Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm Not Really Talented and Gifted, I Just Play One for the PC Crowd

Thanks to Soccer Dad for pointing out this article in the Washington Post that discusses replacing the Gifted programs in schools in Montgomery County, Maryland with magnet classes for everyone:

But this fall, educators decided to try a different approach. Instead of selecting a few hundred students for traditional school magnets, officials opened magnet programs at three middle schools to everyone.

"We've changed from labeling children to labeling services," Horn said. "It's not whether you're gifted, it's what's appropriate for you."

Oh sure, this method will really fool the kids--think they don't understand the hypocrisy of leveling the playing field? Of course they do. In my daughter's school, when the mentally handicapped kids are called over the intercom for special classes, they announce, "Will all of the 'Smart' kids come to Room 101." The whole school, from kindergarteners to 5th graders look at each other in amusement that the school is calling the handicapped kids smart. How silly is that? And how silly is it to let teachers observe kids to determine if they are "gifted" instead of allowing for some set of standards to do the sorting for them?

At two elementary schools, Georgian Forest in Silver Spring and Burning Tree in Bethesda, that means piloting an approach in which students are not formally labeled "gifted and talented" solely through traditional testing. Instead, teachers spend more time watching how individual students perform and place them based on those observations. The change doesn't necessarily mean that all students will be in the highest-level reading group, but it is a strategy for reaching out to kids who might have been overlooked in the past, said Georgian Forest Principal Donald D. Masline.

And their remedy for the lack of diversity just gets sillier:

Educators hope that the new approach will help them address why black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind white and Asian counterparts in achievement and why so few take advanced classes or are admitted into accelerated programs.

I don't see how this question is being answered by having teachers make biased decisions about which kids to place in these "gifted" programs--what does "observation" have to do with whether a child is gifted? Shouldn't there be some actual measure of what a person knows than whether or not the teacher thinks they "look smart?" This is no better than calling the mentally handicapped children smart. Wouldn't the proper way to answer the question of why Blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind Whites and Asians be to conduct research on the factors that may be causing the discrepancies and remedy those rather than setting up a phony group of gifted students whose only gift may be that they have a teacher who holds self-esteem and looking diverse in higher regard than children actually learning anything?

With such unscientific inquiry, it is no wonder more and more parents are homeschooling or turning to private schools to educate their children. I foresee that the more schools substitute "diversity" for education, the more parents will take flight from the public schools.


Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

Before his devolution into a moonbat, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story about a future where equality was rigidly enforced by law. ("Harrison Bergeron").

Those who were stronger than normal were forced to wear heavy weights, those that had 20/20 vision wore lenses that distorted their vision, and them that were smarter had to wear a helmet that emitted percing whistles, etc. at odd intervals in order to interrupt their thought processes.

"All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General."

Sounds like something Hillary would institute.

10:10 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Dr. Helen....

In the movie THE INCREDIBLES, where the superhero mother is teaching her superchildren to hide their powers, there is a great line.

The mother says that everybody is special. The son says this: "If everybody is special, nobody is special."

This is echoed by the villain in the movie as well.

A sad story.

10:17 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our schools offer "gifted and talented [something]," aka "GATE," as well as Honors classes. Some courses, at least, also offer Advanced Placement sections which give the student both high school and college credit. My cooperating teacher (during my student teaching) told me she had come to hate teaching AP English, because most of the students had no business being there; they wanted the college credit, but they did not want to do college-level work. It was just another high-school class, to them.

Before I even finished my B.A., let alone my graduate and teacher-training programs, the Honors (I think) and AP classes had been opened to anyone on the same theory that to restrict enrollment was discriminatory to minorities.

One of my professors, who both taught undergraduates and supervised student teachers, told us, "When a student tells me she took AP English, I know she can't write." I saw the same sad reality when I was teaching college courses. And these students tended to be rather huffy when we suggested to them that their writing was less than celebratory . . . even when their entrance exams had placed them below college level in both reading and English.

10:33 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should probably change the number of the room also. "Room 101" has that George Orwell 1984 ring to it.

10:34 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Yes, a great post. Jeff, I read that Kurt Vonnegut story years ago and the lesson stays with me. The protagonists of the story were shot for daring to excel if I remember correctly.

I have a daughter in the 4th grade and a son in the 7th. My daughter is in th Gifted program and my son has some classes in the Gifted and some not. The school says they solely use a test, Test of Cognitive Skills I think, to measure a child's IQ. But, my ex-wife says she's heard that parents that put enough pressure on the school can get their kids in the gifted programs. Also, kids take this test in a group setting which makes me wonder about distractability skewing the results. My son did 17 points higher on the WISC taken privately than the Test of Cognitive Skills taken at school.

My daughter, especially, complains about the lower functioning kids in some of her classes because they hold back the class and are more disruptive. I also have to wonder at the difficulties for a teacher trying to teach children in the same classroom whose IQ's may range for genius to borderline retarded. We certainly don't help our society by slowing down the best and the brightest. And, as Helen points out, the kids all know what's what.

10:40 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Christy said...

Don't you see? This is an attempt by teachers to spread out the poor students more evenly with the good students so that the individual teachers and schools average better on performance tests.

That said, I was a bit appalled to read that kids are evauated in 2nd grade. Can this be why boys are doing so poorly in our schools? Do not girls generally test better than boys at that age? Are boys sidetracked to the less challenging classes? And I wonder how my brilliant but dyslexic sister would have fared in today's educational environment.

10:45 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what happens when educrats run things. Meritocracy? Just another word for discrimination!

11:02 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Why is it so hard to admit that while some of us are destined to be lawyers, doctors, psychologists, or even mere commenters on a psychologist's blog, others are not destined to be anything but janitors or burger jockeys?

Is it really so bad to admit that there are smart people and there are stupid people?

As a college graduate, I suppose I fall in the smart category and therefore it's easy for me to make judgements about those who are less capable than I. But it seems to me that kids would do better to be dealth with honestly about their prospects. Some kids are college material and many or not. Better to disabuse incompetent kids of their nature sooner rather than later.

I suppose that's rather harsh, but that's them apples, as they say.

11:13 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read the line about the "smart" kids being paged out of the classroom, I thought immediately of Orwell and the 3 slogans of Big Brother: WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH ...

Its amazing how "educators" fail to see the irony and idiocy in their use of protective language that distorts words and robs them of their true meanings. Language and words mean something, and the perversion of the language, as Orwell showed us, is the first step to eliminating the ability to think non-PC thoughts.

11:17 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger yetanotherjohn said...

My eldest was identified for the gifted and talented program by his kindergartner teacher. Her observations were that this was a kid intellectually ahead of his peers. He then had to take four separate batteries of tests, each one measuring gifted and talented from a different angle. In addition, I as his parent had to fill out over 20 pages of observations from the home front.

The teacher and the four sets of test all said he should be in the GT program. The "score" from the person who reviewed my 20+ pages of observations was that he "fell just below the desired GT level". Fortunately, the school considered the tests and teachers observations as more important than my untrained observations.

But put that situation in perspective. My father was one of ten children and had to leave home to go to High school in the big city of Little Rock, AK because the little town he came from didn't have the school facilities to prepare him for college. Growing up, by both the talk and the walk, it was impressed on me the importance of education. I have a doctorate and have been successful in my career, but found that 20+ pages daunting. I am used to expressing my self in the written word and that report was not easy.

Think of the chain of events for getting my son into the GT program (ignore the genetics for now). There was a generation of higher education to plant the seed for the next generation to start off well and thus to prepare the field for the third generation. With out all of that, there is a good chance that my son would have not been in GT. Not because he didn't have the capabilities, but because I might have pulled him back because of the work or fear of my own failures in the observations.

I think observation and tests both have a place. But a big part of the problem is the bureaucrats who get in the way of what needs to be done by justifying their jobs through more regulations and requirements for more paperwork. Take a look at that school district you mentioned. I would be amazed if the number of non-teacher employees is not only greater but close to twice the number of teachers.

11:18 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:27 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Dr Hubert Jackson said...

My grades were never great, but the teachers allowed me to sign up for the higher level classes anyway. I can learn and participate, etc just fine. But I never did homework. I knew the answers so why bother? My grades suffered as a result, but I still enjoyed learning (just not spending 3 hours a night proving to the teacher I already knew it).

11:29 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Don said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:31 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with any of the key points of this post, but here's another perspective.

I was always in the gifted programs in school and never found them useful or interesting. They would take us to museums and things like that. Well, my family already went to those museums.

I remember my mom observing at the time that the kids who ought to be taken to the museum were the ones whose folks didn't already take them there.

Maybe if that happened, those kids would score better on the IQ tests.

11:31 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Slocum said...

I think you're all overreacting. Basically, all they're doing is changing from a situation where teachers and administrators decide on a kid's placement to a situation where the kid and the kid's parents decide. It's a good idea--this should not be the school's call.

Will the advanced classes be flooded with students who can't do the work? Our district already has a system where students/families can elect advanced classes regardless of teacher recommendations. But kids who can't do the work don't show up in droves because, well, they realize they can't do the work (or realize they aren't willing to work that hard). And I can tell this district already that this, by itself, won't do squat for integration. In our schools, very, very few black kids elect to take these courses.

11:34 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The silly lyric, "Everything is beautiful in its own way" so irritates me that I have for years sung it as, "Everything is ugly in its own way." If the first is true, the second is also.

11:35 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Don said...

Imagine carrying this over into extracurricular activities. "I know that if he started for the varsity football team, he can't run 100 yards without stopping for breath." Or "I know that if she was first chair flute in the high school honors band, she can't read music."

I wonder what is the relative amount spent on athletic vs. academic scholarships.

11:39 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that america is planning to implode, with all this everybody is special, nobody is better than the other crap. Everyone should be given the same opportunities that's all a society owes its kids and it's citizens. If by virtue of circumstances, bad parenting, poverty or whatever the latest excuse is (for not making your kids work harder) people can't utilize this opportunities, hopefully when the kid grows up and can make his/her own decisions he/she would find a way out. That's life people.

Oh everybody is a winner, competition is bad, what sort of bullsh*t bubble are all these people living in?
It's like I told a girl I went on a date with last friday, when she asked if migrant africans looked down on african americans. I told her we don't, but we get frustrated after living with and among our so-called brethren and discovering this attitude of blame it on the rain/anything.

Of course this is not true of all african americans but it's true of enough of the population that even though we start out (when we get here) trying to immerse ourselves in and align ourselves with their culture and causes, we soon realize that a lot of these stuff is counter productive.

Who the f is this man that is keeping you down? A cursory examination of the concept throws up the fact that you are unwittingly admitting that the 'man' is and will forever be smarter than you are, if he can keep keeping you down from generation to generation. So how can you claim equality if by your own admission the 'man' is forever intellectually superior to you.

Competition is life people, like my social studies teacher (Bless you Mr. Emebo) in secondary school in africa drummed into our heads. The interaction between man and his environment is one of exploitation in the sense that he attempts to extract a better quality of life from whatever resources are available to him. Basic economics says that resources are limited and wants are infinite. We are always competing for resources and that's life. Competition is natural to man!

That's why we've survived and made our lives better. I told this girl that it blew my mind when I first got here and I walked into barnes and noble and read three books at a sitting and nobody told me to leave the store since I wasn't buying anything, they even had a cafe and seats all over the place to encourage me to sit down and peruse what they had to offer. I told her that after that experience when someone says they don't have skills, I couldn't help but think that they were just full of crap.

My parents back home taught us reading writing and numerate skills (granted my mom was a physics major and my dad though without a college diploma is as educated as can be) and that's all you f**ng need to acquire other skills. Get a dictionary, and read books. Stop listening to people that say math is hard. if you can grasp the concept of addition, subtraction and multiplication you're well on your way to being numerate. Gawd!

Like one of my friends once remarked on watching some buffoonery being played out for the umpteenth time on tv (news not the shows), "if we weren't the same skin tone, we would probably be racists too" Sad as that may sound, it's the frustration talking.

11:40 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't know the specifics of this school's program, I thought that gifted and talented programs were supposed to help kids (like me) who found the regular classes so slow an boring that they wouldn't pay attention, wouldn't do homework and would misbehave. If the choice of whether or not to place a child in advanced classes is made by "observation," these negative attributes will be given more weight and gifted children will be left out. That said, I never found the gifted programs to be particularly good, mostly they tried to give us something to do--anything--so that the other kids would have time to catch up. I would have prefered and been better served by being advanced to the next level somehow. Neither system helps gifted kids.

11:43 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While kids know what "smart" means when the schools use it as the label for mentally handicapped, I wonder if the schools know what that usage tells kids about schools?

11:45 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Knucklehead said...

When are we going to stop playing silly word games? The students who can move through school work faster, and go farther with it, are not "gifted". Nobody gave them a gift anymore that somebody gave the kid on the track team who can run fast a gift, or the tall kid on the basketball team got a gift.

Nobody says the kid who can run fastest on the track team should have to wait for everyone else. Nobody says the kid who can jump highest on basketball team should have to mill around 20 ft. from the basket so the other kids have a chance.

There are kids who can move faster through schoolwork. Why on earth aren't we feeding them more schoolwork at every opportunity? The sheer idiocy that is rampant in public education is astonishing. Schools are for learning yet those who run them seem dead set on making sure that those who learn fastest don't "embarass" those who don't learn as fast. It is nothing short of insane.

11:49 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the rant from before. Just wanted to say something about advanced classes. We had advanced math (called further math which was a lot of calculus and first year college math stuff) in my secondary school in africa and guess what? Only the kids who were sure of their abilities signed up, because nobody cares if you think you're smart, if you don't measure up you get an f. No teacher changes grades because of homework which was like 10% of the total grade anyway, or because a parent complained.
Most parents ask their wards why they failed, they don't ask the teacher why he failed the kid. Personal responsibility. Maybe I just don't understand the cultural differences but I always thought personal responsibility, hard work and some inspiration is how you became successful in life.

11:51 AM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the proper way to answer the question of why Blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind Whites and Asians be to conduct research on the factors that may be causing the discrepancies and remedy those rather than setting up a phony group of gifted students whose only gift may be that they have a teacher who holds self-esteem and looking diverse in higher regard than children actually learning anything?

Um, no. You see, no research is needed to discover these factors- it's clearly white oppression.

I'm being sarcastic, but I'd bet the people who came up with these ideas wouldn't know that.

11:53 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Kosmopolit said...

Re Jeff's comment, you can read Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story "Harrison Bergeron" here:

12:04 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger The Apologist said...


I'm a janitor and I have an IQ of about 145. I enjoy the solitary nature of my job and the abscence of "customers". It gives me time to think. Generally, I think about the 2-3 books that I've read the week prior, but sometimes I practice Arabic or Mandarin Chinese, two languages I'm teaching myself to speak, read, and write. Good Will Hunting isn't far from the mark in my experience. I've met some exceptionally well read people and others who weren't that well read, but notheless possessed an extraordinary facility for abstract reasoning. They typically do manual labor for the same reason I do. It's often solitary, it's simple and does not require a great deal of concentration, and job security is virtually guaranteed so long as you show up for work when you're supposed to. Here's a man with which you should familiarize yourself. Just because we work for you doesn't mean you're smarter than we are.

12:07 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Jeff Medcalf said...

My comment was too large to leave here. So it's here instead.

In brief, there are four kinds of education. Our schools focus on only one of them, and they do it exceptionally well.

12:12 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From : Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else.

12:15 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger submandave said...

"Nobody gave them a gift anymore that somebody gave the kid on the track team who can run fast a gift, or the tall kid on the basketball team got a gift."

Good point, Knucklehead. Why should we be reluctant to speak of one's "academic talent" if we aren't reluctent to speak of another's atheletic talent?

Having endured public education in the era of "Truckin'", "Movin' On" and "B.J. and the Bear" I have vivid memories of how some automatically assumed you thought you were better than them if your ambitions went beyond owning your own Peterbuilt cab-over. There is certainly a temptation to translate a superior mental capability to a general superiority, just as some may draw a similar conclusion based upon physical skills. My seven-year-old is very sharp and it is a continual challenge to teach her both pride in her accomplishments and abilities without denigrating others less talented.

12:18 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in the GATE program in my public school system back in Virginia. I know for a fact that it was not only my test scores in the 3rd grade, but it was my disruptive behavior that got me into the program. In second and third grades, I was an awful kid, the one in the class who was always in trouble. Of course, the tendency in those days was to try and say that I was ADD and that I needed to be on Ritalin. My mother (thankfully) flat out refused. Thanks to some great teacher observations, it was determined that I was not ADD at all, but rather that the normal classes school work were too easy for me and I was bored.
Now GATE has its own pitfalls, I remember thinking during those years how much fun GATE was, well this was because the "work" we did was fun, but I don't know that I learned that much from it. It wasn't until I got to High School and took AP and Honors classes that I really felt challenged. The wonderful thing about AP classes is that the test is standardized and that no amount of gerrymandering with the students who take the class will help them pass the test. Either they have what it takes or they don't. I still believe that far too many GATE programs are pre-disposed to keeping smart kids busy when they should be given harder work assignments.

12:18 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Dean said...

I just moved out of Montgomery County after 40+ some years - minus a 10 year stint in NYC. Here are some of the factors to be considered.

In such an affluent area as M.C. - everyone thinks their kid is special and gifted. I recall several instances where pushy parents put emotionally immature kids in higher grades, only to have the kids pounded daily by bullies, etc...

With half the county 'inside the beltway' ... some very ... um ... progressive educational techniques are employed. I recall as a 5th grader the madness of the open classroom back in the late 60's. Then again, I recall having a principal who walked around like a hippie.

With an exploding non-English speaking population in the lower income brackets, and with 40 year old homes going for half a million dollars - many unable to move are seeking to move their kids into a more challenging academic setting via the magnet programs.

Private schools rosters in Montgomery County are generally always full and definately always expensive.

With the local 2 year college, Mont.College offers quite a few alternatives in the form of AP classes to parents homeschooling high schoolers.

With the plethora of political agendas and growing violence in many M.C. Schools - the point of policemen I know moving to better neihborhoods - there has been a large and ever growing homeschooling community since the early 90's.

With all of the above, there has been a recent rash of old homies such as myself who are now part of the "EFM" club ... that would be us selling our old homes, moving to other states, and then bragging how we "escaped from maryland."

Your mileage may vary.

12:20 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much like John Kerry and Iraq, I am for and against this idea.

I think that formal standards based on test scores are important. but it is worth noting that some very smart people do not do well on standardized tests.

I think a better compromise is to reserve a certain portion of the available space in the 'gifted' classes to be filled based primarily on teacher recommendations.

This way those children that test out well are more likely to get in and those students that teachers have ID's as having superior potential that is not reflected in their test scores get the opportunity to receive the benefits of a more challenging learning environment that may bring out the abilities identified by their teacher(s).

12:20 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger GSB said...

Hey Dave:
Thanks for providing me with a little humor this AM. I enjoyed your post at 11:13 this morning but really got a laugh over your comments in the third paragraph. You stated "As a college graduate, I suppose I fall in the smart category and therefore it's easy for me to make judgements about those who are less capable than I." I'm a college graduate myself but have never made the assumption that because I attended a University I was somehow smarter or more capable than someone who decided through their own reasons that they werent going to continue with an upper level education. Some of the dumbest people I have met were in college, and as a proffesional working as a Civil Engineer I never make the mistake of thinking people are not as smart as myself or are less capable because of a piece of paper.

12:22 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with Helen and the commenters about the negative effects of "levelling the playing field". However, something to keep in mind is that tests used to determine "giftedness" often overlook the very thing they are designed to detect. A person we usually think of as "gifted" may manifest that gift in creativity or out-of-the-box thinking that by definition defies standardized testing. So while the tests may indicate a *subset* of all the gifted kids in schools, there are some kids who are gifted that might get left out if we only use tests. So the move to having teachers observe and use their observations to determine who's gifted and who isn't does make some degree of sense. (Perhaps a combination of both tests and teacher observations is the best course.)

12:24 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger NOAAgirl said...

My blog comments were linked by this article (thank you for noticing) and as a commentor and a former G&T student, I find that there are two issues at work.

One issue is for parents - G&T programs are attractive benefits that public schools can offer (like magnet programs and AP classes, etc) that encourage parents to send their children to public schools, which probably leads to those parents being more engaged in and supportive of the community that they live in. In a culture that is increasingly "buying" benefits that used to be public goods, diluting the programs that attract parents to public schools ultimately undermines public and community support for education funding and hurts the chances for those students whose parents can't "buy" their education.

For kids, I agree with the earlier comment that these programs are generally not on the vanguard of stimulating young minds. We did projects that exposed us to a greater variety and/or depth of disciplines (like law, science, archeology, etc)than would be available in our normal curriculum. However, it also set us apart from other students (we were labeled 'the smart kids') and probably gave us a bit of an entitlement complex, since we got to miss normal classes to participate in this G&T program.

It reminds me of an older blog post of mine. I don't know how many readers know about the infamous Hill intern whose blogging about her sexual exploits ended her Hill career (while opening other doors), but her comments in an interview with the Washington Post about her G&T experience were thought provoking for me.

There is a delicate balance of benefits and problems that G&T programs present and both sides need to be acknowledged.

12:24 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah..I went the other way. I was selected by a teacher to be in the "special needs" program in second grade. I had moved to a new town and was terribly shy and I had already been taught beyond the class work being done at that school by my grandmother who was a teacher in the Indian schools in Oklahoma. Being quiet and disinterested was enought to get me sent to the special needs class. It was only the librarian that noticed the books I was taking out who got me promoted back up through the regular class into the gifted program. I think if I were them I would stick to the testing versuse the qualified observation.

12:29 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good morning,
I have 3 children who qualified for Reach, our version of GT, and AP and honors classes. One of them skipped a grade in early elementary school. The amount of work given in these classes in our district is monumental. There have been nights when my children were up past midnight every night of the week. Physics alone could be three hours a night. We instituted a rule they had to have one non-honors class every semester. These are children, after all and they deserve some unscheduled time. They complied but it has been a constant complaint about the poor behavior and work habits of the students in these classes. Interestingly, some of the teachers make no attempt to hide the contempt they feel for the students in the regular classes.

12:29 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Václav Patrik Šulik said...

And then there's this story about an autistic student who got in the game. [hi speed connection necessary]

From the notes: Jason McElway, an autistic high school basketball team member in Rochester NY, served as the team manager and spirit coach for several years. On the final game of the season the coach let him finally put on a uniform with the rest of the team. Watch what happens then...

12:34 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely we all realize that calling the handicapped students "smart" is done solely for those students' self esteem, which is often under assault on a daily basis by other students, as well as by adults those kids encounter. As the parent of a handicapped child, I can say that it is rare to go to a store without adults (I can understand the kids) staring at my son. How many times I've barely resisted saying something extremely unChristian, or even ringing their neck (also unChristian, eh?) So, what is really hurt by called these kids "smart" or "special"? Is this different from calling all little kids "pretty" or "handsome" even when we know they arent?

I too have many criticisms of today's schools, but this isnt one of them.

12:36 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who came through the Montgomery County gifted and talented program, from 8th grade to 12th, I have mixed feelings about all of this.

I agree with Dr. Helen and others that the PC aspects of this are worrisome, as is allowing teacher "observation" to replace more objective measures. But I also agree with Slocum and those who argue for allowing kids and parents some say about who gets to at least try the courses.

When I went to school, the gifted program had one major strength and one major weakness. The strength was that those in it got challenging, interesting classes taught by really good teachers who were given the freedom to teach at their full ability. There was a gifted arc in most major subjects and, generally, it was a real cut above the standard class set.

Generally, though not always.

The major weakness was that, in the eyes of most students, you were either "gifted" or not. Mind you, the program was not really set up that way, it was possible to take gifted classes only in certain subjects, and a good percentage did. But in the eyes of the student body there were the gifted and the normal. Which meant that at least some people that could have done well in one or more of the gifted classes, and would have enjoyed them, never bothered to try to get into them.

If this new approach allows Montgomery County to reach out to these students who were truly left behind by their own choice, and encourage them to achieve their real potential, then I salute it. Because the problem in these cases wasn't really with the gifted classes, but with how the program as a whole was perceived. And, of course, with the anti-intellectual culture of Montgomery County high schools.

Keep in mind that the County has one of the best school systems in the nation, so it may sound odd to say that the high school culture was profoundly ambivient towards learning, but that was certainly true when I was there (1983-87). It had the stereotypical high school norms: athletics important, popularity key, academics a distant second, and excelling at academics not an important factor.

Within that environment, the gifted program had one additional benefit: it acted as a sanctuary for those who wanted to learn, allowing you to meet and spend time with others who also wanted to learn. But, of course, it also created a lot of friction with those who didn't want to learn and weren't really happy that there were others who did.

12:40 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up under the Old Nuns. They didn't do gifted, or learning disabled, or community, or sensitive balancing. But after eight years of their boot camp (hmm... not quite. Even Marine gunnies have doubts that they are commissioned by god. The nuns had no doubts) you were well suited for the real world, where nobody would cut you slack because you were gifted or handicapped.

I remember when we were given an IQ test (the only and only in 8 years). The nun called in those of us who did well and said "I will allow you one day to gloat. After that you will not mention your scores in this school again. You did well, but some of your classmates did poorly and might hear you. One day of gloating, and that's it." I thought it a very practical compromise. And her orders were NOT to be disobeyed.

Digression: heard a tale of a convent where there was construction going on next door. The mother superior went over to the construction supervisor and told him his men must control their profanity -- the younger nuns were hearing it and were shocked. The supervisor said that his guys were hard hats and accustomed to calling a spade a spade.

The tiny but tough old nun snapped back, "No, they call it a f___ing shovel!" The supervisor looked down and said, OK, he'd make sure his guys cleaned up their language.

12:44 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an issue with the placement of a child in a GT program based soley on IQ testing. I have twin girls who both are straight A students. Their IQ scores did not qualify them for the GT program in South Carolina. I think that somewhere we also need to take into account actual achievement as a factor for placement. A significant portion of the GT students are placed based on their "potential" as measured on an IQ test, but many of them actually perform academically at a lower level than those with a "lower" IQ. I have repeatedly told my children that those that put in the extra 2% effort are those that will succeed.

12:44 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Ken Pierce said...

The Vonnegut short story is required reading, a prerequisite for engaging in any political discussion in which "fairness" is appealed to as normative.

12:54 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...


I did construction work for years for the same reasons. I liked the independence and the (mostly) solitary nature of it. I also liked knowing that construction companies are so desperate for good workers that you can always walk off one job and be working for someone else the next day.

After I got my BA in Philosophy, I spent two years as a graduate student working on my master's degree. That's all it took for me to know I wouldn't be able to tolerate that kind of job. Had I been in Larry Summers' position, I would have been looking for a new job before the first year was up. As far as I'm concerned, an academic career isn't worth that kind of hassle.

I'm teaching now though. Class size: two students. Homeschooling is great.

12:58 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have skills. But everyone thinks it's unfair if I ever use them.

What good are skills, if they never make anyone like you? If they only make other people jealous and angry?

The world is a scary place to be alone in, forever.

1:01 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in the area of Mongomery County, MD, under discussion. I don't think that levelling things for poor students comes into play at all in those two school. The only lower income people seen in these areas a maids and nannies. We're instead talking about communities where upper middle class parents -- a fair number of whom are lawyers -- believe that not only is their child gifted, but keeping the kid out of the gifted program will ruin his or her chances for a decent placement in high school, college, etc. At the same time, the parents are intellectually committed of the idea of their children going to public school (besides, it's not as if the public school is much different from private school). I wonder how many times school adminstrators dealt with parents who caused a fuss or threatened to sue if their child wasn't in the top programs. While I do agree that the idea of everyone being gifted is completely and utterly silly, I think often this type of thing is done to shut up the parents -- not only do their kids get to be in the gifted programs (proving what the parent knows already), but the parents get to give lip service to doing it all for diversity. What a wonderful feeling..

1:11 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh -- the end of that second sentence should be "schools." The next sentences should have an "areas are" not "areas a." I can complain and read, but not type.

1:13 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an issue with the placement of a child in a GT program based soley on IQ testing....I think that somewhere we also need to take into account actual achievement as a factor for placement.

Yes, this was one of the things I was driving at. IQ can be part of the question, but drive and interest are others. A person might even be generally only an average (or even poor) student, but have a passion for one area that qualifies him for gifted education in that area.

A good friend of mine was a mediocre student, who excelled at art and computer subjects. One of my happiest moments was when I was able to slip him into an AP computer science class I was student teaching. He went on to take the AP test and did well enough for college credit. Now he does good work in IT support for a large group of folks.

I have absolutely no problem with widening access to GATE, as long as standards are not lowered and the pressures of parents to admit/retain truly unqualified students (who have proven they deserve that label) are resisted.

1:16 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The underlying problem is that we don’t have an American school system. What Horace Mann imported and sold as a remedy to the immigrant problem was the German volkschule that had been designed de novo by J. G. Fichte in the wake of the Prussian defeat by Napolean at Jena. The stated intent of the school with regard to its charges, the 92 percent of the young population who were not aristocrats (sent instead to the realschule for leadership training), was to produce soldiers who would obey orders, workers who would not strike, citizens who would not revolt.

The features designed (literally) to enforce the ideal sense of isolation and submission to authority are retained in our schools to this day. Social Democracy, which was also coming into vogue among elites in the US in the late 1800s, embraced the concept, and John Dewey added the refinements to help American public schools crank out cogs for the wheels of society, each child to his proper place according to the judgment of trained professional pedagogues.

The school where I sent my three boys, as its first act after forming in the mid-1920s hired a top student of Dewey’s. Within a couple of months, she had been sent packing back to Chicago, and the founders had decided that Dewey’s principles would become the blueprint for precisely the opposite of what to do.

The school was chartered instead as a Quaker school, and most of those traditions continue to this day. There are no bells to mark periods, no rows and columns of desks, no grades, no homework… In fact, for students who had something they’d rather do than be in class, even if it was to climb trees, it was negotiable.

Sounds like anarchy, but it was very American. My mother said it reminded her of the little red school house she attended in the rural South.

In contrast to the several (larger) private schools in the area operating as academic mills for parents aspiring for their kids to attend top colleges, this school performed absolutely no entry screening based on potential. Yet one year, I noticed in the list of the 60 students who had made National Merit Scholarship Finalists for the two-county area, 6 were from that little school. As a member of the school’s board, I marched into the office and announced the fact. Yes, I was told, there were also 4 from the class before that and 5 from the one before that (these are 8th-grade classes numbering 18-20). We need to publicize this, I blurted, and was met by dropped jaws from the 5 people in the room.

That’s when I had my Zen moment. It’s not about creating intellect. It’s about rounding some corners and adding spark to others. It’s about creating zest and the ability to relate to all others without being in awe of any other. It’s about owning your own education. Then intellect can bloom. An American school system could do this. I don’t hold much hope for any program--gifted, magnet, what have you--emboweled in a framework that became part of the groundwork for National Socialism. Why not remake our schools as American schools?

Charlie Tips
Flower Mound, Texas

1:19 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger The Apologist said...

It wasn't my intention to shame you into removing your comment. I only meant to...educate you. If it makes you feel any better I misspelt "nonetheless".

If I had kids I imagine I would enjoy the homeschooling thing too. It seems like a lot of work, but I'm sure it's well worth it. Plus you get to spend all that time with the kiddos which, enjoy it while you can. It's my understanding that they grow up too quickly for most.

1:24 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Anonymous 1:01:

Your comment is heartbreaking. But the good news is that when you find somone who appreciates your skills and abilities, you will know that you have a true friend--and at least you can weed out the angry jealous types who you probably would not want as friends anyway. Never give up on being yourself and using your talents and abilities to the fullest, despite whether or not people like you for them.

1:25 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Harrywr2 said...

Having spent a fair portion of the 3rd Grade in the "retarded kids" class. I can attest from personal experience that "Observation" can and does go horribly wrong. Credit to the 4th Grade teacher that actually sent me to be tested, which resulted in being placed ine the "Smart" kids class in the 5th grade, completely unprepared, after having spend 18 months in the retarded kids class.

Bottom line, if you aren't watching your childs education like a hawk, more than even money says no one else is either.

1:36 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a little off topic but ...
My daughter was identified in early elementary to be able to go into the gifted program (they called it the Spectrum). We looked into what that entailed and decided to keep her in the regular school programs (which still had honors classes in middle and high school and AP classes in high -- which our daughter still took). Other parents thought we were crazy not to put her into the gifted program. She is now a Senior in high school and is valedictorian of her 500+ class. None of the top ten in her class are or were ever in the gifted program.
We found that the gifted program was eat, sleep and play academics. We didn't think this was healthy for our daughter. We thought she should have a more balanced lifestyle. For example, my daughter loves sports and does very well in them -- if she had been in the gifted program she would not have had time for all the sports. I asked my daughter why the gifted program kids were not in the top ten in her high school and she said that many had gotten burned out early on and were now rebelling.
My point is that the parents need to look into everything thoroughly to decide what is best for the overall well being of their child. You want your child to be mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. Good character building is so very important and I think many parents don't place enough importance on this with their kids.

Good post Dr. Helen.

1:46 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Henry Cate said...

A good resource for more information about the problems children with ability are facing is Cheri Pierson Yecke's book "The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide Of Mediocrity In America's Middle Schools."

The motivation of many behind the middle school movement has been a desire to "fix" society. Historically education has meant learning how to read, write, and how to do math. Many in the middle school movement wanted to do social engineering. Instead of trying to teach each student as much as the child could learn, the middle school radicals have pushed for equal outcomes.

I think this book is where I heard that the bottom five percent of children in public schools get seventeen times as much funding as the top five percent.

1:55 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would bother me greatly if children were placed in talented and gifted programs based solely on teachers' observations. My child has Asperger's and is not well-liked by the administration due to her frequent outbursts. But her IQ and her abilities are almost genius. She has a chance to build her self-esteem through gifted programs, and do all the "performing" she likes to do. Right now only the testing and evaluations and scientific numbers give her that chance. If it was based on performance only and observation, I would be out there demanding that the school system respect "neuro-diversity". I'd hate to be in that position. BTW I would hate it if they called for all the "smart" kids to come to their resource classes. It sounds sarcastic and condescending. Some truly SMART kids DO need resource classes. Mine is one of them. But these kids don't need to be singled out at all. With all the "normal" kids looking on and snickering. Hmmm. Suddenly I feel like homeschooling again.

1:57 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is linked at:
Gifted Education Exists for a Reason; Don't Water it Down

Classes for mentally gifted children exist for a reason. Gifted kids are bored and frustrated in most regular classrooms. I know I was. It was like a breath of fresh air during the years when gifted classes were available. I don't talk about my own background much, but in this case it's unavoidable. It's hard to describe what a child is missing when education is not at his or her appropriate level.

Read more . . .

1:57 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger JSAllison said...

The Marching Morons by CM Cornbluth, I believe describes the end result we seem to be trying to approach.

2:00 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our daughter is in the Vanguard, the Houston version of the GT program. In order to get her into the program, we had to sign up and bring her to school on a Saturday for testing. The school system has another program in each neighborhood school, where children selected by the teachers as being capable are taken out of class for a few hours a week for "advanced" classes. Now, the school system here is proposing to combine the two programs for similar reasons as given in the Post article. I think this is a bad idea for similar reasons as expressed here. One particular advantage of Vanguard is the self-selection aspect. The children in the program are there because their parents were concerned enough about their education to get them out of bed on Saturday to get them tested. This guarantees that the Vanguard classes benefit from a much more involved group of parents than the school as a whole. When the programs are combined and the testing requirement is eliminated, you not only get a watered down curriculem, but a less involved group of parents as well. If you believe that parental involvement is key to a child's success, as I do, this sounds like a big mistake.

2:15 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, was a student who moved to another school when I was in grade school, only to have the new school decide that I was, well, stupid. I had been taking accelerated classes at my previous shcool.

The new school was really into the SRA reading cards. I moved there in the latter half of the school year, and they made me start the series from the beginning. It was bad enough that the cards were years below my reading level; however, when I asked the teacher a question about where something went, she belittled me in front of the entire class. She actually hauled me over to the file folder, took my hands and repeatedly mashed them onto it empasizing the cadence of her words, and bent over and explained it to me in a mocking little-baby voice as if she was explaining it to a two year old.

Luckily for her, I was a (very shocked) well behaved little boy. I wish it would have occurred to me at the time to try and knock her silly.

I was eventually bumped into the "gifted" program.

Public schools are a bad joke; no child of mine will ever be stuck in one.

2:17 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Slocum said...

I think a better compromise is to reserve a certain portion of the available space in the 'gifted' classes to be filled based primarily on teacher recommendations.

Everybody is talking about advanced courses as if they are a limited resource. They're NOT! It doesn't cost any more to teach a classroom full of kids doing advanced work than a classroom doing standard work.

This is not rocket science: 1. See how many kids want the advanced vs normal program in any given subject, 2. Assign teachers accordingly.

2:21 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incredibly the only students whose gifts could be undetected are minority students. The testing is foolproof for whites and Asians.

2:29 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not entirely new. When I was in elementary school in the mid 70's, the early-grade teachers picked kids for the gifted program based on lord knows what criteria. However, the kids did subsequently need to pass a psychological evaluation, including an IQ test, to get in to the program. Of course, when my mother heard about the program, she wondered why the hell I wasn't selected, as I was one of the best readers. So she insisted that I was tested (her idea, not mine), and I qualified. This started a wave of other parents insisting their kids be tested too, some of whom qualified, some of whom did not. So in the end it was mostly fair, because there was some objective criteria to back it up. In retrospect, the initial teacher-selected group seemed to be more like "fairly smart kids from working class backgrounds", as opposed to "smart kids from priveleged homes with pushy mothers". For what it's worth I'm not sure whether I got much out of the program.

2:29 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter was in a gifted class for first and second grade. One of those years I went up to the school for parents night and, feeling sort of smug about having such a bright child, wondered at what kind of parents produce such amazing humans. As we sat at our children's desks, the teacher invited us to open them and discover a little more about our children. I opened the desk and then noticed some commotion to my right - in those brief seconds, the dad one desk over had been able to get the glue open and it had poured out over his hands and his child's papers! Hilarious!

What can be done about educating our children? Educate them ourselves! School should only be part of the equation. Every day experiences are good enough to use as examples! Grocery shopping is a wonderful way to learn about percentages, weights, measures, subtraction, addition, nutrition, marketing, etc.

2:35 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Anonymous 1:01 and Helen - Anon's experience is similar to mine. I went to a parochial school my first 7 years and made the best grades in my class on every report card for those 7 years. There was a lot of jealousy and anger on the part of the other students.

When I had the opportunity to transfer to a public school in the 8th grade I jumped at the chance. In the 8th thru 12th grades I purposely made more average grades, about a "B" average, so I could be just one of the guys. Fortunately, I turned it on again in college but ran into some of the same jealousy there.

I agree with Helen, never give up on yourself and your abilities but you might want to find new friends or a new job where your talents and abilities are more appreciated.

2:37 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Spunky said...

If parents understood the quiet revolution taking place in this nation they would be PULLING THEIR CHILDREN OUT IN DROVES. I have been documenting the move toward Preschool to College (P-16) take over of education for many years now. Thank God for blogging because the word is finally getting out.

Right now the President has convened a commission to look at testing college students upon exit to make sure that they actually learned something in college. The goal is to measure the value of their "investments" in money. Texas is moving the quickest on these reforms with the national D of Ed. modeling their federalization after Texas. The man who spearhead the Texas reforms is now the head of this commission. Their report isn't due till August. But the outcome is all but been determined. They know what they want to do. They just need to manufacture a "crisis" and then like magic the feds will have the solution.

Rigor with relevance is all the buzz. All the governors are talking about it. What it means are federally manadated standards uniformly taught across the nation. Local control and parental input are only necessary to put the children on the bus and bake cookies. The real input into your child's learning is set in the eucatratic offices in DC.

I'm a homeschool mom of 6. There's no one who loves your children more than you do. Let your children know that by bringing them home to learn.

And another benefit. Tell Glenn that there are no heavy backpacks for your little girl to lug around. She can work in her jammies just like her daddy. ;)

4:52 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Spunky said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:01 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Spunky said...

One final thought Dr. Helen...
Don't think that small little announcments over the intercom don't have their affect on the children. Your daughter is learning just by what is being said over the PA. My question is how silly is it for the parents to KNOW that this is going on and still do nothing. Yup these little dears are learning exactly how the game is played. Everyone likes to complain and yet, come Monday morning, all of the parents put little Johnny back on the bus and go right back inside the school. How silly is that? Like you said they know hypocrisy when they see it.

That's why by the time most children hit their teens they don't respect their teachers OR their parents. Testing will never solve those issues.

5:04 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

The gifted programs that I participated in, from elementary school through to 11th grade, were mostly a joke. I was in advanced reading classes which were good, but that was about it. They had a very touchy-feely, non-achievement oriented program. This was the mid-70's to the mid-80's. The teachers whom I learned most from were (relative) hardasses who forced me to work, and to think. None of them were AP teachers.

I had a professor in college who was educated by Jesuits. He spoke 8 languages and was the most cultured man that I ever met. He reminded me of WIlliam F. Buckley. He said that his teachers insisted that students should listen and not ask questions until they were educated enough to ask intelligent and informed questions.

A philosophy journalism schools would be wise to promote!

5:55 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will forever think of this as the "wxyz" issue. When I was in sixth grade, the teachers segregated the class for reading into four groups. They thought they would be clever and fool the kids, so that no one knew why anyone was assigned anywhere, so we were placed in groups labeled "w," "x," "y," and "z." It took the kids about five minutes to figure out the best students were all in "w" and the worst students were all in "z." Similarly, a football coach I had once created "orange" and "red" teams instead of "A" and "B" sides. We all knew that "red" equalled the "A" side immediately.

Even retarded kids can figure out that calling them the "smart" kids patronizes them far worse than being honest about the challenges they are facing.

6:01 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a kid in the gifted class it was just one day a week (not a whole "program") in elementary school. I believe it was based mostly on test scores and was geared toward students that needed a challenge in their core academic subjects (reading, writing, math, science). I specifically remember the lessons being geared around certain skills in those areas, but were kicked up a notch from what you would get in your regular classes. I always enjoyed these classes. And unlike another poster, I never minded if any of the field trips (gifted or regular ed) were duplicates of where my parents took me. The great thing about museums and the like is that you can always find something new the next time you go!

Some students are just good students and not necessarily gifted, in that they are already challenged in their classes. Sometimes just being happy with your child's good performance in school should be enough. I think a lot of parents feel that something is lacking with them if their children aren't labeled "gifted." It's unfortunate that this seems to have become a status symbol for some parents. They'd do better to stop freaking out that their child didn't qualify and instead reward their good grades in some way that combines fun and learning.

I've always known that peoples' educational experiences will mold how they perceive school and teachers. It's sad that many people had such bad experiences because I think, consciously or not, they project these experiences onto their children.

6:18 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that this post looks like yet another example of how Dr. Helen seems to see everything through (far) Right colored glasses. This habit manifests by taking a complicated subject for which there are many legitimate views and reducing it down into a simplistic black and white strawman meant only to "confirm" her preconceptions.

Even a casual look at the article makes it clear that we aren't looking at political correctness run amuck, but rather the far more reasonable notion of trying to tweak a system to get the best possible results.

Come on, people aren't clones. Nor do they all respond best to the same approach. If you really want to find and promote gifted students that necessitates applying flexible criteria.

By comparison, a rigid system will tend to have innate biases that will interfere with the overall goal of serving the "gifted". For instance, just giving someone a long series of tests doesn't per se pick out the most talented, but rather those that test the best. Of course, there will be a correlation, but hardly 100%. There are geniuses who will simply test poorly in your typical standardized environment. Likewise, a studious student with a good memory might do well even if they are otherwise "average".

Basically, you can't come up with a foolproof test. That is why you need thinking teachers present with the power to manage the system as required.

6:28 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger jic said...

Alan, are you saying that if you can't come up with foolproof testing, you shouldn't even bother?

7:02 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jic said...

Alan, are you saying that if you can't come up with foolproof testing, you shouldn't even bother?

Why is it that so many people seemingly can only think in extremes?

What I am saying is that the process is a complicated one where there is no simple answer. Testing is clearly part of solution, but then again so are things like teacher judgment and student interest.

Any single testing system is bound to have its biases (which in turn tend to reflect the biases common to a culture/sub-culture). These are self-reinforcing -- once you buy into those biases the culture tends to promote the indulging of those biases which just increases the bias even more and so forth. That is why you always need a flexible system that allows for different points of view. That tends to limit the extend to which a bias can take hold.

7:31 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger David Foster said...

I think that use of the term "gifted" for these programs is a really bad idea, because it puts the focus on who you *are* rather than what you *do*.

Peter Drucker remarked that it is always harmful for managers to focus on potential rather than on performance. I think the same is true for educators.

7:35 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger jic said...

Why is it that so many people seemingly can only think in extremes?

I wasn't thinking in extremes; I was simply unsure if I had interprated your words correctly, and I was seeking clarification. However, it seems a bit rich for you to make that complaint when you previously said:

this post looks like yet another example of how Dr. Helen seems to see everything through (far) Right colored glasses.

8:31 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jic said...

However, it seems a bit rich for you to make that complaint when you previously said:

Extremism does exist, although it is a term that should not be used lightly and then only in specific cases. There is a whole history of posts here that make Dr. Helen's "Right colored glasses" rather obvious.

Mind you, it's not her beliefs I question in particular, it's her objectivity. Nothing wrong with having strong beliefs, but merely being strong doesn't make them convincing. When I read someone's opinion about something I gauged the health of their objectivity and knowledge by the willingness to entertain other ideas while acknowledging the limitations of those they already hold. I have so far seen very little of that here, but I continue to hope it will appear.

9:13 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Greg said...

Knucklehead: I believe the term "gifted" is appropriate, as I am willing to admit both my intelligence and lack of physical ability are both largely inborn, an innate "gift."

I was a participant in various gifted and talented programs [based on standardized exams], honors classes, and AP classes. The ones in elementary school I didn't like: they were basically extra work. We got to learn about astronomy or architecture, and debate topics like how to help a hypothetical future overcrowded prison in Earth orbit (ha!), but at the end of the day, we were forced to study the same mathematics we learned on our own years earlier, and were subjected to reading materials far below our level.

Honors classes were better, as for once we were doing better work. And I personally wasn't stressed by these "harder" classes; in fact, being in a class with other smart kids who wanted to learn significantly lessened social pressures.

My four AP classes gave me college credit. I suspect I may have been able to take other exams and pass them, just based on my capacity to remember useless information. But again, credit came from objective measurements.

Dr. Helen is absolutely right that kids understand what's going on. We knew that the (Grade Level)-2 class generally had the brighter students than the (Grade Level)-1 class. We knew the smaller reading classes were grouped by ability. And we absolutely knew what "special" meant. (Not "especially smart," that's for sure.) Make those distinctions clear.

9:19 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have three children in special ed: two are geniuses, the third, in middle school, is severely developmentally disabled. At age 13 his cognitive skills are at about a 30-month old level.

All three of them made the honor roll. I'm guessing that the middle school administrators thought we would be just thrilled to get our letter telling us that he made the honor roll. After all, he got A grades in all his classes, from Life Skills (learning to make Easy Mac, microwave popcorn and smoothies) to Practical Math (learning to distinguish coins - which he still can't do).

I don't understand why they can't see that doing that makes the "honor roll" for my other two children completely meaningless.

Oh, well, his elementary teachers never understood the fact that we weren't impressed with the craft skills of his classroom aides. We would rather have had a paper full of scribbles that he had done himself than a neatly colored picture done hand-over-hand by one of the aides.

But to the question at hand, gifted programs are supposed to be for the purpose of offering differentiated learning to those who can't fulfull their full potential in regular ed classes. That is the justification for lumping together both genius and disabled children under one program umbrella.

A child should be in the "gifted" program if and only if he or she will be harmed by the conventional curriculum. If you dumb down the "gifted" curriculum so that the merely bright can do it then you re-create the same problem for the truly gifted.

My genius children do not do well - they do okay but not well - because the "gifted" program that is supposed to provide individualized and differentiated learning opportunities has become just as inflexible as the regular curriculum. They think it's "gifted" because it was written by people whose titles are "educators for the gifted", but they have made programs that are so standardized and sequenced that they are just as restrictive, dull and unresponsive as a conventional curriculum.

A teacher who is truly sensitive to the needs of gifted children will find ways to help them shine. All the rest of the teachers look at the external structure that that teacher uses, and proclaim that to be the magic formula, and try to replicate true success with gimmicks. It's not the gimmicks, it's the responsiveness and the ability to challenge each individual that will really enable a genius child to work up to his/her potential. But that's actual hard work, and most teachers of the gifted are not gifted themselves, they are just people who thought it would be really cool to hang around smart kids all day. They are too dependent on manuals and techniques.

9:45 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember where I read this comment but it seems appropriate to the discussion here:

"Homeschoolers are the monasteries of the new Dark Ages"

I would add that there are a few good private schools that would also fit the monastery category. Public schools, even the so-called good schools as well as the PC GATE programs, simply cannot compete with homeschooling and the few good private schools that challenge kids to achieve.

10:59 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger sarnac said...

Education should not be about information-cramming (as it is now) but about bio-neural-development ... exercising the growing minds of young people, teaching them paradigms, methods, and philosophies, ... but only data-stuffing where and when necessary. (everybody forgets crammed-in data)

The difference between gifted and non-gifted students has little to do with academic difficulty but everything to do with the students' mental pick-up rate and styles of thinking.

Unfortunately, too many schools and teachers merely make gifted classes super-honors ... massively increased workloads, extra material, but insufficient divergence.

Schools must be careful not to assume that academic performance actually defines a child ...

Some people's minds only are developed far enough to do repetitive tasks well ... schools need to identify these task-thinkers and 1: try to stretch their mental capacity and 2: give practical real-world-survival training to those who will not self-motivate into further education.

Some people's minds are capable of more complicated thinking, but may still not have the neural development (yet) to do complex tasks rapidly shortly after first-sight. This neural type, unpushed, generally becomes our trade-workers (electricians, builders, etc), These procedural thinkers grow into employment where they can work within and around what they have already done, but new anything tends to distress them. Once past the age of 16 or so, they are probably stuck in their mental limits, but many may just be undeveloped, and I have met a great many adults of vastly higher intelligence than they believe themselves to have. Too many people have their innate creativity and intelligence drummed out of them by rule+repetition-oriented schooling.

The above two categories ... task-oriented and procedural circular thinkers are the vast majority of people and as such, I refer to them as "normals" ... these people really need their schooling to focus on either expanding undiscovered capabilities and/or readying them for handling adult long-term survival. They are in "regular" classes ... but should be more aimed towards life-preparatory classes.

Beyond the circular thinkers above, you get the linear thinkers, capable of forming connections and chains of understanding, who dig into the why and how and seek to make things work or work better ... they can take ideas and follow them, pulling in information resources and solving significant problems. University education is specifically geared to giving these linear-chain-makers their tools and teaching them the patters and paradigms with which to solve problems they will see and be faced with. Some of the most brilliant people ever have been linear-thinkers and have made great strides for humanity ... generally in engineering, math, science, medicine, research, etc, creating what soon-will-be. (Mostly, this category is describing analytic left-brainers.)

Similarly, the inverse but nearly identical group to the chain-makers are the pattern-finders who see the interconnections in things and are generally adept in communicating those patterns. These tend towards thinking patters more like webs or root/tree structures and often have strong people and communications skills. These web/tree thinkers are best at seeing patters in people, history and language, and generally become teachers, communicators, writers, historians, etc. Society (wrongly?) values them less beacuse they connect what-is and what-was rather than building our future as the linears do. (Except the web/tree thinkers who become lawyers, who have created laws that assymetrically boost their take-home-pay.) (Mostly, this category is describing communicative right-brainers.)

The above two categories are what all schooling aims to support ... they are the "academic types" and excel in schools, and many of them are ideal to become aducators. These are the students for whom advanced / honors / AP classes are ideal. Many of these kids are/were falsely called "gifted" just because they are very quick-witted or very academically advanced. This is common in today's school system but very misguided and wrong ... because ...

Then there are the gifted kids ... not the "very-bright" kids with very fast minds and great calculative speeds ... but the truly gifted kids, who think in leaps and non-dimensional patterns, who are generally _not_ traditionally academic ... those whose minds race, cannot sit still, and who are so totally misunderstood by everyone around that nowadays, are typically drugged with ritalin. These kids may never be academic, but they are the Einsteins that we are crippling. These gifted kids do not care about a topic unless they are _interested_ ... and absolutely cannot stand repetition, need to see how things apply, interrelate, and interconnect. They tend to be fantastically overbright but underdeveloped, driven yet unmotivated. These kids need more than teachers, they need mentors and generally need massive personal attention, especially to actually get them through a set series of topics. Teaching a roomful of un-ritalin-ed truly gifted kids is like herding cats, on catnip, past a field full of mice. Realistically, these kids are probably better off being homeschooled if possible, since linear teachers cannot withstand the raging minds of the truly gifted child. In this category are not just the typical nerd/geek leap-thinkers and lightning-branchers that explore every side topic but the "ADD/ADHD" types who need to be mentored druglessly into managing their own neurology and the autistic/aspergers genuises who need even more mentoring than the ADD kids. These gifted kids with thinking linears cannot comprehend or follow are the next discovery-makers, the innovators, the people who ask more then "why? ... but "why not?" ... more than "how?" into "what if?" These future Einsteins break more rulea than they follow and would be terribly disruptive in any sane class setting. They need attention that would cripple a normal or honors class, but will reward the society that manages their development with overwhelming breakthroughs.

(NB: acceleratingly since WWII, with the advent of mass personal mobility and social upheaval, the pattern of increasingly high-IQ people marrying and having kids is causing an unhandleable growth in "ADD", Autie, Aspie, and non-linear-geniuses.)

If it is not obvious by the above paragraphs of argumentative pontification, I am an Aspergers autistic who has lived through academic disasters, such as failing Latin the entirety of my freshman year in high school ... and in that same year, coming in 5th in the state in the standardized Latin exams (my teacher was quite distressed at this). I am now in my 30s but had never even heard of Aspergers until about 10 months ago ... so I went through all of my educational years in gifted classes "held back" (meaning 'on-topic', repetitive) by the inclusion of very-bright-linears. Indeed, I would argue (at length) that my classes were super-honors extra-work classes rather than exploratory mind-expanding forays of discovery.

When "gifted" just means more work and more material, you just get more burnout and less genius. If "gifted" means bulk memorization and reams of problems, that has nothing to appeal to the free-ranging mind seeking to grok relativistic quantum physics (one of my pet fascinations) or how the history of China et al ties into their current foreign policy and regional behaviour (another).

Gifted kids either burn-out on over-work or check-out. Some (like me) never checked-in to start with. It is amazingly hard to get good grades in english writing classes when the non-deterministic grading allws the teacher's pet to turn in garbage and do well (she experimented and proved this) while an Aspie like me raises the teacher's ire by reading about physics and writing in compound polycomplex sentence structures, even if I did avoid the megapolysyllabic verbiage. :)

The best thing to do with gifted kids is not heaping on massive amounts of piled-up busywork but to induce them to expand their thinking in ever more complex ways, such as by combining chemistry, physics and history by looking at how mettalurgy and the technologies each marginal advance enabled revolutionized the civilizations that discovered them, and how those advances marched across the landscape as civilizations traded or counter-conquered each other.

If you really want to help gifted kids, target their best known number one weakness: confidence in public speaking and the capacity to organize thoughts out loud in very little time. No gifted program I was ever near had organized classes in debate (or brevity, as is obvious), much less the ideal debate format, which forces the student to argue one side then convincingly argue the other side, thus learning that truth is a triple-edged sword (sorry, Vorlon (Babylon5) reference).

Also, try teaching things in a better order ... I've taught calculus to very-normal 10 and 11 year olds ... they got it easily ... only then did I start explaining trig to them ... they had an easier time with differential equations (explained using simple car accelerations paradigms) than with anything related to trig. In fact, I was teaching these kids how to understand algebra and graphing using differential/calculus examples ... similar to how the fastest way to pick up and get good at many computer games is to start by playing on the hardest level for a while ... then the easier levels seem incredibly easy.

Similarly, kids can be taught out-of-subject in combined-education, like my earlier example of how mettalurgy has shaped history and how historical events have shaped and moved technology. Similarly (but not politically correct), look at how the language a society is brought up speaking and the philosophy or religion they are raised with can affect historical events, trends, patterns and technological developments or responses to particular occurances. Which leads to the obvious problem that when teachers use out-of-subject crossover material, they have broad leeway to inject their personal politics and philosophies into their teaching ... which brings us right back to homeschooling or its co-op equivalent, especially for the super-bright linear and the wildly-non-linear thinking kids.

Our education system unfortunately follows the oriental philosophy (without meaning to) that "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down" and gifted kids really "stick out" is our schools.

There is a solution, but I'm not rich enough yet ... once I can get one of my major inventions sold, I intend to create a "school for the gifted."

11:34 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This in nothing new. I'm from Shreveport, LA and in 1983 they opened up a magnate school for the kids with A averages (I was in 8th grade and looking to go to it but didn’t). As it was being built a woman whose son was a solid C student sued. The argument was that since tax money was paying for this school they could not discriminate on their admissions standards. Officials bowed to the pressure and opened it up for everyone.

I graduated from another school in 1987. That same year someone from the magnate graduated and in his senior year he took three English classes, a P.E. class, history, and a study hall. Pretty sad.

11:38 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger jic said...

There is a whole history of posts here that make Dr. Helen's "Right colored glasses" rather obvious.

You originally said "(far) Right colored glasses". Calling someone "far Right" is somewhat different.

11:45 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To an extent, you don't need a teacher for truly gifted students; you only need a library. The truly gifted students will happily learn things autonomously if given half a chance to. Those that are merely above average and work dilligently... won't Your hard-working above average student will learn because the teacher asks him or her to; the gifted student learns things because he or she feels that they must. Teachers, as a rule, will rate the students according to how well the student does what they tell them to, rather than by how well that the student actually learns.

I had read at a college level in kindergarten, and in elementary school, this fact was often forgotten/overlooked by my teachers. I would be stuck reading the same reading lessons as the other students. These reading lessons would be handled by students reading out loud from a selection in turns, going around the classroom. Whenever it was my turn, I'd have to ask where we were, because, invariably, I had read the entire reading assignment while the first kid was reading out loud, and was doing something else (reading something else, doodling, constructing squadrons of paper airplanes... anything) to pass time. Teachers would generally assume I had a reading disability until they happened to catch me reading something blatantly beyond the capaiblities of an elementary schooler. I understand why: from the perspective of a teacher, the student who asks where the class is because he's ahead is largely indistinguishable from the student who has to ask because he's behind, and paperwork you grade forms less of an emotional impact on your judgement than face-to-face interaction, but such interaction can be very misleading.

For what it's worth, any children I end up having will be homeschooled if it is possible to do so. If they are like I was, I already own the library and can provide the minimal supervision they'll need. If not, I get to see how good a teacher I would make, and it's not like the public schools are setting an impossibly high standard there.

11:50 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's good to see you point of view. Also, I think it really would have been difficult for you in school because you seem to have so much to say. That's the Aspie trait you share with my daughter. Her mind works like she's from another (far more interesting)planet! Parents of aspie's must be very patient and peculiar anthropologists. I've tried homeschooling her but it tires me out. Of course the administration at the public school tires me out too. Of course she's supremely tired-out. Maybe someday she will take me to her home planet and I will be as confused as she is:)

11:58 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger OddD said...

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential maintain that brain-injured kids (by whatever name they're currently known, whether "retarded" or "handicapped") are often, in fact, smarter than other kids.

If true, what that means is: A group of "educators" is calling for the "smart" kids, whom they proceed to treat like idiots, and that nobody--least of all the brain-injured kids--is fooled.

I recommend this book for those who would deal with special children. Of course, all children are special, The Incredibles notwithstanding, and this book is as much about tapping into that as anything.

What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child

12:48 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen,

Both quantitative and qualitative assessments are valid. As an educator who works with language minority children and adults I use both, and I certainly see how quantitative measurements, such as standardized testing, can tell part of the story but not all of the story. As quantitative measurements do not measure home life and often do not measure language background, qualitative measurements are often needed to identify the gifted.

I've seen far too many gifted language minority and African American students not identified as gifted. I also know of far too many wealthy children identified as gifted and/or enter the Ivy League, simply because they are of a privileged background and had intense tutoring, pressure from home, and private schooling.

This discrepancy is an immense waste of our countries natural gifted resources. Over breed wealthy/upper middle class children in the Ivy League and underprivileged gifted minority children who never make it to college do not help our country develop to its greatest potential. And certainly, the cure for cancer is not going to come from an individual of mediocre intelligence who scored well on the SATs (due to breeding to do so) and thus made it to Yale. The cure for cancer, and other great achievements, will likely come from those with innate intelligence, and educators need to take assessment seriously to identify the gifted who may have great contributions to offer some day.

I have to ask, Dr. Helen, don't you use both quantitative and qualitative assessments as a psychologist?


2:44 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Anonymous 1:01 sounds a little whiny to me. What do your skills have to do with making people like you? Making people like you is a different skill set from being successful with your talents and abilities. Unless your talent is "making friends" and therefore you must not be very good at it.

Also, you can be very good, excellent, or whatever at what you do and not try to make sure every one knows you are "superior". Some intellectually smart people try to show off too much, talking all of the time and never listening. Correcting others when it is not necessary just to show the superiority.

Some people feel sorry for themselves their entire lives and it is always someone elses fault.

6:52 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes, I use both quantitative and qualitative assessments in my work. But that is not what these "gifted" programs are proposing. They are proposing using "teacher observations." What does that mean? Does a teacher "observe" a child looking smart? How do they know? What is the criteria? Should I look at my patients and give them a diagnosis on how they appear or perhaps give a particular diagnosis based on the ones I feel sorry for or want to help for some reason?

I worked for a year going around to rural counties testing gifted kids in Tennessee. The programs they had to identify the kids, I thought seemed quite good. They used a cutoff score on the IQ, national test scores and a project the child could put together in his or her area of interest. This project was evaluated by a team of three specialists. To make the gifted program, the child had to pass two of the three criteria. Sure some qualitative data is good, but it depends on what you mean by qualitative.

7:00 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen:

Only the leasted "gifted" of teachers would use superficial observations such as appearance as a qualitative assessment. Teacher observations can be documented and meaningful.

Qualitative assessments could mean the following:

1. keeping a running record of student achievement and skills

2. a rubric of student achievement and skills kept by the teacher

3. portfolio of student achievement and skills that are assessed through a rubric

4. an assessment of the students home life, which may include the parent's level of educational achievement and their ability to support their children in their educational endeavors

In 2 and 3, a well developed and pedagogically meaningful rubric is important. In 4, a home life evaluation may be extremely important with some students. The greatest predictor of student achievement is parents' educational level. The higher their level, the better the student does. The lower their level, the worse a student does. In some cases, this may be a reflection of genetics, but it is also often a reflection of "the haves and the haves not". As I work with immigrant teenagers and adults, I have observed that adults from particular countries often had little access to schooling, and thus are not able to guide their children in their educational endeavors.


10:24 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We put our kids through six years of schooling in the French system whilst living in Africa. Their classmates were all Francophone - French, Lebanese, African, Vietnamese, white, black, Semitic, oriental, and lots of metiz - kids of mixed parentage. Our kids are used to seeing Black kids who speak their local language (Susu, Malinke, Woloof...). They have no concept that black kids can't learn well, they had to compete with high-producing kids who live in Third World conditions.
We have had many opportunities to compare the American system to the French (which is fairly typical of the European system in general). The French system has two pillars : Math and Language (reading, grammar, composition, spelling) study. In primary school, these two areas trumped all other subjects There is no grouping of advanced, middle or slow. If the kid is good enough, the French simply bump him or her up to the next grade, if they are having trouble, they are held back only at grades that are changes in cycles (K,1st & 2nd are one complete cycle, 3rd,4th 5th is another. A child would repeat 2nd before being allowed to advance to the next cycle.)
The French also do not send lots of homework home, the emphasis is that the work be done in class under the supervision of the teacher. They use the notebook system, students learn adult-size cursive at first grade and spend a lot of time copying notes from the board. They require rote memorization of poems. A typical first grader has to recite a six or seven stanza poem, every month a new one, which builds tremendous memorizational skills. The best we saw in the American school was a requirement to memorize TWO lines, once, and never again. Meanwhile, American teachers push in videos for the classes, and work on the computer, then send three hours of busywork home for the parents to manage. They hand off their grading to assistants and then never get to know their students, and where they are having trouble.
By third grade, the handwriting skills of the average non-American student are so superior to American kids at the same age that it is nearly impossible for an American to transfer into a foreign school and be able to keep up with even simple note-taking. We saw it - American kids couldn't produce and dropped out. American parents had a fantasy view that "young children learn languages fast" and were annoyed that their children were not fluent after 3 months.
Basically, the education that is currently offered overseas is nothing more than what the American system provided up to the disasterous overhaul of education in the 60s. My class was among the last to be educated in the traditional manner. Open classrooms and progressive concepts were implemented literally behind us as we left one grade for the next.
The current American classroom is so flawed in so many ways, it's hard to know where to begin. They can't even put seats in rows so that children don't have to swivel and twist around all the time to see who's up front.
The underlying problem seems to be that the American education system's philosophy is now developmentally-based, not skill-based. If a child is not reading, he's got a developmental problem, not a failure of the methology. The teacher is never at fault, it's a failing of the student somehow. The grouping of kids into levels condemns them to that level, with no effort to improve child's level though teaching. In fact, there is no teaching in the American schools - discovery reigns, condemning kids to a boring and ineffective pace of learning. The bias against boys is not a rumor, it's true. Our kids got a better overview of American history out of the French than what they were providing in the American school. If an American textbook thought it was more historically important to reserve an entire page to Patricia Schroeder (former Dem-congresswoman Colorado...who, already?) ) but just two sentences for George Washington, it tells you how trivial and off base the presentation is. For the same level, The French textbooks had a fascinating examination of the British revolution,influenced the American revolution and how these two pressures contributed to the French revolution.
It has been our experience looking at the elaborate American schools overseas and now in the States, that Americans know how to make a wonderful physical plant - no expense spared, but are now clueless as to what makes a strong curriculum. Teachers are debating whether they should bother teaching handwriting, whether teenagers need more sleep in the morning and other destructive nonsense. The schools become expensive to maintain, but do not offer the skill aquisition that students need for life or advanced study. Huge mega-schools make sports ultra competitive - only the best get to play, the rest are sidelined, leaving too many kids idle with nothing to do.
There have been several comments about the head-scratching as to why Hispanic kids don't do as well. Our kids were the foreign students - Anglophones in a Francophone system. Most of their classmates were in the same boat, dual language, one in school, one (or more) at home. It has been our experience that in a bi-lingual situation, extra effort is necessary to build the vocabularies that children have to use. What they speak and study at school is not the same as what they say at home. The French did a better job of insisting and teaching French as a language so even kids who started with zero, rise to a respectable competence very quickly. American teachers don't insist on composition, vocabulary building, grammar, their efforts are inferior to foreign schools. It's not surprising then that Hispanic students don't aquire the English level they need. Again, the schools/teachers never accept responsibility - it's some fault of the foreign student.

11:20 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Very interesting! And I agree with most of what you said. Whole language instruction that limits skills based instruction has been disastrous for our country.

In regard to your assessment of English Language Learners in the United States, there's another issue to look at, and that is literacy. Students whose parents lack literacy or have low level literacy in their native language are going to have a much harder time than those English Language Learners whose parents are very literate in their native language. Also, culture is in play here. In some cultures and subcultures, parents become highly involved in "pushing" their children to d well in school. In other cultures, such as some from Latin America, the teacher is considered an "expert" and the parents should not interfere. These parents may not know how to or do not understand the importance of looking at report cards, guiding their children to complete homework tasks, communicating with teachers, etc. This is why adult education in the United States is extremely important.


11:52 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Netmom said...

Wow - there is no lack of opinion diversity on this topic! That said, it truly seems that a balanced or integrated approach such as Dr. Helen described would be the best criteria for gifted programs.

Gifted programs are different than just higher-level, honors, or AP classes (at least in our school system). The problem with relying solely on teacher observation is that teachers, like the rest of us, are fallible human beings who cannot always see the potential within... especially when it's masked by a child who talks too much or too little; who doesn't stay on task (often because the task is not sufficiently challenging), etc.

Some kids are great test takers but produce only mediocre grades; some kids are straight-A students, but have difficulty performing on standardized tests. The only correct approach is one that incorporates a blend of testing and observation.

12:05 PM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi netmom,

Good observation, I think that teachers tend to base their opinions on behavior as much as anything else. That would be a shame because many gifted children can have stubborn personalities and can be very anti-authority which means they may get overlooked by teachers who are evaluating for the gifted program unless another objective criteria is used. Also, quiet or shy children could be overlooked. I remember one child who was chosen for a gifted program by the teacher because she looked perfect and wore pretty feminine dresses. I would like to think this would not happen much but it can so the best way is one that combines some objective criteria with perhaps some creative ones.

12:26 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gifted programs have been under assault since their inception. The likely reason that many of these programs' supporters resist more expansive entry requirements is that these can be used to dilute and coopt the program. While IQ scores are imperfect, they do provide a commonly accepted metric. Once you abstract the evaluation criteria, program opponents will push to adapt these to their social morays. The programs will be used to indoctrinate bright students.

2:51 PM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

I see peril in what Montgomery County is doing if they use this as an excuse to dumb down the curriculum or grading standards. On the other hand, I think it could be a very good thing.

My children attend a large private school (pre-K through 12) that can fairly be termed a good prep school. The children who attend this school come from diverse racial and socioeconomic segments of society. In the past 15 years of my association with this school, all of the high school graduates have attended college - most with scholarships, and virtually all graduated from college. A small percentage (about 25%) of the students attend Ivy League or comparable schools.

This school does not have a gifted program at any level. Younger students do not have a choice in what they take or who their teacher is, while high school students may take any AP or honors classes they want. Students who have never taken an AP or honors class can opt to take one at any time, even as a senior, and I know students who have done this successfully (although they have to work hard).

I have seen previously average students develop a special interest or become more motivated during high school. Leaving an "open door" so they can take more challenging classes has been a good thing provided the school and teachers generally maintain the same standards.

In fairness, I should disclose that I don't have much love for gifted programs. Many of our grandparents or great-grandparents were well educated in small schools where there might be 3-4 grades combined. The older, smarter, "gifted" students helped the younger ones, and they all learned. It doesn't take a special class to teach gifted children. Virtually all children can be taught if you have a school that imposes discipline and a teacher who can teach.

4:07 PM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

To make my earlier post clear, I think the magnet program could be good if it opens admissions to more students. I do not favor a program that lets teachers decide based on arbitrary personal standards.

4:23 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make my earlier post clear, I think the magnet program could be good if it opens admissions to more students.

Yes, more children of color must be placed in magnet schools.


8:14 PM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article states:

"At two elementary schools, Georgian Forest in Silver Spring and Burning Tree in Bethesda, that means piloting an approach in which students are not formally labeled "gifted and talented" solely through traditional testing. Instead, teachers spend more time watching how individual students perform and place them based on those observations. The change doesn't necessarily mean that all students will be in the highest-level reading group, but it is a strategy for reaching out to kids who might have been overlooked in the past, said Georgian Forest Principal Donald D. Masline."

I'm not sure what all the hubub is about. It seems like they are already using an integrated approach (standardized testing + teacher observations) and have merely added "observations" to its criteria. The details of their approach are not stated in the article.


11:00 AM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In our youngest daughter's elementary school, children requiring discipline are sent to "Success Club". When I first heard this I burst out laughing. All the kids understand what's happening.

At least there is some attempt to discipline. Sigh.

12:56 PM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like they are already using an integrated approach (standardized testing + teacher observations) and have merely added "observations" to its criteria. The details of their approach are not stated in the article.

I'll explain the details:

Teachers think up some pretext to put more African American students in advanced or honors classes so as to fill th quota for black students, whether or not aptitude testing shows these students actually to be qualfied for a more advanced class.


8:24 PM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention the potential to use discipline and rule-following to regulate entry rather than actual ability. When I started thinking about home-schooling, a friend said that when she was in high school they had enrichment classes but she never got to go to them (despite having the same high grades as others in them) because she skipped school too much.

she skipped school because she was bored and still got the same grades. the enrichment wasn't treated as something to meet her needs (and maybe entice her into coming) but as a 'perk' for the good kids. crap

4:44 PM, March 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The public schools will continue to flail about throwing more and more money at student achievement, and we will continue to hear about failing schools and successful schools.

The problem is, schools don't succeed or fail academically, students do. The beliefs and attitudes of the student are the primary determinant of academic achievement. We have a problem with failing students, not failing schools. The failing students need a change of attitude and values.

Therein lies the problem. No one who believes in the founding principle of freedom of conscience can support government schools giving failing kids the attitude adjustment, i.e. belief indoctrination, they so sorely need. Unlike 100 years ago, American society is so philosophically balkanized that there's no agreed upon definition of what that adjustment even is.

That's why the public schools have outlived their usefulness. When all Americans shared the same beliefs, which happened to be ONE of the sets of beliefs that lead to success, and socially reinforced them across the board, public schools worked. However, Americans now subscribe to a wide variety of worldviews, some of which fall decidedly outside the set of views that are compatible with being a successful, contributing member of society. In such a society, you can't have public school system that doesn't violate someone's freedom of conscience. Thus, you need to remove the government from the delivery of educational services, and relegate it to simply paying for them - vouchers, or tax credits (which, unlike vouchers, benefit homeschoolers) are the solution. Each parent chooses the values they want their child indoctrinated in, and sends them to a school that does so. Will some choose bad values and send their kids to schools that apply them, leading to failure? Sure, but those kids would fail in public schools too, because public schools can't constitutionally condemn and replace those faulty values. There will always be kids whose parents poor values stand in the way of achieving their dreams, otherwise everyone would be astronauts and ballerinas, and there would be no one to make the sandwiches.

5:21 PM, March 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be nice if all children received a "gifted" education. As me sainted Mother, a Special Ed teacher from way back, has observed "Every child should be met where he is and taken as far as he can go."

Isn't this what we're ultimately talking about, the inability or unwillingness on the part of public school instructors to interact with their children as individuals? Isn't that what drives the appeal of homeschooling?

The most important education reform of the 21st century will be the removal of the copy machine from each and every school.


11:08 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While IQ scores are imperfect, they do provide a commonly accepted metric. Once you abstract the evaluation criteria, program opponents will push to adapt these to their social morays. The programs will be used to indoctrinate bright students.

as said by 'anonymous' would be nice if this is in fact the case. Unfortunately my experience is way too many parents strong arming the system and protesting scores only to push their kids into the program. For? well, so they can go around and brag? or whatever. Maybe feel exclusive in someway. schools in my area has completely watered down the program. GATE kids are given less homework and not sure there's anything more. Apparently they need less homework because they are sooo 'gifted'. Also most of the PTA moms have their kids in the program and they walk around the schools talking about their kids. I know most of those kids and I feel sorry for them. But, hey, if this is what they need to feel 'exclusive' how sad..

8:55 PM, June 20, 2006  
Blogger Misanthrope said...

When I was in elemantary school, the GT program consisted of having to do extra work. Period. No special classes or activities, just more homework.

Of course, my high school cancelled their due to some program irregularities.

4:54 PM, October 03, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...








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1:55 AM, April 20, 2009  
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9:17 AM, May 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:32 PM, June 07, 2009  

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