Outsmarted

The debate about "mainstreaming"--whether students are best served in "regular" settings instead of segregated, specialized ones--is typically reserved for discussions of special education (see below). But this week's Time magazine considers mainstreaming (and its opposite) in the context of America's most gifted children. In the middle of the debate is the year-old Davidson Academy, a privately endowed public school in Reno catering to high-IQ kids (generally over 160). It teaches forty-five 11- to 16-year-old prodigies, who moved to Nevada from all over the country and even overseas to be educated with other kids who are just as smart as they are. Their previous school experiences were frustrating, socially isolating, and of course boring. Now at Davidson, these students can form social networks, and they push each other to excel. But is running off to Reno really the only solution for highly gifted students? The article's author, John Cloud, isn't so sure. "The best way to treat [highly gifted students] is to let them grow up in their own communities--by allowing them to skip ahead at their own pace." Perhaps he's right, but that would require a sea change in the attitude of the public education system, which views grade-skipping skeptically. Of course, it once viewed the mainstreaming of special education kids skeptically, too.

"Are We Failing Our Geniuses?" by John Cloud, Time, August 16, 2007

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