Blowing off the Gifted

I worry about this, when I see how many resources go to special needs and how few go to gifted programs. It appears that we are in serious danger of blowing off the gifted.

I’m the product of a gifted program — I was separated out for a couple of periods a week since 2nd grade to do the more fun things with Ms. Varava, then with Mr. Solenzio, and finally with Mr. Robenheimer. I dropped out of the gifted program in the 7th grade because (believe it or not) it became very computer-focused, and I wanted to be a writer, but I was having difficulty doing it during the time when all the kids were getting their instruction in front of the single computer. In high school, we didn’t have a gifted program, but I was part of the college-bound track and graduated in the top 10 of my class.

If we don’t nurture our gifted students, we will lose out to competition. It will continue the downfall of our international dominance. But maybe that’s a good thing.

11 thoughts on “Blowing off the Gifted

  1. Unfortunately I suspect that it is no longer popular or politically correct to recognize that not everyone is the same or has the same intellectual capabilities. There seems to be something “wrong” if we recognize that the 10% right-side segment of that bell curve of intelligence is very different from the remaining 90% and lest it be lost, should be nurtured. It is in certainly in everyone’s interest that the brightest and most gifted reach their full potential and contribute to the benefit of the remaining 90%.

  2. Growing up in Pawtucket in the 70’s and 80’s, I did not have access to a gifted program, but I did have teachers who gave me advanced work. As in the Time article, my teachers talked about skipping grades but ultimately ruled against it. As I progressed into middle and high school, there was less individual attention, but I suppose that was due to the wider choice of classwork. Like Kiersten, I took college prep work (I actually ran out of advanced classes to take and was forced to take woodshop, metalshop and architectural drafting, which were really fun and have proven to be very useful around the house.) I was the guy who never took a book home and graduated 12th out of a class of 276. I’m sure that I would have benefitted from the structure of a gifted program had there been one.

    My son has been in the Cranston EPIC (gifted) program for the past two years and has been placed again this year, but I am concerned that he is not being challenged enough. The rule in our house is that homework is done right after school and then you can play…it takes my son all of 10 minutes to finish his regular homework and maybe 15 minutes for EPIC once a week. Luckily, we have access to high-end material from a relative who is a teacher and supplement his learning with our own “stuff.”

    We all know that instructional resources are being reduced year after year – with more and more money being funnelled to administrators and teachers – so it is only a matter of time until the EPIC program is cut in order to merely allow for the existence of regular instruction.

    Reducing education to the lowest common denominator is ridiculous, and does not bode well for the future.

    Funny, and sad, that 20 years after my stint in public school, our educational system still doesn’t know how to properly address gifted children and nurture them to their fullest potential.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Mark. I hope Cranston continues to try to nurture its high achievers. That was why the idea of redesigning the school tracks in the middle schools and putting together the high track and the middle track was concerning. It seems more tenable for certain classes, but for math, science, and advanced writing or research, it would perhaps slow down the most accelerated students to be losing attention to middle performers.

  4. Hi Kiersten. As an elementary teacher I am certainly sympathetic to your concerns. We must find ways to meet the needs of our most talented students. Students are talented not only in academic ways, but also creatively, athletically, musically, etc. Some children are talented in specific subjects and struggle in others, and degrees vary. The so-called “middle” is vast.

    To meet the needs of all students, we should not be looking at programs that segregate students. We know from experience that pull-out programs, those that remove students from the class, are not the most effective. Instead, we should be looking at the way our classrooms are structured. Differentiated instruction is the new catch phrase, but it’s an idea many of us have been advocating for a long time. Skills are taught more individually and in small groups, and less whole class. Instruction is tailored to the needs of the kids. Specialists such as resource teachers, gifted and art teachers, etc, come to the classroom to work with the teacher and students. To do this effectively we need to train teachers well. This includes new teachers, who aren’t necessarily receiving this type of instruction at the college level. And we also need to keep class sizes low.

    We must nurture the talents of all our students. Advocate that we address the needs of our gifted students, that it be done within the classroom.

    Here’s a link to an article you might find interesting, an intro to differentiation.

  5. Yikes! No. To educate to the mean, is to lose both ends of the curve. The most gifted intelelctually, in need of more stimulation of an order much beyond the mean, are slammed back into the miasma if the center. The least gifted intellectually will never attain the center but can be helped if they too are “separated” and receive the attention they need, again very different from the great center. What is frequently ignored is that intelelct is very differnt as “talent” or a “gift” from sports skills, musical skills (although music and mathematics frequently seem marvelously linked), or any other skill sets. That failure to look at intellect, at “I.Q” or at “smarts” is really the reason for the miserable performance of so many school districts across the Nation.

  6. I am also a gifted child. I was removed from my third grade classroom and put in a room (alone)with a TV monitor and ‘Fred’. Fred was an amoeba-like cartoon figure who taught me logic, geometry and what is now called pre-algebra. I was nervous, at first; since there was no one else in the room, I thought I was being punished. It was so lovely to learn something interesting, completely undisturbed by classroom drama.

    I had always hoped there was another room where someone could explain to me why ‘dough’ and ‘rough’ didn’t rhyme. Asking those kinds of questions in the classroom brought ridicule.

    I decided long ago that my own child needed a ‘gifted’ place. EPIC did not challenge his strengths, so I built my own program. I found the school field trip experience lacking, so I taught him how to map, time, and budget several road trips for us. (AAA is the best money I’ve ever spent). He is now asking about how the stock market works, how to embed music into cartoon programs, and blood types and genetics.

    I feel that it my job as a parent to expose my child to as many resources as I can find to help him answer his questions. I feel it is the school’s responsibility to do the same. But the school is a system with a very greedy mindset. Resources are jettisoned with every stoke of the careless School Committee pen.

    So, it falls back to me. We have an appointment with Dr. Tom, who is happy to engage and explain all the boy’s mind can hold about genetics. I have a neighbor who is willing to show him how to embed music. And, just for the heck of it, I’m going to see if he and his new classmates can create a stock portfolio. In school. Every kid can participate by picking a product, a company or a stock. Maybe I can get a banker or financier on board. The subject seems to cover the broad spectrum of minds described in mikeinri’s article on ‘differentiation’. Some can do the math, others can read the newspapers, some can work with sales and marketing. Any proceeds can go to what the class decides. Field trip to Wall Street, perhaps? Smithsonian?

    Should this prove too complicated for the school, I guess we’ll just start a Portfolio Club. Either way, my child will learn the answers to his questions without being labeled gifted, or average or low performing. The information he gets will penetrate his mind, not be pasted on his head. He can just be successful. That’s enough for me.

  7. Taxpayer,

    That was one heck of a comment. It sounds like your child is very fortunate to have you guiding his learning. Kudos to you.

    I like the idea of the portfolio – we had something like that back in 6th grade sponsored by the Projo. We picked our stocks, entered them into the punchcards (I feel old now) and monitored the progress in the papers every day. Once a week we would get a printout of where we stood. The winner received some sort of prize. It was fun, but with the technology today, it would be a blast. Some of the area colleges (Bentley College comes to mind) have full-scale, realtime trading rooms that you could schedule for information sessions and tours.

    The only time I was pulled out of class was when the gym teacher would pop his head in and say to the regular teacher: “Who has the highest average?” “Lucas,” replied the regular teacher. “OK Lucas, here’s a pass and $5, go down to Kip’s (NY System) and get us six all the way.” I can’t make this stuff up.

  8. Six all the way!?! For the Gym teacher!?! Wow.

    It seems the only thing that hasn’t changed since our time in the public school system is the nutritional value of the food 😉

    Where is Bentley College?

  9. Three for him and three for the English teacher who let me out.

    Bentley is in Waltham, MA about an hour north on 95. Here’s the link to the trading room – link

    Bentley does have an outreach program, but I am unsure of the specifics. It’s worth a call or two.

Comments are closed.