luther King Jr. was gifted whether he ever took an IQ test or the CogAT or got a little seal of HCC approval in his transcript from his public school district. He was gifted and he benefitted from educational intervention (grade skipping). Obviously he went on to achieve "eminence." He had the benefit of a high school that allowed him the acceleration he needed. He graduated college and seminary (where he was valedictorian). Earned his PhD at 25 and changed the course of history.

Our schools owe it to gifted kids like Martin Luther King Jr. was to help them thrive.

Go High said...

Shari Huhndorf, professor and dept. chair of Native American Studies at UC Berkeley skipped two grades in school and graduated high school before her 16th birthday. Her mother describes her as a kind and gentle soul, yet her research has her confronting a nation's cruel and arrogant past. She worries about her. "Sometimes she'll call me and read things to me," her mother said. "She's a very sensitive person. It's troubling for her."

Venture capitalist Rafael Corrales skipped two grades, graduated high school at 16, started College Knowledge Tutoring at age 19, graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Tech at 20, accepted to and began Harvard Business School at 21...

Phoenix Suns player Kevin Johnson skipped fifth grade. His mom said: "We had to have several meetings at the school because they raised such a stink about it because he was so young. They had the fourth and fifth graders in one room and Kevin did all of the fourth grade work, then all of the fifth grade work and they still couldn't find enough for him to do. He started to become a little nuisance because they couldn't keep him busy. It always concerned us because he was so young, he was a full year behind the other kids. But he was always real competitive so I think it was a challenge for him."

John Legend told Oprah he skipped first grade and seventh grade. He started high school at age 12 and graduated at 16.

Thurgood Marshall skipped grades twice. He also got kicked out of college twice for fraternity pranks. He was noncompliant and naughty and disobedient. And clearly gifted. What would have happened to him if his schools hadn't allowed the academic acceleration he did receive?

Michelle Obama skipped second grade. And so did her brother.

The list goes on. Why did all these people skip grades in school? Why was that necessary? Were they "eminent" in second grade? Seventh grad? Had they achieved fame or glory or set themselves apart? Nope. No one had ever heard of them. They were all gifted. They needed the academic acceleration to thrive. And their parents and teachers fought for them to be allowed to do it.

Giftedness exists. And the quicker you accelerate gifted kids the better their outcomes (both academic and social/emotional). And the better the outcomes for our communities and our nation. Can you imagine if Thurgood Marshall had dropped out to become a professional poker player or something? Or if MLK Jr. had given up on school after a boring year in 9th grade and dropped out? Allowing children like Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. DuBois and MLK Jr. to access gifted education (acceleration or cohorting or however it's done in your district in your day) is better for the kids and better for the world.

Anonymous said...

I believe that acceleration through subject matters (or by skipping grades, per the examples by Go High as cited) is necessary for some gifted students to thrive in their learning. It is obvious, for example, by the existence of the the Early Entrance Program at the UW. However, a number of my parent peers believe more in "horizontal enrichment" vs. "vertical acceleration" for the gifted population. Perhaps a blend of both approaches would be the most ideal in an academic setting?

Anonymous said...

I guess the difference I see between sports and academics is that no one says a child is gifted at sports or music until they actually perform at a higher level than their peers.

In academics, however, merely doing well on a test, maybe an hour or two of sitting for one in Kindergarten, and a child is "gifted".

Whether or not they have ever done anything noteworthy or special.

Comparing academic giftedness to physical beauty is much more appropriate.

And if a parent mentions their child's good looks to others I think they will get the same treatment as those who discuss their child's IQ.

Can you imagine a parent of a child who has model level looks talking to a parent of kid who looks "normal", or even what Western culture would call unattractive and discussing how beautiful their child is?

That is how non-gifted parents feel sometimes.


MLK Gifted & Go High said...

Some parents and educators in Seattle confuse giftedness with privilege, so I bring up the stories of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. as examples to show that giftedness and privilege are NOT the same thing.

Thurgood Marshall's dad was a railroad porter and his mom a teacher. His grandfather had been a slave. He did not grow up in privilege. Martin Luther King Jr. also did not grow up privileged.

And yet they were both gifted. We can tell from how they skipped grades in school. We don't need an IQ score or a CogAT score or MAP test results or WISC or SBAC or SAT scores. Most school children would not benefit from skipping an entire year of school. Let alone benefit so much that they would do it again! But both Marshall and King benefited from skipping the first year they skipped so much, it worked out so well for them that they did it a second time. Because it worked for them. Because they had atypical educational needs. Because they were gifted. Not privileged, but gifted.

I am not suggesting that grade skipping should be how Seattle school district educates gifted kids today. Marshall graduated high school in 1925 and MLK Jr. graduated high school in 1944. What was state of the art in gifted ed in the 1920s and 1940s is no longer necessarily state of the art.

But I think it's easier for Seattleites who are squeamish about gifted ed to see that the gifted ed Marshall and MLK received was not "getting something special." By skipping two grades they actually received less from the schools than their peers. Gifted ed is a necessary intervention for some students, but it doesn't necessarily involve the students receiving something "special" or deluxe or fancy or better than other students. It can very easily involve them getting less (maybe even two years less!!!).

But, again, both Thurgood Marshall and MLK Jr. were students at high risk of dropping out of school. Their biographies describe them (as students) as noncompliant, unmotivated, a prankster, "floating through," etc. Thank goodness for the country that they got what little accommodation they received. The country is a far better place for it. The country is better for keeping gifted kids in school by accommodating their atypical learning needs.

MLK Gifted and Go High said...


You said, "I guess the difference I see between sports and academics is that no one says a child is gifted at sports or music until they actually perform at a higher level than their peers. In academics, however, merely doing well on a test, maybe an hour or two of sitting for one in Kindergarten, and a child is 'gifted'."

What? The way they are being called "gifted" (or technically in our state, "highly capable") is that they actually perform at a higher level than their peers on the tests. They need to score in the 98th-99th percentile on two sections of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and 95th percentile or higher in both reading & math on SPS administered assessments. That is by definition performing at a higher level than their peers.

When you listen to 11-year-old Malik Kofi play the cello, how long do you think you have to listen to him play before you would say he's a gifted musician? Here's a four-minute clip. Isn't that enough? When Simone Biles won the world championship in the floor exercise at the age of 16, her routine was less than 4 minutes long. But who wouldn't have called her a gifted gymnast after that? She was the world champion. Just 4 minutes.

But students don't need to qualify in kindergarten. A student can qualify for advanced learning or HCC any year between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Anonymous said...

" MLK Gifted & Go High said...Some parents and educators in Seattle confuse giftedness with privilege, so I bring up the stories of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. as examples to show that giftedness and privilege are NOT the same thing."

Yes this is true. However one cannot ignore that the majority of kids who are overwhelmingly identified and enrolled in gifted programs nationwide are not low socioeconomic or ELL kids. There should also be gifted kids in this population. However, perhaps although high IQ/potential, they do not have the needed achievement scores & lower achievement scores are linked to poverty.

This is not to state all who are enrolled are middle class or affluent. I personally know some kids who qualify for gifted programs and are F&R lunch. I also know many who are middle class, not affluent.

But there is a lack of low socio kids (F&R lunch) being identified/qualifying.

In addition, poverty affects achievement scores, achievement tests are used (addition to Cogat) to identify gifted kids for programs.

Mercer Island has the highest proportion of kids (20%!!!!) in gifted programs in our area for example. Many more identified than in Seattle. Wealthy areas identify more gifted kids, there is a correlation.

Anonymous said...

@ YB, yes, that's what many here have acknowledged for years. Poverty is just as much--if not more--of a factor as race, yet many people want to make it all about race in SPS and HCC.

Thankfully, the achievement score cut-offs are NOT set in stone, and parents and/or teachers can make the case that a low-income or minority or ELL or whatever student is gifted, even if their achievement scores might not suggest that. The committee is supposed to give special consideration to factors like race/culture, ELL status, poverty, etc. when it comes to HCC eligibility. Unfortunately, I suspect that parents and teachers of highly capable students from traditionally underserved groups probably still aren't up to speed on recognizing and/or acknowledging potential giftedness in kids, and more outreach might be needed to help understand what to look for. As well, it might be worth a pilot program to allow younger students from underserved groups to enter HCC with significantly lower scores than would otherwise be required, to see if they can catch up and keep up. Doing the same with older students would likely cause problems because they'd be too far behind, but in the lower grades there should be enough time for these suspected fast learners to pick up the missing pieces, even if it takes a couple years.


Anonymous said...

@ smugly, most parents of gifted students don't run around talking about their child's IQ, so all is good. People talk about it online or in meetings when there are discussions about gifted ed (usually discussions about how to limit it or do away with it), but they don't go around bragging to other parents. Talking about how great your child did in sports or music though, that's totally cool.

By the way, most students tested for HCC or AL are tested because they HAVE done something noteworthy. Usually a LOT of things. Their parents have observed these things--often over many years--and often their teachers have as well. You don't just sign your kid up for testing on a whim because "hey, it's a just a short test and who knows, they may happen to experience an episode of pseudo-giftedness during it!"

Or are you suggesting that in the absence of some sort of intramural intelligence demonstration league with weekly competitions in which kids can show off their smarts and prove it to the outside world that it's all just a big mystery as to whether anyone is intellectually gifted?


MLK Gifted and Go High said...


There clearly are gifted kids among students in the demographic groups that are underrepresented in gifted programs. Being gifted and having a school district identify you as being gifted are two different things.

There are surely lots of reasons for this, but from my own experiences with SPS I have to say one looms especially large: have you ever tried to convince an ALO geozone school in a lower income neighborhood in Seattle to give a child in need of more challenge harder schoolwork? 32% of teachers nationally say that advanced students are a low priority in their schools. Advanced learning is clearly an afterthought at most of our Seattle schools. 95% on achievement tests is a high bar. Kids may need support from their schools to achieve at that level. And if a student's classroom at school is not teaching at that level and not differentiating sufficiently for students who need that (harder because they don't all need to be working at that level), how will students get to that level?

What can be done?
• Increase teacher and staff training. We need to reverse low expectation and correct misconceptions about promising low-income and minority learners, including the view that giftedness is limited to only already high achieving students. More teachers need information about the indicators of talent and how to develop it.
• Monitor and report all levels of student achievement, including at the high end of the achievement spectrum. Schools need data to be proactive in closing their excellence gaps.
• Support new research and disseminate best practice information. There is much more to learn, and share, about program models and strategies that have been shown to be successful with low-income and minority students. These include the impact of increased instructional time and the adaptive strategies used by minority and low-income students who succeed.

Anonymous said...

I think we all know that if two children of equal health, one being poor and black, one being white and wealthy, were somehow switched at birth and each grew up with in the other's skin and with the other's family, the previously black kid would have a much greater chance of being labeled gifted.

White privilege is very real and very damaging to black kids and brown kids. Past and current treatment of these groups effects the chances of being found to be gifted.

IQ and CogAt tests and programs like we have in Seattle, perpetuate the past injustices towards people of color.

The privilege that whites enjoy will not be given up easily by most.

At least the district teaches about it and the next generation will be much more aware of society's shortcomings.

It is a dream deferred, but that's the best SPS can do, it seems.


Anonymous said...

Kiley, your words are strange to me - like they come from another world that I am not familiar with. My kid is white - she was a minority race in her HCC class and a minority race in her Robinson center classes. She is now a minority race in her college prep class.


Anonymous said...

@ Kiley, conflating race and income doesn't help make your case. Is it white privilege or wealth that would flip things for those hypothetical kids?

What about it the white, wealthy parents were uneducated, but the poor, black parents had college degrees , would that make a difference? What if the baby born black were had been born pre-term and/or low birth weight (both more common in black infants), while the baby born white had a healthy prenatal development and birth?

It's complicated

Anonymous said...

People like to pussyfoot around white privilege on this blog, but it is a real thing and white people in Seattle with kids in SPS have in the past benefited and continue to benefit from it.

To some of us, it feels like racial domination, which of course, it is.

As far as gifted kids go,failure to include certain non-white populations creates disparity in the distribution of the advantages which derive from grouping gifted students and is but one of many examples of white privilege.


MLK Gifted and Go High said...

People do pussyfoot around white privilege. Not just on this blog, but all over this country, this continent, and a couple of other continents that come to mind. I think a huge part of that is that a lot of people don't know much about white privilege.

So here's Gina Crosely-Corcoran's Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person... and Peggy McIntosh's 1988 essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. I wonder if students are reading these kinds of things in school in Seattle?

Using 2016-17 numbers, there are 36,410 white students registered and attending school in Seattle.
25,289 of them attend public schools and 11,121 of them attend private schools. All 36,410 of those white students have the same amount of white privilege. They have varying degrees of other kinds of privilege (class, sexual orientation, sex, ability, gender, happy home life, etc.) But all the white kids have the same whiteness-based privilege. Only 2,610 white students are in Seattle's gifted program. And they're not any more white than the other 33,800 white kids.

So, if you're having a feeling that "feels like racial domination" coming from white school kids, all 36,410 white kids in this city's schools ought to be eliciting this feeling, not just the 2,610 in the gifted program. If it's their whiteness that is the problem, I don't see how it matters which school they're going to or what programs they're participating in. These 36,410 white kids are going to be white no matter what school they go to. Being in one program or another doesn't change the amount of whiteness-based privilege they have.

Anonymous said...

Kiley said:
White privilege is very real and very damaging to black kids and brown kids. Past and current treatment of these groups effects the chances of being found to be gifted. IQ and CogAt tests and programs like we have in Seattle, perpetuate the past injustices towards people of color. The privilege that whites enjoy will not be given up easily by most.

Shouldn't we be focused on how to better identify gifted black and brown kids and get them into gifted programs, as opposed to trying to take away access for gifted white students?

Also, can you please clarify how you believe past injustices toward people of color are perpetuated in IQ and CogAt tests? Is it that those tests are biased, the topics and questions too eurocentric (and asia-centric?)? Are there tests that would provide a more accurate picture of giftedness in children of color, and if so, what types of questions do they ask instead?

Off White

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Comparing academic giftedness to physical beauty is much more appropriate."

The most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long, long time.

"The privilege that whites enjoy will not be given up easily by most."

But why put it in those terms? What about recognition that all people deserve rights, privileges, access, etc.? I don't see change as a zero sum game.

"..failure to include certain non-white populations creates disparity in the distribution of the advantages which derive from grouping gifted students and is but one of many examples of white privilege."

But is that the fault of parents who don't control the system in the least (we all know that)? How come we had a Latino superintendent who did nothing? How come Blanford, Patu and Pinkham haven't joined forces to give this effort for kids of color to be in the program? That's my mystery.

Because many of us have complained for years and years on this issue and crickets.

MLK Gifted and Go High said..., two word names, please. That's too long

Anonymous said...

The district enrollment has not just grown over the past 10 years, but it has experienced some significant demographic shifts. Helmstetter's observations about changes in his neighborhood reflect some of these shifts. From 2005 to 2015, the number of students identifying as "White" has gone from around 18,900 to around 24,800.

Percent change from 2010 to 2015 (based on OSPI data):

Hispanic / Latino of any race(s) +10%
American Indian / Alaskan Native -76%
Asian -13%
Black / African American -10%
Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander -15%
White +18%
Two or More Races +55%

Percent change from 2005 to 2015

Hispanic / Latino of any race(s) +19%
American Indian / Alaskan Native -192%
Black / African American -24%
White +24%

Please note families could not select "Two or More Races" or "Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander" until 2010, so the percent change may be partially a reflection of those changes.

more numbers

Anonymous said...

"How come Blanford, Patu and Pinkham haven't joined forces to give this effort for kids of color to be in the program? That's my mystery."

First that's racist to say that the non-white board members or the Latino Super have any special responsibility towards kids of color.

ALL board members and staff represent ALL kids.

So the appropriate question is: why doesn't SPS and the board as a whole change this?

If anyone should be leading the charge it's the AL Dept.

Comparing two gifts of nature, beauty and intelligence, is the "...most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long, long time."?

Please explain

Curious Cougar

Eckstein Parent said...

Don't the board members represent kids who live in the specific regions they represent, not all kids?

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, it's not racist because people believe that candidates elected are both qualified AND their backgrounds will lend to understanding of issues. Who is in HCC is something I think all of them are interested in especially Blanford who pontificates loudly on these issues.

They could be a starting point because for a white member of the Board to do that would bring "oh, this is all he/she cares about, blah,blah."

Absolutely AL should be doing something and that's another mystery that I've called out for years.

Eckstein Parent, here's the thing on that issue. My understanding/belief is that the directors have regions in order to both know that region (live there) and know the schools in the region (in order to be the resident expert on the Board). It would be nigh impossible for any one director to know 100 schools well. So, if you have a region-specific issue, go to that region's director.

But the directors are elected city-wide and therefore represent all schools.

I think the beauty versus intelligence argument is silly because:
- born beauty is something you just inherit from your parents. Intelligent parents can help but that's more the nurture thing than nature thing. You can develop intelligence to a degree that you can't with beauty.
- beauty fades but intelligence can extend on and on
- intelligence is probably more important but beauty can be terribly influential. But again, that's a finite period.

I personally don't find the equivalency to make any sense especially not in the context of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

"People do pussyfoot around white privilege. Not just on this blog, but all over this country, this continent, and a couple of other continents that come to mind.
So here's Gina Crosely-Corcoran's Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person..."
@MLK gifted- The essay is one explanation. Here is another as to why some people are confused or uncomfortable with the term, the word "privilege" already has a meaning.

It has historically meant someone who is "class privileged." So when you talk about white privilege people correlate this to the historical meaning of class privilege or being born wealthy. Class privilege is extremely powerful and does not get enough attention in these discussions.

Also, some people seem to just focus more heavily on racial privilege as opposed to other forms of privilege such as class, able bodied or gender etc. They all influence our relative advantage in society. I think we need to understand people as individuals with unique advantages and disadvantages. In college my husband did an exercise take a step forward if your parents went to college, grew up in a foster home, mother was a teenager when she had you, etc etc. He ended up far in the back behind many black and brown students although he identifies as white (he also has black heritage). It was interesting.
- YB

Anonymous said...

Meant to state take a step back if grew up in foster home etc. Anyway interesting activity so that when you look around room you understand the diversity of people in the room with relative advantages or disadvatages. I think it would be eye opening for many. Also, I think the term "white privilege" should be renamed to "white advantage" as privilege already has a meaning related to class. I think it would help more understand its true intended meaning.

Melissa Westbrook said...

YB, I like that better "white advantage."