Gifted kids are left behind

Gifted children are left behind if they don’t have “education-minded, ambitious, pushy,” connected and confident parents, writes Checker Finn in Defining Ideas. High-ability students need someone to “work the system” or buy a place in suburban or private schools, he writes.

Smart poor kids seldom have sufficiently pushy parents. Their neighborhood schools are apt to concentrate on educating low achievers.

Poor parents may not know what their children are capable of and probably lack the resources to purchase supplemental courses, educational software, weekend and summer programs, and much else that similarly gifted youngsters from more prosperous circumstances are apt to have showered upon them.

Worry less about elitism and more about identifying and educating high-potential children — including those without pushy parents, Finn argues. Even then, “surprisingly little is known about what strategies, structures and programs work best in educating high-ability youngsters to the max.”

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  1. Let No Child Get Ahead is the public-ed mantra. The idea that the brightest and most motivated “will do fine anyway” and therefore need no special accommodations has been around since my late FIL began teaching, in the early 30s. There really seems to be more than disinterest, but a positive resentment of very bright kids. Thomas Jefferson magnet HS is the target of regular rants – too elitist, too little “diversity” etc – in the WaPo. The same people who see nothing but good in having an expensive spec ed staff “teach” kids who aren’t even trainable, let alone educable, and who will never be able to contribute to their own support often froth at the mouth at the idea of providing separate, more-challenging work and a faster pace to our best and brightest. What our best and brightest do not need is the expectation that they will “help” (aka do the work of) the less capable/less interested or the addition of artsy projects, which is what “gifted” options often are.

  2. “concentrate on educating low achievers” – because there’s such a good ROI on the time & money spent on the lower deciles.

    /* rolls eyes */

    It’s like a ball team that neglects star players and lavishes resources on the second string. What, exactly, is the point? What do they expect to accomplish by engaging in such educational neglect? Yet the people who push this insanity will be the first ones to whine about not having enough American students in STEM majors at university.

    Well, guess what, geniuses? You effectively ate your bright and intelligent young when you let them languish in the classroom and geared the bulk of instruction towards the kids who were not and never would be college material in the first place.

    Apparently “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” does not apply to those in the 98th percentile ~

    • Depending on the school, kids in the top 2-3 deciles may be wasting their school hours. Sigh

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Let the gifted kids die on the vine.

    Makes us all a lot more equal. And that’s gotta be good.

  4. Judging from a very small sample of experience (one), I think that genius kids will do well, even left to their own devices. However, they could go out and do insanely great, given the right support.

    I went to high school with a certified genius. He had an IQ of 160+ and aced every single class without the least effort. In our science classes, he often (politely) corrected the teachers, since he was far more widely read in science than almost any high school teacher. He was also a small, ungainly kid of no particular social skills (as was I, we were friends).

    After high school, he went on to Harvard and Harvard Law and blossomed into a young man who looked distinctly like a young Al Pachino. At our 10-year reunion, the girls slavered over him; looks and money will do that.

    So, he did fine (except for the bone marrow cancer that killed him a few years later, sigh). I always wondered, though, what he could have done in science or mathematics if he had been supported and enticed into them, instead of being bored out of his mind with the most advanced class our school offered.

    Harvard Law might have been the optimal solution to his own personal equation, but it was hardly the optimal solution to our societies’ equation: we have a surplus of smart lawyers.

  5. From what I see in our district, the qualifications for getting in to the gifted program in our district aren’t very transparent. One parent will be told it is about test scores in one subject area..but then another will be told it is about having a certain composite test score.

  6. Given how we spend far more on the bottom third of the student population in school than the top 10 percent, is this a surprise to anyone?