The High Flyer

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,...

 
 
Nicole M. Monteiro, Ph.D.

“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” - Paulo Freire

As a child, I always had a sense of myself—a way of understanding who I was/am, in a very concrete and tangible way. When I was a young girl others would often comment that I appeared very grounded and steady. At the time I didn't quite know what they meant because I was usually in my own internal world and not really aware of how others viewed me. But I do remember as a child feeling connected to my familial roots and having a deep perception of and sensitivity to my physical, mental, and spiritual existence. That is what knowledge of self meant to me. And that knowledge—expanded in a decidedly global way—would eventually become my foundation for navigating the world as a gifted child and young woman.

Reflecting on my childhood and upbringing, I can see clearly that my parents already had their own plans to make sure I received an extraordinary education at school and at home. They were committed to having me educated in the public schools, but they certainly did not intend to leave the...

 
 
Joy Lawson Davis

When discussing the traits of gifted learners, most experts would agree that gifted learners are usually very socially conscious individuals who express compassion and deep concern for their fellow human beings. No characteristics chart describing gifted learners is complete without the use of such terms as compassionate, heightened sense of justice, lack of tolerance for hypocrisy, and/or unusually sensitive to the needs of others.

Our nation has just emerged from one of the most socially volatile, emotional, and visible civil protest periods since the 1960s. Last year, communities across the nation rallied behind causes to defend and support the humane treatment of all citizens. One issue that has received a great deal of attention nationwide is the purported racial discrimination and maltreatment of African American males, in particular. As a result of a series of incidents involving the deaths of three young African American males, protests emerged across the nation.

Over the past few years, racism has become one of the most controversial topics discussed across news forums in the nation. For the first time in my adult experience, RACE IS OUT IN THE OPEN! In schools across the nation, students from all different ethnic backgrounds gathered to support some...

 
 

What happens to talented students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds? American education reform has focused on students reaching minimal levels of proficiency, but it has failed to engage and support the most promising children from overlooked communities. The result is an incalculable injustice to our kids and our nation.

On Wednesday, September 7, the Institute for Education Policy, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and the Ingenuity Project hosted a conversation in Baltimore on why the “excellence gap” is worthy of attention from educators, policy makers, and the civil rights community.

Participants included:

  • Jonathan A. Plucker, Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development, School of Education and Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University
  • James L. Moore, III, EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education and Executive Director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, The Ohio State University
  • Mike Petrilli, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute; and Executive Editor, Education Next
  • Ariel Bowers, Integration and Test Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope; and Ingenuity Project, Class of 2009
  • David Steiner, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy

The discussion was anchored in Jonathan Plucker’s latest book, Excellence Gaps in Education: Expanding Opportunities for Talented Students,...

 
 

Last October, we lamented New York City’s neglect of high-ability students, particularly in its low-income neighborhoods. Since then, the district and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have taken steps to mitigate the problem.

Unfortunately, their efforts fall way short.

We surfaced multiple problems in Gotham’s approach to gifted-and-talented education, beginning with the once-a-year entrance exams that determine admission to the city’s skimpy and badly distributed supply of such opportunities for primary and middle school students.

Scored with a single citywide cutoff level, it’s a disaster for poor kids. In parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for example, just 14 percent of test-takers passed the January 2016 test. In parts of the South Bronx, it was 15 percent. Yet on Manhattan’s Upper East and West Sides, a whopping 46 percent reached the threshold.

These wealth-correlated pass rates mirror the city’s supply of gifted-education opportunities. Four of the poorest of Gotham’s thirty-two school districts have no gifted program to speak of, and many others have too few and do little to get the word out about those they’ve got.

This summer, Fariña and company launched an experimental program to make these programs more inclusive by targeting ill-served neighborhoods, such as those mentioned above and...

 
 
By Jonathan Plucker, Matthew Makel, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, Michael Matthews, and Scott Peters

Nearly all aspects of America’s schools are built upon age-based grade levels and corresponding grade-level expectations: standards, instruction, curriculum, and assessment, among others. This reinforces the implicit message that performing on grade level is the primary purpose of schooling. Yet it also ignores an important question: How many students already perform one or more years above grade level on their first day of school?

The answer to this question has profound implications for American education policy and for the organization of schools. If a mere 2 percent of students perform above grade level, for example, the present obsession with grade-level proficiency might make sense. But what if it were a far larger proportion? If one in every five students has surpassed that criterion before the school year even starts, policymakers would need to re-think the merits of an age-based, grade-level focus.

In a recent policy brief, four colleagues addressed this question and found that very large percentages of students (between 15 percent and 45 percent) are performing above grade level—and that these percentages represent staggeringly large numbers of students. In California alone, for example, this group comprises more than 1.4 million pupils.

To reach these conclusions, we examined five...

 
 
Dr. Sal Mendaglio

Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from the Summer 2016 issue of Parenting for High Potential.

Parents of gifted children are often concerned about their children’s anxiety, and with good reason. Research indicates that 12% to 20% of all children experience anxiety severe enough to refer them for treatment, and approximately 3% to 5% of all children are diagnosed with a variety of anxiety disorders.

Regrettably, children do not always express their anxiety in the form of “Mom, I am anxious,” or “Dad, I am afraid.” Their expression of anxiety—or lack of expression—depends largely on the child’s makeup, and is often expressed in different ways. Some children cry or behave aggressively, while others withdraw from the situation.

Though research on anxiety does not indicate the number of gifted children included in studies, it’s reasonable to assume that representative samples include children who are gifted. While the experience of anxiety is disturbing enough, if untreated, anxiety can cause serious consequences such as academic underachievement, substance abuse, and increased risk of other psychiatric disorders.

Sources of Anxiety in Children

Researchers have identified several general sources of anxiety in children. These sources include genetics, child temperament, parent-child early attachment, parental...

 
 

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