The High Flyer

Elissa F. Brown, Ph.D.

Twelve teachers who work in some of the lowest-performing schools in New York City are now certified in gifted education thanks to a laudable inter-agency partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the New-York Historical Society (NYHS), and Hunter College’s (HC) Advanced Certificate Program in Gifted Education. The partnership was launched in 2016, and the selected teachers are called “The Hunter College, New-York Historical Society Gifted and Talented Scholars.

Each partner got something worthwhile out of the collaboration. The New York Department of Education’s impetus was to raise the bar of teaching in some of its lowest performing schools. It believed that certifying more teachers in gifted education and pairing them with supportive principals would lead to better grassroots, classroom-level implementation of best practices that would ripple organically throughout the city and benefit all students and professionals.

The New York Historical Society’s motivation was to have teachers more effectively utilize the museum within the classroom through the study of social studies—and use it more broadly to ensure that a cohort of teachers knew how to use museums to enhance K–12 education.

Hunter College sought to increase enrollment, maintain course integrity and outcome standards, and certify more teachers...

 
 
By Dr. Clar M. Baldus and Dr. Hope E. Wilson

Five-year old Carlo absorbs every Weather Channel special on tornados and then draws his own, very accurate scenarios. Gillian never holds still and naturally creates her own choreography, even when entering a room. Izzy makes up elaborate stories. Music seems like a second language for John.

You may have seen similar signs that your child is gifted in the arts. However, for many children, their artistic gifts may not be apparent until opportunity or exposure provides a spark. That’s why it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the many ways they can ignite sparks, nurture artistic talents, and provide opportunities for gifted children to explore the arts.

Opportunity

In some schools, the arts may be viewed as less important or eliminated altogether. While the recent inclusion of the arts education in the Every Student Succeeds Act is encouraging, it’s important for parents and families to support the exploration and develop of artistic talent outside of schools.

In many communities, opportunities outside of school abound. Local art museums, galleries, and university arts programs often provide summer and year-round classes, access to professional artists and mentors, and links to other interesting programs. Children can also find inspiration by...

 
 

This week, the U.S. Department of Education released the final version of regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability provisions. It incorporates feedback the agency received on its earlier draft, and reveals a number of changes. One of these is particularly praiseworthy: States can now create accountability systems that measure student achievement at multiple levels—not just “proficient”—using a performance index.

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 children, whose schools generally serve many struggling students. 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 Every Student Succeeds Act requires the use of an academic achievement indicator that “measures proficiency on the statewide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics.” There are, however,...

 
 
Russell Warne

Smart. Bright. Intelligent. These are the sort of words that people often use to describe gifted children. Although there are many types of giftedness, most states, teachers, and parents recognize intellectual giftedness as an important type of giftedness in children. Despite this widespread recognition, few people understand the psychological theory of intelligence.

To help remedy this, I wrote an article for Gifted Child Quarterly, “Five Reasons to Put the g Back into Giftedness: An Argument for Applying the Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory of Intelligence to Gifted Education Research and Practice,” that explains the mainstream theory of human intelligence, suggests why people should use the theory in gifted education, and cautions against potential misuses of it in that field. If you don’t want to read the entire scholarly article, you’re in luck! This blog post gives you a brief summary of my work.

What is Intelligence? One popular definition is “...a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, lean quickly and learn from experience.” Leading psychologists view intelligence as a general ability (labeled g) that sits atop a three-level hierarchy of mental abilities, as shown in the picture...

 
 

Eleven weeks back, those of us at the Fordham Institute reported that current accountability systems in most states give primary and middle school educators scant reason to attend to the learning of high-achieving youngsters—which is to say, those systems generally fail to create incentives, rewards, or even transparency regarding the learning gains that schools are producing for students who have already crossed the proficiency threshold.

We coupled that bleak finding with a reminder that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) creates a rare opportunity for state leaders to rethink their accountability systems and thereby set matters right.

Now we’re back with a similar appraisal of state accountability regimes as they affect high schools. This one isn’t quite as gloomy, as we find more states paying attention to high achievers in the upper grades—and the structure of high school is more amenable to such attention, organized as it is around courses and course sequences, including electives that may include honors and AP classes and other means of accelerating one’s learning.

Not as gloomy, no, but not exactly rosy, as we can identify just four states that are doing it well today (Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas) and four more...

 
 
George Betts

I can still remember my first day of teaching at the middle school level. The students seemed very excited about class. After the bell rang, all but one student—who was dealing with a personal problem—walked out of class. My conversation and subsequent meeting with this student set me on a journey to discover all that I could about the social and emotional characteristics of students. It led to a master’s degree in counseling and a doctoral degree in psychology with a concentration in counseling guidance. Soon after that, I developed the Autonomous Learner Model, a learning model that focuses on the “whole gifted child.”

As I complete my fiftieth year as an educator and reflect on the concepts and ideas that seek to strengthen the social and emotional development of our children, I believe there are six essential qualities that gifted educators can instill in their students to benefit the “whole gifted child.”

  1. Unconditional positive regard: The ability to accept people as they are, not as you want them to be.
  2. Development of self: A strong sense of self is necessary for successful involvement with others, as well as the confidence that you are positive as a person.
  3. Emotional, social,
  4. ...
 
 
James T. Webb

Bright children are often intense, sensitive, idealistic, and concerned with fairness, and they are quick to see inconsistencies and absurdities in the classroom, in their families, and in the world. They are able to see issues on a universal scale, along with the complexities and implications of those issues. Children with high expectations and idealism are often disappointed, and disillusionment seems to occur mainly among the most idealistic children. They may become disillusioned only in some areas, or they may become completely disenchanted with life, which often leads to feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, anxiety, and even depression.

During childhood, the world seems simple, straightforward, and uncomplicated. The expectations and rules of daily life within the family are clear, and their awareness of the world is generally limited to their immediate family. Unless they live in a chaotic, confusing, abusive family, life for most young children is generally consistent, predictable, and emotionally comfortable. They trust that they are safe.

When children enter school, they are exposed to differing expectations and rules from their teachers, and as they see how other children, parents, and teachers behave, they begin to question their previously steadfast illusions. They discover that they are not the main...

 
 
M. René Islas and Rudy Crew

Imagine being a student who is academically gifted but whose abilities are not easily identified by teachers.

Then imagine that instead of being identified for testing to determine if you are gifted, you are passed over or, even worse, identified as having behavioral challenges and being in need of special-education services.

Sadly, this scenario is the norm for the tremendous numbers of children who have untapped giftedness but who are not afforded access to gifted programs and services simply because they are not viewed as kids who ultimately could benefit from the gifted program.

For too long, policymakers and many in education have turned a blind eye to the reality that gifted students exist in all populations and communities and that giftedness is not determined by one's skin color, native language or ZIP code.

Recent research out of New York University confirmed these biases. In a study where educators reviewed case studies, participants were more likely to spot attributes of giftedness in white students, recommending a referral for gifted education evaluation, than they were for black students with the same characteristics.

Additionally, researchers at the National Research Center on Gifted Education have found that it is virtually impossible for a...

 
 

If there is one thing that has haunted me over the years as an educator (now former) and as a mother, it is the disparity in expectations for students that glaringly breaks down around race and class. And Rhode Island is no exception. While students of means are often pushed to write thesis statements—and defend them!—in the early grades, black and brown children are far too often consigned to years of book reports and worksheets that don’t push their thinking or provide them with the opportunity to prove how incredibly smart and capable they are.

Well, cue the confetti and hallelujahs because Roger Williams Middle School is changing that. That’s right. Sixth grade students on the south side of Providence are part of a pilot program designed to offer advanced coursework—the Advanced Academics Program—and they are proving to be more than up to the task. In fact, the demand is greater than the number of seats available. Students are selected for the program based on attendance, teacher recommendation, and standardized test scores and there are currently more qualified students than there are spots in the program.

Shaking off that deficit mentality

The south side of Providence is known as...

 
 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of its most recent national science test for fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders—the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). There’s a bit of good news, in that average scores are up slightly in the fourth and eighth grades and race-based achievement gaps narrowed slightly since 2009.

This was what Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the agency responsible for assessment, seized on, as reported by the Washington Post. “This is exactly what we like to see,” she proclaimed, “all students improving but students at the bottom of the distribution making faster gains.”

Her statement erred in at least two important ways. First, it’s simply not true that all students improved. Twelfth grade was, regrettably, flat. And more importantly, our development of high achieving students might be, too.

It’s true that in fourth and eighth grade, if you define “high achievers” as those who score in the top ten percent, then the scores of such students have risen, including those of low-income and minority students. But we should be wary of such a definition. Recall that NAEP also reports student and state performance against three “achievement levels,” dubbed Basic,...

 
 

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