Sunday, November 22, 2009

State of the States in Gifted Education

The National Association for Gifted Children's “State of the States in Gifted Education” report for 2008-2009 is now available.

For the full report:
(go to the set of tables to see how Tennessee ranks compared to other states)

The following is a summary of the report from David Nagel published in The Journal at

“America's 3 million gifted and talented students are getting the shaft in the vast majority of K-12 schools, according to a new report from the National Association for Gifted Children and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted. The report found that gifted students are being neglected at all levels in the United States, from weak or non-existent policies at the state level to uneven funding at the district level to a lack of teacher preparation at the classroom level.

The report… pointed to several failures on the part of U.S. education, from a severe lack of commitment on a national level to spotty services and little or no support to get teachers trained to deal with gifted students.

Some of the findings included:

• A full fourth of states provided zero funding for programs and resources for gifted students last year;

• In states that did provide funding, there was little consistency, with per-pupil expenditures ranging from $2 to $750 last year;

• Only five states require professional development for teachers who work in gifted programs;

• Only five require any kind preparation for these teachers;

• Gifted students spend most of their time in general classrooms and receive little specialized instruction;

• Key policies are handled at the district level, when there are policies in place at all, rather than at the state level, creating "the potential for fractured approaches and limits on funding";

• There is no coherent national strategy for dealing with gifted students.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Many Faces of Acceleration

“America's school system keeps bright students in line
by forcing them to learn in a lock-step manner with
their classmates. Teachers and principals disregard
students’ desires to learn more—much more—
than they are being taught.

Instead of praise and encouragement, these students
hear one word—no. When they ask for a challenge,
they are held back. When they want to fly, they are
told to stay in their seats. Stay in your grade.
Know your place.

It’s a national scandal. And the price may be the slow
but steady erosion of American excellence.
—A Nation Deceived

Why Acceleration?
Gifted students are, by definition, more advanced than their age peers in some significant ways. Their rate of development has been faster than expected. They have reached a level of maturity that puts them out of sync with their age peers and with the curriculum of the regular classroom. Not only have these students acquired more information in a shorter time, but they think with the greater depth and insight of older students. The older they are, the greater the discrepancy between their level of maturity and that of their age mates.

The two most significant assets for gifted students are an appropriate educational fit and friends of similar maturity.”

This is the start of a very well crafted article by Dr. Nancy M. Robinson, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, entitled The Many Faces of Acceleration: Creating an Optimal Match for the Advanced Learner. It is available, in full, at The Duke Gifted Letter, and is well worth reading and sharing with other parents and school officials.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Myth: "Gifted students don't need help, they're fine."

From: National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC):
Common Myths in Gifted Education

Myth: Gifted students don’t need help; they’ll do fine on their own

Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.

While gifted students do have an extraordinary level of potential and ability, their high aptitude for learning can easily go to waste if it is not fostered properly. The facts clearly show that gifted students need teachers who will challenge them. According to a 1991 study, between 18 and 25% of gifted and talented students drop out of school. Gifted dropouts were generally from a lower socio-economic status family and had little or no access to extracurricular activities, hobbies, or technology. Following are some statistics, books, articles and links to webpages that will help to dispel the myth that “gifted students will be fine on their own.”

• Visit "Why We Should Advocate For G/T Students" to learn more about how classroom experiences and teacher qualifications and abilities relate to gifted students and their success.

• Visit "Gifted Education Works" for information about a range of gifted education strategies and their success.

• The "Equity In Excellence" webpage contains information about the achievement gap that has developed between subgroups of high-ability students due in part to lack of quality instruction.

• Studies have shown that as they progress through school, American children are falling further behind their foreign counterparts. At the 4th grade level only seven countries have higher average Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) scores in mathematics than the United States, but by 8th grade that number is nearly tripled with 20 countries having higher average scores than the U.S. In the 12th grade advanced math level, not one country has lower average scores than the United States. The science achievement scores are equally unnerving. These numbers indicate that all of our students need help in school; if they are left to learn on their own, they will continue to fall behind. For more details visit the "Pipeline of STEM Talent" webpage.

• When young high-ability children are placed in classrooms that are designed for low or average-ability students, they typically experience boredom, frustration, and decreased motivation.

For more information read:

Neihart, M., Reis, S. M., Robinson, N. M., & Moon, S. M., (Eds.). (2002). The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? Waco, TX

Gallagher, J. J. (1991). Programs for gifted students: Enlightened self-interest. Gifted Child Quarterly, 35(4), 177-178.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

High School Online

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about online high schools. The focus was on those students who enroll full-time in online courses and whether they confront unique social problems. The comments from students in online courses are at least as informative as the article itself. See:

Online coursework, of course, does not need to be all or nothing. For many gifted students, completing some coursework at their local school and some online provides a real opportunity to pursue their areas of passion more deeply and fully than is possible in most Tennessee schools.

Most public universities in Tennessee now offer a range of courses online (check individual university web sites), and there is also the Tennessee Board of Regent’s RODP program ( as well. Nationally, there is the EPGY program ( discussed in the WSJ article, as well as a number of other college run and virtual high school programs.

When thinking about enrolling your student in online coursework:

- seriously evaluate the course syllabus, as not all online courses are created equal

- check with your local school before enrolling to make sure they will accept the credit and clarify whether it will be listed on the transcript with a letter grade or as pass-fail

- if you want dual credit for the coursework, confirm with both your local school and the college before enrolling