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Gifted education nightmares

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Showing 1-15 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 11, 2012 9:12:51 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2012 9:13:41 AM PDT
C. klauber says:
After dealing with a public school nightmare this spring, I am wondering what other people have experienced in this area.
My son (11 and just starting to come into his own) is "talented and gifted" according to the terminology of our school district, but he goes to a school where 25% (!!!) of students have this designation. So something is wrong right there...but this district (BVSD) has one solution: skip ahead a grade level in a subject if and only if the student gets all "A's."
What are other districts doing that REALLY addresses the different needs of gifted kids?
Any districts NOT warehousing smart kids? Our state (CO) mandates individual learning plans for every child with a TAG designation, but our district does not comply. Any districts in Colorado, or other states where ALP's are done? Is it effective?
Education for the one end of the spectrum seems to be where education for the other end was 20 years ago.
Nightmares or success stories out there?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 12:43:42 PM PDT
In my opinion, some of the key factors that have contributed to the demise of the college preparatory curriculum and to the pseudo-education of American students are:
1. identifying students, at very young ages, as "gifted-and-talented."
2. labeling students by "learning styles"--visual learner, oral learner, etc.
3. the mushrooming testing rackets.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 1:18:13 PM PDT
C. klauber says:
Good points. My childrens' elem. school wanted to identify all the TAG kids in k-2 and never have to think about it again.
The schools really seem to misunderstand the difference between bright and gifted. 25% are in the top 5% is what the school has said. Any semi-educated person would scratch her head at THAT statement!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 8:11:34 PM PDT
I think it depends on the demographic. Our pre-service class on this topic stated that 5% of the population should require Special Education and another 5% should qualify as "Talented and Gifted". In our high poverty, rural school district, 25% of our students are being served by Special Education and in a cohort of 100 students, only two or three of them have been identified as TAG. On the other hand, where my niece and nephew live outside Washington DC in a wealthy suburb, there are enough students who qualify as TAG that there is an entire elementary and middle school set aside for these students in their district.

I find that ALL of my students - those labeled autistic, learning disabled, general education or TAG - are completely unique and bring their own passions, interests and ability to a general ed. classroom. They would be best served in smaller classes with teachers who only have a total student load of 80 students or less throughout the day.

Most policies with respect to TAG are that once a child qualifies as TAG, they never have to "re-qualify" (even though how a child presents in second grade may be very different than how they will be in seventh grade). Furthermore, I do think that federal law states that each child must have a individual learning plan (for Special Ed. students in Oregon, this is called an IEP - Individualized Learning Plan - whereas for TAG students, it is a PEP - a Personalized Education Plan).

Our middle school has a class in the middle of the day called SEEK - which stands for "Students Enriching and Extended Knowledge". Our students who are not currently successful take an intervention class at this time in reading, writing or math, while our successful (including TAG) students take an "enrichment class", which is a 12-week elective. Some sample offerings have included a science/engineering class and the "History of Rock and Roll". I teach an intervention - a study hall for students who don't get homework done at home. (They are not self-starters, although some are in there by choice.) What is frustrating for the teacher doing the engineering elective is that it is somewhat of an unfunded class, and he has noticed that students who are traditionally designated TAG under our criteria are often good book-learners but have no mechanical ability and no patience with mechanics; he wishes he could reach some our so-called general ed/special ed students who WOULD have mechanical and spatial ability, but who are in academic intervention classes. As an aside, it was in the 1990s that shop classes at middle school and vocational tracks in high school were all dismantled in favor of the notion that every child was college-capable. (Sigh. So many lost talents to offshore outsourcing...)

For students who qualify as TAG, each teacher must write the PEP. In math or reading, students may be accelerated and move at a faster pace or their teacher may help them select literature that is more suited to their ability and interest. In science, which I teach, I offer more in-depth readings (from scientific literature) and opportunities for more in-depth inquiry projects in biology (given the resources they have).

Your district is probably out of compliance with ALPs and their TAG program because right now there is very little money for it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 8:20:55 PM PDT
wtf ???????????????????

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 8:21:31 PM PDT
its the feel good approach
everybody is special
nobody learns nothing but pass anyway

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 1:43:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012 4:39:26 PM PDT
C. Klauber:

A mild success story I have is the local neighborhood girl I was tutoring ended up in an advanced instruction in public school. I noticed right away that this girl was smart, and I had also taught chess to her older brother, and they did some small chores for me around my house.

The sad part was that as a 2nd grader, I had her reading at a 4th grade level and after she attended public school, her reading level dropped. I could have had her reading at a 6th grade level with a few more months of instruction, but I only had the one summer with her, in which I taught her chess, and shared my library with her.

As far as the public school system and what they do with the Special students, I could not say, as I have nothing to do with them.

I noticed this about both this girl and her brother though. They both think "out---of---the---box". Her brother expecially is a critic of education, and even showed me a video of critical of public education. I will see if I can find that later and post it.




Posted on Jun 12, 2012 7:38:13 AM PDT
C. klauber says:
Thanks for the imput. Couldn't you argue that schools being out of compliance because of lack of funds is like someone not buying car insurance because they can't afford it? Yeah, okay, but... Are there ways to help schools comply that don't cost a lot of $?

My son's school spent a TON of money having him see the school counselor, but wouldn't give him a 10 min. math assessment. The principal spent a lot of time dealing with him, but all her efforts were in the wrong direction. He needed harder, more in-depth, meaningful assignments, not sessions with the counselor or social worker.

I do agree with Suzanne's demographic assessment. High socio-economic parents have high achieving kids. That's not to say rich kids are smarter, but they sure do better on tests. They are better at jumping through the public school hoops.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 10:36:50 AM PDT
I would like to point out that the gifted-and-talented business is quite lucrative. According to the following article:

<<"The Renzullis have received more than $20 million in grant money to research the gifted and talented. I thought there might be something there," Van Allen said.>>

Rewards Of Research
UConn Professors Assess How Individual Kids Like To Learn

By JANICE PODSADA, The Hartford Courant

September 19, 2007

In September 2005, 102 new students arrived at Falcon Pass Elementary School in Houston. Their home was a Red Cross shelter. Many came without a change of clothes, shoes or their school records, all of which had been washed away by Hurricane Katrina.

"They were really different kids than we were used to. We're a mile from the Johnson Space Center," said Chad Stevens, then the school's principal. "We were a real suburban school taking on inner city kids."

With few clues as to their academic abilities, school officials turned to an educational software program they had purchased from a new Connecticut company, Renzulli Learning Systems in Avon.

"It helped us find their passions," Stevens said. "Maybe they weren't the greatest test-takers, but we found out that some of these kids were very gifted. They were creative, they were great artists, they had leadership abilities."

That year, Falcon Pass Elementary School's 890 students posted some of their best test scores ever, Stevens said.

Based on three decades of research by a husband-and-wife team of University of Connecticut education professors, Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis, the Renzulli software allows children to identify their interests, talents and how they enjoy learning, whether through independent study, in small groups or participating in a hands-on project.

The interactive program, which takes about 45 minutes to complete, has students answer a series of questions concerning their interests as well as their likes and dislikes when it comes to learning, classes and topics. Once the survey is completed, the program creates a written profile, available to students, parents and teachers. The program also allows students to access a database of educational Internet sites that provide everything from suggested learning projects to virtual Internet tours of museums and historical sites.

Since its 2005 launch, Renzulli Learning Systems has grown from one to 25 employees. Last year, the company earned more than $1 million in revenue, company officials said.

"We've just turned a profit," said Mike Daversa, the company's chief executive officer.

Its software has been purchased by some of the nation's largest school districts, including New York City, Miami, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Houston. More than 360,000 students have access to the program, including Connecticut students from Ashford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Eastford, Fairfield, Hartford, Madison, Manchester, Southington, Sprague and West Hartford

In 2003, UConn's Research and Development Corp., a for-profit subsidiary of the University of Connecticut Foundation, approached Renzulli and Reis, hoping to turn their research on gifted children into a commercial venture.

"Our whole mission is to start businesses based on faculty research," said Mark Van Allen, president of the Research and Development division. "If it has commercial potential, we will write a business plan and find someone to run the business."

"The Renzullis have received more than $20 million in grant money to research the gifted and talented. I thought there might be something there," Van Allen said.

Renzulli, a former junior high school teacher, subscribes to the theory that "giftedness" in children is not merely a function of IQ, and that there's more than one way to learn or teach.

"There's more to creativity and inventiveness than just raw I.Q," said Renzulli, who began researching what "makes giftedness" in the 1970s. His office is crowded with crayoned thank-you notes from children and light bulbs: oversize papier-mache light bulbs, key chains and pencils in the shape of light bulbs. "They are a theme of my work - igniting ideas in kids," Renzulli said.

"The traditional approach involves finding out what a child can't do, doesn't like to do and then spends the rest of the year beating them to death with it," said Renzulli, whose high school counselor advised him to take up a trade. "I was told I would be good at running a linotype machine."

However, his research isn't restricted to finding gifted children. He subscribes to the schoolwide enrichment model. "That's the model that says that the activities you give to gifted children should be given to all students," Daversa said.

"I want to be able to take poor kids from the inner city or rural schools and take them to the Louvre or to an archaeological dig that's going on in real time in Peru," said Renzulli, who describes his childhood as impoverished. "My mother was a servant," he said.

Daversa, a UConn graduate, was recruited by the university's Research and Development division.

"We hired Mike Daversa to work with us to create a business plan and to build a business around Renzulli's research," Van Allen said. "He had an educational software business and he had sold his business to McGraw-Hill."

"I had been retired," Daversa said. "But the idea appealed to me because of the widespread potential."

In 2004, private investors provided several hundred thousand dollars in startup funds and launched the company. Daversa assembled a team of software developers and created a program based on Renzulli's research.

Renzulli Learning Systems is a subscription-based service, Daversa said.

"Most of the sales we make are for a $5,000 site license, which allows students at a single school unlimited year-round access," Daversa said. The site license can drop to about $2,000 per school in districts with 150 to 200 schools. "Schools buy it on an annual basis - the idea is students do a new profile every year."

The country's second-largest school district, Los Angeles Unified School District, recently purchased the system, as did the Bridgeport public schools.

One third of Bridgeport's 22,000 students will have access to the program, said Deborah Santacapita, director of evaluation and research at Bridgeport schools.

"We're putting it in 11 schools, but eventually we want to be able to offer it to all our students. Training starts this Friday," Santacapita said.

"We're always bombarded by vendors trying to sell us something," said LaRoyce Bell, the gifted and talented programs coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "But we were aware of Renzulli's research. If it's Renzulli, we'll definitely take a look at it."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 14, 2012 7:39:06 AM PDT
rniche says:
Excellent post, spot on.

As a teacher and the parent of a "gifted" seventh grader, I would love to see teachers become more familiar with a differentiation strategy known as compacting. Sadly, here in Texas, staff development never seems to include anything but cursory info about GT.

Suzanna, you and your engineering elective teacher see the truth of the matter. TAG and SPED/General Ed kids would both benefit from the mix in that class. Hope you find a way to make it happen.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 4:30:40 PM PDT
No, federal law does not mandate an individual plan for all kids. The only mandate if for children who fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thus children with a verified disability get an IEP. Many children on the low end of the scale are considered learning disabled, and qualify. Children on the higher and might qualify for a 504 Plan, but generally only if they have some sort of disability that impacts a life function. If they are performing at or very near (let alone above) grade level, they don't qualify.

Further, each state has its own rules. In my state, Connecticut, school districts are required to identify gifted children, but then are not required to provide any services. This of course means that when budget cuts loom, the gifted programs are on the line. No Child Left Behind has resulted in all children being tested against "grade level" rather than against their own potential. It hurts the kids at both ends, but also results in loads of money being spent on the kids at the low end to bring them up to grade level. There is no consequence if the kids who started above grade level sink to just at grade level. They apparently are making adequate progress.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 10:07:10 PM PDT
Thanks; with further reading, I am seeing that gifted education has been left up to the states.

There was so much available to us in the 1970s and 80s when I was in school that is not there now - orchestra, shop, art, more than one foreign language - none of that is there anymore. The high school in the district to the north of mine can offer calculus for the next two years only, because they received a special grant for it. In other years, they have only been able to offer three years of math (although their students could take it for free at the community college, except that scheduling was a problem).

Posted on Jun 27, 2012 10:18:55 AM PDT
C. klauber says:
Thanks for all the comments. I am starting to wonder how many smart kids get turned off, not only to learning, but also to authority and community by their experiences in school. Are we creating Unibombers through our inability and unwillingness to deal with these creative and clever minds? Does anyone know of any good studies of relating high intelligence and juvenile deliquency?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 1:26:07 PM PDT
Lisareads says:
Does anyone know of any good studies of relating high intelligence and juvenile deliquency?"
We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

Kids can be very creative without schools to dumb them down. We are alienating our brightest minds with standardization.

Posted on Jun 27, 2012 6:15:11 PM PDT
We shortchange the gifted kids in so many ways. In our district, our middle schools changed to a new schedule this year. As part of the process, they created two "enterprise" periods each day for all grades. Unlike their regular classes, these meet every other day, allowing for 4 different classes every 2 days. One of those 4 must be physical education, and one of those must be music (and here we hurt the gifted musician, because they must choose between band or chorus, they can't do both - or they can take half a year of general music and half a year of computer class, I guess the musicians don't need to know how to use the computers or create powerpoints). That leaves 2 classes each for 4 marking periods. Two of those are taken up by health, leaving 6. For most students they rotate through 6 different "enterprise" classes, what we used to call unified arts: art (2 different classes), cooking, sewing, and shop/technology (2 classes). But gifted kids only take 2 enterprise classes, and the other 4 spots are taken up by their enrichment program. Meanwhile kids at the other end get their 6 classes, and get special help while their classmates attend world language classes every day, because that is not mandatory. The "classroom" teachers didn't like the kids being pulled from regular classes for enrichment, because it made more work for them (though those kids were good about making up work,unlike those who were pulled for extra help.

While I disagree with the idea of identifying gifted kids in 1st and 2nd grade as a general rule, but differentiation has to start earlier than high school! Most schools won't have kids skip a grade, even when they are far ahead of their peers, because they think it will cause problems socially. But guess what - their classmates are not their peers!

For my kids, I am gradeful I found the programs offered by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins. They are expensive, but their summer programs are amazing (my oldest went on scholarship). 3 Weeks of intensive study in one topic, with other kids age 12-16, living in dorms on a college campus. Beyond what they learn in class, they spend time with other kids like them. Would that I could afford to send my kids to a school where all their classes were like that. Instead, it is rumored that our school will be eliminating most levels of classes and returning to two levels: academic and honors/AP. That will be fine for the most gifted, but the above average kids that don't want to take the highest level will end up in classes with the kids who probably shouldn't have advanced to the next grade. Who do you think will get the most attention in those classes?
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Initial post:  Jun 11, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 27, 2012

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