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Test Me, Test Me

Be warned: This is a bit of a rant.

I met with my daughter's first-grade teacher a couple of weeks ago to follow up on her progress report from the second quarter grading period. Her grades were fine and she had shown some improvement in some areas.

Mostly I wanted to know how she was tracking on the more challenging material that would best help her to prepare for next year's Fairfax County Gifted and Talented (GT) assessment exam.

All right, I can hear the groans. Let me go on the record and swear that I'm not a hyper-achieving parent who wants to start filling out my little girl's application for Harvard while she's in first grade. But I do want to make sure she's being challenged academically and meeting her potential.

My daughter is doing fairly well, I was told. I also wanted to know how much emphasis was given to first grade transcripts in the GT application process. Not very much, I was informed. "It's the test that counts," I heard at the parent-teacher meeting and in October at a seminar on Fairfax's GT programs.

In October, I learned that the GT exam, given to second-grade students each March, would assess aptitude and determine eligibility for GT programs at elementary magnet centers for grades three through six. The test impacts middle school honors programs for grades seven and eight, too.

If an applicant doesn't make the cut on the exam, parents can appeal for special dispensation, but it's highly unlikely the student will be accepted to the GT center. In other words, the second-grader, for years to come, will be SOL, and that's not a reference to Standards of Learning.

To me this screams out that we've become way too test-happy. Why put so much weight on what is essentially a do-or-die test, giving it such profound impact on a student's opportunity. For second-graders? Seriously? What if the kid's sick, or scared, or just doesn't test well -- again, in second grade?!? Does that sound like the right model, or maybe just bureaucratically the simplest?

When it comes time to determine high-school eligibility for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs, how much do you want to bet that the students who've been doing GT work in elementary and middle schools make up the majority of the students who're found eligible for the high school programs? No, duh?

The situation is not endemic to Fairfax County. I've checked Web sites for other systems in the immediate D.C. metropolitan region. Montgomery County's third-grade admission's process for its Highly Gifted Centers is "very competitive," according to its Web site. In Prince George's County, screening for the elementary Talented and Gifted program is done in grades one and three. In D.C ... well, the new administration seems intent on revitalizing all aspects of a long-neglected system.

Don't get me wrong, I think early assessment is a good thing; but what's being disregarded is that some students who have a boatload of potential don't necessarily exhibit it so early in their academic "careers" -- or maybe not through such traditional methods as standardized testing?

I realize it's not necessary to be designated GT to get an excellent education in Fairfax County or elsewhere. Make no mistake, I'm grateful that my family is fortunate to live in a school district that has an embarrassment of riches compared with many others in the region and across the nation.

I further understand that some students might not have the aptitude for the GT programs. Back in the '70s, when I went to grade school and junior high, such students were pushed toward home economics and shop classes. While there's not a thing wrong with such worthy pursuits, shouldn't our public education systems have risen above pigeon-holing students at early ages?

Today, to my mind, there's way too much emphasis on teaching to the Standards of Learning tests to ensure the federal funding keeps a-flowing in. What I mostly fear in the current system, is if my daughter doesn't make the cut -- in second grade -- she'll be relegated to the diploma mill.

It sure would be nice to set a higher bar on educational goals for all students, and reassess their aptitude and potential for more challenging work, at the very least every other year. Strike that; it should be required, not "nice." In Fairfax County, shouldn't other factors besides tests -- work they've done, along with merit and extracurricular awards -- be given more weight, especially teacher recommendations?

Is there a better model in your school system, perhaps one in which students' aptitude for more challenging work is reassessed year by year? More to the core (okay, pun intended), what about ways to challenge students who aren't in the GT program? Shouldn't school systems be more concerned with helping all students achieve their individual potential -- even if they haven't been singled out early for advanced studies?

By Mike Snyder |  March 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
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Comments


I'm in a Central VA school system. We have a GT school for 3rd-5th graders. My girls are in it and I absolutely love it. They had a series of 3 tests (Naglieri in 1st, Otis-Lenon in 2nd - now it's the Stanford) and then a teacher's report and I think a basic compilation of their grades. So all of these scores are tallied for a total. You must get a certain total to be even considered for the school, and there are slots from each school district, so there is a bit of diversity.

If a child doesn't test well, they do not get into the GT school, but if they test fairly well and are otherwise bright, they do. The system works as well as it can. Most of the kids who get into the school are ready for the challenge. But if you can't get a relatively decent score on a test, you probably just don't belong there. Note I said PROBABLY! There are always exceptions, but children who consistently don't do well on testing most likely stress about it and wouldn't do as well in a high-stress school, right?

But to answer your question, one test is NOT indicative of who should be on a GT track. If you are concerned about your daughter, see if you can get her tagged as GT early. My son was (it is a trial in the VA school system to do this!!) so he could qualify for some early learning. He was doing 6th grade math in 1st grade. Without the tag, he'd have to be doing 3rd grade math at best.

I know the NoVA schools are way different and more challenging than the schools here. I think you are totally right to be concerned about your daughter. I already see problems with my 2nd grade son because he is never challenged. So the second he is challenged (he doesn't like to write), he won't do the work. So far, it happens rarely, but the further he goes, the more difficulties he will have because he is so used to everything coming easily to him. I don't want him to have HW in 2nd grade, but I do want him to have harder work than spelling "wives."

Posted by: Andrea | March 4, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

This is why we pay out the "bleeping" nose to send our kids to Montessori school. The public system has so many kids to accomodate, they can't possibly ensure that individual kids are getting all of their needs met. It is my opinion that in the public system, kids at the far ends of the spectrum (very challenged and very gifted) are well accomdated, the rest get a standard set of instructions.

Posted by: Moxiemom | March 4, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm curious about the GT program in Arlington. It seems more "relaxed," for want of a better word. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I only have one school's perspective. There is no "testing" of small children. The teacher has to recommend a child for GT services in a particular area of strength. This can happen in any grade through the course of elementary school. Our daughter is pulled out occasionally with other kids for instruction, but she has to make up the class work she missed. What are other observations of Arlington's program? We're kind of new at it and are not entirely clear about it.

Posted by: Arlington Mom | March 4, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

those GT screening tests are simply another form of evaluating your child's IQ. As I understand it, one's cerebral horsepower potential is established at the moment of conception, doesn't change much throughout a lifetime, and can be accurately measure in early childhood. If your child doesn't pass the screening test, it's probably not a good idea to push him or her into the GT program. You'll be asking for a lot of headaches for both you and your child if you do.

So what if your child doesn't pass the GT test? the Fairfax County Public Schools are so chalked full of honors/advanced/AP classes that every student has the opportunity to take a test and pass out of the first year of college in English, History, Calculus, Spanish... (I don't know about chemistry, biology or physics, but I wouldn't put it passed them) Anyway, the FCPS system is anything BUT a diploma mill, and the educators do everything they can to encourage their students to take the highest level of courses as they can handle. Too much if you ask me.

BTW: my daughter took Advanced Geometry as a freshman, (against my better judgement), barely passed the class with a D, but scored with advanced proficiency on the SOL test. if you are worried that Fairfax County isn't providing a challanging enough curiculem for its students, or isn't dedicated to rooting your child to a solid academic foundation, you're ranting up the wrong tree!

And one last thought, if you don't think your child is being challanged to their full potential, you are the parent, you can teach them yourself, hire a tutor, or send them to a private school. Every aspect of your child's development doesn't need to be channeled through the public schools.

Posted by: DandyLion | March 4, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm exhausted already, if the first post is indicative of how the day is going I won't check back. It will be a day of bragging and overbearing parents.

Public Schools can not possibly teach each child seperatley, according to their needs. Elementary teachers are already overloaded, and with pushy parents of 1st graders, I can only assume they are annoyed too. If a child shows potential for a GT program via testing - great, if not, get over it. Not every kid is GT material. If your kid is a normal, mainstream learner and you want them to be pushed and exceed the norm, start supplementing their education at home. Don't expect the Public Schools to make your child a GT student when clearly they are not.

Parents, please calm down. Pushing your kid into a GT program, even if they don't belong there, is dangerous. Get off your kid's back and let them run around outside, read a book and become a well rounded CHILD, not a little adult.

Posted by: ridiculous | March 4, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

You need to take a deep breath and calm down. First off, it is not true that the test is the only thing that counts in FFX County. Whoever gave you that information is misinformed. I know plenty of kids in my son's GT class whose parents submitted a referral because their standardized test scores did not meet the cutoff (their parents told me). Obviously they were admitted, and they are doing quite well.

It is also not true that second grade is not the only year for GT evaluation. You can submit a referral every year after that if you want, so long as there is new "data" to support your application (e.g., new test scores, independent evaluations). Teachers can also submit referrals on a student's behalf. Again, there are a number of kids in my son's GT Center class who entered after the second grade testing process, including one who entered in 6th grade.

By the way, Fairfax County's GT Center program goes up to 8th grade (and not just 6th grade as your post implies).

AND the GT Centers are not the only way to get enrichment for your child. If your child is not accepted into the GTC, they may still nevertheless be found eligible for school-based gifted services. A number of my son's friends, for example, are in a compacted math class, which in the upper gradescompresses two years of math curriculum into one.

Posted by: Reader | March 4, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

"I'm exhausted already, if the first post is indicative of how the day is going I won't check back. It will be a day of bragging and overbearing parents."

What else is new? This blog's name should be changed to Parenting the G&T or Autistic Child!

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 4, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I am of two minds on this: one, every kid is gifted in their own way and with luck, the parents and child together will nurture that talent and allow it to flourish, preferably aided by educators, but it shouldn't matter if not; two, VERY FEW children are gifted the way their parents think they are, and VERY VERY VERY few are geniuses, thank God. Geniuses generally do not grow up to be happy, well adjusted adults. I'm not saying they're serial killers from the get-go, just that life is a harder row to hoe for them.

"They're No Baby Einsteins", a great article in Newsweek recently, talked about the phenomenon of all these parents thinking their children are gifted. Here's the link: http://www.newsweek.com/id/84554

Please read it, and think about it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 4, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Fairfax County schools do a terrible job with bright kids. The overreliance on the COGAT is crirminal. The COGAT has several problems as a measure of assessment. In short, kids who have seen it before or been coached will have a significant advantage. There are firms in Fairfax county that will coach your kid for the test, there are workbooks you can buy that closely resemble the test, there are probably even ways to get the actual test. Furthermore, it's possible for kids who are brilliant in one domain but not all to completely fail to be identified by the test. Kids who are both LD and Gifted can fail the test for a variety of reasons (i.e. your brilliant math/science kid with a touch of asperger's is going to be unable to interpolate the INTENT of the questioner, and therefore implicitly KNOW what the correct answer "should be") and kids who are at the upper end of the age bracket for administering the test have a significant advantage, for example.

But I think the most alarming part of Fairfax's strategy is that all the resources are thrown at kids who are identified as top five percent as a result of the test -- but a kid who's top six percent or seven percent or so forth gets NOTHING additional, for the rest of his or her years in school. So the kids who don't pass the test but are still reading three or four years above grade level, doing math one or two years above grade level get nothing in elementary school. And if a parent asks why THEIR child is bored or unhappy, they're told "well, it's not like they're gifted or anything."

We are now in a school system now that mandates differentiated instruction in EVERY classroom. In addition, the school system accepts a variety of different assessments (including both IQ-type tests and achievement tests) for entrance into a variety of GT programs and magnet schools. Personally, I think the problem with FCPS is that it's just too big and bureaucratic. How can a school system that's four times larger than the city that I grew up in possibly be able to know or understand my child? That's just ludicrous.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I pity the poor schools who have to cope with all these parents who think their little Johnny MUST be gifted. Not all of them are and a standardized test is a good way to weed them out. A standardized test also gives opportunities to those kids whose parents are working too hard just trying to survive to push and push for their offspring.

Posted by: momoftwo | March 4, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

When we moved to Fairfax county, my son along with some other new kids in 2nd grade came from systems with no standardized tests.. He did horribly on the gt test as did his best friend from South Africa. There was heartbreak as friends were seperated and, mainly for girls (boys don't seem to pick up on differences), a sense of failure in 3rd grade when the a bunch of kids left and went to the GT progam.

GT is a real anxiety producer for parents in the metro area and is based on the concept that a 7 year old shows the potential to be gifted in everything via the power of a standardized test.

Fast forward 9 years and pretty much the kids in our neighborhood who displayed curiosity, creativity and good social skills at age 7 (whether or not they tested into GT) are doing very well academically and seem well adjusted 16 year olds. Some of the "regular" kids went to TJ some of the GT didn't. All of the kids seem to be doing interesting things in high school and will be fine in college and probably life. I credit our fine families, neighbors and teachers (GT or not) with producing some nice and well educated youngsters. Just enjoy them and they will be fine.

Posted by: samclare | March 4, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

AAAAHHHHH! Not "impact" as a verb again!! Please don't copy the politician's jargon-y way of speaking. Just use "affect". Why do people not like "affect"? Is it just too simple? Always go with the simplest word that conveys the perfect meaning.

Posted by: Ryan | March 4, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

On average Fairfax county is a pretty decent school system for the amount of kids that they are responsible for. Public schools do not have the money to provide individual instruction to all children. If you want that for your child, search out a private school or consider home schooling. But if you look at the college statistics (% of graduating students who go to tier I, II, III, community college, trade school, no further education) Fairfax county fares pretty well. Not every child will be GT. Newsflash, most successful professional adults are neither gifted nor talented either. I think people are putting way too much emphasis on GT. I mean seriously, you can do fairly well going to even a Tier III school or starting your education out at a community college and transfering to your run of the mill 4 year state school. Not every kid, GT or not, is meant to go to Harvard. If you don't have the money to choose private school, consider supplementing your child's education at home. Seriously, most of the adults that I work with (upper middle class -wealthy two income professional families) were NOT in a GT type program and they have done quite well. The average person(student) makes up the mass of American work force. Truly GT people are probably less then 10% of the population. They are not seriously what it should be all about.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Good catch. Noted and thanks, Ryan.

Posted by: Mike | March 4, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's that we've "become" to dependent on standardized tests; aptitude exams for placing even very young students in gifted and talented programs have been very common for many years.

I know because I am 33 and still remember not "making the cut" because my scores on a spatial-relations exam were too low when I was 6. So the system you're annoyed with isn't part of a new testing trend; it's been around at least 27 years!

Posted by: AdMo | March 4, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Just a factual comment. Don't know about AP, but in Fairfax, IB is a self-selection program. The program at my child's school says explicitly that the qualification for IB is the student's willingness to work hard and take the program seriously. There is no screening. So relax. Another point: I have friends whose children have dropped out of Fairfax GT because it was too stressful, especially on the homework front. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to join the rat race at the age of 9.

Posted by: lurker | March 4, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Falls Church City evaluates children each year for their TAAP (The Academically Adavanced Program). It's tests, calss performance and parent and teacher observations. The program is a pull out that's meant to give some kids more of challenge in various areas. I have to agree though with others that worry too much about this. Teachers cannot do everything. They are paid a pittance for the hours they put in.

Posted by: rrh | March 4, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the others who have said that people are putting too much emphasis on GT programs, especially for such young children!
Although I was in GT in elementary school, it only consisted of having a different elective period. So for the most part I was not challenged. In fact, I wasn't really challenged in high school either. Yet, I am attending a good law school today. Along with people from a lot of different backgrounds and routes to get here.
But I have to warn you, standardized tests are a reality you have to face. At every stage of the game they will be a big part of where you go to school.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"Some of the "regular" kids went to TJ some of the GT didn't."

One of the best comments to remember - just because they don't make the cut for this program doesn't mean they are destined to spend thier lives asking "do you want fries with that?"

Second you don't know how your child will do - this is a test next year, your child may surprise you.

Third they have pull out at all levels, honors at middle school and if you read Matthews challenge index you will realize that many of the AP classes are available to all. In Fairfax your child will get a good education, if nothing else because you will make sure. I don't imagine if your child doesn't make GT that you are going to say OK you can fail all your classes and just watch TV and not read - you probably are going to insist on good grades, continuing reading to/with them, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

FWIW, Howard County has no "GT Centers"; GT education is integrated into each school. Entrance to GT in each subject is determined by a combination of testing, grades, teacher recommendations and parental desire. Hint: parental desire generally overrides all other considerations; a few years ago it was let out that 32% of HoCo students were taking at least one GT class. (Draw your own conclusions.)

GT can also be entered or dropped at each grade level, although entering at higher grades means more catch-up work must be done earlier in the year.

The drawback? More helicopter parents; more stress for the teachers. There's an interesting article in today's Baltimore Sun. Over 60% of Howard County public school teachers report being harassed by parents in the past school year. Gee, I wonder why? Might it be because little Johnny or little Janie isn't in GT; or is in GT and isn't doing well and of course it's the teacher's fault?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong with "impact?" It's a valid verb -- who says "affect" is any more appropriate?

Posted by: chausti | March 4, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Geniuses generally do not grow up to be happy, well adjusted adults. I'm not saying they're serial killers from the get-go, just that life is a harder row to hoe for them.

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BULL. Nothing is harder than ignorance and poverty. Your mindset is 180 degrees flipped. Geniuses aren't happy? I manage a bunch of PhDs and trust me, they can afford better houses in better neighborhoods with better cars than I can.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Ok, parents. Calm down. Let me give you some perspective. I remember what it was like for ME in elementary school when they gave the test- I heard the word "test" and froze up like an ice cube. I remember my mom saying- well what do we do with a girl who is using ten and twelve letter vocabulary words, reading at a sixth grade level and doing above-grade level math?

What I remember after that was my parents buying me activity books; encouraging (but never forcing) me to read anything and everything; taking me to museums; buying me a viola when I expressed interest in playing.

One year later, I was moved up to the advanced english/reading group, two years later I was moved to the advanced math group and in eighth grade I was put in honors for both. My parents had nothing to do with it. It was all done through teacher referrals.

So, to all of you, if your child is learning at a higher grade level or needs to be challenged, all hope is not lost in second grade. And remember one other thing that I think we all forget: whether your child is in the gifted program or not is NOT a mark of future success. I know students from my hometown who were in the gifted program, in the honors program, AP, graduated at the top of the class and then dropped out of college and have terrible-paying jobs now. The most important thing is to have parents that encourage learning and growth and foster an environment where children can pick up study skills. Those are the most important indicators of success in the future.

Posted by: Anon | March 4, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

So the system you're annoyed with isn't part of a new testing trend; it's been around at least 27 years!
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I remember taking this kind of test, and of course making GAT, in 1975. That's 33 years ago. But back then GAT didn't mean the same, we just got into the "good" reading groups and math groups, but I hated the "good" math teacher and moved back in with the regular math class. Everyone was mainstreamed and only the real hard cases ended up in remedial classes and no one wanted to go to the "magnet" school out of boundary.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

My daughter does well in school. She did well on portions of the Cogat, which is shorthand for Cognitive APTITUDE Test. It measures not what a child has already learned, but the child's potential for learning. My daughter scored well enough to qualify for school based GT, but not well enough for center based, which means that she gets GT services in her neighborhood elementary school, the one she goes to because of where we live. She doesn't qualify to be bussed at taxpayer expense to a school several miles away. Big whoop--I wouldn't have sent her there if she did qualify. She is in a reading group based on her reading ability. In her grade, each teacher takes a group of children for math instruction based on math aptitude, so she gets extra challenge based on that. She learns to work with all people, regardless of ability level.

I provide extra stimulation--we make sure there are plenty of opportunities to read, and plenty of appropriate choices of reading material. She takes piano lessons. We go on fun educational trips--she loves the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, and we go to many interesting places on trips. She sold over 200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, which provided practical math experience as well as giving her experience in dealing with a variety of human beings--from the person who didn't speak English, but bought cookies anyway to the person who, when asked if he wanted to buy a box to send to the soldiers said in his gruffest voice, "no, I don't want to send a box to the soldiers! I was a soldier--nobody ever sent cookies to me!" These experiences teach her how to work with people who are different from her. They take her out of her comfort zone, because she is a bit introverted.

Federal law requires that all children are provided a free and appropriate public education. I am confident that my child's teachers are providing that to her.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

So, 09:58, having a better house in a better neighbor with better cars guarantees happiness? Wow! How... shallow.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

In MoCo, GT is not the only 'advanced' program. Not getting into GT doesn't mean your kids are all lumped together, learning the same things at the same rate.

Also, getting into GT in MoCo is not just about the test. There are teacher recommendations, and parent input as well. It is very competitive. The GT program is based at our home school, but includes kids from 5 different HS clusters - which could be upwards of 10 elementary schools. And there are about 75 spots available. So, no not everyone will get in.

But, in addition to GT (which is grades 3-5), there are other classes available. Classes above grade level are available, kids take 4th grade math or reading in 3rd grade. There is the 'on track' class, and the 'on track' with supplemental help.

Also, starting in middle school, the process starts over. GT kids are not guaranteed a spot in the GT MS program. It's open to everyone. But, it is very competitive - take the GT 75 kids from each of approximately 2 or 3 GT programs, plus the additional kids outside the program who have been recommended by teachers, and kids who were not recommended but want to apply anyway. That a lot of kids, and only 50 spots available to Math curriculum, and 50 spots to Humanities.

But, the middle schools also have there own advancement track - depending on the kids' abilities. Going into 6th grade, there are 5 different math classes available, each with a 'track', and the ability to 'jump' tracks, if necessary.

So, I guess my long winded opinion is: No, GT is not the end-all. In fact it has many downsides. There are so many opportunities for kids of all learning levels.

Also, the test is, in my opinion, an important part of the process. If your kid doesn't test well, get's stressed out, etc, then really, GT is not for him, even if he is brilliant. He will do better in a less competitive environment, in one of the other learning options available.

Posted by: prarie dog | March 4, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

LOL, anon at 9:58, whoever said PhDs are all geniuses????

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 4, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The average IQ of a PhD is only slightly above normal (100-110). Getting a PhD has a lot to do with stamina, dedication, goal orientation, and exposure. Studies have shown that the lifetime earning potential from ivy league graduates is actually not statistically higher then 4 year state school graduates. Academic success and professional success do not exactly go hand in had. It is something called the survival curve. After a certain point, more education doesn't translate to more money. Even putting that aside, more money doesn't mean more happiness or personal success. Personal success is a whole different bag. I would think most parents want their kids to be happy, good citizens, and basically middle class.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone looked at what we expect from our younger (elem and middle) children these days? Of course we think our children are gifted when the hardest work they bring home is how to spell "cupcake" and the expectations the teachers have is low. They can barely write a paragraph and no one even expects them to do so! Who wouldn't think their child is better than that? They should!

And all of you parents in the DC area - you most likely do have gifted children. Certainly more so than the rest of the country. I live in a small town and doing math one grade level ahead is considered gifted. If you can do anything else better, too bad for you. You must stick with the SOLs and they are very poor example of knowledge and talent.

Posted by: Andrea | March 4, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"But I think the most alarming part of Fairfax's strategy is that all the resources are thrown at kids who are identified as top five percent as a result of the test -- but a kid who's top six percent or seven percent or so forth gets NOTHING additional, for the rest of his or her years in school."

This is what I think you should do if your precious tests at the 6% level: Call the Police. This is an obvious crime against your child, I mean, really, who do they THINK they are? Discriminating against precious this way?

Do you realize how silly you sound? Do you want the gov't schools to providing individual cradle to grave instruction and learning for your child? Education starts at home, if precious is a 6%er and needs a little extra stimulation, put your parenting hat on and stimulate the poor kid. Your alternatives are private schools, tutoring, enrichment classes outside school, OR leave the poor kid alone and let them be a kid.

Chitty, I follow this autism and bragadocious blog and it is nauseating. I couldn't take it anymore, I am constantly amazed at the parents on here.

Posted by: ridiculous | March 4, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Another success story - I found out this weekend that my friend's son, who will graduate from the Frederick County School system this spring, has been accepted to the honors program at Maryland. This student was not in the 3rd grade GT track. Kids do succeed without it!

Posted by: prarie dog | March 4, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

GT is just a label ... it doesn't change anything about your child. In fact, I rather suspect that labeling children as GT is a political move that encourages prestige-oriented parents to remain in the public school systems rather than go to private schools. Consider what percentage of students are actually gifted versus the percentage of students placed in that category. Enrichment benefits ALL children, so reading books to them, taking them to museums and to interesting travel spots, limiting television and electronic games, and so forth, should be provided to all children at least to some degree. If this is achieved via a GT program, great. But modeling curiosity and learning at home is still number one!

Posted by: Virginia Mom | March 4, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

For those who are curious, I blog about school, homeschooling and giftedness--with a MoCo slant--at http://themorechild.wordpress.com/

Posted by: SwitchedOnMom | March 4, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Andrea, You must be correct when you say that NoVa is way different and more challenging. I am in MoCo, and feel that is why getting into GT in this area is not the most important goal. There are so many more opportunities. At least that is my experience.

Posted by: prarie dog | March 4, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

In my own experience, a child's public school education depends more on the teacher than on the program. We've had teachers in the "regualar" program who have broken the class into ability or interest based learning groups and provided plenty of challenge, and we've unfortunately had a GT center teacher who repeatedly showed full length Disney movies in class, then sent home tons of homework without teaching the kids how to do any of it. The best way to ensure your child's education is to stay involved.

Posted by: momof3 | March 4, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Do you want the gov't schools to providing individual cradle to grave instruction and learning for your child?
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Just think about how more competitive our industries would be against foreign companies if we provided education like that? We'd probably make so much money that it wouldn't take two-earners for a family to scrape by.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Do you want the gov't schools to providing individual cradle to grave instruction and learning for your child?
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Just think about how more competitive our industries would be against foreign companies if we provided education like that? We'd probably make so much money that it wouldn't take two-earners for a family to scrape by.

Posted by: | March 4, 2008 11:31 AM

Surely you are jesting. Are you advocating a nanny state? Social engineering by the state, shared responsibility, class warfare. It scares me that people think this way, that the gov't can educate and raise your child better than you.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Do you want the gov't schools to providing individual cradle to grave instruction and learning for your child?
----

Just think about how more competitive our industries would be against foreign companies if we provided education like that? We'd probably make so much money that it wouldn't take two-earners for a family to scrape by.

Posted by: | March 4, 2008 11:31 AM

Cause that would be totally free, no extra burden on the taxpayers. I suspect that once the taxes to fund such a program were deducted from your super high salaries, you'd still need 2 earners to scrape by. Good plan.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

After being labeled "talented and gifted" as a third grader in Prince George's County (years ago - if that matters) I BEGGED my parents to let me out of it and just do "regular work" with the "regular kids." There was a bit of a screw-up when I got to middle school to get me in the right classes because my parents did what I asked and took me out. I'm now an attorney at a lovely firm on K Street. People - your kids will do fine. Consider the pressure of the label before you push to have them in all of these special programs. They will find their way.

Posted by: rsta | March 4, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

the flip side of the howard county model is that the kids at the high end do get shorted. and not starting their official GT program until 4th or 6th grade is too late. So you can listen to how your first grader scored a 90% on the pretest of the second semester of 2nd grade math, but they then have to go and do a year of 2nd grade math. I don't hope my child is a genius, I just hope he won't drop out at 16 because he doesn't see any purpose in school when he can teach himself much more.

Posted by: ananymous | March 4, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

As a former GT student -

Lighten up. Sure you want your child challenged - who doesn't? But I don't remember my GT experience being about huge challenges. It was more about following my interests.

So if you're that concerned and she doesn't get in? Well, you're living in the DC area. Museums aplenty. Cultural attractions aplenty. Get yourself a SmarTrip card if you don't have one already and let your daughter find her interests and encourage her to follow them in her free time.

Because when she gets into the workplace, it's not like there's a GT track. You have to learn how to follow your interests and challenge yourself in free time.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 4, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Anon's 10:03, well said. Parents need to dial it down a bit.

Sorry for a bit of counter-rant.

Mike S.> "Let me go on the record and swear that I'm not a hyper-achieving parent who wants to start filling out my little girl's application for Harvard while she's in first grade."

Let the record reflect that the rest of the article demonstrates otherwise.

>My daughter is doing fairly well, I was told. I also wanted to know how much emphasis was given to first grade transcripts in the GT application process.

So the author's daughter is doing "fairly well". Seriously, good for her, but does anyone think that a top five percent performer does not fairly naturally stand out in terms of quickly grasping concepts?

>What if the kid's sick, or scared, or just doesn't test well.

One interpretation is that the author is already making excuses.

>In other words, the second-grader, for years to come, will be SOL.

SOL (offensive enough) in this context is later described as being "relegated to the diploma mill".

The "SOL" and the "diploma mill" comments showed that this was beyond active parenting, IMHO. Maybe the tragedy of being kept in the mainstream could be offset by actually having some time to do extra-curricular activities.

Posted by: Sometimes lurker | March 4, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

GT is just a label ... it doesn't change anything about your child. In fact, I rather suspect that labeling children as GT is a political move that encourages prestige-oriented parents to remain in the public school systems rather than go to private schools.
-----------------
Posted by: Virginia Mom | March 4, 2008 10:26 AM
You are absolutely correct!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"the flip side of the howard county model is that the kids at the high end do get shorted. and not starting their official GT program until 4th or 6th grade is too late."

I'm just speechless.

My kids went through the Howard County School system and received a fine education even though they didn't get into the official GT program. Children are pulled out of their regular classes and placed in "enrichment opportunities" based on teacher recommendation even if they are not in GT.

One of my daughters is currently in college. She went through Howard County schools with two GT girls who took a completely different track. One got involved in drugs and dropped out of high school. Fortunately, she is turning herself around, got a GED and is attending community college. The second girl "fell in love", moved out with her boyfriend as soon as she turned 18 and did not graduate.
These girls are both extremely bright, but that doesn't guarantee anything. An odd coincidence is the mothers of both girls are teachers.

I saw parents who hired tutors for their children who were struggling in GT classes. Why not drop them down a notch? What are we teaching our children by acting as though there is something wrong with doing sixth grade work in the sixth grade?

We told our children that academic growth is like physical growth. Sometimes there is a spurt where you move ahead quickly and other times there is a plateau where you may be stuck for a while. What matters is making the best of your own abilities and crossing the finish line to successful adulthood. It's a marathon, not a sprint and it doesn't matter if you get there first or last as long as you get there.

Posted by: amazed | March 4, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

LOL at myself. I sure had quite a bit to say after stating that I was speechless.

Posted by: amazed | March 4, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree with moxiemom, and I went through Fx. Cty schools NOT in the GT program but my brother was GT- what a difference! He got the best teachers, extra programs, took exams in bluebooks to be ready for college; I had the classes where the teachers didn't notice the drug dealing and where the trouble-makers took over.

The best resources in Fx. Cty go to the best students (GT and TJ). I opted out with my children - they go to Catholic school which has little individualized ed but which holds all students AND teachers accountable.

I'd push my children into GT if they were in public schools.

Posted by: Amelia | March 4, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Count me as being aligned with "amazed" on this. Yes, I have known kids who were bored in GT classes in HoCo. They felt they were being held back. But those kids are very few and far between. And there are options for them - including graduating early instead of dropping out. I've known four kids who graduated at least a year early and took off for college - if they can handle it and it fits what they want in life, so much the better.

As far as it being too late to start an official GT program in 4th or 6th grade, I'll rely on what my sister told me. She's a teacher with more than 20 years of experience and multiple advanced degrees in the education of gifted children. She really understands this stuff. And her opinion is that only about one percent of the population could be considered "gifted" by any reasonable definition, so any place that has 32% of their students in G/T classes is just fooling itself and the parents. Second, when you have a truly "gifted" child, the right thing to do is provide opportunities for that child to excel in his/her specialty. For example, children who are truly "gifted" in music or arts often score very poorly in reading or math tests - are you really giving the "gifted" musician what she needs by having advanced math and science classes? And that can be done at any appropriate time; for some first grade is appropriate; for others much later on would be better.

I guess everyone just wants to live in a place where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average,"

Or everyone thinks they already do.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"I saw parents who hired tutors for their children who were struggling in GT classes. Why not drop them down a notch? What are we teaching our children by acting as though there is something wrong with doing sixth grade work in the sixth grade?"

If those parents would let them be sixth graders, that certainly would be a first step. I'm not for pushing either.

Posted by: ananymous | March 4, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

And her opinion is that only about one percent of the population could be considered "gifted" by any reasonable definition, so any place that has 32% of their students in G/T classes is just fooling itself and the parents.
------

Talk about misunderstanding statistics! Are you saying that where I grew up in Bethesda, where the majority of parents who were doctors and researchers at the NIH, that only 1% of the students were Gifted, the same amount as, let's say, urban Las Vegas, where the parents were dancers and busboys or rural towns where neither parent was educated past the 10th grade? I think you'll find that there are communities in DC where larger percentages of students do better on IQ tests, or are gifted, than other areas. Not only did I have an elementary school with a large percentage of GAT, but I also know these people run internet businesses, are lawyers, doctors and film directors, etc.

It's called living in an educated neighborhood. ;-)

Posted by: DCer | March 4, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

We so don't have to worry about this right now and I think I am thankful for that.

My step-son does not speak English as his first language as he grew up in a foreign country and just arrived in the US. Our first task is simply to get him up to speed on his alphabet, numbers and even vocabulary in English. If we could get him conversant in English before he leaves kindergarten, I would be ecstatic. It would be a wonderful luxury to be thinking about GT right now.

Perhaps On Parenting could discuss how to get kids to do their homework without a lot of argument? We seem to have to argue most nights to get our son to do the little bit of homework that kindergarten requires of him. We have thought about 'rewards' but my husband says he doesn't think that is a good idea. Why? He goes to the little daycare offered by the church while my husband takes English classes at night. I gather they give the kids a lollipop at the end of each night. Even though he had only been going just two weeks (so 4 classes), he pitched a fit when they didn't give out the expected lollipop at the end of the night. He feels giving rewards will simply result in us having to give more and more rewards for doing something that he should just be doing.


Posted by: Billie | March 4, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

At all the fairfax cty high schools I know about, AP classes are electives- any student can sign up for them. That's what's really important- not the elementary school GT program.

FWIW, I was in GT and I'm not sure if I would put my daughter into a GT program even if she did test in. My memory is that the big difference between Gt and "regular" classes was that we had a lot more homework and a lot more kids with big egos who had been convinced they were "God's gift to humanity" by their parents. I think I might rather my daughter have additional free time after school to do art or music or just play, rather than having a bunch of additional homework.

Posted by: reston, va | March 4, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually, DCer, that's quite a lot of ignorance to display for one so gifted and talented as yourself.

(FWIW, I have an M.S. Degree in Statistics from one of the top five graduate statistics departments in the United States, so I do know a thing or two about the topic.)

First, it might surprise you to know that the Las Vegas area has quite a lot of high tech jobs and very intelligent people. Nellis Air Force Base; Hoover Dam; the DoE Nevada Test Site. But then it's likely your knowledge of Las Vegas begins and ends with casinos and strip clubs.

Secondly, even in mighty Bethesda not "all the children are above average", though they might think so. It's certainly an affluent community, but affluence does not necessarily come from 'giftedness'; more often it comes from hard work.

And if you really wanna compare appendages to see who's is biggest, well, HoCo schools now routinely top MoCo schools in most tests. So there!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Ryan- I don't use it because I can never remember exactly how to use "affect" vs "effect" appropriately, so I work around it.

Prarie dog- I got into the UMCP Honors program, and a scholarship, which I turned down to go to UMBC's superior programs. Then for grad school, UMCP rejected me in an EMAIL and said my GRE logic scores were too low- I was in the 96th percentile for logic

TAG in general: I was a late bloomer and transferred in 2nd grade. But my teachers saw potential and I got pushed up into the "better" classes for some periods anyway. It wasn't until middle school that anyone noticed I wasn't "official" so they sat me down, had me take a test, had me RE-take the test, and then called my mom about special schooling because I scored off the charts. Of course this wasn't an affordable option for us and shortly after it didn't matter anyway because your class choices were based on credit counts and previous course levels.

So really I can't imagine a kid who really showed potential and continued good work couldn't get put into the TAG classes, no matter what a test said.

(sorry if this seemed a bit too self loving, more just wanted to make the point about different paths)

Posted by: Liz D | March 4, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

"And if you really wanna compare appendages to see who's is biggest, well, HoCo schools now routinely top MoCo schools in most tests. So there!"

This is another apples to oranges comparison as it doesn't tell you how many kids are gt in either county but how well the county is getting kids to at least passing. By several gt institutes standards, the possibility of being tested and maybe accepted comes with scoring at least in the 95th percentile of these types of local tests. For CTY, you need to be in the 97th percentile of the MSA and then you have to pass a more rigorous test.

Posted by: afriend | March 4, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

moxiemom - "It is my opinion that in the public system, kids at the far ends of the spectrum (very challenged and very gifted) are well accommodated, the rest get a standard set of instructions."

While that may be true, more and more, it is the kids in the middle-low range that get the bulk of the funding. The top kids will pass the SOL, so no point in working with them. The very bottom kids won't, so no point in working with them. Therefore, let's push all the money into working with the middle and mid-low kids. Maybe there we can grab a kid who wasn't going to pass and pull them above the line. And in doing so, ensure that we have enough money next year to... do more of the same. (*sigh*)

While I'm generally in favor of "follow the child", I can see where, if your kid is in that 6-10% range, pushing them a little to get into a program that DOESN'T focus on preparing for the SOL might be justified.

But that's a big 'might'.

Posted by: FollowTheMoney | March 4, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

AARGH! I didn't read any of the above posts, and I understand your concern that your child be challenged, but I despise tracking, whether it is based on grades or tests. Tracking favors kids that may be ahead of the curve early on, who turn out to be "average" later, but who have been instilled with a sense of superiority by their educational system. Quite a blow when they hit college. Contrarily, students who were behind the curve early on are not given the opportunity to sample the same educational material, making the educational burden even heavier on them. Average students are lost in the middle as well.

As far as teaching to tests goes...IMHO this is a temporary phase in our current educational system. I don't notice that this method is resulting in better educated, more capable adults.

If you are really concerned about your child being challenged, I would suggest that you NOT rely on your school. Kids with bigger vocabularies tend to do better on the verbal portions of college entry exams. So, read together & talk together. I would also suggest outdoor activities for stimulating the analytical part of the brain. There is so much to do & see in the natural world, and observations answer questions, which is what analytical reasoning is all about.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 4, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

afriend, I apologize if it wasn't obvious, but that crack about HoCo vs MoCo schools was intended to be tongue in cheek - a shot at DCer's description of Bethesda.

In fact, even if you compared the number of students in GT programs in the two counties, it wouldn't tell you much because Montgomery County is substantially larger than Howard County. And if you made it percentage of students, it still wouldn't help because there's variability between individual schools. Within Howard County, being located in the "right" school district is generally considered to add a substantial amount to a house's value.

So again, I really don't want to pursue this "mine is bigger than yours" game; it was a tongue in cheek shot that I'll let drop.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

OT to Moxiemom
Do you think it'd be worth it to send a kid to just a single year at a Montessori School? I do not feel my kids' elementary school has served either one of them well but the younger one is really having any internal motivation to learn beaten out of her by worksheet-oriented instruction. The older one has survived a little better and now is obviously in a much better situation having advanced to the middle school. So should I ride it out for another year with the younger one or think about switching to Montessori (at great financial cost!!) until she gets to the middle school level?

Posted by: anne.saunders | March 4, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The underlying assumption here being that not being GT, therefore not getting into AP, therefore not going to MIT equals the end of the world.
PLEEEEASE stop being such a stereotypically elitist, neurotically anxious NOVA parent before you make your kid crazy...

There are worthwhile things to do with ones life besides devoting it to competing and impressing other people. Also wonderful places to live and work besides the hypercompetitive, overpriced Washington area. As the man on the writer's almanac will tell you, teach your kid how to be emotionally and physically well, encourage her to do good work, and remind her to stay connected to others abd all will be fine.

Posted by: rumicat | March 4, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I am one of those kids whose parents were constantly trying to push academically and I felt I had let my parents down by not getting into a magnet/GT School. I felt like a complete failure. My husband had it even worse: he got into a magnet high school but found it extraordinarily difficult and graduated from HS thinking he wasn't very smart (he really is).

Parents, please be careful about how you think about these things, b/c your kids know. They may hear you talking about it w/ spouse, or pick up on tones and cues you put out even if you don't come right out and say anything. Your kids know you.

For what it's worth, we didn't ace the GT system, but we have graduate degrees, homes, financial stability and happiness. It worked out fine.

Posted by: perspective | March 4, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I am one of those kids whose parents were constantly trying to push academically and I felt I had let my parents down by not getting into a magnet/GT School. I felt like a complete failure. My husband had it even worse: he got into a magnet high school but found it extraordinarily difficult and graduated from HS thinking he wasn't very smart (he really is).

Parents, please be careful about how you think about these things, b/c your kids know. They may hear you talking about it w/ spouse, or pick up on tones and cues you put out even if you don't come right out and say anything. Your kids know you.

For what it's worth, we didn't ace the GT system, but we have graduate degrees, homes, financial stability and happiness. It worked out fine.

Posted by: perspective | March 4, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I am a Fairfax County grad and current Fairfax County teacher. In elementary school, I didn't qualify for the GT pull-out program, even though I earned excellent grades. I continued excelling among the "regular" kids and enjoyed my success. My younger brother qualified three years later. He worked on cool projects that challenged his way of thinking. His grades weren't stellar, but they weren't bad either.

Cut to a few years later... we both were eligible for honors/AP/IB classes because I had continued to earn high grades and he had tested in to the program early on. At graduation time for both of us, I had the higher GPA.

GT is a great program, but only if your child is motivated and truly enjoys school and learning as I did (hence why I am a teacher now). My brother might have had more enriching experiences in elementary school, but he got more enjoyment from playing sports and hanging out with friends. We both got into the same top-ranked college, but he got in for athletics whereas I got in based on academics. I should feel slighted because I wasn't "GT" but I ended up in the same place I would have ended up anyway.

Where I teach now, I see kids trying to achieve the IB diploma who are doing it because their parents pushed them into it. They have bags under their eyes because they're getting 4 hours of sleep per night from the work. The focus has shifted from enjoying the thrill of learning to trying to check off boxes for a future college application.

More and more students are suffering from nervous breakdowns and anxiety attacks. No wonder so many students turn to alcohol and parties on weekends. This is caused in part because they have no appropriate means to relieve that immense pressure placed on them, by both teachers and parents. This is also getting into a whole separate issue but certainly not something to be completely overlooked.

I am not yet a parent, though probably will become one soon. If I am blessed with a GT child, then I will feel lucky. If I am blessed with a "regular" child, I will also feel lucky. Parents can make their children feel special no matter what the school system says. While not all children are GT, they are all unique in some way - it should be up to parents to recognize those gifts and encourage them to develop.

Posted by: teacher lady | March 5, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

As the other posts indicate I believe that the Fx County GT program is not just all about scores. It does take into consideration Teachers recommendations.

I would also like to point out that it is harder to get into the center based program after the third grade. Speaking from experience, I was once an over zealous mom who fretted that my daughter did not get into a center based GT(she is in her school based program). I made her take the test again the next year and although she scored 99 percentile she did not get through. She does participate in extra curricular activities but has not won any awards and I felt that, that was a big part of the screening process.

But now seeing her blossoming into a well rounded child and seeing her happier and confident that ever before(thanks to her Third grade teacher) my worries have been put to rest(The fact that her first grade teacher killed her self esteem completely is worthy of another long post).


Posted by: OnceapusherMom | March 5, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Wow - a lot of this rings so true to me as a grad of Ffx County schools and one of those 6%-ers that was mentioned earlier.

I do feel like I coasted through school in some ways because I was close but not close enough to be placed in the GTC program, I learned fairly early that I actually didn't have to work that hard to get good grades - and in the DC area, regardless of what certain individual experiences may point to, grades trump learning for it's own sake. In addition to doing well academically, I was/am passionate about art and in the competitive DC environment, that's an aptitude that is not nearly as respected as say, math skills.

When my two best friends were placed into the GT program in 3rd grade I cried because I would miss them, but wasn't upset about narrowly missing the mark on the program until they both started treating me like I was intellectually inferior. They still came to after-school care at our old school and would frequently quiz me on nonsensical things to prove how much smarter they were than me.

Truth be told, that attitude of superiority never really wore off, even as we got to high school and were again in all of the same classes. To anyone putting their child in a GT center program I definitely issue a warning about this kind of attitude developing.

The other piece of personal experience from Ffx county that i think speaks to the disparity of resources given to GT/AP v. regular classes is this: when I was a senior in high school I realized I was signed up for all AP classes. In hopes of having some time to participate in my extra-curriculars and get some sleep, I switched my AP gov't class to a regular gov't class. It was the first time since 8th grade that I had taken a regular class and I was truly shocked by how rudimentary the work was. The teacher taught very little, we received a lot of worksheets and there was a surprising amount of down time int he class. Once, when I had finished all of my worksheets (we were 17 years old for god's sake), I pulled out my AP Bio book to catch up on some reading. The teacher got up from his desk and reprimanded me for doing work for another class in his class. He did not once however, wake the cluster of sleeping students in the back of the room.

So yeah, there's a difference btw the advanced track and the "normal" track. It may not impact your child's ability to get a job or be a productive member of society, but it may exact a toll on their self esteem.

Posted by: GT Base? Fail! | March 5, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Late to comment but I am a formerly gifted child and although I appreciate the value of programmes like the G&T programme, I really think they need to be renamed.

They pretty much are "high achievers" programmes. Those programmes are really well suited to kids who:
- are reasonably bright
- can benefit from a mildly-to-greatly (dependent on teacher) enriched curriculum
- are good "at school" - that is, good at the school stuff like taking tests, following rules, and teacher-pleasing etc.

If this describes your child and your values, all power to you and sweat the test all you like.

What they are not all that great for is the truly gifted misfit child, who is experiencing totally asynchronous development.

For the record by grade 6 I was an ace test taker and went to a high school for academically gifted kids, and it was great. But most of us there hadn't really done the elementary school G&T thing for various reasons (I personally was thrown out of it for reading too much during the G&T time rather than paying attention to stuff I already knew - hello, gifted educators. Although I hear things are better. And there is no question I was being a problem.)

Also for the record I have not saved the world nor do I make oodles of money, although I am pretty happy. But all the ANGST over my intellect was really totally wasted worry. As a gifted kid, I pushed myself. I did nearly turn off school and am glad I went private for high school but... I am so much more a whole person than the sum of my education, either way.

My advice is... let your kids follow their interests as much as possible (this is one reason I think homework in elementary school is nearly always totally wrong); if school is a nightmare for them, find something to change, hook them up to their community and let them explore BOTH their strengths AND their weaknesses.

If your daughter doesn't pass the test, then the G&T programme isn't really for her, and you'll find another way to make her life interesting. Really.

Posted by: Shandra | March 5, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

As a former GT kid it is so overrated

Echo the comments that almost any kid can go to college and be successful

If you really want the big bucks major in finance in college and move to New York. Almost anyone can do this if they really want to.

If you want to be happy pick something you enjoy thankyfully most of the kids understand this its the parents that need to relax.

Posted by: The truth | March 5, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Not reading the rest of the comments, just wanted to give my two cents.

I took the GT test in Fairfax County when I was in the 2nd grade (back in the late 80s - so things may have changed). I actually have no concept of how my score was derived or what my score was; I never asked my parents and they never told me. I remember taking a test and then having an interview with an adult, who asked me questions (that I can now say) to demonstrate my thought processes and critical thinking.

I didn't end up going to Keene Mill, but I was selected for my school's pull out program. I had a lovely teacher for 4th, 5th and 6th grade in the pull out program and I remember having a great time with the different themes and activities. The greatest advantage was getting to go on field trips, since they had largely been taken away due to budget cuts. I didn't really have extra homework and I was able to keep up with what I missed in class while I was at GT.

In junior high, I started on the "college" track, taking all GT core classes and algebra in 8th grade. I chose not to take the TJ test, much to my parents' consternation - I'm just not math and science inclined. However, I continued on in honors classes and AP classes throughout high school, including taking AP Chemistry (the hardest AP offered by the College Board) and AP Calculus. I did take "slacker" government my senior year, just to "balance" my schedule and I don't feel poorer for it. I burned out after that and spent about four years bumming around different community colleges and 4-year institutions before I got my love of learning back and finally earned a BA in 2006.

Please don't "prep" your daughter for the GT test. The best lessons I learned in Fairfax County Public Schools had nothing to do honors classes or the things I learned in GT. If she's meant to be in the GT program, she'll get in and if she's not, I still think she'll get a world class education - if she wants it. There were plenty of opportunities for enrichment, advancement and scholastic distinction when I was a FCPS student, even in my "slacker" government class. If she shows an aptitude for a subject, the teacher will notice and reward that.

Posted by: Jenn in NJ | March 10, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

geez, calm down. these hyper helicopter moms drive me nuts. both my girls qualified in the GATE and both didn't like it- they wanted their normal classrooms. it was a cluster of Asian and Indian kids who has been drilled on Sat.and all summer for the testing at a pricy place where the instruction was not in english (this was in seattle area.) we passed. it was more a cultural rite of passage from what I could see.
my kids are national merit scholars - one a semi. each offered full ride scholarships. some of those GATE kids they knew are living at home at 20 and one goes to comm. college.
the naked grasp for "more for my kid" is so unappealing. I bet you hold your boys out a year to make sure they're more dominant and better athletes.
you need fresh test scores for some high school AP - both my kids had all-AP soph, jr and sr. years and aced them, skipped a year each of college. had nothin' to do with what happened in grade 2!
get a grip. college admission officers smell your maneuvering a mile away.

Posted by: we turned gifted down | March 11, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

timetest

Posted by: timetest | March 13, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Yikes!

1. This rings of true tracking which is very troubling for such young students. What happened to reading groups and flexibility? I was simply sent a grade ahead for reading in first grade.

2. This level of tracking is particularly inappropriate for such young students because kids mature and grow at different rates. By this I mean that kids make developmental jumps at unpredictable times.

3. I am concerned that being intellectually gifted has been confused with being good at school by the school district, the blogger, and the readers. The two things are not necessarily the same. Gifted students ask the questions. Good students answer the questions. It seems as though Fairfax is meeting the needs of its "good students", but not necessarily its gifted students. I was particularly troubled by the homework references. Gifted students shouldn't have MORE homework, just different homework. For example, they need less drill math work and more new problem solving situations.


4. Both as a parent and as a teacher, I beg you to value your child for what she/he is, not for what you want her to be. You love your children more than anything in the world; make sure that they know that. Your love for them doesn't make them any smarter, more athletic, or socially skilled. Nor does their lack of smarts, physical co-ordination, or friends make them any less loved by you. Just because you think they are perfect, doesn't mean they have to be perfect. Putting that pressure on them is not love, but egotism. Hint: If you have to coach your child to get into a gifted program, maybe she shouldn't be in a gifted program.

5. Thank you for reminding me why I left Fairfax County. When asked why I moved away, I answer that everyone was running a race that I neither wanted to participate in, nor watch from the sidelines. I can only say that those feelings are amplified now that I have a young daughter.

Posted by: janeslone | April 30, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree with momof3, who says that having the right teacher for your child is more important than the program he or she is in. There are good matches and poor matches in GTCs, good & poor in base schools, good and poor in private schools. What works well for some children may not work well for others.

The GTC teacher whom most of the fourth graders dreaded having in fifth grade had a few hard core fans who have kept in touch throughout adulthood. Though they were in the minority, her style worked well for them and they adored her.

Do your best to ensure that a good match up is made for the needs of your child - and all the children for that matter. And hope for the best. It's impossible to get it right 100% of the time - too many variables to consider when placing children. But aim to make good match ups with teachers and mentors regardless of the designated program your child is in.

Posted by: MeMeMeMeMe | May 6, 2008 8:22 AM | Report abuse

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