We’re going to Disney and you’re not. The have and have nots in gifted education.

Should gifted students get a Disney trip? (Photo/Disney)

Should gifted students get a Disney trip? (Photo/Disney)

One of the most contentious issues in public education is “gifted” services and whether there is too little or too much attention placed on academically strong students.

When I visited the classroom of a Milken Award winner, the teacher noted that he had only 17 students in his “gifted” class while he had 27 in his “regular” class. In his affluent community, there was little difference in the abilities of most of the students in the two classes. In some cases, a point or two on some test kept the kids out of the gifted level.

Did it make sense, he asked me, to have such a difference in class size?

My own kids, by virtue of their brilliant father, score well on standardized tests and have been in “gifted” programs where they are pulled out for a class or two. (My system does not do the extensive pull-out that many others do.)

My own preference would be that schools would move kids, regardless of the gifted label, into the class that best suited their abilities. So, a strong sixth grade math student would move into a seventh grade class. A gifted artist in seventh grade would move to eighth grade art. A strong third grader in Spanish would take Spanish with fifth graders.

I also think that one factor overlooked in gifted evaluations is sheer determination. It is interesting for me to see that several of my older children’s pals in gifted classes either did not go to college or failed out. (And they are not backpacking through Europe or building orphanages in Guatemala. They are living at home and looking for work.) But they also have friends who never made the “gifted” cut who are in medical school or studying economics in London.

In fact, I have a friend whose son did not quality for gifted services until middle school, yet he graduated No. 1 in his very competitive high school class, attended an Ivy League college and was accepted by six medical schools. It was always clear to me that this child was extraordinarily bright and academically gifted in math and science, but somehow did not make the cut in elementary school.

I prefer that we get rid of gifted labels and instead make classes more fluid, moving students into higher grades when they show great aptitude. I also think that my two older kids would have done fine in a three-year high school framework. With the surge in online classes, more Georgia high schoolers could finish in three years. (That was one of the suggestions of the “Tough Times, Tough Choices” report on k-12 reform, and I think it was a great one.)

All of this is to lead into this good piece by a parent who has one child in gifted services and one who is not. She was confronted this year with a tough choice, whether to allow her son in the gifted program to go to Disney for a week-long trip:

In the middle of a worldwide economic crisis and a district-wide CRCT cheating scandal, Atlanta Public Schools decided that packing up “gifted-and-talented” students for five school days next month and heading to Florida to visit amusement parks was a bright idea.

One of those days will be spent in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and another at Epcot: $450 per person for students, paid by the parents. I was unable to uncover how many taxpayer dollars are kicked in, but at a minimum those teacher’s salaries for that time.

The school bus doors opened last week to squealing children. My two sons got off the bus, one with blue eyes and the other brown. My “gifted” son held a permission slip and my “not-gifted” held his head low from shame: “The Challenge kids get to go to Disney World and I don’t.”

As his mama, I heard: “I’m not worthy of going to the happiest place on earth with the smart kids.” Shame on the adults who came up with this idea. Openly inviting a select group and not others on a vacation encourages bullying and ostracizing. I chose not to allow my “gifted” son to attend the trip. Instead, I am putting the money towards Ipads to enrich learning for our entire family at home.

When are we going to stop teaching kids to feel inferior in American schools? If you think segregation no longer exists, try taking a closer look at our classrooms.

Remember Brown vs. Board of Education, which concluded, “To separate [some children] from others of similar age and qualifications … generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone….”

As a result of my capable, “not-gifted” boy’s exclusion from the 60- some percent of his class who attend the full-day, pull-out, gifted-and-talented program, he has come undone. He cries when he used to not. He agonizes over homework, afraid of errors. He dislikes school. I will forever loathe those responsible for changing my boy.

I thought we knew better than to socially and economically sort children in 2011.

Are the teachers saying “cast members” from the dated Epcot theme park are more capable of teaching rigorous content to advanced students than they are?

Or is it that our exceptional students really aren’t that exceptional and don’t need extra challenges. Perhaps, it’s simply that we want to separate and give those already advantaged a special treat for being so above average and rich. Maybe they just don’t care or haven’t give it much thought.

Hopefully, those decision-makers allocating Georgia’s $400 million Race to the Top grant are thinking clearer. From the U.S. Department of Education: “Race to the Top winners will help trail blaze effective reforms and provide examples for states and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.” I hope so.

Come on, Georgia. We can do better than a theme-park education, and all our children deserve more.

No child should be invisible, “gifted” or “not-gifted.”

Consider raising the bar for all students and treat everyone as a high achiever. Then, see what happens. Researchers at Duke University developed a truly bright idea aptly named, Project Bright Idea, that did just that with tangible results.

They performed a five-year study of 10,000 students in the early grades who were all taught in “gifted” classroom.

The result was that 20 percent or so of the students taught with techniques used in gifted classrooms were eventually identified as being academically and intellectually gifted by their districts.

Compare that to only 10 percent of a control group of similar students taught in regular classrooms meeting the gifted criteria. Seems worth looking into, but Tinkerbell ain’t gonna make it happen with her fairy dust.

A child’s elementary experience can and should be a happy one. The Disney slogan this year is: “Let the memories begin.” I pray my “un-gifted” child doesn’t remember these feelings of inferiority and deficiency he’s learning at school.

Most certainly a far cry from Walt Disney’s 1955 dedication speech proclaiming Disney as the place: “Youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Ah, there’s that word again, challenge. If only the APS Challenge program could be so inclusive and inspirational.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

198 comments Add your comment

[...] a parent writes about whether gifted education should include [...]

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 3rd, 2011
10:11 am

“As his mama, I heard: “I’m not worthy of going to the happiest place on earth with the smart kids.”

LOL…poor kid. Next summer why not pack-up the entire family for a Disney vacation. The fact is we all arent smart, pretty, ugly, fat, skinny etc. Instead of penalizing the smart kids for being smart why not find the talents or skills the “not so smart” kids have and focus on those.

Most of us can succeed, just some in different ways than others.

Eddie G

October 3rd, 2011
10:15 am

Ahh………so “punish” your child who is smarter by not allowing him to attend. Let’s assume that the younger child who isn’t as talented in the classroom is a stellar baseball player, and is chosen to play in a prestigious tournament in Camden Yards for super baseball players. But your older child can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so he is not a good baseball player. So you choose to not let your younger child go play because it might hurt the feelings of your older child. Does that make sense? None whatsoever.

Atlanta mom

October 3rd, 2011
10:27 am

First, let me say Disney World has no place during the school year. There are simply too many things wrong with that to even get started.
And a “gifted” designation for 60% of the student body is just too funny.
What I would be looking at, is what is going on in the classroom when the “gifted” children are out for the weekly full day pull-out. That means the “regular” teacher has only 40% of the students in the classroom. If you have 30 students in the class, a non-gifted child is in a classroom with only 12 students for an entire day, while 18 students are elsewhere. What an opportunity!! And I would be pressing the teacher to find out exactly how this time is being used. Our school had hour pull-outs a few times a week for the 60% gifted population, and I found the students “left behind” played on the computers or quietly read books or pretty much did whatever they wanted. Not exactly a good use of the time.

Atlanta mom

October 3rd, 2011
10:32 am

“When are we going to stop teaching kids to feel inferior in American schools?”
Sad to say, not all students are above average. It’s life. Make sure your child is good at something, anything, so he can hold his head up high. And if you think that we shouldn’t enrich the “gifted” child (and I’m not talking about Disney World here), and it’s causing one of your children such pain, why don’t you pull your other child out of the gifted program. You can do that you know.

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2011
10:48 am

To all, I received this reader e-mail on the Disney essay, which I thought was worth sharing here:

Regarding “We’re going to Disney & you’re not” I agree with the writer that a trip to Disney is probably not the best use of time/money for our students. The writer’s cry for equality and suggestion that teaching “gifted” students differently one day per week leads to bullying is unreasonable. In our county everything possible is done for students who struggle including adding a teacher aide to some classrooms so why can’t those who excell have one day per week to receive more challenging classes. This “sorting” has nothing to do with the students social or economic background as the writer suggests. In most counties the gifted program is carried out in a discreet manner and it provides an additional challenge for deserving young students. Don’t use this Disney trip as a means to criticize an entire program.

Awful, Awful, Awful

October 3rd, 2011
10:54 am

Yeah, this lady is one of those that advocates giving even the losers a trophy……that’s downright stupid…….sounds like to me her “not so gifted child” needs to get out and get some real life experiences in the rough and tumble world, i. e., get out from behind that computer game and get in a scuffle every now and then and quit being a crybaby…….you know, some kids get smarter later, kinda like girls filling out :) and yeah, them ipads are really, really important, way to go mom.

I will forever loathe those responsible for changing “my boy”……..I think you meant to say, “my baby”

Lori

October 3rd, 2011
10:56 am

60% gifted!! Yeah right. They are putting too many kids into that category. Very few kids are actually “gifted”, some are just smart and motivated. A truly “gifted” child would be one with an extremely high IQ (think genius here), not just being good at a particular subject. I’ve got a nephew who’s IQ is off the chart, but didn’t do great in school because he lacked focus, and barely made it into college. I myself was not “gifted” but I graduated top of my class and had colleges recruiting me!! A label doesn’t mean anything!

I agree that we should push kids where they are good at something instead of giving them the generic “gifted” label. My son is in 2nd grade, he is extremely good at math and reasoning, but he didn’t make the cut for the gifted program. As a result, he is bored to death for the math section of the day every day. I can’t understand why they can’t send him up to another class for math to continue to challenge him. It’s very frustrating as a parent, and it’s frustrating for him as well.

Ashley

October 3rd, 2011
10:57 am

Sometimes I think adults put labels on children to make themselves feel better, granted every parent wants a child they can boost about whether it be in sports or academics, but the term gifted is used way to often. Unless you graduated high-school at seven and college at eleven(shades of Doggie Howser) your child is probably not gifted but learns and absorbs the material faster than the average student. I took Alegbra 1 in the 8th grade a course which was usually reserve for freshman and sophomores…..lost of 8th graders did but, we were not considered gifted, we just had spectacular math skills. History was my favorite subject in junior-high and high-school, lots of trips to Washington D.C. and other destinations that had historical meaning. We were never called gifted students, because we weren’t good at everything, just somethings. The point I’m trying to make is academics comes easy to some and can be challenging to others….just like anything in life. Of course we shouldn’t penalized kids who are labeled with the term “gifted student”. I prefer accelerated, the best and brightest always get the prize, and sometimes children need to settle with being a runner-up or second place.

Panthergirl

October 3rd, 2011
10:59 am

I agree with you, Maureen. I think “gifted” progams should be eliminated and children should be placed in academic classes based on ability and achievement, not grade-level. My children attend Forsyth County schools where there is absolutely no academic enrichment (other than the gifted program) offered in Elementary School. My older son (whose ability level was significantly higher than most of his classmates) spent years bored out of his mind in school. I begged his teachers (to no avail) to give him more challenging work. Their only suggestion was to have him tested for the gifted program. Well, the problem with that is gifted testing seems pretty arbitrary. My son took the ITBS and COGAT in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. Although his ITBS scores were consistenly high (97th percentile in total reading and 99th percentile in total math) because his COGAT scores were lower, the school would not place him in the gifted program and he qualified for no academic enrichment. All of a sudden in 5th grade, his COGAT scores shot up and my previously “non-gifted” child automatically became “gifted.” It was interesting because around that time I had two conversations with teachers who teach gifted students. They both told me that when students test into the gifted program in 4th or 5th grade it is a much more valid placement than when than when they test into the program in the earlier grades. In fact, my son’s 5th grade gifted teacher told me that in Forsyth County they have all kinds of children in the gifted program who are not at all gifted. I was told that when a child is in 1st or 2nd grade it is easy to test highly compared to other kids because of enrichment provided by the parents not because of the child’s inate intelligence. Once you test into gifted, you’re in. You never have to re-qualify. Its a joke. My child was denied academic enrichment for 5 years in a Forsyth County elementary school while there were children in the gifted program who were not at all gifted. He would have had a much more fulfilling elementary school experience if he been placed in classes based on his level of academic achievement.

  

October 3rd, 2011
11:00 am

Openly inviting a select group and not others on a vacation encourages bullying and ostracizing.

This comment smells to high heaven of political correctness and undertones of cries of “fairness” and “discrimination.”

Good gried.

Atlanta mom

October 3rd, 2011
11:01 am

Maureen,
What happens in your “fluid system” when the child maxes out of that school. My children would have easily finished up 5th grade math in the 3rd grade. Now what?
As for bullying, I wonder about that 3rd grader in fifth grade math. How welcoming will those 5th graders be?
I’m just curious about your vision. The devil is in the details.

Lori

October 3rd, 2011
11:01 am

And @Awful….don’t knock the iPad as a learning tool. I have one and we use it as a tool for my son all the time. He reads books while we are in the car driving around. Anytime he wants to play a game on it, he first has to complete some math practice drills, such as multiplication, or he has to read. He can take AR tests on the books he reads on it. The possibilities are limitless. And free, I might add. All his educational tools we use on there didn’t cost a dime, and most of the classic books are free as well through Google or other sources, so we don’t have to spend money at the bookstore, or spend hours scouring the library. We can literally download a book for him in 30 seconds while driving in the car on vacation!!

NFM

October 3rd, 2011
11:03 am

In fact, I have a friend whose son did not quality for gifted services until middle school, yet he graduated No. 1 in his very competitive high school class, attended an Ivy League college and was accepted by six medical schools. It was always clear to me that this child was extraordinarily bright and academically gifted in math and science, but somehow did not make the cut in elementary school.”

This happened to my child. As my child’s teachers told me, (and I’m now dealing with this again with my youngest) in elementary school in Fulton County it is not based on academics. They get tested, and if you don’t get the score needed on that particular test, you don’t get in.

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2011
11:05 am

Insert “groan” here….

You insert Disney World to sensationalize this topic. How very wrong of you. My niece’s band went to Disney World – are they treated “special” also????

Gifted education is often misunderstood. Legally, it is part of the larger umbrella of Special Education in the State of GA which is mandated by law.

For a student to be ‘gifted’ they must score above some cut score on one of a few tests. This does not mean that a gifted student has a high IQ. Some gifted students may even be “twice served”: one as gifted and one as special education. A student may be gifted in a number of different areas such as creativity, motivation, and so on.

Gifted students do require different teaching techniques just as special education students require different teaching techniques. There are teachers with additional training on how to teach gifted students.

One of the methods is use of large differentiation in the classroom. This means that a teacher must prepare not just one lesson plan per day, but multiple lesson plans per day to suit the different types of gifted students in the classroom. And, during the lesson the teacher must be able to move quickly from one type of learner to the next. This is especially true in a gifted class where the students may become quickly bored and eager to move on. Note that these students are the extremes in their gifted areas thus the movement/pace/depth of knowledge of the teacher and lesson is far different from the regular classroom.

Because of this, the State of GA requires a lesser maximum students allowed in a designated gifted classroom in order to get funding.

I teach both gifted classes and ‘regular’ classes. While the gifted students “use up my energy” asking academically challengeing quesitons and push me from a cognitive perspective, the regular classes “use up my energy” managing their behavior (ie: put your cell phone away) and trying to at least keep them on task (ie: stop hitting Sally and finish your work).

The State has cut back funding for Gifted Education as much if not more than other education funding which is a real shame. If these aren’t the future leaders and problem solvers, who are?

V for Vendetta

October 3rd, 2011
11:07 am

Aside from the supreme idiocy of the 60% gifted remark, this scenario doesn’t particularly bother me. What DOES bother me is the increasing number of spineless whining children who cry that this or that isn’t “fair.” I’ve got news for you, kids: Life isn’t fair. Some people are smarter than others; some people are more popular than others; some people are better looking than others; some people are in the right place at the right time. Deal with it.

Maureen’s example of the student who was not identified as gifted until middle school is a valid one; however, I look at it as validation of the fact that this particular student was more concerned with personal success and overcoming obstacles than he was with whether or not he got to be in the special class. And, assuming he did want to be in the special class, he eventually attained that goal, too. The point is simple: we cannot ever hope to teach students how to be successful in life if we are constantly looking to level the playing field. I fear that we’re moving in that direction when we discuss topics such as this, or how the highest-achieving students are picked in their respective classes, or how certain socioeconomic factors lead children down a hopeless path to underachievement and/or academic failure. I cry BS on that.

How can we teach children to be successful in life when we want to shelter them from some of life’s harshest realities? We’re breeding generations of wimpy, whining, pansies who want everything handed to them. Heaven forbid they actually have to EARN it.

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2011
11:08 am

@Panthergirl -

The test results that your child got were not arbitrary at all. You child obviously needed to develop more before realizing thier potential.

It is not uncommon for a children to develop at different rates – especially with regards to brain development. Some studies show that complete brain development may not be complete for some individuals until the age of 24!

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2011
11:08 am

@Atlanta. If the school moved kids on a regular basis, it would become customary to see older and younger children mixed in a single classroom. I think in bigger schools, they could balance classrooms fairly well so that there was comfort in numbers. So, a fifth grade math class may have eight fourth graders and five third graders. (I am not sure how many kids would jump two full years in math.)
As for maxing out, schools would either have to transport kids to the next level — my system does send 8th graders to the high school for ninth grade math — or mix online/classroom learning so that the fifth graders had some time with a sixth grade class. I was impressed with the online math course that my system requires kids to take to jump a year. It was ALEKS.
Maureen

Warren Collier

October 3rd, 2011
11:08 am

Yes-folks – life is not fair – and those are lessons that children need to learn before they become part of the current lost generation who don’t have any sense of their real ability because they have always been told they are wonderful whether they were or not. Unfortunately, the message to this gifted son is – your brother is not gifted-therefore you shouldn’t be rewarded. How does that make the gifted son feel is what I’d like to know.

I feel sorry for the “gifted” child since his own mom is not willing to celebrate his talent. She is so worried about her “non-gifited” son’s self esteem that she won’t let her gifted son attend what could be a life changing educational event. At the same time, I’ll bet the mom would send the non-gifted son to baseball or football camp in Florida at the drop of a hat for the same amount of money.

While I agree that it may be just a 5 day vacation at Disney for the teachers, I would hope that it is more structured learning experience like the Disney Youth Education programs. From marketing and media to the engineering and science that goes into the Disney attractions and and busines practices – these programs are well known to be eye openers for children and adults and able to relate learning to something of interest to all of us. It’s a shame that he won’t be able to experience that. (And no – I don’t work for Disney. I just believe in providing opportunities for gifted students to experience unique educational opportunities).

As to her reference to Brown vs. Board of Education – she has paraphrased and left out key words in an oft quoted statement that was specifically speaking to racial segregation – not talent recognition. This historic ruling was for equal opportunity for all to put forth an effort in the same school building, but it was not about mandating equal reward for the results of those efforts. Her gifted son earned a privilege based on a history of good grades. That should not have been taken away from him.

Jennifer G.

October 3rd, 2011
11:09 am

Even if the label isn’t “gifted,” any sort of differentiation is going to make some kids feel less smart than others. And some kids are less smart or academically talented than others. That doesn’t mean they don’t have other talents.

As for the Disney trip, all sorts of student groups take trips that others don’t. The band at my school took a cruise one year. The ROTC kids went on trips, as did the honors science classes.

It’s not “bullying” to recognize that some students perform better than others and to give them classes that help them reach their potential. Sure, using standardized test scores isn’t the perfect way to do it but it puts each student on the same playing field to show his/her ability.

Lori

October 3rd, 2011
11:10 am

@HS Public Teacher, but what about the students who are “gifted” in one area or another, but don’t make the cut on the testing criteria? My son needs to be in a higher level in math, but they won’t put him in the gifted class, so he is not challenged. That’s the problem with the so called gifted program, is that it leaves a gap. There are “regular” kids and “gifted” kids, but what about the kids who are really smart and could handle the challenge, but don’t make the cut. Those kids get left out of a great opportunity.

Name withheld

October 3rd, 2011
11:10 am

Panthergirl – Our school in Gwinnett told us the exact opposite on the testing. They said that when kids test into the program in the first grade or lower grades then they are truly gifted and the kids that test in later have learned to test well.

As far as just moving kids around to harder classes or classes in other grades — There is a difference between acceleration and enrichment gifted classes. Gifted kids can move rapidly through material. They can deal with harder material and learn it quickly and move on. However, those type of classes are not exercising the parts of their minds that make them unique. We have experienced several different school systems — one where it was more enrichment based and they engaged the parts of their brains that made them think outside the box and others where they were just moving rapidly through materials at a higher level. My kids have been fairly miserable just working quickly through harder material — they just see it as more work than the other kids have — like a penalty for being smart. They don’t feel engaged or challenged. They just feel loaded down with inappropriate amounts of homework for their ages.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 3rd, 2011
11:11 am

Although I must admit some of us, like myself, are gifted, talented, intelligent, attractive etc and we should not be penalized for such.

Dont hate us cuz we are beautiful…

V for Vendetta

October 3rd, 2011
11:11 am

Panthergirl,

Seems to me you answered your own question: ” I was told that when a child is in 1st or 2nd grade it is easy to test highly compared to other kids because of enrichment provided by the parents not because of the child’s inate intelligence.”

I guess you should have provided more enrichment yourself.

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2011
11:12 am

@NFM – You are correct. There are specific tests that are administered in order to be considered gifted. These are mandated by State law. No grades in school classes alone will ‘make’ a student gifted.

You are also correct that there are many non-gifted students that excel and succeed far beyond gifted students. Some gifted students even drop out of high school.

Being ‘gifted’ is not a golden pass in school or in life.

CatsRule

October 3rd, 2011
11:16 am

We are in a district that will allow a child to work at their ability level (6th grader in an 8th grade class), BUT it is only with an IEP AFTER testing. This is great for the child who enjoys learning, but some of the parents, particularly gifted parents, are absolutely awful! If you have a high performing gifted child, many parents of other gifted students become threatened. These are the parents who use their kids as trophies or extensions of their accomplishments, and they generally give the gifted program a bad name because they look down on others.

There was a principal that actually ignored his highest achieving student’s exceptional performance during a school year in a gifted awards ceremony because he received pressure from gifted parents saying that child, regardless of how deserving, should not be recognized because it “put a bad taste in the other parents’ mouths” to hear this child’s name in core academic courses, yet their kids should be recognized numerous times for citizenship awards, art, PE, etc. Only in America can a positive trait — academic performance, intelligence and hard work combined with humility, be seen as a negative.

Btw- I don’t know about all kids who move up in subjects according to ability, but I know this particular student liked those accelerated classes better due to the challenge and the fact that older more secure students are not as threatened or intimidated. The child was accepted and admire by the older students since the child was not a “know it all.”

Blue dog

October 3rd, 2011
11:18 am

This comment is somewhat related to the topic….
Not all children are college material, yet for some reason the leaders in this state decided to make our “tech” or “trade” schools into junior colleges. Now if my son wants to learn a “trade” like plumbing, electrical, welding, auto mechanics, etc, he must first past college english and algebra. Wow, what a dumb idea…and we wonder why our unemployment numbers exceed the national average. Who makes these decisions…and who benefits from from all that “Hope” money???
The University system….who gets left behind….those students who cannot pass college level courses.
So, the pattern continues from elementary school through college. Only the “smart” kids get the help they need, to the detriment of the “rest” of our children.

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2011
11:19 am

@Lori -

You mention two distinctly different issues in your message to me.

First, you say that your son needs to be in a high level math. That is one issue. If he is doing great in his current math level, there is no reason for you not to meet with the teacher about placing him in a high level math.

That is a totally separate issue from the gifted learners. A gifted student must take tests apart from their classes. These are tests mandated by Georgia. These have nothing to do with your son’s math class.

If you feel that your son is gifted, then you can request through the school for him to be tested.

By the way, why is it “so-called” gifted program? And, where is the gap that you mention? A student is tested and is clearly identified as gifted or not – there is no room for wiggle.

Ernest

October 3rd, 2011
11:21 am

Maureen said,

I prefer that we get rid of gifted labels and instead make classes more fluid, moving students into higher grades when they show great aptitude.

Interesting as this sounds like the Montessori concept. We have seen this work for small groups but can this instructional delivery method be scaled to work for the masses?

Back in my day, I recall that ‘ability grouping’ was done with students, with the ability to move between groups as one demonstrated a mastery of content and skills. I think they moved away from this because it was hard to provide an objective means of determining which student should go into which group, other than the teachers evaluation. Many times, ‘Type A’ parents would insist their little darling be placed in the highest group, sometimes over ruling the teachers evaluation.

For discussion, I’d like to ask the opposite side of Maureen’s comment. Should we eliminate Title 1? These are additional resources provided for children that enter schools without much preparation. The Gifted designation also provides additional resources for those students. If we eliminated gifted, would that be perceived as discrimination against bright students, given we do provide additional assistance and remediation for those students that need a foundation?

Clay

October 3rd, 2011
11:22 am

“Gifted” is such a bad term. These children are not gifted. Maybe one or two of them could be. They are above average. Mozart was gifted.

Lena

October 3rd, 2011
11:23 am

Not allowing your child to go on a field trip because it would hurt his siblings’ feelings is doing both your children a disservice. It teaches the ‘gifted’ child that there’s no point in trying because he’ll be denied the perks of his hard work. It also teaches the other child that if he pouts, he’ll get his way. That’s a sure way to raise a brat.

Name withheld

October 3rd, 2011
11:23 am

The “gifted” kids also often have other issues that go along with asynchronous development — the social development often lags behind their intellectual development. It is not a rosy path!! And the “high conformity” years of elementary, middle and to some extent high school actually suck for a lot of these kids. They don’t fit in often. They don’t think like the rest of the kids or the teachers. My daughter frequently gets made fun of for being so smart because she doesn’t think like the other kids or come across the way they do.

I also disagree that testing in early is about what the parents do at home. At our school in Georgia they have to hit 97 percent or above on the COGAT to even test further. They go on to do at least three other tests — that look at creativity, motivation and other intelligences. There is nothing I could do to make my child spatially gifted. There’s nothing I could do to help them pass a creativity test. So that’s a bunch of crap. They are or they are not. If they miss by a point or two then keep testing if it’s important.

Lori

October 3rd, 2011
11:24 am

@HS Public Teacher, the gap I mentioned is because in the school where my son is, he doesn’t get to go up to a higher level math class because he didn’t pass the gifted test. I think it’s total crap!!

used to teach

October 3rd, 2011
11:25 am

They probably don’t have gifted in China or Japan. Just the kids who are smart enough to continue in school get to do so.

Logic 05

October 3rd, 2011
11:26 am

“I prefer that we get rid of gifted labels and instead make classes more fluid, moving students into higher grades when they show great aptitude.”

This would be TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE and Maureen would be the first one whining.

Bryan

October 3rd, 2011
11:27 am

The phrase “stop making children feel inferior” usually comes from those who think kids should play softball, or any other sports games without scoring. If you have a score, you have losers.
Our life, our society always rewards those who strive harder, have exceptional talents etc. A child feels inferior because he didn’t get to go to Disney is because of the attitude of parents and teachers who instead of encouraging their children to do better blame the system for making their child inferior.
Asian cultures have the attitude of teaching children to read, write, arithmetic, study skills here in America, we are more interested in making sure our children feel good about themselves and to heck with all that educational stuff. You only have to look at the education system in Georgia to see something seriously wrong. When I went to High School, teachers were on the lookout for kids cheating, not here in Georgia, the teachers will cheat it for you.
Everyone reading this article shold check out the book “Dumbing Down Our Kids” by Charles J. Sykes, it is a true eye opener for anyone who wonders (or cares) what is wrong with education in America.

carlosgvv

October 3rd, 2011
11:27 am

If any school system in America is going to be insensitive enough to allow only gifted students a five day stay at Disney, you may be sure it will be the APS.

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2011
11:29 am

@Logic, How would that be subjective? Schools could use MAP testings, Iowa, class tests, EOCTs, CRCT, or whatever to identify kids, who would have to be breezing through the material. There are plenty of ways to identify kids who are ahead that are not subjective, but certainly teacher recommendations ought to play a part, as they do now in referring kids for gifted testing.
Maureen

Where's Your Editor

October 3rd, 2011
11:30 am

Maureen, If any parent e-mails you something, does it get the green light to go on your blog? Do you know any of the details concerning this trip or do you just parrot what your e-mailers send you? Disney’s Epcot is ONE STOP on this trip which is mostly highlighted by a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. But that omission clearly gets left out because it’s not a sexy as ‘APS pays for Disney vacation’. Keep up the mediocre work.

Awful, Awful, Awful

October 3rd, 2011
11:30 am

@Lori

October 3rd, 2011
11:01 am

And @Awful….don’t knock the iPad as a learning tool. I have one and we use it as a tool for my son all the time.

Yeah, too much of a good thing……..does he ever go out by himself or do you go with him for protection?

Name withheld

October 3rd, 2011
11:30 am

We are in a different state where they kids routinely test two years ahead in math because that is what the gifted teachers is pushing during her math time. My fifth grader is studying sixth and seventh grade math. She can do the math but this has a domino effect.

They can take 2 yeas ahead in middle school — if you get three years ahead then will send your middle school student to the high school for math class! That is awful.

however from this state you are required to have four years of HS math to go to college so because this fifth grade teacher is trying to push them ahead two years they will in high school have to do math such as discreet math to reach the four-year requirement.

We are taking a different path with our son who is in a gifted-self contained model now. His whole day is with a gifted instructor — some of the kids are gifted in math and other in LA. so we don’t think they can get two years ahead and may head off these later problems.

However the middle school here does not offer gifted classes. To get into the public gifted middle school you have to be two years ahead in math sooo if we leave him in the self-contained model then he may not have gifted services during middle school but will avoid the math problems in high school.

You have no idea the problems parents with gifted kids face trying to keep their kids challenged but not too far ahead.

Our gifted teacher in elementary school said she prayed for her babies to be smart but not gifted. It is not a rosy path.

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2011
11:32 am

@Where, I did go to the APS gifted ed site last week and read the entire trip description. I also realized that is is an annual event.
But the fact is that her complaint is that some kids get this dream trip and some don’t. This is probably the most dramatic trip that I am aware of in metro Atlanta for young kids in a “gifted” program. I believe from the info on the APS site that even the early grades can go on this trip with a parent.
My own system has an overnight zoo trip for one night, and that upsets parents as well.
Maureen
(I also talked to friends in APS whose children are going, and they are most excited about the Disney aspect of this trip.)

mom3boys

October 3rd, 2011
11:36 am

I am not overly optimistic w/ the Race for the Top $ being used fairly. I know of someone who was hired to work on that project. He was being forced to hire friends of politicos (who knew 0 about education) to work on this (at nice salary, of course). It turned into just another political fubar. The guy I know threw up his hands and walked away…

Mountain Man

October 3rd, 2011
11:36 am

We don’t need to spend any extra on gifted students, they don’t affect our NCLB status. We need to spend all our money on bringing SPED and low SES students up to grade level. Didn’t you know?

The Deal

October 3rd, 2011
11:37 am

60% – Something is going on there like fudging test results so that the school will get more funding. In my school of 1000, there were maybe 35 gifted.

All-day gifted classes – Never heard of this. This sounds like overkill and wildly inappropriate. For most of the core classes, gifted and high achievers should be together for a myriad of reasons.

Week at Disney – Unnecessary. Week in DC? Yes.

Normally I would say the writer needs to work on her one son’s self-esteem and not have it tied up in this gifted obsession, but it sounds like the school this lady’s kids are in is way out of bounds on how it treats its gifted. I am still reeling over all-day, gifted-only classes.

Dr. John Trotter

October 3rd, 2011
11:39 am

I have never been a “gifted classes” advocate. I am for a “pull out” model…meaning that I am for pulling out any kid to who acts a fool and whose wanton behavior disrupts the ability of others to learn. But, so much of this “gifted” thing is about segregating the “smart” kids so that they don’t have to deal with the “disruptive” kids. Then there’s no real urgency to deal with the disruptive children.

I don’t like any form of elitism. I am very egalitarian in general, but especially when it involves impressionable children. I think that I would have to forgo Disney World.

catlady

October 3rd, 2011
11:39 am

I question the test that admits a kid into gifted. In the past, the test only found gifted among the April, May, June, and July birthday kids–none of the older kids could get in. The cut scores were so different by birthday. I pointed this out and was pooh-poohed, but it was too overwhelming to be accidental. (all but one of the children in our school’s program was a spring/summer birthday.)

At one point they were using multiple measures, including determination, to decide who was admitted. Is this still true?

At my small elementary school, there was some opportunity for a child to “go up” for a specific class. My daughter went up a grade level for reading, and my son went up two grade levels (although he was reading more like 5th grade in first.) This helped them a lot, but it was tough because they did not have as much experience with filling out workbooks as the other, older kids did, and their handwriting wasn’t as good.

Paulo977

October 3rd, 2011
11:41 am

“everybody is
a genius.
but if
you judge a
fish
by its ability
to climb
a tree, it will
live
its whole life
believing
that it
is
stupid” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Albert Einstein

Lena

October 3rd, 2011
11:42 am

@Maureen: I’d be excited about the Disney part of of the trip too! But, Disney has plenty of things to teach our kids. In Epcot, you can learn about different cultures & about growing plants in space. The best part? The kids don’t REALIZE they’re learning because it’s so much fun.

Maureen Downey

October 3rd, 2011
11:43 am

And here’s another consideration on this trip and field trips in general: Pre-Internet, I attended a conference where a researcher talked about field trips and how little kids get out of them. What they find most memorable, he said, were the logistics, the bus trip, the hotel and the meals.
The main problem was that kids can’t self-select or self-pace. They may be interested in something but they have to move in a group so they don’t have time to focus or absorb.
His point was that field trips are popular with parents, but have little significant learning impact and are more window dressing than substance.
I have chaperoned field trips and there seems to be a lot of head counting, lining up and shushing kids.
I would be curious if teachers think field trips are academically valuable.
Maureen