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The Pros and Cons of Squelching Gifted Students

I have been writing about schools for a long time. It is difficult to surprise me. But some of the many people who wrote to me about my Oct. 5 column on Howard County’s reluctance to accelerate a gifted student shocked the heck out of me.
They said I was wrong to criticize county school officials for telling 16-year-old Drew Gamblin that he had to re-take courses he had already passed in college if he wanted to earn a high school diploma. Dealing with insensitive bureaucrats was GOOD for him, they said, and would teach him how to survive as a gifted person in the real world.

“High school is drudgery, but it prepares you for college,” said Howard County parent Rosa Thierer. “Just being bright does not. My daughter had many friends who tested better than she did and could skate through course material. When they got to college they had not developed the discipline to work towards their degree and in at least one case flunked out.”

Lisette Bauersachs, a southern California parent, said “gifted is not fighting rules, but succeeding despite obstacles. Perhaps, gifted is saving your fights for the debate team and not using them against all teachers and school administrators. Perhaps, gifted is sitting through some boring ‘required’ classes and not complaining about it--just take the A and run.”

Even a recent student, who graduated from Drew’s school, Howard High, in 2004, argued that classes that taught her little and discouraged her from doing more were not worth complaining about. I don’t usually quote people without using their names, but she insisted, and convinced me she was a real person, so here is what she said:

“Over the years, I had teachers at Howard discourage me from taking AP exams, grade me down in class for ‘not paying attention’ even though I received over 95 percent on every assignment, and generally not teach the subjects for which I signed up. I never let these problems get in the way of my education. It is my firm belief that a great student will excel in any environment. There were many days when I was bored in class, but I did not let that stop me from pursuing my academic interests. I read voraciously outside of the English curriculum, I worked with a neighbor who was a math teacher at a different high school to expand my knowledge beyond the Calculus I was taking, and I participated in numerous after-school activities.”

Okay. I get it. I approve of character-building exercises. Life is tough, and we have to learn how to survive. But isn’t this America? Aren’t we obliged as citizens to try to make our world better so others can skip the stupid obstacles and use their energy to overcome serious problems, like cancer and war?

Readers Thierer, Bauersachs and that member of the Howard class of ’04 seem to be saying that it’s a bad idea to tell the county to fix the pothole that just blew one of your tires, or get the supermarket to throw out the rotten bananas, or suggest that your healthy drinking buddy stop parking in handicapped spots.

Fortunately, most readers appreciated the problem Drew and his family faced. They realized that plenty of high school students, whether labeled gifted or not, don’t need to have the same lessons repeated every year. They are ready for something more, if the school district has the good sense to give it to them.

“Are these supposed educators in the district so full of themselves and their need to impose conformity that they have lost the creative edge that is so vital for both teacher and administrator?” asked Jeffrey Frances, a rabbi who teaches religious studies at a private school in Rockville.

Kelly Sorensen, who lives in DeKalb County, Ga., said her local school officials first refused to let her son skip a grade despite his very high IQ test scores. Then they said they would only consider a change if he scored that high on tests they administered. When he did, they reneged, insisting they never had made such an agreement.

“Luckily, I’d dealt with them often enough at that point that I’d kept a paper trail with this in writing and held them to it,” Sorensen said. “The absurdity of having to fight with teachers and administrators for my child to have adequately challenging work is disheartening, however.”

Velda Carew, who had a similar experience in Texas last year, said one assistant principal said “she does not support accelerating students and that my only option is to send my daughter to private school.”

Ellicia Chau, Drew’s mother, wrote me to emphasize what many parents of gifted students have said. Some people had suggested that she was seeking special treatment for Drew, when in fact “we have never asked for any exceptions to policy. . .; we’ve only asked that the Howard County Public School System follow existing county and state policies, and that it do so in a timely manner.”

Of course policies can be interpreted in different ways. I applauded a comment on the case that a reader found on a blog, “Humanity by Starlight,” written by an unidentified New Jersey high school student who appears to have personal experience with gifted programs. The blogger noted that the Howard County schools spokeswoman had told me “the standards we have implemented are designed to uphold the integrity of the high school diploma.” The blogger said: “The integrity of the diploma my foot. A student with straight D’s gets a diploma. It’s not some sort of high honor that we’re talking about here. In addition, yes, education is more than mere test scores. However, you’re working quite diligently against the true nature of education (learning). Might want to fix that before you go on about what education really is.”

One of the most useful messages came from a professional expert in this field, Kimberly Hymes of the Council for Exceptional Children, based in Arlington. She had some intriguing theories on why this knee-jerk resistance to acceleration exists, particularly in this test-conscious era. “If major decisions concerning a school or teachers are based on how well students do on a test, why would a school or teacher want to lose a high test score of a student [by skipping him to a higher grade]?” she said.

It is something to think about. I am still bothered by the notion that intelligent readers would think resisting a child’s desire to take the next step was a good thing. Am I wrong? Let me know. This issue will be with us a long time.

By Jay Mathews  | October 16, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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Yeah, life is tough - but why make it tougher?

The answer is - it all depends. Look, holding that student back might be good for him or her - or IT MIGHT NOT!

The whole problem here is that people are NOT THINKING!

Giving this student a real world challenge might be good for them - or it could be another psychological setback that continues to destroy a sensitive psyche.

You'll never find a one-size-fits-all solution that bureaucrats and non-thinking people are looking for. THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

Posted by: cmecyclist | October 16, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

As the former president of the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, I am delighted that your article describes how school administrators generally are disinclined to structure their schools and/or programs to challenge academically gifted students. Thank you to all the people who wrote the emails that seem to have changed your mind on this topic.

Posted by: LouiseEpstein2 | October 16, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

What we have here is an operations management problem. Large public school systems are trapped in an Industrial Era psychology of one system fits all, despite the fact that federal legislation has required individualized education for the gifted since the 1970s. We live in a service based economy today and most people expect from schools what we expect from private service corporations: flexible, customer oriented and quality focused service provision. School systems, driven by policy makers in recent decades, have also found that specialized education around math and science is an important theme both to promote their accelerated education programs and to show their contribution to the new service economy that is of course driven by high technology.

The problem with this is that each individual student (not just those who qualify as gifted and talented) have individual academic strengths and weaknesses. And, not all gifted students are math or science whizzes. But how do you get to a multijurisdictional national secondary education system to adopt a individually-focused total quality management approach? Sounds expensive, but it’s not if you use the current curriculum flexibly.

Two brief examples: Instead of having all 10th graders in your Algebra I class, schools could enroll those students who have qualified for the course through prerequisite, placement test, teacher recommendation or parent request, regardless of age or grade. If a student is accelerated at math and they take the 100-level college course and receive a C- or higher then the whole high school math requirement should be considered completed. They could use the extra time to work at high school-level on the skills on which they still need to work—writing for instance. In many cases these adjustments help reduce class sizes and engage only the students who need a class a specific level, instead of teaching a large class to a student with a range of capabilities. At is stands now many of the bottom and top students are left out of learning in our classrooms

This requires school administrators and state regulators to think within a completely different operational framework that what Jay was discussing in the case of Howard County. It is, however, not ‘outside of the box’. We are just adapting quality management approaches to education just as service-based corporations have done for customers for many years. My advice to administrators reading this: Don’t be afraid of making change; innovation is healthy part of educating our children.

Posted by: professor70 | October 16, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I meant to say "...teaching a large class to students with a range of capabilities."

Personally, as a waste by-product of the Fairfax County Public Schools gifted and talented curriculum (there was no 'program') I still have a lot to learn about editing and composition. Guess what? I have to give a lecture on famine and AIDS in Africa. I overcame a poorly run gifted ed. program to become a college professor, joy.

Posted by: professor70 | October 16, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I think this student did deserve better from his school and district.

I think one of the difficulties is how we define giftedness these days. I taught a gifted and talented fifth grade class for two years and have taught general education classes for the other 10 years of my career. I believe there are students who need acceleration and something more. However, I also believe there are many parents who think their child should receive gifted services no matter what their teachers or test scores say. It is absurd to think that all of those children (even all the ones currently receiving gifted services) truly need that level of acceleration.

Everyone wants their child to be gifted. Sometimes that means that schools overreact when dealing with that situation.

Posted by: Jenny04 | October 16, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad some of the comments refer to fact that every child is different and we should avoid any effort to treat them all the same.

I am baffled as to why the outrage isn't over the complexity of the steps required for a child to do something different. If a student wants to study a foreign language offered by another institution, but not offered by their local high school, why should it be such a complex process to have the foreign language of their choice accepted as credit? If the student takes a math course at another institution and passes a standardized test for the local high school to show that they possess at least the same knowledge as that required for the next level math course, then why is it such a complex process to be placed in the higher level math course?

These are simple exceptions school districts must be prepared to promptly make if we are to allow high students to explore their interests and not be brainwashed by the "just take the A and run” philosophy.

We're living in a society that promotes education as a dictator of approaches to a diploma: Thou shalt take the classes I tell you to, when I tell you to, or else." Don't say it's not a dictatorship system. If it weren't, you would find these procedures on HCPSS's website.

There's entirely too much talk about what it means to be gifted or how to use standardized tests in this case. It has very little to do with just how smart Drew is. Focus on influencing schools, especially high schools, to have a fair and transparent approval process for the acceptance of high-school level credit from other sources. Forget about the probability of students graduating early. That's a decision they and their parents make. Forget about the promotion of competition to get into selective colleges. If a student wants to create the most competitive transcript possible--let them. Otherwise, we wouldn't have Thomas Jefferson High School in VA, where the students are not only bright; they're MOTIVATED. Forget about any attempts to limit what courses students can take based on where they live. Some people seem proud to say how many AP courses their high schools have and how few are available in low income areas. All students should have freedom to take high school to college level courses from other sources than their local public school. And their parents should be aware of the procedures for the students to get credit towards a high school diploma, at any age, at any time.

Posted by: doglover6 | October 16, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It's been a long time, but I still remember well the many hours I spent 'learning' things I already knew, taking classes whose material was completely unchallenging, and generally feeling as though much of my school years were devoted to checking off the school's boxes about what 'education' was rather than actually getting one. I had to fight to get my high school to agree that I didn't have to repeat three-quarters of a course I'd already gotten an A in during junior high! Our schools are, plain and simple, not set up to help gifted students find challenging educational opportunities. Thank you for talking about this important issue.

Posted by: if157 | October 16, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse


As a reporter, I'm sure you are keenly aware that if you search hard enough, you can find someone to take just about any position, irrespective of how ridiculous it is. Learning to deal with a byzantine, soulless bureaucracy is not listed as a high school graduation objective in the state of Maryland; so there is no reason for Howard County schools to be teaching it.

And what's with Bauersachs's fascination with rules? Grab a pencil and paper and list every great American you can think of. Finished? Ok, now place a check mark next to each name if that person followed the rules. Note that you have zero check marks on your page.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | October 16, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Profoundly gifted children (different from gifted/highly gifted and exceptionally gifted) learn extremely differently than their peers. The rate of dropping out of HS is equivalent to that of children who struggle.

I am a firm believer that all children learn in different ways and you need to find the right way for each of them. But as the parent of HG and EG children and one PG child, I can assure you that my PG child is so extreme it would take one person totally devoted to him to figure him out. The other kids manage fine in today's world, but my PG kid is always going to struggle mightily.

As a society, we do not encourage the kind of thinking that my son MIGHT be capable of. We want him to follow the path that the "normal" kids follow. That should not (necessarily) be his path. But there is no encouragement to do anything the slightest bit differently. Ever.

I am discouraged about the future of this country when routine and ordinary are applauded and even encouraged.

Posted by: Stormy1 | October 16, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"Class Struggle"'s commentary about utilizing a 16-year-old's courses which should be applied to a high school diploma seem very common sense.

My personal experience as coordinator for Gifted programming in a large urban school district has shown that such a move isn't penalizing anyone, including the school that allows such outside college-level work to be legitimately applied. What is often lacking is an understanding on the part of school building administrators of the needs of gifted students as separate and apart from simply being a teacher's helper or in-class tutor for others who haven't mastered the material. Talk to those teachers who are 'housing' students already at mastery level of the material in these mainstream classes, and you'll no doubt find frustration on the teacher's part. It is extremely difficult to provide enough differentiated instructional delivery that would serve not only the needs of the most delayed learner, but also someone who already "knows it".

When's the last time that our prescription for bright young minds to 'man up', and take the punishment ---constant repetition of teaching already mastered---, done any good for their character? They'll have plenty of opportunity to meander through life thinking other thoughts beyond the rest of our comprehension, while mundane existence attempts to distract them. It is part of their very nature.

For these teenagers, we should not be mandating that they do so in a high school setting while learning to filter out the white noise of the class in which they sit. Our goal is to challenge ALL learners to their highest ability.

That school district should be proud of scholars that are such consumers of learning and can bring this portion of their outside experience back to the local high school.

For more history on such programs and the need to include these "exceptional children", you may also wish to get some background from sources like Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth. It's never too late to educate the educators.

Posted by: ajwiesen | October 16, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Between the constantly shifting demands of reform mandates and special education requirements school districts do not have the time or money to spend on gifted students.

There are no limits to the costs districts must bear to educate special ed students under current federal law. These students have plans to meet their individual needs, IEP's. No mandate exists for students at the other end of the spectrum whose needs for individualization may be just as great. And yet we say we value creativity and academic striving which these students often have in abundance.

The reform agenda, often based on political ideology rather than research-based educational strategies, measures districts by dubious test scores forcing districts to teach to the test, not to the student.

As a former gifted high school student and school board member I would suggest parents of gifted students fight for the needs of their child even if it means looking for early college entrance programs or dual college/high school courses. I agree gifted students need to learn to challenge their mental abilities and learn to work hard so they develop coping strategies when things do not come so easily later in their careers. One does not learn that skating or sleeping through easy classes.

Posted by: speakuplouder | October 16, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Speakuplouder makes a good point--there are mandated IEPs and resources allocated for special ed students but nothing mandated for gifted students. My hypothesis: a general prejudice against intellectuals or seeming too smart. I was gifted and my accommodation was to sit in the back of the classroom, grades 1-6, working ahead in math from cards out of a box or helping the teacher decorate bulletin boards or make handouts. When I'd read every book in the library, my mother was told I just didn't need to go to the library anymore during our class visits. What a waste when I could have been learning another language, or studying advanced mathematics and applied science, or any number of subjects. In high school, I took some of my classes at the local community college and, lucky for me, they did count toward graduation with no need to take the required, lower-level courses at the high school.

Posted by: Lison | October 16, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

If schools around the country would stop fighting so hard to let self-motivated gifted students move ahead more easily, then perhaps they'd have the time to spend with NON-self-motivated gifted students.

These children, like mine, are the ones who are bright and could easily be working ahead of grade -- if only the teachers were willing to require them to work harder instead of letting them skate by. When I was in school, my teachers pushed me and graded me on what they knew I was capable of, not just on whether I could master the bare minimum. (When we parents try to push them, we just get, "But our teacher doesn't require that!" And if they DO turn in work that's above average, the teachers only note that it meets the minimum requirements, not that they've gone above and beyond. So they just don't see the need.)

As for that one blogger's great comment about kids with D's getting diplomas: In this neck of the woods, you can get some sort of GED at age 18 with only a few months of a required class and passing a quick test. I have two nieces who bailed on the last three years of school and took this test at 18. Just imagine: No homework! No studying! No getting up early! Yet, I bet on employment applications she marks that she's completed high school, since they even had a ceremony and gave these folks "diplomas." It doesn't take much to get a diploma these days; and apparently, even perseverance isn't part of the formula anymore.

Posted by: dianebh | October 16, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

This is a first-rate exchange of views. I wonder if anyone has ever encountered any school systems that have even discussed ideas as specific and (at least to me) sensible as what professor70 offers here.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 16, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Gifted Students are not gifted.

They are simply intelligent.

Students should be placed in classes based upon their intelligence. This allows a teacher to teach to the level of the students in the class.

This is not a fixed system since testing would be used to indicate the composition of classes.

This will never be accepted in the public school system. It appears as though it is perfectly acceptable to use test scores to decide whether to fire teachers but it is impossible to use test scores to determine the composition of classes.

No more fake Gifted children programs.

Every parent needs their child to be in the Gifted program since they do not want their child in a class where the main focus of the teacher is on lowering the number of children who failed basic skills.

Currently your child is either in the Gifted or Advanced glass or in the pot where children are placed without any regard to skill or intelligence.

In school athletic teams it is perfectly acceptable to separate children by skill levels, but when it comes to education it is impossible.

Assign all students into classes based upon their intelligence and there would not be a need for fake Gifted children programs.

If educational writers would stop speaking about Gifted Children and instead write about the insanity of simply placing children in classes without any regard to demonstrated skills and intelligence there actually might be a chance of creating a better public school system for all childrens.

Contrary to popular belief the intelligence and skills of children who have not failed does not rub off onto the children that have failed.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 16, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Assign all students into classes based upon their intelligence and there would not be a need for fake Gifted children programs.

If educational writers would stop speaking about Gifted Children and instead write about the insanity of simply placing children in classes without any regard to demonstrated skills and intelligence there actually might be a chance of creating a better public school system for all children.
I am still waiting for comment from Mr. Jay Mathews on this approach to education in this country.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 16, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack's suggestion, tracking students according to ability level, currently has limited support among educators except in certain circumstances. For example at elementary level students may be divided into levels for reading groups and math groups. At secondary there is de facto tracking with honors classes, AP courses, etc.

Having classes of students with mixed abilities is seen to have value in that higher achievers model higher levels of learning for lower achievers. However high achievers also need an adequate peer group in classes to meet their learning and social needs. Teachers can provide differentiated instruction to classes of mixed abilities as long as the differences are not too great.

Districts are often confined by their size in what they can offer. If the district enrollment is large enough there may be a large enough pool of gifted students to offer separate classes. If not then students might need to be pulled out from several buildings and transportation becomes an issue. Low income parents are less likely to allow their students to participate in such programs. Pull out programs also bring on criticisms of elitism.

Very gifted students also may have behavioral and social issues which are not addressed simply by accelerated learning environments.

Issues of educating the gifted are complex and most districts have probably wrestled with them. However in these times of limited resources schools do not have the funds to address them and the priority is low. The squeaky wheels are the graduation rate, the achievement gaps, the low math scores, not the bright bored kid getting all A's or the quiet unmotivated one doing just enough to get by.

Posted by: speakuplouder | October 16, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

In response to speakuplouder

One is more likely to get classes where the differences in abilities are not so great if a simple method is used based upon testing to determine class placement.

90 students and 3 classes of the next grade.

The first 30 highest scores go to one class, etc.

Children should not be used as unpaid teachers of lower performing children and this is not a valid reason to mix children of different skill levels in classrooms. If the argument of using children as unpaid mentors of lower performing children is correct then there should be no special classes for the children that are "gifted" since these children are the best source of unpaid mentors.

Placing children in classrooms based upon their ability is fair and also is the best means of having teachers teach to the level of the class.

Yes this will not work in small school districts but we are passed the day of one room school houses. If there are two classes for a grade then class composition should be based up test scores.

When NCLB came into effect I wrote to Jay Mathews of the danger of rote testing on the proficient and advanced students.

It is not only the brightest students that are bored since the proficient students are also bored in a teaching environment where the only concern is to lower the number of student who fail the basic level. These proficient students probably could graduate but probably will fail because of the current environment.

Class assignment based upon demonstrated ability is fair and produces the best results when there is a limited amount of resources. Teachers are not miracle workers and teachers can be the most effective in classes where children are of the same level. Children in the second highest level have the opportunity to rise to the highest level.

Right now there is no opportunity in the public school system for children to move to a higher level and the tendency is for children to move to a lower level the longer they are in the school system. Many children start with ability and are defeated by a system that ignores that ability by not placing children in classes based upon ability.

School systems have to treat children as individuals and not as instruments to equalize the injustices of life or society.

Placement in classes by demonstrated ability is fair to all.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 16, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack- I agree high achieving students should not be used to mentor low performing students. To be fair a mix of abilities should benefit everyone.

Our district has schools so small there are indeed only one classroom per grade and sometimes two grades per classroom and teacher. Dividing students into leveled groups for different subjects makes sense because not all students excel in all subjects, even gifted students. Also students may accelerate their learning and move up a level or may be having a difficult time in their life and need more help at another level, so the grouping needs to be flexible.

Students who test high in the early grades, especially early readers, may be high achievers but are not necessarily in the gifted range when tested in the 3rd or 4th grade. Some educators recommend that students not even be tested for giftedness until at least the second grade.

Posted by: speakuplouder | October 16, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: speakuplouder

Sounds like you have a decent school system.

Unfortunately the problem school systems. Classrooms composed by using testing scores would work.

All this attention on "Gifted Children" just disguises the fact that nothing is done for the average student who would benefit from a decent education.

Schools are dominated by politics. Must show lip service about the "Gifted" and the ones that fail. No real concern for the ones in between.

Very tired of this "Gifted" designation. Means nothing unless child does have a gift or talent for music, mathematics, etc. In most cases people just mean intelligence. Gifted is really special and there is probably a different of brain cells. It is interesting that an individual can be gifted and not intelligent. No real evidence that Mozart was a great thinker.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 16, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad this conversation is continuing! There are so many attendant issues......

One issue speaks to not only "giftedness", but looking at the strengths of each child. I am convinced that if every child had the opportunity to take classes predominately in the area of his/her interests and strengths, we would have far fewer dropouts and trouble-makers. Of course,that means far more individualization than our test-taking, lock-step, efficient and cost-saving mentality will support.

If we are to truly innovate as a nation, and ultimately become a happier nation, encouraging and allowing students to pursue and develop their talents (along with acquiring necessary life skills) is crucial.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 17, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

f we are to truly innovate as a nation, and ultimately become a happier nation, encouraging and allowing students to pursue and develop their talents (along with acquiring necessary life skills) is crucial.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large
The focus on the "gifted" only distracts from the disaster of the public school system created by a totally irrational policy regarding public education.

The current educational policy is to use testing to supposedly measure how well teachers "teach". The entire focus of education is to lessen the failure rates. The only method for teachers to accomplish this objective is for teachers to continuously repeat "teaching" lessons and drills in basic skills. This is the same methods that a dog "teacher" uses to "teach" a dog.

Originally testing was used to measure how well children learn. This is totally different from a system where testing is used to measure how well a teachers "teaches".

The focus of the educational policy has to be on children learning and not teachers teaching. Every child is different and not similar raw material on an assembly line being processed by a worker teacher.

The current educational policy of this country is a disaster. Programs for the "gifted" may save these children from the chaos and damage of this totally flawed public school system but it only distracts from the fact that millions of children are trapped in a totally flawed and ineffective system.

The educational policy of a nation has to be formulated by thought and educators and not simply the quick flawed fix of politicians. The current educational policy of our nation is simply the quick flawed fix of politicians.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 17, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I am the Mother of three now adult children, and so far a one time Grandmother. They were all educated in a relatively small town in CT. The older two were identified as gifted, and my middle child had a 29 percent discrepancy in his iq test and had an iep that was never followed. The homework policies became increasingly punitive with each child, and the youngest although early accepted at a competitive college had major homework issues her third quarter of senior year. My spin is that public education needs to accomodate individual as well as herd needs. Colleges and universities tend to be more nurturing and clearer in expectations than High Schools, which I perceive to be a damning indictment of the state of public education in this country. Gifted children shoudl have as many rights as those who are cognitively impaired. And that just is not true today nor has it ever been in my opinion.

Posted by: thefam | October 17, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

That is one of the worst article titles I have come across in a while: The Pros and Cons of Squelching Gifted Students. Is there a pro? OF COURSE NOT!! No one wants to squelch anyone.

I talk to students everyday about their school life and one of the most common threads that run through their concerns is the differenet types of teachers at our school.

Some are easy, some are hard, some are lazy, some are dedicated. Isn't that what life is?

The studnets all tell me their horror stories in other classes about not covering enough, going too fast, no discipline, too much discipline, etc.

The students realize that if it is to be, then it is up to them. The students have to find a way to deal with everything they have and when they make it to graduation and the school of their choice, then you really have a giften stduent. I have students that get admitted to Ivy league schools every year and what I find that they all have is a passion to learn, no matter the obstacle: teacher, school, principal, system. They succeed by allowing no one to get in tehir way and they know that.

If you read a book such as Becoming a Master Student, the onus falls on the student to succeed. It is how they handle obstacles. It is how they deal with the pressures of being a student. Students succeed in the worst enviornments. I read about that every day on-line. Are you going to hold their hand in college? Are you going to coddle them with demanding college professors who accpet nothing late?

When I taught in Japan, I taught in one of the worst pressure-cooker schools where stduents were dismayed, felt abandoned, felt marginalized by the worst school sytem imaginable. Many of my stduents went to the best American colleges. Even under a squelching sytem of authoritaive management, they found a way. So can this student.

Posted by: ericpollock | October 17, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Focus should consider creativity of gifted students. Creativity involves generating many ideas (fluency), many categories of ideas (flexibility), elaboration (adding details), originality (novel new ideas), resistance to premature closure (keep an open mind), tolerate ambiguity, and risk taking. Learning environments for creative gifted students must accommodate, not squelch, these traits.

Fredricka Reisman, Ph.D.
Founder, Drexel University School of Education
Director, Drexel/Torrance Center for Creativity and Innovation
Co author with E.Paul Torrance - Learning Mathematics Creatively

Posted by: freddiereisman | October 18, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Focus should consider creativity of gifted students. Creativity involves generating many ideas (fluency), many categories of ideas (flexibility), elaboration (adding details), originality (novel new ideas), resistance to premature closure (keep an open mind), tolerate ambiguity, and risk taking. Learning environments for creative gifted students must accommodate, not squelch, these traits.

Fredricka Reisman, Ph.D.
Founder, Drexel University School of Education
Director, Drexel/Torrance Center for Creativity and Innovation
Co author with E.Paul Torrance - Learning Mathematics Creatively

Posted by: freddiereisman
One tires of the lip service to "gifted students" when the educational policies of this nation are based upon the absurd idea that "test them until they are dead" will increase learning.

"Creativity involves generating many ideas (fluency), many categories of ideas (flexibility), elaboration (adding details), originality (novel new ideas), resistance to premature closure (keep an open mind), tolerate ambiguity, and risk taking."

It appears that educators have totally ignored all of the above in regard to accepting and remaining silent about a public educational policy in this nation that is equivalent to the same technique as training dogs.

Perhaps the "gifted students" will in 20 years become educators and there might finally be a sane public educational policy in this nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 18, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

My son is 26 now. He was reading at age 3, doing college math at age 11. Yet, in spite of his elevated IQ, he failed college his first try. If he had been challenged early on in his education he might have learned good study skills and that success comes from hard work, not just the smarts he was born with. Every too-easy assignment taught him that he didn't have to do much to get by and when he finally did have to work to learn something, he went into a nose dive feeling he was dumb because things didn't come easily. The other kids had to learn to work hard and be challenged at their achievement level, but not the gifted kids. Perhaps some of it is due to inherent jealousy by parents, teachers and administrators, but the system doesn't accommodate accelerated gifted kids' rate of learning. Skipping a grade or taking an advanced class is of limited use if the class then only plods along at the pace set by the regular students. So what if a student is one or two grades ahead of age peers if his/her learning is still outpacing the new cohort? TAG kids are not all self-motivated or mature, and need the push that the school environment (and life)offers.

Posted by: t2msbdum | October 18, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

...does our educational system sort children by age and not ability? we teach subjects separately and only for 40 minutes each day? we make students repeat material they have already mastered? we teach the subjects we teach? (Why is algebra taught before personal finance?)

...don't we value learning a trade in school anymore? we think a high school diploma is necessary to get into college?

The "whole system" needs rethinking. What do we value and want to teach our young? That's where we need to start.

Posted by: darleensun | October 18, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for Pete's sake.

Follow the money.

Requiring a kid to sit through a class for which he has already demonstrated mastery, is not about preserving the integrity of the diploma, and definitely not about fostering the student's intellectual development.

It's about keeping that butt in a seat to collect the per capita per day funding for the school.

Kids who skip through school bring in less money (and of course, cost less) than kids who sit there for all 13 years.

Yes, learning to tolerate a certain amount of drudgery is an important coping skill. But do we REALLY we want to socialize our kids to tolerate hours of time spent in utterly unproductive ways?

We have more ways than ever to bring appropriate, meaningful learning to kids whose needs are different from those in the mainstream. Need that butt in the seat? How about organizing distance learning through the local (or a far away) college?

Posted by: vbock | October 20, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Idiocy like this school's is what drives many parents to homeschooling, plenty of whom previously had deep commitment to public education. The point of being in school is supposed to be education - learning. If someone has already learned the subject matter, why not let them move on to something new? And if there isn't anything more for the high school to teach them, why not let them graduate and move on?

Posted by: mwma | October 20, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

mwma is correct. My wife and I both have doctorates. I am an university prof. who works closely with high school AP teachers.


We are strongly considering homeschooling our son who is now 2.

We are not too keen on the idea of parting with thousands of dollars each year for private school. Nor are we terribly impressed with even the top-fight public schools in our area. What to do....

Posted by: professor70 | October 21, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

MWMA and professor70:

We homeschooled our children until high school. One works internationally in a position more fitting for one twice his age, two are in grad school (in the sciences), and one still in undergrad. This is certain. Homeschooling gave them the opportunity learn to think and analyze. They were allowed to finish a thought! They were afforded the opportunites to delve deeply into subjects and consider causes/effects/ramifications of matters. They learned much from biographies of great men and women. Upon entering HS, they were quickly struck with the reality of the typical style of education, often dull and spotty and a waste of time. They made (make) excellent grades in HS and college. However, they were often astonished at how their fellow students lack curiosity. Get the grade and go on could be the motto for the masses.

Homeschooling is hard work, but the rewards are great. Many communities have quite active homeschool group activities, field trips, etc. Frequent trips to libraries were a pleasure for us. By the way, I never gave them tests tho' I was keenly aware of how they were doing since I did grade their daily work and kept up with their research projects and essays.

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 21, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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