No Child Left Behind neglected gifted students. That is about to change in Georgia.

Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber owns and operates GiftedAtlanta.com, a non-commercial online resource for parents of gifted children. She is a parent advocate for gifted education and the mother of two gifted children.

In this piece, she explains why education policy must not just consider under performing students, but those who are high performing, too.

By Dori Kleber

One of the great tragedies of our American public schools in the past decade has been the neglect of our brightest children. While struggling students have made gains, high-achieving students have stagnated.

During the reign of No Child Left Behind, our schools have been so intent on lifting low-performing students to a level of minimum aptitude that they have ignored the needs of those who already exceed basic proficiency and are ready for greater challenges. The result: Top students are languishing.

This imbalance in academic growth was confirmed in a 2008 study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB.” From 2000 to 2007, students whose achievement ranked in the bottom 10 percent made significant gains in average NAEP math and reading scores, but scores for students in the top 10 percent hardly moved, the report showed.

Teachers interviewed for that study acknowledged that high achievers weren’t getting the same level of attention in the classroom. Sixty percent of teachers surveyed said low-performing students were a top priority at their school, but only 23 percent named high-achieving students as a priority group. Furthermore, four out of five teachers said struggling students were most likely to get one-on-one attention in the classroom, whereas only one in 20 said advanced students were most likely to get individual interaction with their teacher.

We can hardly be surprised. Under NCLB, the measure of success for teachers and schools was raising all students to grade level. Accordingly, teachers focused their attention on students who were behind, and administrators supported that focus.

There is hope for change in Georgia. The state, now operating under a waiver from NCLB, is changing the measure of teacher success. The Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES), in development at the Georgia Department of Education and expected to roll out in the 2014-15 school year, will make teachers and schools accountable for the academic growth of every child.

Where NCLB set a single benchmark for all children in the same grade, TKES looks at where each individual student begins the school year and sets expectations for his or her growth. School districts will measure student learning with standardized tests where possible, and will develop other instruments to measure gains in classes that are not covered by standardized tests.

In making this change, Georgia is following the lead of the majority of U.S. states, which are now moving to a growth model, measuring student improvement rather than achievement status.

TKES will expect teachers to raise the achievement level of struggling students – still a worthy endeavor, as it always has been. But unlike NCLB, Georgia’s new system also will demand that teachers foster growth in students who are performing above grade level.

You would have to go back a full generation – to the years after Sputnik – to find a time when gifted education was a true priority in the United States. Yet if we want to ensure a strong future for our nation, we can no longer accept a bias toward the underperforming student.

We must insist not only that no child be left behind, but also that no child stand still. No student should end the school year where he or she began. Every student should learn. With the upcoming move to TKES, we have hope that in Georgia, every student will.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

149 comments Add your comment

Deep Cover

March 26th, 2013
3:39 am

Translation: We need more backdoor entitlement programs for the North Atlanta suburbs.

Michelle-Middle School

March 26th, 2013
4:01 am

It’s about time. For years, before my retirement in June this past year, I taught gifted students in middle school. I was stymied in many of my efforts because of the lack of respect for the abilities of my gifted students. Not only were their abilities questioned, but they were also required to complete mundane tests that in no way tested their true abilities. It seemed all the money in the system was going to students who were not meeting standards, totally neglecting the exceptionality of gifted and high-achieving students. Perhaps that will change now that a system is available to ascertain the true level of knowledge in these special needs children. Hopefully school administrators will finally see the need for teachers to have the flexibility to gear their educational efforts to meet individual gifted student needs. This should be a step forward for the gifted program, which for years has been under attack.

Michelle-Middle School

March 26th, 2013
4:11 am

@Deep Cover: I am sorry, but gifted students are in EVERY school, regardless of location or demographics. Your attitude towards truly gifted students is one of the problems all gifted students and teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. You need to wake up to the fact that there ARE students who are far above the educational level of average students. Gifted students are the ones with the ability to achieve at tremendous levels. Gifted students are more prone to being bullied and disrespected than any other students in schools, because they are resented by students and parents alike. When I meet someone or work with someone I know is more intelligent than I am, I appreciate them for their talents and support their efforts. I taught at Dekalb Alternative School in the early 1990’s, and I guarantee you there were gifted students in the school. Perhaps they were there because no one saw their exceptionalities and took steps to foster them. I did, and you would not believe the impact on a child when they realize that someone sees potential in them. As a society, we all need to be proud of those in our culture who just may be better than we are, intellectually.

Lee

March 26th, 2013
5:19 am

Ignoring the gifted is akin to ignoring the Thoroughbred while trying to train a Shetland Pony to win the Kentucky Derby.

Jack ®

March 26th, 2013
5:28 am

We have babied and coddled the under-achievers for so long that gifted children are not reaching their full potential. We sorely need more scientists and engineers and they likely won’t come from a district with a 40+% drop-out rate.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

March 26th, 2013
5:28 am

Great news.

I am a bit concerned about “School districts … will develop other instruments” in the article. Not sure I trust the systems to police themselves on this.

I have been rated on the TKES at the school where I was last year. I was actually fairly well impressed with the system. I had to do a lot of research to *maybe* find the algorithm they’re using, but it did rate three distinct categories of achievers in the classroom.

Cindy Lutenbacher

March 26th, 2013
5:55 am

As far as I can tell, Dori Kleber is basing most of her argument on standardized test scores, which are a bogus measure of anything except parental wealth. I wish that she and everyone would study the independent research.

However, I do agree that NCLB (and I would add the various efforts under Reagan, Clinton, and Obama) is the problem.

Jason

March 26th, 2013
6:03 am

Glad to read this article. Just this year we started homeschooling our 3 gifted children for this very reason.

Colonel Jack

March 26th, 2013
6:16 am

Well, I’ll have more faith in TKES as soon as I see concrete proof that it cannot be used in some arbitrary way to get rid of teachers the system no longer wants to pay for (those with higher degrees and 20+ years of service). When TKES shows itself impossible to “game” to the system’s financial advantage, it will get a nod of approval from me.

I’m sure the state is really worried about what I think about it, too. ;-)

As for the gifted programs finally getting something – it’s about bloody time!

Real World

March 26th, 2013
6:21 am

Truly gifted students have been neglected in our schools for a number of years. Add to that the dumbing down of gifted programs—too many students are classified now as gifted for doing somewhat above average work. We first need to refine the requirements for entering gifted programs and focus on those students who are truly gifted. We have expanded the term to make the program too inclusive to define students as gifted who they test well but were basically above average students who worked hard to achieve. And that is not gifted. Gifted students are identified in many ways—and overreliance on testing to identify them includes too many and excludes some truly gifted who might not have the opportunity to take the tests. Above average and gifted are two different things–something that educators and parents especially seem unwilling to recognize.
Once we identify the gifted students then start working on programs that challenge this particular group of students. They are very deserving of the money that is spent on other subsets of students needing different types of education within our schools.

kelley

March 26th, 2013
6:24 am

We are evaluated under TKES, and most of the teachers do not want the gifted kids or teachers’ kids in their class. When measuring growth on a criterion referenced test, it is hard to show growth having a class full of perfect scores to begin with. Heaven forbid a student miss a question! Your highest growth class will be the one with average to low-average kids. The intention was good- make sure all learning needs are addressed, but unfortunately unintended consequences rule.

concernedmom30329

March 26th, 2013
6:51 am

Gifted in GA (and perhaps other states) isn’t really Gifted necessarily. It identifies high achieving. Which is an equally important population to serve well.
In fact, because some of the criteria are subjective, teachers in DeKalb often see a child who was identified as gifted at a former DCSS school who would not have been identified at their school.
Because a student can be identified as gifted without a high school on an IQ test, it makes the discussion more complex. (there are 4 criteria, for the most part students must be admitted based on three scores. IQ doesn’t have to be one.)

When schools in metro Atlanta have 40 percent gifted students, it is meaningless.

dcb

March 26th, 2013
6:59 am

Seems to me this is simply an example of as one hand giveth, the other taketh away. Perhaps TKES is attempting to give assurances that gifted children’s needs will be addressed finally after ‘14,. But dumbing down HOPE scholarships eligibility requirement from a 3.0 to 2.0 high school GPA as currently under consideration in our Georgia legislature is a BIG step in the opposite direction. Originally designed to keep the brightest and best Georgia graduating seniors in the state, this move negates that HOPE objective.

concernedmom30329

March 26th, 2013
6:59 am

Corrected, score not school Because a student can be identified as gifted without a high score on an IQ test, it makes the discussion more complex. (there are 4 criteria, for the most part students must be admitted based on three scores. IQ doesn’t have to be one.)

concernedmom30329

March 26th, 2013
6:59 am

dcb
the HOPE changes are only for technical schools not the 4 year schools.

Private Citizen is a serial bore

March 26th, 2013
7:13 am

Too many K-12 educators secretly resent gifted children, and even more so the teachers who educate them. Hoping for change benefiting the gifted is therefore a bit like hoping liberals will lose their zeal for income redistribution.

fjeremey

March 26th, 2013
7:13 am

Intelligence is not innate. So-called “gifted” students have a host of advantages that have been given to them since their earliest days in school. Or do we honestly believe that there is no correlation b/w wealth and “gifted” status? There is so much untapped talent in the minds of those students who haven’t been given the opportunities of the more privileged among us; they have not been able to see the pathway. Imagine if we funded all children equally? Imagine if we challenged and supported them all with enrichment programs, SAT prep, after school tutoring, and clean, safe schools; What would happen then? I will answer: There would be many more “gifted” students.

Maude

March 26th, 2013
7:20 am

My granddaughter is in the third grade reading on a seventh grade level. My daughter was told that the school media center did not have many books on her reading level. However, she is getting no special services and she has two more years at that school. Who is getting cheated??

cautiously optimistic

March 26th, 2013
7:28 am

This is good news. This is exactly why the high achiever program in DeKalb has hundreds of children on the waiting list every year. Yes, not all high achievers are gifted and vice versa, but all of these children are under served in our schools. DeKalb needs to replicate their successes, not gutting these programs.

Steve

March 26th, 2013
7:29 am

This is a good thing. However, unless they separate the children out by below average, average, above average and gifted (which is the way it was done when I was in school) how is a teacher supposed to teach. When you have a single class that is filled with students of each level and the teacher is expected to get all of them to increase some students are going to suffer. I always get the answer of “we want our kids to feel good about themselves”. Then put them in a situation where eveyone in the class is at about the same level. If they feel they are at least starting on a level playing field they might actually try to achieve more. None of these kids are stupid. They understand that some of their friends are better in some areas.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

March 26th, 2013
7:30 am

@fjeremy: imagine if the kids I have would take advantages of the challenges I present them with equally! I’ve taught gifted and “honors” classes with lots of success – that’s gifted kids with WAY more affluence than I have in Alpharetta and WAY less than I have in Summerville. I’ve also taught remedial classes with more mixed results (though that TKES score was actually quite high for the lower third of kids). How do I get across the point to the kids and their parents that challenging the student is not synonymous with trying to hurt them? Take advantage of what I’m offering while I’m here…

dcb

March 26th, 2013
7:32 am

concernedmom30329 – agreed and understood …. HB 372 does impact eligibility requirements for only tech schools only. But are we to conclude that its not as important to attract our best and brightest to technical post-secondary school programs as it is to our four-year colleges and universities? I for one as an employer of tech-related positions in the past have found it even more important to have the best and brightest in those roles than it might be, for example, where managerial or sales-related responsibilities are involved. For those positions, love the people skilled, record of strong work ethic, competitive and common sense applicants.

Yeah Right

March 26th, 2013
7:33 am

Will depend entirely upon the school system. When the state did away with class size requirements for gifted instruction it completely changed the model in the system in which I teach. I have two separate roles, one gifted one non gifted but they are in the same room. This was done to allow for 32 students to be placed in the class. The curriculum is the same for both.

dcb

March 26th, 2013
7:39 am

Sorry fjeremey. I disagree with you that training and not genes play the dominant role in determining the gifted and/or intelligent level of our youngsters. And that is an observation of working with college-bound students for over forty years. Results on SAT and ACT tests, especially in the reading areas, are not based on educational experience as much as they are on innate ability. No statistical data to quote here. No racial or social class overtones (quite the contrary, actually). Just experience. National Merit Scholars, for instance, are not made. They are born. And schools can stifle the development of that brain power, granted. But they can’t create it.

Private Citizen is a serial bore

March 26th, 2013
7:43 am

Are teacher costs being accurately reported by school districts? This report says NO!: http://tinyurl.com/cbuhft5

Concerned DeKalb Mom

March 26th, 2013
7:53 am

Such a complicated issue…I have 1 child who has really languished in her classroom because she’s not challenged. She’s bored. So she rushes through her work and makes errors so she can read high level books that interest and challenge her. She’s tired of waiting for others to do what she mastered last year.

Class sizes are huge. I don’t necessarily fault teachers for not being able to address these issues…the good kids who are above average, not necessarily gifted, are often completely ignored because they are easy to deal with. But their needs aren’t being met. Are we truly doing the best we can by those children? I think decidedly not.

But at the same time, I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Go into a 4th or 5th grade classroom with 33 students. HOW does a teacher have time to address each student’s individual needs? They don’t. So by default, they address the neediest…whether that be by achievement or by behavior.

If we truly want to address each child’s individual needs, we need to LOWER class sizes to manageable levels. And 25 isn’t manageable, either. Get it down to 20 maximum–for EVERY student, lower for K and 1st–and then REAL education and change can happen. Not only that, teachers will then have time to design truly creative and meaningful lessons for ALL students.

Mountain Man

March 26th, 2013
7:59 am

“TKES looks at where each individual student begins the school year and sets expectations for his or her growth. ”

So you are going to test EVERY child in EVERY subject at the beginning and at the end of the year, right? Then you will measure their progress? Will that have some factor in there for days absent from class due to absences, but also due to disciplinary suspensions?

Mother of 2

March 26th, 2013
7:59 am

I have a son in TAG (gifted and talented) in Fulton County. He’s a high achiever, not really gifted. He loves the TAG program because it allows him to think and discuss, as opposed to simply regurgitating material. We have a lot of kids in TAG, most of whom are probably not truly gifted. But they enjoy what TAG has to offer and I know their parents are happy to have these students in more challenging classrooms. It’s important to note that the kids are from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Many people feel like the kids in TAG or gifted education are lucky, and they are correct. They shouldn’t be neglected because learning comes easily. However, I think it’s a very tall order to expect a classroom teacher to teach on grade level for the average student, and on multiple lower grade levels for the students who are lagging behind and on multiple higher grade levels for those who are high achievers or gifted.

Frugalady

March 26th, 2013
8:07 am

Some kids are gifted (<5%). Some kids are advanced. Let's not nitpick. Both groups need to be challenged appropriately. We should not be afraid to advance kids multiple grade levels (only for relevant subjects), just as we should not be afraid to retain kids.

Mountain Man

March 26th, 2013
8:13 am

” Go into a 4th or 5th grade classroom with 33 students. HOW does a teacher have time to address each student’s individual needs? They don’t. ”

According to Mary Elizabeth, they do. You just have to be Superteacher.

bu2

March 26th, 2013
8:13 am

So failing students scores rose and gifted students scores stayed at their same high level. Sounds like they continued to serve the gifted the same as before. That’s not neglect.

high school teacher

March 26th, 2013
8:17 am

“TKES will expect teachers to raise the achievement level of struggling students – still a worthy endeavor, as it always has been. But unlike NCLB, Georgia’s new system also will demand that teachers foster growth in students who are performing above grade level.”

Will they still demand that these students be in the same classroom with lower students in a one-size-fits-all course?

fjeremey

March 26th, 2013
8:21 am

@ NW Science Teacher – Indeed if only they would drink from the water to which we lead them.

@dcb – do you not find it curious that study after study shows that the gap in “intelligence” only grows as opportunities are offered, or not? Of course SATs etc are products of taught, and learned, skills. If they are not then why are there (expensive) tutoring programs to improve performance, if it is so natural? To a degree, what we call intelligence is genetic, and largely equal at birth barring any abnormality, but without opportunities to take advantage of those talents that natural intelligence will atrophy. Equality of opportunity will bring equality of growth, or are we to believe that the poor are simply genetically less intelligent? As that is the population that trends lower on test scores than the wealthy? But I am just a humble AP Psychology teacher and would know little of such things.

Mountain Man

March 26th, 2013
8:24 am

“Will they still demand that these students be in the same classroom with lower students in a one-size-fits-all course?”

Of Course. To do otherwise would constitute “tracking” and we can’t have that. Also have to have SPED students in there, too. Teachers better become Superteachers.

Wait and see

March 26th, 2013
8:34 am

Don’t send your kids to Cobb County schools! Their new model is to have all kids take online courses and have parapros (non-certified employees) supervise your kids in a computer lab. Can’t wait to see how TKES handles this model!

GNGS

March 26th, 2013
8:36 am

@Cindy Lutenbacher
March 26th, 2013
5:55 am

As far as I can tell, Dori Kleber is basing most of her argument on standardized test scores, which are a bogus measure of anything except parental wealth. I wish that she and everyone would study the independent research.

How do you want to measure a student’s progress? Please consider cost and politic environment of GA.

Finally...

March 26th, 2013
8:42 am

Finally there’s some focus on gifted. For too long, they have been lumped into classes with supposedly gifted-certified teachers and told “you’re getting a gifted education.” We all know that’s ridiculous. How can you go at the speed these kids need when you have a kid who can’t speak the language? You can’t. It doesn’t work.

Solution – keep gifted separate, make it harder to get into, but have the goal of getting a higher percentage of the non-gifted kids into the gifted program each year. So if 10% of the school is truly gifted, then push for 13% for the next year. That way you’re challenging those who are already gifted, and also pushing those who aren’t.

Go ahead – let’s hear it. I’m either racist or living in the northern suburbs.

Dr No No

March 26th, 2013
8:43 am

Cindy Lutenbacher – Wealth does not make one smart, but smarts can be used to make on wealthy. The reason children of wealth people score well on standardized tests is genetics, smart people are more likely to have smart children. There are amazing discoveries being made in human biology, who knows, perhaps the genes that control intelligence will be discovered soon, providing objective proof to my observation that smart parents tend to have smart children.

Concernedmom30329

March 26th, 2013
8:45 am

Bu2 raises an interesting point. If students are at the 95th percentile, what is the expectation? That they should get to the 100th? The reality is that at those levels there isn’t much difference anyway.

In my opinion, in DeKalb anyway, the large class sizes and the lack of extra resources have hurt all students but made it increasingly difficult for teachers to serve all students.

At some schools, parents can kick in and make up for some of that, but that is just a few schools.

Jono

March 26th, 2013
8:45 am

Amen!

Probably too late for my remaining student. Both of my kids started to read at age 2 and it has been a challenge to keep them stimulated.

Nonetheless, Lakeside has done a very admirable job and they have received a good education in DeKalb overall. In fact, it has exceeded my expectations from a state ranking 48th in the USA.

rojer

March 26th, 2013
8:45 am

Students learn a lot from other students. So what happens when you remove the students whom the others can learn from? This “gifted” isht is a joke. There are students that get better instruction and education from a earlier age and those that don’t. Those same academic “gifts” are in many cases offset by social ineptness and other less “gifted” qualities. All students should be challenged in a variety of academic, social and physical ways. Bottom line is when you call your kid “gifted,” I think your an @sshole.

Chamblee Dad

March 26th, 2013
8:45 am

As many have pointed out here & elsewhere, the pool of gifted has been artificially enlarged because of 2 things – 1 – lowering the standards for qualifying, 2 – the level of kids that are heavily tutored in order to push up their test scores.

There are allegedly other criteria like creativity, but objectively can that really be tested in our current system? I don’tt know of any parent around me complaining they tested high but d/n get in because of that. I think in general you test high enough – you’re getting in. I guess I get those might be “high achievers” although that bar is lower than in should be too.

And yes, most of these highly-tutored & prepped kids are in wealthier areas – those that cannot accept the idea that their child isn’t gifted – if almost every kid in the school is “above average” like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, then Houston, we have a problem.

Jono

March 26th, 2013
8:54 am

@ Rojer: “Gifted” is just a term that some people use, others don’t.

Bottom line is this: if you have a kid at home that isn’t encouraged or allowed to perform up to his / her potential, that’s a problem.

concernedmom30329

March 26th, 2013
9:02 am

Cautiously Optimistic

The reason DCSS can’t replicate their high achievers magnet programs is that they have (up until this year) cost far more per student than other schools. Other systems may do these types of programs fr less money but DeKalb always felt compelled to spend more.

Bernie

March 26th, 2013
9:07 am

If You ask most Parents they will always Claim little Johnny or Suzy is GIFTED. One must ask compared to whom? This self abasing belief that your child is somehow superior to all of his/or her peers reeks of self righteousness and a level of pompacity that is all too common with many of our well intended parents. Again, when are we going to stop such selfish and self absorbing behavior that is being inflicted upon all of US as real and fact. We have far to many issues that needs to be addressed to the Hundreds of thousands of students across this State.

The minscule number of the so called Gifted Student, if they truly exist. Their needs should be easily cared for by and of the parents. Not with State Funds, when during a time so many other Average students are being neglected. One would have to ask the Obvious question it would seem to me. Are YOU CRAZY?

reality check

March 26th, 2013
9:14 am

I don’t know if this program is enough or if it will work. I do agree that in the U.S. no child left behind has resulted in our falling behind the rest of the developed world because we do not do enough for gifted children.

It isn’t hard to identify children with high IQ. The tests work and have been validated. Of course children of wealthier families tend to score higher. A lot of the time the reason they are wealthier is that they are smarter and used that to become wealthier.

But there are lots of exceptions. There are children of wealthy/intelligent families who don’t do as well and there are children from families of low wealth who do really well on the tests. The key is that once a child has been identified as gifted most other countries make special resources to help them – and society – take advantage of their intellect. Here the special resources are focused on those with special needs and/or low IQ’s.

reality check

March 26th, 2013
9:17 am

The program being touted looks pretty meager

Private Citizen

March 26th, 2013
9:23 am

Under NCLB, the measure of success for teachers and schools was raising all students to grade level.

Not only that, emphasis to push advanced students in the general education population down to this concept of “norms.” In other words, speaking from experience, high performance and results treated as if something bad had happened, as if something shameful had occurred. Now it seemed to have shifted some. Some thing applies today in general education environments, however with the themed specialty schools and membership academies, it is now “you can perform highly where we say and how we tell you to do it.”

Sounds crazy. Rock solid truth.
_________________

Definition of gifted kids: The kids who do and accomplish challenging work and come back wanting more, easiliy 200% performance ratio of general education students.

Private Citizen

March 26th, 2013
9:29 am

rojer, Bottom line is when you call your kid “gifted,” I think your an @sshole.

In grammar, it is called a “contraction.” you + are = “you’re.” I think you meant to say, “Gifted Kid, you’re an @sshole.”

PS I don’t know what your problem is. I have no interest in solving a rubric’s cube and it sure does not bother when someone has one and can put all the colors on the sides in a matter of seconds, which requires a lot of logic and go-power. I think it’s great. I also look forward to my standard of living going up with the same kid grows up and starts contributing to society.

Georgia

March 26th, 2013
9:30 am

This is exactly what happened to me. I would turn in masterpiece homework assignments and write essays that could have won pulitzer prizes and the teachers would simply tell me to shut up cause they couldn’t hear the truant juvenile delinquents sitting behind me. I coulda been somebody. I coulda had class. Instead of being just a bum, which is what I am, lets face it. And it’s all the result of the neglect of my giftedness.