Frolic at the Carnival of Education, hosted by Education Matters.

On I Thought a Think, Ryan writes from the “poetry battlefront” of the “war on the gifted.”

In my school we have some extremely gifted math students, kids who are operating three and four years ahead of their grade-level peers. If they were three or four years behind they would get small group support, modified assignments, and the full force of an entire Special Education department would be put into play on their behalf. Their parents would have an IEP in hand with the full force of federal law behind it, and there would be action!

But they’re not behind; they’re advanced. They’re the ones spending most of their days silent reading, because the work can be done so easily.

I spent most of elementary and middle school reading to myself because I was so far ahead. We had no gifted classes, though my fourth grade teacher requested all the top students and created his own in-class program for eight or nine of us. In high school, classes were tracked; I usually had to pay attention to keep up, though I do remember reading an excellent book about the charge of the Light Brigade, The Reason Why, in advanced algebra/trig.

Bell Work Online is hosting the fourth Carnival of School Politics and Philosophy.

Update: A Teacher Magazine blog has more on “unwrapping the gifted.”

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  1. One of the reasons for the war against the gifted locally is that there are lots of (often Asian immigrant) parents around here who push their kids relentlessly. So if some unusually gifted kid is allowed to take calculus in 9th grade, there are 20 parents of not especially gifted kids being worked night and day who insist that their kids be put in the class as freshmen, and these kids do poorly, or even crack under the pressure, and it makes the high school administration miserable. So they’ve pretty much reached the point that there are no exceptions and you can’t take AP physics without taking regular physics, etc. When I was in high school I skipped over years of classes just by asking to do so. Of course once I’d mastered those subjects I skipped out of high school and into college and then into graduate school at 18, but I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore (at least around here).

  2. The thing to be remembered when considering such stories is that the number of gifted students is quite small. Most people think that they – or their children – are gifted, and that they are somehow being disadvantaged by a lack of a program. Most people are wrong.

  3. Back when I was a student, they started up a G&T program. I was tested for it, tested high, but was ultimately kept out because one of the teachers in my “classroom pod” thought my handwriting was too bad and I needed to work on that.

    You can imagine the teasing I got – I was “too smart” to fit in with the normal kids, but “too dumb” for the eggheads.

    That said – the gifted and talented program at my school wound up not to be so much advanced coursework as it was some elaborate timewastage – lots of “feelings” oriented things, lots of creative writing (which I was already doing on my own time). It was mostly a badge of honor sort of thing. My parents wound up sending me to the local prep school for high school and that made all the difference – I got challenging courses and less teasing. And no one harping on my poor handwriting. (Which is still bad, but I wordprocess most documents these days, so it doesn’t matter.)

    Ironically enough – I am reading “The Reason Why” right now. Not, thankfully, in trig class. (Those days are long gone).

  4. One thing that the Los Angeles Unified School District does well (possibly the ONLY thing it does well) is its magnet program for highly-gifted kids. By LAUSD’s definition, highly-gifted kids are those with IQs of 145 or more, as measured by an LAUSD (not private) psychometrist; this eliminates the problem that hardlyb alludes to in the first comment, above. There are highly-gifted elementary magnets (I think LAUSD lumps gifted and highly-gifted together at the elementary level), a couple of highly-gifted middle-school magnets, and one (as far as I know) highly-gifted high school magnet, on the campus of North Hollywood HS. (LAUSD has a bunch of subject-matter magnet programs, as well; the gifted and highly-gifted magnets are different in that they require particular IQ results as their entry criteria.)

    I am quite familiar with the highly-gifted magnet at North Hollywood HS. The program accepts about 60 kids a year in each grade, and provides an education as good as — or better than — any private prep or high school in the country. After the 9th grade, virtually all of the classes are honors or AP; many of the graduates end up having taken 10 to 15 AP classes. In a typical graduating class of 60, 10 to 15 go to Berkeley, the same to UCLA, and the rest to other UC campuses (Santa Barbara and San Diego, mostly) and private universities. I have spoken with the admissions folks who deal with southern California applicants at several Ivies, and they were very familiar with the highly-gifted magnet; indeed, one of them knew, by name, several of the teachers who had written recommendations for kids who had been accepted. (“When Dr. ____ says a kid is good,” I was told, “we believe her.”)

    The main problem with keeping the program going is that it is so rigorous. Some parents are leery of sending their rising freshmen to a school where the kids, who have always gotten A’s in everything, will not be guaranteed A’s because they will be working harder than they ever have before. These parents reason that their kids to go to a regular high school, take the highest-level courses offered, get their straight A’s, and have that much better a chance at getting into Harvard than a kid who got some B’s at the highly-gifted magnet. Even though college-admission results do not bear this out (not yet, at least), it is still a problem as kids — or, more precisely, their parents — become more and more resume- and result-oriented.

    The other problem with keeping the program going is the hyper-egalitarian attitude that highly-gifted kids don’t need, and shouldn’t get, any special treatment. Perhaps if folks thought of these kids as “severely gifted” (as they sometimes refer to themselves) rather than “highly gifted,” that attitude would change.

  5. The Reason Why was required reading in one of my classes at West Point. It might have been the freshman English class, because I’m sure it wasn’t the History of the Military Art class.

    Still sits on my shelf, as one of my favorite books.

    I could not *imagine* having to deal with Lord Lucan or Lord Cardigan.