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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Don't ignore the smart kids

Victoria McDougald thought kindergarten would be exciting and joyful for her son, "an eager, rapid learner," but she learned that the public school's well-regarded gifted program doesn't start till third grade. Underchallenged gifted children "risk becoming bored, frustrated or angry" during the critical first years of schooling," she writes in EdSource.

The third graders being identified as gifted must have been gifted in kindergarten, she reasoned. Why wait to meet their needs?

California doesn't define "gifted" or require services for advanced students, McDougald writes. It's up to districts to decide how to serve -- or not serve -- gifted students.

That forces parents to become advocates for their children, which many are unprepared to do, she writes. "All children deserve a challenging education that meets their academic and social and emotional needs."

When my daughter was in second grade, I asked why the "gifted teacher" no longer came around once a month. The district had decided that all students were gifted, the teacher told me. She gave me some "gifted" worksheets, a half-dozen students and the key to an empty portable. I became the "gifted teacher" once a week.

I remember a critical thinking exercise. Students were supposed to name something two things had in common, such as "tire" and "window." Alex P said he had the answer. "Absolutely nothing!" he said, joyfully.

When Nikki Duslak's son started kindergarten in Central Florida, he was so far ahead that he was placed with much older students. But middle-school lessons on slavery, persecution and the Holocaust left him in tears. A veteran teacher, she created a school for her son, and for others who don't fit the mold, write Jim Fields and Emmeline Zhao on The 74.

CREATE Conservatory opened with seven students in the spring of 2020, just as schools were closing down for the pandemic. The school, which has grown to 27 K-6 students, focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics “through arts integration,.”

Thanks to Florida's state-funded scholarships, via Step Up For Students, and contributions, tuition is free for nearly all students.

The neglect of gifted students is an issue in Australia too, writes Nicole Precel for the Sydney Morning Herald. Dr. Rahmi Jackson, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, in 'They could be finding the cure for cancer’: Why Australia is failing our high achievers.

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