Gifted Education

I have been a bit reluctant to talk about my daughter’s gifted status here.  I am extremely proud of her but every time I talk about it I kind of feel weird.  When I bring it up it always makes me feel like I am bragging and I am not that kind of person.  I honestly try to be humble.  I love my daughter and the person she is and is becoming is a source of constant amazement and awe for me.  I just don’t feel the need to tell other people about it all the time.  Plus, most people don’t understand the challenges of raising a gifted child.  There are some unique issues with children like Emily but most people only seem to hear that she is “smart” and don’t understand how raising a gifted child can be difficult.  I just don’t like the conversations so I typically avoid the subject altogether.

One thing that I do want to talk about and be involved in is the status of gifted education in Alabama.  The State of Alabama has not funded gifted education for several years.  Last year the legislature restored $1 million in funding statewide.  That is about $19 per student per school year.  Seem a pittance right?  Even Mississippi spends 60 times that amount on gifted education.  MISSISSIPPI!!!  Is there any surprise intelligent people leave this state?  Further information and statistics can be found in a recent article by John Archibald of AL.com

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that I attended the State of the State address given by Governor Robert Bentley.  In the address he briefly touched on education.  Token raises for teachers and expanding a voluntary 4-K program.  Good things sure, especially ANY raise for teachers (wish that was merit raises but that is another post) but nothing about funding programs to help our brightest kids reach their potential.  You see, there is a myth about gifted kids.  The thinking goes that they are smart and just will succeed by themselves.  They don’t need help right, they are smart!  That thinking is very wrong.  Gifted children need their minds nurtured and challenged in ways that are different from the standard teaching methods.  In fact, leaving these kids to succeed on their own is more likely to see them drop out and give up on a system that doesn’t care for them.  It is really a sad thing to know that hundreds of the brightest kids our state can produce will languish in the public education system.  Regular teachers don’t know what to do with them and there aren’t enough gifted teachers to go around.  It is sad and infuriating and it is the single most important driver for me to want desperately to move out of Alabama.

I am going to start talking more about this issue around here.  I know not a lot of people read this site.  IF you do, however, and you find me talking about my daughter and her education somehow distasteful then I humbly ask that you move along.  My daughter is smart and I am not going to apologize for that just like parents with kids who excel in athletics don’t apologize for their children.  Kids like Emily are being done a disservice by the education system and we need to stand up for them just as often and as loudly as parents of children with disabilities rightly stand up for their children.  Being gifted isn’t a ticket to success and we must stop assuming that they will be OK on their own.  These are kids that can do great things.  It is long past the time when we give them the tools to do so.


Comments

Gifted Education — 15 Comments

  1. Growing up as a gifted kid in the Alabama system, I wholeheartedly agree with you. At least in the bigger schools, at the junior high and high school level, there are advanced and AP classes available. Below those grades, I’m afraid not much has changed since I was in school. I was the stereotypical “smart girl” – quiet, good grades, and overlooked. Only a few teachers picked up on it when I was just doing what I had to do to coast through. My elder son, has shown me the dangers of being a stereotypical gifted boy. In short, you don’t want him to get bored. He went to a Montessori school for 3 years before we tried public school for 1st grade. His teacher was very sweet but completely overwhelmed by him. He spent a lot of time in the counselors office. The counselor said the gifted program would be a great help for him…but they would not even be testing him for it until the end of his 2nd grade year. We decided at that point to try homeschooling, because, frankly, he already felt like a “bad” kid from the 9 months he was there. Five years later, he still asks if he is a troubled kid. (Absolutely NOT!)

    So hurray for you having the courage to take this on! People say I’m brave to homeschool. No, I was just too timid to arm wrestle with the school system. I hope that you can pass on part of the moral to our story…many of the gifted traits can be recognized so early, and waiting until the end of second grade may be too late to start nurturing these children.

  2. I can’t speak to Helena, but I’ve got to say I’m actually impressed with the gifted program at Thompson Intermediate and Meadow View. I know they’ve gotten nothing from the state in years. If I remember correctly, Shelby County is funding the program in full… which quite honestly worries me about Alabaster’s move to an independent school system. I’d hate to see this program atrophy because of a power trip by the City Council.

  3. Tracy: We are considering home schooling. It is a huge challenge though and I don’t know if we are ready for it or even have the resources to make it work. I was in the gifted program here as well and, at least where I went to school, it was a complete joke. By the time I got to high school it might have well not have existed.

    Danny: The Alabaster situation is interesting and I really wonder if they will be able to do a better job running the system on their own. I hope it works though as there are plenty of kids there that are smart and can go on to great things.

  4. I have many coals in this fire and I am glad you brought this up. This may be wordy, but I hope it helps. I was a gifted child born in Mississippi and lived there till 8th grade. I am also now a teacher, so I think I can check all your boxes in your post. 1st, never ever fell guilt for talking about your child because they are intelligent. As you well know, there is this idea that being smart until you are an adult is negative or bad. At least according to students. I am truly baffled by this and was even when I was younger. It is your child and you should be very proud and want to give her every possible chance to become the greatest human she is able to become. You are being a great parent and being a teacher we are sorely lacking in that department.

    You were correct about Mississippi, their gifted program was great. I have been to North Carolina, New York, and Texas to teach and not one of those states can hold a candle to my experiences in Miss. In 2nd grade in Meridian, MS, I was put into a program called “PEAK” (the art gifted kids went into a program called “VIVA”). From 2nd-5th grade I was taken from my class twice a week to the high school or an old high school in the city and we had classes with gifted teacher half a day. There was a whole day in there somewhere. My 1st class as a 2nd grader we were given ex-acto knifes, balsa wood, glue and told we had to build a structure that would be able to hold weight. It had to be under a certain weight and size. We also had to create a play to act out for a competition. That competition was “Odyssey of the Mind”, completely bad-ass! 2ND FREAKING GRADE, and we did it. We won our district and moved to the state level where we placed 3rd. When I moved back to MIss. in 7th and 8th grade I lived in Starkville and we had the same class, but it was actually one class per day along with my academic classes. We did mock stock market stuff for 6 weeks at a time where we had to track stocks and could spend $100,000 dollars. We did units on ancient Egypt where we had to give very in depth presentations about gods and rulers. I moved to Thompson in 8th grade and thought I had moved back to the stone age. I appreciate what Mrs. Derryberry tried to do in high school, but we used the gifted program as a way to skip class. It was utterly useless.

    As a teacher I am appalled at the lack of time we spend with the students that see all this public school education as bullshit and are the ones that will be shaping our world in the future. My famous quote to the knuckle-dragging mouth breathers when they make fun of our group, the nerds, is I hope they forget who you are because you will be working for them one day. Public education does not use any of its resources to help our the gifted. This is my petty observation being in the battle everyday, but administrators and school districts are only concerned with the students that are failing or average. No Child Left Behind has hindered us much more than it will every help. We are creating a Communist wheat field where all the stalks are the same height. We do not nurture those that need more help. I have not run into any aspect of life that the lesson we are all the same and should all do the same every accomplishes. In America especially, there are winner and losers, people that succeed and people that don’t. Our public education system only teaches conformity. The education system tells us one thing, but when we walk out into the big bad world is says something else entirely. My own politics, I am huge proponent of trade schools, at least with these schools students walk out of high school with a school that is marketable. I walked out of Thompson High School prepared for nothing. I know that was long, but your post was amazing and I wanted to let you know that there is better out there. It does feel that education hates the actual intelligent.

  5. If typos bothered me I would not be writing this blog! I did through in some paragraph breaks for you though. I know sometimes when I write comments the breaks don’t always come through properly.

    I have plenty more to say about this subject but did you see the following article?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/09/a-warning-to-college-profs-from-a-high-school-teacher/

    Kills me to think this is where we are heading.

  6. Erik,

    The best thing I learned at Thompson was that, if there is a system, it can be gamed. And I pretty much learned that in spite of the school, not because of it. I didn’t participate in the gifted program, but I knew several people who did. The biggest plus to being in the program in High School I could see was that the counselors hunted them down to give them scholarship applications while the rest of us had to hunt the applications down ourselves. 😉

    Things do seem to have improved. Meadow View happens to lie right next to Ebeneezer Swamp. In 3rd grade GRC, my oldest had a GPS unit, a notebook and a spyglass. They took trips out to Ebeneezer every few months and had to track the changes in flora and fauna in “his part” of the swamp.

    The teacher tied this into a unit study of the Jamestown Colony, as it was apparently built in a similar environment. They also had to write and perform a play about Jamestown, along with other projects.

    His experiences at Thompson Intermediate have continued along in a similar vein. The fact that the city kept requesting feasibility studies from different companies until they got on that gave them a favorable report kind of scares me. I’m afraid this program will be one of the first to go if the going gets tough.

  7. It is going to take you, the parents, to keep existing gifted programs, and to gain programs that are not there. The parents of children who have special needs (people need to realize gifted is special needs) do not keep silent. They insist on getting the services their children need. Gifted parents need to learn all they can – get educated on the special social and emotional needs AND their educational needs of their gifted child. I have a grown son. He was lucky to have had a gifted specialist guiding him all the way through high school. It breaks my heart that this same system does not have those same services for gifted children. Parents need to organize and realize their rights to get what their children need and also be diligent to not lose what they have.

    Audrey Fine, Immediate Past President
    Alabama Association for Gifted Children
    http://alabamagifted
    Follow us on Facebook: AAGC Group

  8. I totally agree with you. I moved here from Webster Groves, MO five years ago, and was shocked that actual classes for gifted don’t begin UntilThird grade. I know we give consultative services before that, but it’s not the same as actual services! I feel that AP classes in Middle School and Hugh School aren’t the same as gifted classes. I wish we had more Montessori classes/schools in Alabama, they challenge the gifted child and the students are able to learn at their own speed! Good luck!

  9. Pingback: 18 Blogs You Can Use to Determine if Your Child is Gifted | Find A Nanny

  10. Jeff – so excited to see you jumping into this. I know you had a lot of concerns about others would perceive your advocating, but fighting for our children always wins out, doesn’t it?? 🙂

    It’s frustrating to know that we are, once again, fighting and struggling with this issue in Alabama. Praying that common sense (which Archibald stated) will win out!

    Can’t wait to read more.

  11. Thanks to all of you that have read this post and thanks also to those who have commented. I am sorry I haven’t been able to respond to everyone. I have been caught up in a very busy period at work. I will be back though so thanks for reading!

  12. The ‘Gifted’ programs that do exist seem to lack real structure or serious lesson planning. We have journeyed from the UK, to North GA (fabulous gifted programs and extra cir activites), and landed in Huntsville. We were shocked at the lack of dedicated classes to those with ‘special learning’ needs – e.g. ‘Gifted’ kids. Given the population density of doctors, we expected more… I appreciate this forum very much. It is truly a safe haven- We are so proud of our son, he scores off the charts but we want him to remain in school (currently private school) for social purposes and prep for real world experiences. We are lucky that the school is stimulating enough and the small classes keep him ‘focused’. Otherwise, we are always looking for ways to feed his hunger for learning… in the right way. Thank you for this and we will seek to reach out to our lawmakers every step of the way !!!

  13. Innate giftedness is a complete crock and the concept should be done away with. Current science suggests otherwise and I suggest people actually read current science about the brain and how it learns. Giftedness at a young age probably has a lot more to do with the fact the people mature differently throughout their lives than it does with anything innate. So called “geniuses” of the past were often NOT considered gifted at young age and if they were it was mostly because they were exposed early and often to the very things they were gifted at. On the flipside, most so called child prodigies have rarely amounted to much as adults considering the supposed potential they had as young children. The problem doesn’t lie in gifted programs but in the fact that we even have programs labeled as “gifted” in the first place. The current education system was set up in the industrial age when kids where educated with a job end goal in my mind. Elementary school, highschool, then college. Things have changed tremendously. Some kids excel in this environment, some don’t. Instead of recognizing differences and adjusting accordingly, the system is lazy and just separates kids between “gifted” and “not gifted”. A ridiculously stupid way to educate and label minds that are very different in thousands of different ways. It has little to do with any sort of giftedness but the education system’s inability to recognize and adapt new learning techniques to different types of kids. Instead of grading everyone one the same scale as though they were animals. People are doctors, physicists, and computer scientists because they work hard for hours on end to become such and they like the subject, not because they have some sort unknown, unquantifiable ability given them at an early age. As a child or an adult, find something you want to do and like. Learn it, get smarter, and do it. Any normal brain is capable of as much. This is what kids should be taught instead of being labeled as a potential future smart person(or not) from the get go.

    For parents that feel the need for gifted programs, here’s an idea. Teach your kid at home things you think he can do. There are a plethora of resources now online. Expose your kid to Khan Academy or something similar. Do some kid programming courses. Whatever it is. Move on from there when they get better. Hell, just read books to your kids and get them to read. That alone has been shown to be extremely beneficial in later years for children. The mind is a sponge. Fill it. Let it grow, then do it some more.

    • Tesla,

      First, I would love to know how you came across this post as it is almost three years old. The internet is a wonderful thing and I always smile when something I have basically forgotten turns back up!

      Secondly, Can you please share the current science that suggest giftedness is not a valid concept? I would certainly be interested in it.

      Finally, while I disagree with you initial assertion, I do agree that schools are not designed to educate people as individuals. A single system can not possibly meet the needs of unique individuals and the governmental education system is structured to produce as many good workers as possible. Often student success is in spite of the system and not because of it and I think we do all children a great disservice by trying to fit them all into a single education structure. Regretfully we are not prepared as a society to tailor education to the needs of the student. The assembly line, factory mentality is as much a part of the education system as it is in manufacturing.

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