The U.S. is the only industrialized country that continues to neglect gifted children “The (Gifted) Kids Are All Right,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 19). One of the reasons is the widespread belief that they are socially and emotionally vulnerable if they are allowed to skip grades. Yet two studies show that is not so. Early academic acceleration did not result in later maladjustment.
But even more important in my opinion is the myth that gifted students need no extra help in reaching their full potential. That’s a serious mistake since they are precisely the ones who possess the wherewithal to solve the nation’s greatest problems. None of our competitors abroad pay so little attention to their brightest students.
Instead, we persist in devoting almost all our resources to underperforming students. It’s not that they don’t need our help, but I submit that we are undermining one of our greatest assets.
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4 Replies to “Gifted deserve greater support”
In suburban Northern Virginia, where my family lives, there are extensive “GT” (gifted and talented) programs in the neighborhood public schools for students in grades 3 through 8 + something that looks like tracking in grades 9 through 12 (AP courses and/or accelerated courses that are usually, as a practical matter, open mostly to the students who were in the GT programs in elementary and middle school). There is also Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — a nationally-ranked magnet school with enrollment based exclusively on a mix of standardized test scores and middle-school grades. The academic program at TJ is extremely challenging — probably on a level with the freshman year at the nation’s most competitive colleges.
Agree that there is relatively little “skipping” grades. But, in my 40 years living in the area and being relatively involved in school issues, I have rarely — virtually never — heard GT or TJ parents complaining that the courses are not sufficiently challenging.
Labor Lawyer: Gifted children are national assets who need to be cherished. Instead in most states, the emphasis is almost always on underachieving children. They deserve help, of course, but our priorities are wrong. We continue to feel uncomfortable with elitism in any form.
A community’s SES probably impacts the political calculus for the local govt/school system officials. Northern VA is mostly high-SES as well as politically pretty liberal. So, the local govts/local school system officials put emphasis on gifted programs (to satisfy the high-SES parents/voters) and programs for low-income/ESL students (to satisfy the low-SES parents/voters as well as the liberal voters). In the inner-cities, the political pressure is much more oriented towards the low-income/ESL students with the high-SES parents/voters sending their kids to private schools, charters, or magnets.
Over the years in Northern VA, there has been some grumbling about the “RKs” (regular kids) getting overlooked — that is, that the school systems are focusing resources on the gifted kids and on the poor kids while tending to underfund the kids in the middle.
Labor Lawyer: I’ve seen the same thing. Suburban districts are not as fixated on underperforming students. They are more responsive to demands by parents for greater attention to the gifted and talented.