The High Flyer

Alli Aldis

I despised history, until I took AP U.S. History. From my elementary and middle school years, there remains a paper trail of get-to-know-you surveys for which I indicated that history bored me to tears, and doodles on notes of the Monroe Doctrine that subtly communicate the same reaction.

The U.S. history class I took in eighth grade is a perfect example. Almost every day consisted of hurriedly copying notes from a dim image projected on the board as the teacher read aloud the words we were inscribing. There were no lectures of substance; we were spoon-fed worksheets pulled from the dry pages of a textbook. The tests were a contest that determined who could regurgitate the highest percentage of memorized facts. Little to no analysis was ever done. We never focused on comprehending the cause and effect of critical movements or comparing past time periods to the modern era. Apparently, it was far more important to know the names of all the generals in the Civil War.

On the occasion that our daily work did not entail unhelpful note taking or memory-based testing, we took part in such educational activities as watching National Treasure or working on a slightly more...

By Kathleen Casper, J.D.

As gifted education continues to evolve and practitioners learn more about the neurology and social emotional needs of gifted children, it is increasingly important that schools identify social emotional goals and work closely with parents and other team members to create learning experiences for gifted students reflective of the needs of the whole child. In their book, Promoting Social and Emotion Learning, Maurice J. Elias et al. define social emotional competence as:

...the ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development. It includes self-awareness, control of impulsivity, working cooperatively, and caring about oneself and others.

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the national push for improved test performance, teachers are at risk of putting students’ social emotional needs on the back burner. In general, the lack of specific social emotional skills can hinder students throughout their K–12 educations and beyond, particularly for gifted students. Because they often do well on tests and quickly master academic tasks or gravitate to other...

Karen Morse

In Growing Up Creative, author Teresa Amabile explains that fostering a creative environment helps children engage in abstract and analytical thinking, sharpen their visual-spatial acuity, and become more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking. Creative thinkers are more able to suspend judgment about people and circumstances and avoid gender stereotyping. They have high degrees of autonomy and demonstrate self-discipline in matters regarding work. They are able to delay gratification, tolerate ambiguity, and demonstrate high levels of self-control.

Creative learners are big-picture global thinkers with a willingness to take risks and strive for excellence. With your guidance, your gifted child can become a global thinker and make connections to real life experiences through the arts. This can lead to a lifetime of creative thinking, future problem solving.

“I’m painting a tiger pretending to be a lion,” exclaimed five-year-old Ben as he added a mane to his crude picture of a striped cat. Soon after that, he bounded off with a dry paintbrush-turned-sword and announced that he was Captain Hook pretending to be Peter Pan.

Children like Ben—who flow with unusual, humorous ideas—demonstrate creative thinking. Creativity requires original thought, which in turn requires clarity and a deep enough understanding of a concept that...

Stephen Noonoo

Today’s colleges of education generally do a good job prepping new teachers for the traditional classroom. For teaching students outside the mainstream, the training is less robust. At least, that’s what Alison Alowonle discovered when she stepped into her first student-teaching job in a gifted ed magnet school thirteen years ago and fell in love with the students.

When she moved to a classroom of her own, she started small, clustering increasing numbers of gifted students each year before designing her own pullout program at Excelsior Elementary in Minnetonka, Minnesota, picking up a certificate in gifted education along the way. This year she was one of eleven finalists for her state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year award.

“Gifted” is a label that’s often difficult to quantify, but there’s little doubt Alowonle’s elementary students are exceptional. To qualify for her class, students must demonstrate an IQ upward of 140 and pass through a simulation designed to test their intellect. But intelligence alone is not what makes them unique. According to Alowonle, her students also exhibit high levels of inward motivation and drive; “intensity” is one of her favorite words to describe it.

Here, Alowonle shares her recommendations for engaging...

As I travel the country, working with educators and policymakers on improving services for gifted students, I’m usually struck by two themes, one encouraging and the other worrisome. On the positive side, people are starting to understand that advanced achievement matters and have become passionate about addressing excellence gaps—the yawning divides in advanced achievement between various racial and socioeconomic groups. But on the negative side, I’m routinely disappointed by how often that enthusiasm fades when we start talking about solutions. The conversation goes something like this:

Ability grouping? “Not in our district, people don’t believe in it.” Universal screening? “Too expensive.” Use of local norms? “Politically tricky. Pass.” Teacher and administrator training? “Preparation programs will never do it, and we don’t have the bandwidth at the district level.” And the kicker, which is so common that I’ve become numb to it: “This is an important topic, but my urban/rural district doesn’t have any bright kids” (a comment I’ve heard from principals, superintendents, and even a state school chief).

So although we have research-based strategies that shrink excellence gaps and raise overall levels of excellence, we rarely see a district tackle this problem.

This phenomenon has grown so frustrating for me...

Courtney McKinney

When I moved from California to Texas at age four, I was reading full books and writing at a first-grade level. After being iced out of one upscale community that wasn’t keen on having a single black mother as a neighbor, my mom moved us into a different district, specifically for its public schools. But when she went to enroll me in kindergarten, she was told that under no circumstances would I be allowed to enter kindergarten as a four-year-old, no matter what grade level I tested into.

School staff recommended I attend preschool for a year to wait it out. My mom did not accept that recommendation. Instead, she sent me to a nearby private school where I was welcomed into kindergarten with open arms. I excelled, and instead of falling behind a year, I stayed in private school through fourth grade. Then I transferred to public school, where I took part in programs for gifted students. When I graduated from high school at seventeen and went on to the Ivy League, it looked like the public education system had served me well, but the real reason I made it was the commitment of my mother.

Earlier this year,...

Kevin D. Besnoy

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the May 2017 issue of Teaching for High Potential. Research from Mathematica and CREDO have shown disappointing results for online schools, though the studies do not address how well or poorly they serve gifted students.

Over the past twenty years, the world of online learning has exploded with roughly 5 million of the country’s 54 million K–12 students having taken at least one online or virtual class during the 2015–2016 school year. While there are some advantages to virtual schools, we must seek answers to important questions about the type of education our gifted and talented students are receiving in these settings. Given that nearly all of the learning takes place online, what types of digital-personal interactions do our students experience? How do we evaluate a virtual learning environment to determine if it is right for gifted children or programs?

What is Virtual Education?

Effective K–12 online learning environments are comprised of a variety of places, pedagogies, and policies. Unfortunately, educators do not agree as to how best to define each of these elements, and politicians cannot find consensus as to how best to evaluate the return on investment of taxpayers’...

By next week, sixteen states and the District of Columbia will have submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education to meet their obligations under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These publicly available documents describe how states will satisfy a number of ESSA’s requirements, including those concerning testing, school improvement, and accountability. Unfortunately, just as states mostly squandered ESSA's school improvement flexibility, most of these first seventeen plans don’t do enough to hold schools accountable for meeting the educational needs of high achievers—especially those growing up in poverty.

ESSA affords states a critical opportunity to right many wrongs of No Child Left Behind. A strong accountability system signals to schools that the progress of all students is important, but NCLB failed at this by creating incentives for schools to focus their energy almost exclusively on helping low-performing students get over a modest proficiency bar, while neglecting those who were likely to pass state reading and math tests regardless of what happens in the classroom. This may be why the United States has seen significant achievement growth and improved graduation rates for its lowest performers over the last twenty years but lesser gains for its top students.

The...

Back in November, I praised the Obama Administration’s Every Student Succeeds Act accountability regulations for permitting states to use performance indices in lieu of simple, problematic proficiency rates. Such applause is, of course, water under the bridge after congressional Republicans and President Trump repealed those rules and, instead of replacing them, will rely on promises, “Dear Colleague” letters, and other means that fall short of formal regulation.

Yet new praise is in order for Secretary DeVos et al.’s recently released “State Plan Peer Review Criteria,” which explains the process through which state ESSA plans will gain approval or rejection. It, like the regulations that came and went before it, expressly permits accountability systems that measure student achievement at multiple levels—not just “proficient”—using a performance index.

This is an important—even essential—innovation. Despite the good intentions of No Child Left Behind, which ESSA replaced a year ago, it erred by encouraging states to focus almost exclusively on helping low-performing students achieve proficiency and graduate from high school. Consequently, many schools ignored pupils who would easily pass state reading and math tests and earn diplomas regardless of what happened in the classroom—a particularly pernicious problem for high-achieving poor and minority...

When (and how) should gifted education teachers apply general teaching principles vs. specialized instruction in their gifted education classrooms? In what circumstances are gifted learners like all others in classrooms around the world and when are they uniquely different? These questions plague the field with many implications regarding access, equity, and educational values. A new publication, Top twenty principles from psychology for pre-K–12 creative, talented, and gifted Students’ teaching and learning, published by the Center for Psychology in Schools and Education at the American Psychological Association in collaboration with scholars in our field, aims to help educators answer these questions.

Organized around a set of twenty research-based principles of learning, the synthesis introduces readers to each principle, how it is relevant to teachers, and provides a list of actions that teachers can take to incorporate these principles into their gifted education classroom to promote learning and development.

This document expands on a version that was originally developed for the broader education community by specifically targeting the K–12 education experiences of gifted and talented students. Research syntheses such as this one help practitioners make sure that they are applying effective practices in their classrooms.

Organized around five themes, the...

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