Why I Am Passionate About Gifted Education
There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. – John F. Kennedy
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. – Harriet Tubman
This is my story, but it is a story that could be told by parents of gifted children in many different school districts.
Like most parents, I enrolled my daughter in school believing that the teacher and other staff would assess her academic levels and what she knew and begin her education from there. She knew how to write her letters and numbers proficiently, ably sounded out words, phonetically spelled out words, and could count past 100. I was surprised when the kindergarten end-of-year requirements were lower than that, but I figured that certainly children who already knew the skills would not have to relearn them. We didn’t push the teacher. We didn’t want to be “those parents”.
When her first report card indicated mastery in all the subjects, we figured it was an opportune time to discuss with the teacher what education was being provided to our child. The teacher indicated that even though she was ahead in all subjects, kindergarten was still the place for her and that differentiation of curriculum takes place. Unfortunately, we learned through our experience that even with great teachers, our elementary schools are not set up to provide the right education for advanced and gifted students.
Talking with other parents of advanced and gifted children, I found our experience was common. Some were supplementing their children’s education with worksheets or books at home that were a year or two ahead of what was being taught in the classroom. Some were considering home schooling to provide the pace and curriculum their children could achieve. Some had moved their children to other school districts. Some met with teachers and principals. Some just hoped it would get better in latter grades.
Clearly, we needed a unified group to petition for district-wide changes in gifted education and to provide support for each other. I began Rochester SAGE – Supporting Advanced & Gifted Education – to help be that voice, to provide information on gifted education, and to allow parents to discuss what worked in providing academically aligned education for their children.
Why Choose Gifted Education?
Many times I’m asked why we advocate solely for gifted education. Why am I not more of a generalist, attempting to improve education for all students?
Our district has plenty of advocates for general education. We have parents and teachers who work through the PTA and other channels. We have our Board of Education, who work many unpaid hours to make our district the best it can be. We have administrators and principals putting in long hours for general education. But we have no one and no group in the district specifically supporting our gifted students.
Athletics have their booster clubs. Theater and the arts have their supporters. Our activities are internal and integral to the classroom, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a group of supportive parents and advocates. Children need to know that their unique abilities are championed and cheered, be it academic, artistic, or athletic.
In school, I was helped greatly by gifted education methods such as curriculum compacting, subject matter acceleration, and cluster grouping. My wife skipped a grade and was in a magnet gifted classroom. We want the children of Rochester Community Schools to have the same opportunities or better than what we had.
But my strongest impetus is having seen what often happens when gifted children do not have appropriate education. They become bored with school. They don’t learn how to study. They don’t try very hard. They become lazy and learn to coast on their intelligence. With academically aligned education, we can help them avoid these pitfalls.
But isn’t it just a small number?
Many think of that one kid in school who blew the curve and may not have fit in, but that isn’t the typical gifted student. Approximately 5-7% of children are gifted and a smaller percentage are profoundly gifted. In Rochester Community Schools, probably 1000 students need gifted education and another 1000 would benefit from an advanced curriculum and pace. With almost 80% of Rochester and Rochester Hills having at least some college education and intelligence being partially hereditary, the numbers could be significantly higher. Unfortunately, students are not tested for giftedness in our schools, so actual numbers are not known.
Has Much Headway Been Made?
No, not yet. Giftedness is not well understood in the educational community. Less than 1/3 of teachers have taken even a single course focused on educating gifted students. District policies and beliefs appear to be against many gifted education options. James T. Gallagher, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill wrote in 2004 “There is little doubt that educators have been largely negative about the practice of acceleration despite abundant research evidence attesting to its validity.”
If we want make progress for our children, we can’t wait! Seize the day and reach out to educators and district administrators, informing them about the needs of gifted learners and requesting services. Make your children’s education your passion and help them lead extraordinary lives!
Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE. Together we can make a difference for gifted students!
The Importance of Gifted Education Series
I. Why I Am Passionate About Gifted Education
II. Why Is Gifted Education Necessary?
III. Is Gifted Education Equal Education?
IV. Is Gifted Education Expensive?
V. How Does Gifted Education Help Everyone?
VI. What Are Characteristics of a Gifted Child?
VII. Why Grades Don’t Matter to Me
VIII. The Procrustean Bed of Education
IX. The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
X. I Want My Kids to Fail