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Why I Am Passionate About Gifted Education

July 3, 2011

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

My Story

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

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    July 7, 2011 5:22 PM

    My goodness you really hit some of the frustrations in the public school system right on the head. When all the experts agree that early identification is key to gifted education, our public schools are failing at the basic first step of finding kids with a high aptitude! My profoundly gifted son was identified by the school psychologist in the first grade. However, his teacher did not see eye to eye what is best for gifted learners with the principal or even the pupil personnel. We withdrew our son from the public school district and placed him in a cyber / charter school. He has access to classroom environment gifted classes, fine arts programs, field trips with other gifted learners, enrichment, and advanced curriculum. They meet every expectation we had for our son’s educational needs. Most importantly, they were agressive in assesing exactly where he was at for grade level, even beyond his IQ tests! He was found at the age of 6 to be reading at the 12th grade level and math at the 4th grade level. We had no idea his aptitude was this high, although we knew he was a bright child and gifted learner. We can now make sure he has access to the style of learning and advanced curriculum he will need. He is skipping 2nd grade and entering third in the fall. I love people who think outside of the box for these kids!!

    • July 8, 2011 11:09 AM

      Thanks, Julie! I know many in the gifted community would love to hear more about the school your son is now attending. It sounds wonderful.

  2. July 12, 2011 12:13 AM

    Thank you for posting this. We are not in Michigan, but in Illinois where gifted education is neither mandated or funded. We have a gifted child who has struggled in school. Although his teachers understand that he has very high potential, it appears that they are unable to “reach” him with their idea of what is differentiation.

    I am quite frustrated, and it is a relief to know that we are not the only family struggling with this, although it would be better news to compare success stories! Perhaps there is a similar organization in our area (Chicago) that could advocate for gifted ed.

    • August 16, 2011 11:58 PM

      Dear Gensatmidlife,
      There IS an Illinois gifted organization just like there is MI Association for gifted in Michigan (www.migiftedchild.org). In Illinois it is: Illinois Association for Gifted Children. Michele Kane, President. 800 E. Northwest Hwy Suite 610 Palatine, IL 60074. (847) 963-1892. michelekane1@ aol.com at http://www.iagcgifted.org/ In fact Michele Kane works closely with the recent past president of our Michigan group, Ellen Fiedler. Ellen trains teachers in Chicago regularly. Good luck connecting and making a difference where YOU are! Marie

  3. angie permalink
    July 25, 2011 3:46 PM

    Joshua, We have been waiting for someone like you to spearhead this campaign! We are ready to work together with other parents to help our gifted kids in Rochester Community Schools. I heard that RCS was considering the International Baccalaureate program. Have you heard this? Troy schools will/do have the I.B. program beginning at the elementary level. When will RCS do it? Looking forward to meeting you and other families at the picnic.

  4. July 25, 2011 4:41 PM

    Angie,
    Thank you for your comments! Getting gifted education in our schools will definitely be a team effort as many in the schools do not believe it to be necessary. Often gifted children are seen as an extremely small population and gifted services only seen to benefit 1 or 2 per school. We need as many vocal parents as possible.

    I haven’t heard lately about IB. I think all talk of that stopped when Pruneau announced his resignation as it would be contingent on the new superintendent’s beliefs. I believe Clarke supports IB, but we will have to see if he tries to bring it into our schools.

    Looking forward to meeting you and your family too!

  5. Jane permalink
    March 6, 2012 11:06 PM

    I was a GATE student when I was in school. When I was in elementary school in California, we had a special class we would get to go to in the afternoons for enrichment and other activities to boost our education. It was really great, I excelled in every subject because of the support I received in and out of the classroom. When I moved to Oregon, it was a very different case. It could just be the small town I was in, but the gifted education was seriously lacking. I don’t think they had the knowledge or much funding for a good program, and had trouble organizing a way to challenge those gifted students. I struggled with school because I was not being challenged, and ended up not caring because most of the work was too easy. The teachers weren’t very tolerant of the gifted students and most of the time would just add on extra assignments for us to complete. Gifted should not equal more paper work!
    I think it would be great if all school districts had a substantial program for academically gifted students, however, that is really not the case. Kudos to you for taking the steps to increase the awareness of gifted education and actually do something to improve it!

Trackbacks

  1. Why Gifted? « Advocacy & Consulting for Education, Inc.

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