A post I did almost a year ago about Common Core and gifted students has been receiving renewed activity lately. HERE. HERE is another. I wondered what was up. Why are gifted parents digging into the archives? I realized school for many has been in session for a while now and for parents, including parents of gifted children, reality is setting in. Realizing there is nothing special for your special ed. gifted student is like running into a brick wall.
It reminds me of a parent of a gifted child who once told me that she had attended a meeting with other parents of gifted children. While parents loved their children, many at the meeting expressed that they wished their child did not have gifted qualities. They would have preferred a regular kid.
This stunned me. I even wondered if it was disingenuous on the part of the parents. As a teacher of students with learning disabilities, I’d always thought parents wanted their children to be gifted.
Then it occurred to me, and this was the point this parent was making, gifted children are difficult to understand. Their characteristics can be strange to those in school and even parents. Students and teachers often don’t get these kids either. Unless teachers and parents study what the gifted are all about, it is confusing. And even if they do understand the complexities surrounding these students, it is almost impossible to provide gifted students with the right kind of education. In America, gifted students have never been a priority when it comes to schooling.
In general, at the federal, state and local levels, policymakers have failed to address the needs of gifted students. They just don’t seem to care. In my book, I write about how Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who came before Arne Duncan, said, “Our federal commitment is about those disadvantaged kids, and by damn we’re not doing right by them. We don’t have $12 billion for a gifted and talented program at the federal level.” (p.88) She encourages the state and local governments to do the task. But we all know how that goes.
This is a strange argument on the part of Spellings and those who continually ignore gifted students, because disadvantaged children could be gifted as well and deserve access to services that address their needs. Theirs is an even greater climb out of the obscurity that binds them.
And, in the land that harshly pushes school reform and college readiness, very little attention has been lavished on the students who are way ahead on the curve. One wonders if it is intentional.
Just why are gifted students ignored? The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) describes a number of myths surrounding this neglected population. Check out the link to read a more thorough description of the myths.
The myths surrounding gifted education include:
- Gifted Students Don’t Need Help: They’ll Do fine On Their Own.
- Teachers Challenge All The Students, So Gifted Kids Will Be Fine In the Regular Classroom
- Gifted Students Make Everyone Else In the Class Smarter By Providing A Role Model Or A Challenge
- All Children Are Gifted
- Acceleration Placement Options Are Socially Harmful For Gifted Students
- Gifted Education Programs Are Elitist
- That Student Can’t Be Gifted, He Is Receiving Poor Grades
- Gifted Students Are Happy, Popular, and Well Adjusted In School
- This Child Can’t Be Gifted, He Has A Disability
- Our District Has A Gifted And Talented Program
- Gifted Education Requires An Abundance Of Resources
And the problems quite possibly increase according to how high the IQ grows.
To put it mildly, it isn’t always a rosy life for a family with a gifted student, or maybe two or more gifted children. Parents might start out with much hope for their gifted child in school, but they learn very quickly that school has little to offer.
Class sizes have also increased in places and teachers face teaching students with an even greater range of differences academically and behaviorally. This is due to inclusion. Some gifted students have language problems due to their cultural differences. Others have boredom issues that can easily morph into troubling behavior.
Grouping students is never easy, and schools don’t put much thought or time into doing it appropriately. Where gifted children are concerned the only hope seems to be skipping grades (if they are lucky) or getting into Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate when they are older. But none of this was ever intentionally designed to address the needs of gifted students, and these solutions have plenty of drawbacks.
So what should parents do?
For starters, find if there is a local parent support group and attend those meetings. Learn how to advocate for your child and others. There is always power in numbers. Determine a plan of action and present it to your principal and later the school board.
If you don’t have a parent support group, see about starting one up, or check on the state or national support groups for gifted children. Social media makes it easier than ever before to connect with others who have similar problems.
In the meantime, work closely with your school counselor and teachers to help them understand the difficulties your child is facing due to their giftedness.
Suggestions and solutions are always welcome. And if you do have a good gifted program for your students, or ideas, please let us know.
*Next: Differentiation and Common Core—A Strange Combination for Gifted Students
Bailey, Nancy. Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students. (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2013) p.88.
I have a first grader that tests gifted. It is interesting to note that the tests they take at school generally don’t go more than about one grade above their current grade. What that means is that no one at school has any idea what the instructional level should be for any child performing more than one grade level above–or how many students might be performing at that level.
As a result, most learning must happen at home. For my child, that’s fine. She loves to learn and I have time to help, so I introduce things and provide materials, and she takes it from there.
I do wonder about children who don’t have that support at home. The first time my child “went down the rabbit hole” it was startling. She asked questions about a subject for three days straight. My husband and I tagged teamed on researching and answering questions. After she got a better sense of things, she slowed down and we just had to give her books. But it would have been SO SO easy to just say, “Shut up and go to your room!” Oh, how I wanted to. What about the kids who don’t have parents who are willing or able to be patient through all that? If you say “shut up” to a child a couple of times, most children will, well…shut up.
The one thing that her school does that is really great is they have two projects per year that are very open-ended. The kids get a basic assignment (i.e., make a book) and are allowed to take it as far as they want to. I think in public schools project based learning is really the way to go. Just give those kids, give ALL the kids, a couple of projects and let them select their own ceilings! It’s not much, but it is something. In her project last year, my child got to bring her knowledge of a historical event she was interested in to the project. The class didn’t really get it, but it let her understand that the learning she was doing at home in some way connects to school. Having all kids do their own projects and be evaluated by adults–with real questions, really pointing out things they missed or things for them to consider, can keep them going. Unfortunately, my child’s school doesn’t evaluate. Basically, the kids do the projects and present at a big festival where they show their parents what they did. I think I’m going to push for real assessment this year.
We never use the G word. Ever. Way too much hostility. That Teach For America post with “I don’t care if your child is gifted” in big bold letters? That is pretty much how it is. Learning happens quietly at our home and we don’t mention it to anyone. But honestly, at least for a young child, “I don’t care if your child is gifted” means I don’t care if your child is not learning. I don’t care if your child is struggling. I don’t care if your child develops asynchronously and can’t fully communicate with me. I don’t care if your child is anxious and doesn’t want to come back to school again. That’s what I hear at least.
My child has always struggled in school. She borders on 2E (dyspraxia), is incredibly sensitive and gets very anxious when anyone is treated unfairly (which is actually good for the grit but bad for the behavior chart). Because she has trouble at school, we’ve made sure to keep in touch with the friends she makes over the years and have now developed a circle full. I decided to keep in touch with these kids and their parents because they were sweet and sensitive and, like my daughter, were often rejected both by other kids and by teachers at school. Over time, I learned that every one of them tests gifted. These kids don’t have it as easy as people might imagine they would.
Nancy Bailey says
Excellent points, Laura. And thank you for commenting. I wonder how many students are not identified, or who are bored and become behavioral problems.
It sounds like you have really zeroed in on your daughter’s needs. And you have done a lot to help her out.
It is too bad “gifted” is the word used because it is confusing. I agree that instruction at a student’s level is the way to go. Trying to get smaller class sizes would help
And projects are so much better than repetitive testing.
Thanks so much for sharing!
Gina Kennedy says
As a Gifted Specialist in a school district in Texas I can only tell you how close to home this article hits. Every year I have to fight for for equity for the gifted program. When classrooms are allocated everyone is placed ahead of the gifted students in our school Being that we are a Title One school, the majority of focus is on our students at risk for not passing the state standardized test. Most of the time administrators forget we are here unless paperwork is due. We hired a half-time specialist to help with the increasing number of TAG students on our campus and they moved her from room to room to instruct while other entire classrooms were taken up by one or two resource or speech students. 80% of my parents have told me that if we didn’t have a gifted program at my campus they would enroll their students in charter or private schools. Without the gifted students at our school, our campus would suffer immensely; yet they are completely ignored. No differentiation or special enrichment is offered in our regular classrooms. This is just another solid example as to why our public school system is failing.
Nancy Bailey says
Gina, Your comment is so important that I am going to revive this post and attempt to showcase it for a while. I don’t think, unfortunately, that you are alone with your situation. Thank you for sharing!