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.