Gifted Education

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Re: Gifted Education

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed May 25, 2011 11:21 pm UTC

Zcorp, I just don't get you! I know I'm the main perpetrator with all those issues, and I guess I just want to say something: I have tutored and helped everyone who has ever asked me to help, even at the detriment of my own work. It's not my job, and I don't think it's fair, but I did it anyway. And at some point, you have to ask for things or you'll never get them. How else do you think students with learning disabilities are allotted things like extra time and private rooms? They asked for the things that would help them succeed. That's what I'm asking for - for the future gifted students to be taught in a way that allows them to learn and to not drop out of school or stop caring about learning because everything is so easy and boring. The reason I didn't drop out? I had those limited gifted programs and my (5 year older) brothers would teach me what they were learning at home. That's why I didn't go crazy.

But I still think that the question that you're not asking yourself because it's hard, it's really hard, is that who is more deserving of the resources? You seem to firmly believe that tracking (which is exactly what Meem1029 went thru - he didn't teach himself entirely, he was in a class) is very detrimental to lower ability students. So if it's detrimental to remedial students to have tracking and detrimental to advanced students to not have tracking, what are we going to do?

Here's a couple ideas to toss around

We could have simply two levels - average and advanced.
-I'm not sure if this would solve the seeming problem of tracking for the lower students of if this is still just straight tracking.

We could do away with all advanced things and simply put people in the grades they're ready for in various subjects.
-This wouldn't cost anything, but there are some problems with it. To your thought about the very socially minded person - they can still see all their current friends in other classes and make new ones in their math class - it's not isolation for everything, just one subject. Also, advanced students are often capable of learning things at a much faster rate, so even if they were placed in the class that initially was the right level, they'd soon be looking to skip again.

We could teach teachers about advancement - both full grade and subject-wise
-This is currently a scary thing for most teachers. There's a reason it took 6 months of fighting in order for my brothers to get the approval to skip a grade. Teachers and administrators are scared

We could completely reform lower education
-Perhaps something like having the exact same curriculum as the typical class, but with more teachers or for a longer time (this cut into electives which could be an issue, especially for students who typically under perform academically)

We could keep tracking, but be very diligent about it from an early age and have it not really relate to age at all.
-Some students will come to kindergarten being able to read, some will come not knowing what an A looks like. Obviously that shouldn't be taken into account when suggesting the next class for a student. What would be wonderful is some sort of test like an IQ test but that actually measures something worthwhile and that isn't biased, but I know that's just not feasible.

Quickness of mind should really be what tracking is about. So that people can move in between the tracks, perhaps have classes every once in a while, especially right before or after typical breaks (elementary to middle, etc.) where lost material is attempted to be made up if people want to switch. This may mean going over two years of material in one year, but it would be feasible if the students really wanted. If there were not enough students for the cram class, perhaps we could attempt to have those who want to move into the higher track learn some on their own. I don't like that idea, but it's possible.

Don't make tracks about age - make it about ability! No one has to stay with their grade. If they're quick, but were late reading, then put them in the advanced class that is traditionally a year younger than they are. If they're slow, but have learned some material before, put them in the slower class a grade higher. Yes, the slower track will not cover as much material overall, but that's what has to happen in order to have the remedial students actually learn the subject matter.

EDIT:

I also just found a study (sorry, behind a subscription wall) that indicates that lower ability students actually do better in homogeneous heterogeneous (read the abstract wrong - sorry) ability groups, average students do slightly better in homogeneous groups and high ability students do equally well. So, it seems that having high ability students in the group is actually detrimental to other students that are not quite as high performing. (Note, however that this was done with the same lesson, not different acording to ability)
Last edited by KestrelLowing on Thu May 26, 2011 12:52 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Zcorp » Thu May 26, 2011 12:21 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:But I still think that the question that you're not asking yourself because it's hard, it's really hard, is that who is more deserving of the resources? You seem to firmly believe that tracking (which is exactly what Meem1029 went thru - he didn't teach himself entirely, he was in a class) is very detrimental to lower ability students. So if it's detrimental to remedial students to have tracking and detrimental to advanced students to not have tracking, what are we going to do?
You seem to keep putting this on remedial students its not just remedial students that are harmed. It is everyone but the advanced students while the advanced students gain nearly nothing.

As for your question...all students are equally deserving of those resources and those that are behind or just on par with the studies more so than those advanced in them. Those advanced in them are more likely to attend college, more likely to make better contacts through peers or alumni, make more money and more likely to have academically proficient children. Those who are on par or behind are less likely to graduate, less likely to attend college, less likely to make important contacts, less likely to make more than average money and less likely to create academically proficient children. In short they are more likely to experience a life like their parents and their children are more likely to experience a life like theres. This is a game much much bigger than that one average student in class vs that one advanced student in class. Advanced/academically inclined students are not the only ones to experience emotional distress, so lets stop pretending that they are.

Also, advanced students are often capable of learning things at a much faster rate
Thats not quite how intelligence really works. Many students on an advanced track are simply more capable of remembering information saying nothing to their ability to apply or analyze it. Look at the recent PISA scores and the responses from American educators and many of the goals of the Chinese educators. Then even if that individual is adept in language and memorization skills that doesn't mean they are adept in reasoning, musical, spatial or creative skills. An advanced student could be incredibly adept in language and memorization and be able to pick those skills up very quickly, but have much lower capacity to learn reasoning skills. While an 'average' student might blow them away in reasoning but have relatively poor memory storage and recall making them look quite bad on tests but when asked to apply those skills in real world settings they could greatly surpass the advanced student. And this is one of the disparities that we are seeing with the concept of Chinese vs American education. We are just a bit better (while still quite bad) at creating reasoning skills, and they are better at creating test taking skills. Objectively the Chinese students are better, but only because we can't easily objectively test applying knowledge in real world applications.

We could keep tracking, but be very diligent about it from an early age and have it not really relate to age at all.
-Some students will come to kindergarten being able to read, some will come not knowing what an A looks like. Obviously that shouldn't be taken into account when suggesting the next class for a student. What would be wonderful is some sort of test like an IQ test but that actually measures something worthwhile and that isn't biased, but I know that's just not feasible.
What is more feasible and more realistic is testing aspects of an individuals intelligence. The g quotient isn't particularly useful except to create teacher perceptions of students.

Quickness of mind should really be what tracking is about.

To quickly and sloppily address the idea of quickness of mind. Intelligence is generally divided into many categories, within each of those categories an individual could have a different 'quickness of mind' ability. To look at extremes take for example a autistic savant. Someone with generally no or little ability (or innate reinforcement) of quickness in mind in acquiring social skills but great quickness of mind in acquiring another skill, say music, information storage and retrieval or visual processing. While a sociopath would have amazing quickness of mind relating to social skills, although lack an empathetic aspect of personality.

Our concept of Intelligence, and their it's aspects relating quickness of mind (or IQ for that specific aspect of intelligence) is much more advanced today but we are still quite bad at understanding, measuring and categorizing them.

You are presuming to reward quickness of mind in information storage and retrieval, language and quantitative reasoning above all others. We know that being adept in those does not mean they have quickness in mind general reasoning and critical thinking skills (Fluid intelligence). There are also many different theories of intelligence like Keirsey's Logistical, Diplomatic, Tactical and Strategical.

You are suggesting a system that rewards aspects of intelligence that are currently quantifiable, a common stance. The opposing one is trying to cultivate students that are more adept with creative and critical thinking ability. You are suggesting that the primary weight of school is to retain and retrieve knowledge, pass tests and display that students are certifiably trainable. While others presume that social skills, creative skills and critical thinking skills should be weighted more heavily.
Last edited by Zcorp on Thu May 26, 2011 12:45 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Wodashin » Thu May 26, 2011 12:21 am UTC

3rd grade Algebra for my private school, equivalent to 8th grade Pre-Algebra. No real point in it though because they didn't really follow up on it. I think they were just experimenting. It was 'gifted' I guess, but I can't remember.

In the 6th grade I started going to a public school, due to my having moved, and was put in a few 'gifted' things, but they didn't really have standard classes. It was more just doing something else every once in a while, while the other kids learned whatever they learned. If it was reading, I was put in advanced reading. There wasn't really an advance math class or anything like that. Just reading. In the 7th grade, start of Junior High, I don't remember there being many advanced classes. I don't recall there being honors classes or advanced classes, but there may have been.

Moved to the Philippines and went to an international school there. It was only advanced. I pretty much skipped into high school there since, by grade 8, they're farther than the US would be by grade 10. There were 8 classes a day, for about 70 - 80 minutes a day, and they were extremely tough. 75% was failing, but not because it was easy. The best students were usually B students. What's funny is that English there is way more advanced than it is here. I'm a Junior here now, and when I was in '8th' grade (their 8th grade, not the one here in the US) the class was much more advanced. It's almost comical. It's very depressing though. '9th' grade was at a different school, and each of the classes were color co-ordinated by intelligence and grades. You had one group of classmates throughout every class for the entire year. The best colors would be 'star' sections and would learn much more than those in the lower sections. There was a section for the clowns and slower people as well. I applied to skip a year so I could be in the same class as one of my friends, and I more than passed their test to allow it, but I didn't know enough of the national language to be boosted up, and I couldn't get out of the class so I had to to take the 9th grade there rather than the 10th grade.

Came back to America, and took no AP or honors courses because I had no idea what to sign up for because I had no idea what high school here was like. I didn't even know what AP was. I just signed up for normal classes. Very easy. Has enabled me to procrastinate to new heights. Very depressing though. That was 10th grade, now I'm in 11th grade. I'm in AP Physics since I'm a year ahead in the sciences (I could be farther along, but I had to take Biology 3 times due to all the moving and different curriculums), and that's been fun. It's the only AP class I took though, because I didn't understand the reasoning behind taking an AP class and still didn't really get them, mainly because I was too lazy to ask around. What's depressing is that people in my English class don't even know what quotations are, or how to make a thesis. In the 11th grade, in a normal, core class. "Hey, what are quotations again? These things, right?" *points to " " drawn on paper*. It just doesn't sit well.

Something is seriously wrong with our education system. Maybe we could take after the Germans or East/South East Asians. Arrange classes by how well people do and how intelligent they are (whatever 'intelligence' means. Just some sort of mental measurement). Class rankings. Facilitate everyone at every level to their best by, well, segregating them I guess. It would probably help those in the middle who may move up, but can't because they have to learn at someone else's pace.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Zcorp » Thu May 26, 2011 12:31 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:EDIT:

I also just found a study (sorry, behind a subscription wall) that indicates that lower ability students actually do better in homogeneous ability groups, average students do slightly better in homogeneous groups and high ability students do equally well. So, it seems that having high ability students in the group is actually detrimental to other students that are not quite as high performing. (Note, however that this was done with the same lesson, not different acording to ability)

Besides that you didn't correctly read the abstract, I'd be interested to read more about his assumptions on why in a small group settings homogeneous average students perform better and what he means by perform.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu May 26, 2011 1:21 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:
KestrelLowing wrote:EDIT:

I also just found a study (sorry, behind a subscription wall) that indicates that lower ability students actually do better in homogeneous ability groups, average students do slightly better in homogeneous groups and high ability students do equally well. So, it seems that having high ability students in the group is actually detrimental to other students that are not quite as high performing. (Note, however that this was done with the same lesson, not different acording to ability)

Besides that you didn't correctly read the abstract, I'd be interested to read more about his assumptions on why in a small group settings homogeneous average students perform better and what he means by perform.


Oh, whoops! I'm sorry. I was linked to the abstract from a video and I skimmed the abstract to make certain it was the right one, but the indication in the video was incorrect. I'm sorry. I've now fixed that in the original post.

Now I find that study even more interesting though and yes, I'd like to learn about the methodology and what the definitions are. Still, it seems odd that average ability students would do slightly better in homogeneous groups while below average students are better in heterogeneous. I wonder why that dynamic occurs. I guess the advanced students are going to be fine in a specific exercise no matter who else is in the lesson, the average students probably do slightly better in homo because they have the chance to think about the answers before someone else answers, and maybe the lower group does better in a hetero group because they honestly don't know the answers and need someone else to indicate them.

As to what we consider intelligence, I wanted to have a conversation about that too. I know I'm entrenched in thinking that academic intelligence is the only intelligence there is. This probably stems from the fact that I'm decent at school and music, but suck at emotional and physical issues. Also, traditionally school has just been about academic intelligence so that's what I trend to. Thanks for pointing it out.

However, I've always thought that the relative speed of understanding was the most important for all sorts of intelligence - academic, emotional, physical, etc. Get the idea/motion/feeling faster than others, you've probably got a high degree of intelligence in that area.

If a class is all about memorization or you can simply pass it with memorizing facts, there's something wrong with the class. I've long argued against that. Trust me, you can find more arguments in this very forum!

The problem is when you get to creativity, problem solving, leadership skills, etc. - things we've never been successful with teaching or developing in the classroom. People have tried - especially with leadership. Ever been to one of those leadership seminars? They're mostly useless. As for creativity, yeah. I have no clue whatsoever.

I guess I'm mainly looking to capitalize on what is traditionally taught in schools, mainly reading, writing, math, science, social studies, history.

If someone is behind in critical thinking, it'll probably show in social studies, English and math. All of these subjects rely very heavily on critical thinking. Hopefully in completing those subjects, they will bring their critical thinking intelligence up.

I think that having the ability to be in many different levels depending on the subject will actually help with multiple intelligences. People who are excellent at English but not as adept in other areas will still be able to take English at their level while getting the level they need for other classes.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Zcorp » Thu May 26, 2011 2:06 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:Now I find that study even more interesting though and yes, I'd like to learn about the methodology and what the definitions are. Still, it seems odd that average ability students would do slightly better in homogeneous groups while below average students are better in heterogeneous. I wonder why that dynamic occurs. I guess the advanced students are going to be fine in a specific exercise no matter who else is in the lesson, the average students probably do slightly better in homo because they have the chance to think about the answers before someone else answers, and maybe the lower group does better in a hetero group because they honestly don't know the answers and need someone else to indicate them.
We should be wary in trying to infer to much from this as we don't know the number of students studied, their relation to each other before hand, and it was only for a single class hardly longitudinal.

My initial reaction is to believe it is mostly social and self-esteem related. Poor students are aware of the perception of them and frequently want to change that perception as often they just don't like complying with the system but are quite competent. Putting them in a group with advanced students often results in them pushing themselves to prove themselves. While average students may have more of a bitter response to being put in a small group (I would like to know what small group means as well, my guess is never less than 4 and never more than 6) with an advanced student. But we can only guess off of that abstract.

However, I've always thought that the relative speed of understanding was the most important for all sorts of intelligence - academic, emotional, physical, etc. Get the idea/motion/feeling faster than others, you've probably got a high degree of intelligence in that area.
The speed in which you can gain skill in an area and the opportunity to do so is what will determine your skill level in it. Its not surprising that you have a strong reaction to being taken out an environment that allowed you to thrive in learning what you are good at. Few things can create the same level of pleasure for us as progressing 'in our element.' Additionally no one wants to feel slow with outside of their element, and middle school is a pretty important time for social skills with puberty and cognitive developments.

If a class is all about memorization or you can simply pass it with memorizing facts, there's something wrong with the class. I've long argued against that. Trust me, you can find more arguments in this very forum!
Sure, but that is most classes as most of our assessment mostly relates to memory as it is quite difficult to other assessment with more difficult applications.

The problem is when you get to creativity, problem solving, leadership skills, etc. - things we've never been successful with teaching or developing in the classroom. People have tried - especially with leadership. Ever been to one of those leadership seminars? They're mostly useless. As for creativity, yeah. I have no clue whatsoever.
Most of the leadership seminars aren't about leadership, they are about perception. Just like going to a job fair or seminar that talks about how to act and dress in an interview. Which is mostly about deception. Wearing a tie doesn't make me a better applicant than the person who didn't, but it is likely to get me the job more than just about anything else over the person who didn't. It is silly and stupid and the HR representative is a complete idiot for hiring me because I wore a tie, but because they haven't figured out easy ways to vet tens or hundreds of applications they adhere to thoughtless etiquette and signalling.

Real leadership skills relate to organizing a group to achieve a goal, not talking in deep voice (for males) with pauses at 3.5 words per second, having a stern handshake and acting confident.

I guess I'm mainly looking to capitalize on what is traditionally taught in schools, mainly reading, writing, math, science, social studies, history.
Those are some of the areas of study but goal of school design is to teach more than those subjects.

If someone is behind in critical thinking, it'll probably show in social studies, English and math. All of these subjects rely very heavily on critical thinking. Hopefully in completing those subjects, they will bring their critical thinking intelligence up.
Unfortunately not. While each of those do teach an aspect of critical thinking, none of them require it to exceed in course GPA nor does a poor GPA in those classes mean a student can't think critically. In fact often those that show early development of critical thinking skills often get very frustrated with how bad our system is and their motivation to work with it decreases if its not caught by a mentor correctly.

I think that having the ability to be in many different levels depending on the subject will actually help with multiple intelligences. People who are excellent at English but not as adept in other areas will still be able to take English at their level while getting the level they need for other classes.
For people that have strong bonds in school and weak bonds out of school taking them away from their peers is just about the worst then you can do relating to their ability to achieve academically. You will hear a lot of teachers argue against social promotion and it's a sticky subject, the idea of selective social promotion has come up. However, it is difficult to tell one student who doesn't progress but does just as well as another that they can't enter 7th grade English because they have a better weaker bonds to their peers or strong bonds to their parents and non-school friends.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu May 26, 2011 1:11 pm UTC

But, once again, you're not completely alienating them! They still get to see their friends in the majority of classes and at recess and at lunch. If this program is set up since the beginning of schooling, (for example, kids who can already read in kindergarten would be put into the 1st grade class for reading) it really wouldn't be that large of a deal - it would just be how it is. This is of course assuming perfect placement which is impossible, but hopefully there would be ways of making transitions between different levels easier.

It's not like you're putting a child in an isolation room with a bare light bulb swinging from the ceiling. They're still in the classroom, just with different people. Perhaps this will allow them to make more friends and be more secure. As I'm envisioning it, the majority of classrooms will have an age span of at least 3 years so it won't be odd to be the only person that's not, for instance, seven years old.

This is better than entire grade skipping or holding back as they are truly severed from all their friends when this happens. My guess is that the majority of students who are held back a grade don't actually need to be held back in every subject. This allows them to continue with their peer group somewhat while still allowing them the extra time they need to understand a subject.

I would also argue that social promotion is pretty much the reason you get high school grads who are functionally illiterate. Too many learning disabilities also get overlooked by that. They can't read? Well, we'll shove them onto third grade anyway and they will forever be behind their class, struggling to keep up and perhaps never truly learn to read because everyone assumes they can. We owe them more than that!

That's why I'm entirely against social promotion, selective or not. If a student cannot perform at a certain level, they need to be helped again. That's all there is to it. Allowing different levels for different subjects will allow them to still have their previous social group for some of the school day while learning what they need to know.

______________________________________________________________________

I'm beginning to think that for cost purposes, and perhaps to eliminate that initial tracking issue, elementary classes shouldn't be tracked, but every student should be put in the grade level that's appropriate for them. So, everyone starts out in kindergarten, or perhaps everyone comes in one day for a little 'interview' (I know we had to do this to make certain we were ready for kindergarten at my school) so that the teachers can asses the student and ask the parent questions. For example, if the student already knows the alphabet and what sounds the letters make, maybe they'd be put into first grade reading (First grade is when students typically learn to read, right?) If a student doesn't know them, then they'd stay in kindergarten for that portion.

While maturity would also need to be taken into account, I truly believe that if you expect a child to do something, they will try their hardest to do it. So just like current remedial classes don't amount to much because the people in authority don't expect them to be capable, students can be capable of sitting still if we expect them to. You know those kids that never misbehave? It's not because they're particularly good kids, they just have parents that expect them to behave and they do. It's kind of like positive reinforcement training for a dog. Teach them exactly what you want them to do, reward (food for dogs, attention for kids), and they won't want to do anything wrong.

I still like the idea of having 'speed up classes' where two years is combined into one. For example, I think an excellent time for a speed up class would be 3rd grade English. By this time, most students have learned to read. For the ones that read earlier, they were probably placed in a higher grade for English. However, there are several students that were not interested in reading or just had a hard time starting. They are now more than capable of advancing quickly now that they have gotten reading down. So, a catch up class that would cover 3rd and 4th grade English so they could be placed in 5th grade English the next year would be ideal.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby NoHo » Thu May 26, 2011 4:47 pm UTC

Having gone through a semi-rural school system, my knowledge of gifted programs in public schools, and tracking programs, is very limited. Basically, we didn't have enough students, and hence enough resources, to even bother with much tracking in the first place. I recall no special gifted programs in my elementary school at all. In middle school everyone was in the same courses, and took french half a year, and Spanish the other half in 7th grade. Then, if you did well, you took Spanish 1 in 8th grade instead of 9th. We also took some kind of aptitude test in 7th grade math to determine who would be in algebra 1 in 8th grade, and who would be in pre-algebra. Naturally, that meant there were two math tracks going into high school, one a year ahead of the other. My second high school had a similar math deal, but nothing other than that. Though, I was also sternly warned for reading ahead too frequently in my English classes in middle school when we did the whole "let's read out loud" thing.

However, because of a test I took in 5th grade, I was selected for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Talent Search, and then took the SAT in 6th and 7th grade. My scores on that then qualified me for the CTY summer program, and I attended after 9th grade, and then again after 10th. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, and I think that sentiment is shared almost universally among those who are fortunate enough to attend.

I was also admitted to Simon's Rock College during my sophomore year of high school but could not attended due to family financial issues. They were nice enough to let me defer admissions, and tried pretty heavily to recruit me again at the end of my junior year, pretty close to the start of senior year actually, but the financial aid offer did not improve enough.

I switched schools after soph. year due to a lack of opportunities for growth. My first school had very, very few clubs, few AP classes, few classes in general. Mostly because it was a small and underfunded school. So I went to the next town over to a school that was twice the size, brand new facilities, tons of clubs, more APs, more everything. In hindsight, I still think I made the right choice, but I also think I would still be where I am today had I stayed at school #1.

I took Econ 11 at Summer @ Brown after my junior year because I was missing a semester of math that I needed to graduate, and convinced my principle that Econ 11 would have enough math. Thankfully, I was able to save substantially by commuting there. I was missing that math because I convinced my principal a year earlier that my 3 week CTY cognitive psych class was enough to let me skip the "into to psych" requirement for AP Psych and hence let me take AP Psych junior year instead of Senior year, which was great. However, since they did junior year advanced math as semester classes, I was only able to take Trig in the fall, and the only section of pre-calc in the spring was during AP Psych and I didn't have the determination to do both, or to self-study pre-calc. Hence the summer of econ. Then, since I was so horribly out of sequence, I had to take Number Theory on virtual high school because I couldn't be in AP Calc AB, but still had to be in a math class both semesters of my senior year. Then, in the spring I took a semester of calc. In hindsight, I wish I had fought more or just self-studied enough pre-calc to convince them to let me in AP Calc, but such is life. The free 4 credits from the brown class is better than the 3 from AP calc AB anyways :)
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby katethegreat » Fri May 27, 2011 3:53 am UTC

Meem1029 wrote:Well, time for me to pop in with my experience.  I'll be interested in hearing what you have to say about this zcorp.

In 6th grade I took a test that allowed me entry into a program through our state university that taught high school math at an advanced pace to junior high students.  In 7th grade I took Algebra 1 and 2 and in 8th grade I took Geometry and Pre-calc.  In 9th grade I stopped this program to do school activities, but was able to take AP Physics because of my math background.  My friend (also a freshman who was in the program) did as well.  We were the only two who scored passing grades on the tests.  I then went through high school taking just about every AP available to me.  My senior year (this year) I did a program that allowed me to go to college a year early and earn both hs and college credits.  I chose to actually go to a college and stay on campus like a normal freshman through this program.  This last semester I took a 300 level math class on Complex Variables.  I was the only freshman in this class.  I was also taking Physics for majors and was tutoring people in physics (even though I am a year younger).  These advanced classes are probably the only reason I even care about school very much currently.  I was starting to get bored even in some of these classes because I got the material quickly.  I don't want to know what it would have been like in High School my senior year (I had to plan a schedule in case something went wrong.  I chose all AP classes and then had to find some more even.)

The way I see it, you are arguing against this sort of thing.  I have to ask whose best interests you have in mind.  According to the plan you propose, I would have been stuck in basic level classes that would be even more trivial for me than most of my classes have been this year.  If that had happened, I would almost certainly have developed apathy towards school because of being given absolutely no motivation for putting in effort.

Edit:  And as far as helping people goes, who do you think my helping helped more:  The guy on my floor who struggled with physics/calc sometimes due to his high school background but was extremely motivated and put in tons of hours studying, or the kids at my high school who don't care about math and aren't going to put effort in?  I know who I think my help was more useful to.


I am so fucking jealous of you.  Unbelievably, incredibly jealous.
Even though we "tracked" (that's the popular term for it, it seems) in our middle school for math (and science i guess in 8th grade) the accelerated classes were still a joke.  6th grade math was an entire waste of a year.  We literally just reviewed elementary school math. The accelerated track did pre-algebra in 7th grade and algebra 1 in 8th.
8th grade math was horrible.  I want to punch Zcorp in the face for suggesting that, oh, the more skilled students can help the others and build skills!  My teacher put us all in groups.  I was paired with a girl who didn't care at all, a boy who wasn't great at math and didn't care, a boy who had untreated ADD who refused to show any of his work when doing problems.  She may not have explicitly forced me to teach them, but that's essentially what she did.  I ended up teaching the whole class often.  I love helping others (I tutor during my free periods at school) but this was unfair.  I hated hated hated that class. Not only did I not have the capabilities to teach them properly, they weren't receptive to learning.  It was unbelievably frustrating. That class was also death-by-boring.  However, there was a subject toward the end of the year (factoring quadratics?) for which I had a complete breakdown at home.  I didn't understand it, even with my dad explaining it to me.  My teacher obviously didn't teach us well, and I had a test the next day on it.  We had gone over it in groups in class I guess, but that obviously doesn't do any good when nobody in the group understands.  I remember hysterically sobbing for an hour that night.  It's really stressful to be labeled the "smart one" and expected to just "get" everything.  That was the case most of the time, but being in a class where I was significantly more skilled was a detriment.  Not only did I spend most of my time bored and unchallenged, I was unprepared to cope when I did have trouble.

Through 9th and 10th grade I went through geometry and algebra 2 with ease.  I had a 100 average every single term in 10th grade.  (My teacher would get mad at me for reading novels in class instead of paying attention to the lectures. That was the case in most classes now that I look back.)  My mom had the sense to persuade me to study pre-calc over the summer, and it's the best decision I've ever made in my life.  I took AP Calc AB this year with the seniors, and took a  Calc BC course out of school.
I'm so jealous of you.  I could have saved so much time and had engaging and challenging classes if I had that opportunity.  Even if my middle school just had started 6th grade with pre-algebra, I wouldn't have had to spend hours and hours studying precalc over the summer.

Zcorp, the idea that honors track students are merely parroting information instead of gaining critical thinking skills is ridiculous.  For instance, in AP history, we get to cover the facts quicker, allowing us to spend time examining primary sources, analyzing arguments, researching, etc.

Zcorp, please tell us your *personal* experiences in school. I don't care that this study says this, that book says that. How was your educational system set up?  How did it effect you? Your friends? 

Personally, my education has dramatically improved as I've been able to take AP courses.  My honors level classes are still jokes (in Spanish, we rarely speak the language and spent over half the year reviewing old material).  I say that the more opportunities kids have to challenge and advance themselves, the better. I think the key is to track, but also offer every opportunity to advance up a level.  Motivated students originally placed in lower levels will be able to move up. My friend was on a lower track for math and science in freshman year, but she caught up by doubling up on maths sophomore year and sciences this year.  If there were an easier way, like summer courses, even better.

Also, I've tutored an 8th grade girl who still doesn't know her multiplication tables (she must have had some kind of learning disability, and she didn't put in the effort.). There is no way someone ready for calculus should be in the same class as the remedial kids.

To answer the original poster's question about gifted programs, my middle school had this program, Search, where kids got taken out of homeroom and did extra projects and went on a trip to Amish country.  I didn't do it because I didn't want to waste my time doing pointless projects, and I wanted to read books during homeroom! :)

tl;dr---School isn't challenging enough, kids can't teach, tracking is great if kids aren't permanently trapped in that level. Extra gifted programs are lame. 
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Zcorp » Fri May 27, 2011 4:41 am UTC

katethegreat wrote:Even though we "tracked" (that's the popular term for it, it seems)

It is the technical term within the field of education.

I want to punch Zcorp in the face for suggesting that, oh, the more skilled students can help the others and build skills!  My teacher put us all in groups...She may not have explicitly forced me to teach them, but that's essentially what she did.  I ended up teaching the whole class often.  I love helping others...I hated hated hated that class. Not only did I not have the capabilities to teach them properly, they weren't receptive to learning.  It was unbelievably frustrating. That class was also death-by-boring....My teacher obviously didn't teach us well, and I had a test the next day on it.  We had gone over it in groups in class I guess, but that obviously doesn't do any good when nobody in the group understands.  I remember hysterically sobbing for an hour that night.  It's really stressful to be labeled the "smart one" and expected to just "get" everything.  That was the case most of the time, but being in a class where I was significantly more skilled was a detriment.  Not only did I spend most of my time bored and unchallenged, I was unprepared to cope when I did have trouble.
So yeah...notice how not one of these problems has any real relationship to Tracking at all?

Bad teachers suck, not being taught social and emotional skills sucks as well. You are complaining about bad teachers and bad curriculum. I'm not stating de-Tracking is a silver bullet, cause it certainly isn't. It is just one of many many things that will help our public educational system. It is also not the first thing I'd change if I could change anything regardless of resources. In fact, if there was unlimited resources and leeway it would probably be near the bottom of the list. But scarcity is real, the public/mass/mob is largely unaware and are dealing with matters they perceive to be more pressing, scared parents abject to change and politicians aren't looking to get elected 5-10 years from now.

Zcorp, the idea that honors track students are merely parroting information instead of gaining critical thinking skills is ridiculous.  For instance, in AP history, we get to cover the facts quicker, allowing us to spend time examining primary sources, analyzing arguments, researching, etc.
You aren't displaying critical thinking or research skills right now...

Zcorp, please tell us your *personal* experiences in school. I don't care that this study says this, that book says that. How was your educational system set up?  How did it effect you? Your friends? 
It becomes quite hard to take you seriously when you suggest Tracked student do gain critical thinking skills, that you are a Tracked student, and then want to throw out empirical studies for anecdotal evidence from young students who don't have the ability nor experience to view from outside of their subjective experiences.

I know this is a hugely emotional issue for students, I know that what I'm suggesting feels like a personal attack, I know that you feel you've worked quite hard (as you display by your academic ability) and that you deserve something for it. I'm requesting you understand the system is much greater than you, we have far from ideal conditions, changing things in an entrenched system is stupidly hard, and that while students like you are a concern of the system there are much bigger ones.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Parsifal » Fri May 27, 2011 11:12 am UTC

If you were/are in a gifted program of some sort, what did you do? What worked? What didn't?

AGP (academically gifted program found in numerous public schools in the late 80s). We took extended field trips, wrote papers, solved logic problems and overall learned *how* to learn. Thank you, Mrs. Ushelbeck!

If you weren't/aren't actually in a program but feel like you could/should have been, what were/are your experiences because you were not in an advanced program? What did/do you wish for?

I once dropped down to a 'level 3' class back when middle school classes had those self-esteem-damaging numbers attached and found that having only a few classmates who couldn't follow directions and wouldn't even try to do the homework rapidly brought the progression of the entire class to a halt. Went straight back to level 4. It was obvious even at the time that most of the students hadn't mastered the prerequisites and were simply being passed through the system.

If you aren't in a gifted program and don't feel like you are eligible, what are your thoughts on gifted education?

See above. I think separating the students who WON'T learn (not "can't") from the top from the rest has a dramatic impact on overall performance. Of course, this is impracticable in this era of no-child-left-behind and super-sized classrooms in America. Also, I was once told I had not placed into an advanced class and I followed the recommendation to take pre-calculus, even though I was just a little rusty on trig. If I could go back and change one thing about my academic career, I would have taken calculus anyway. Not trying just because a teacher told me I couldn't do it turned out to have far-reaching repercussions including a lower SAT score than I wanted and eventually deciding to drop a math double-major in college. When you're a student, a wasted year can make all the difference in the world.

What are some of the problems academically, socially, personally, you had/are having in school due to being in a gifted program or not being in a gifted program?

Honestly, having been on a top-tier academic track since about the third grade (entering grad school soon) I rarely had problems school and yes, I always went to public schools. Kids will be kids, but bullying was pretty much a non-issue after about my freshman year of high school because most of the other students I knew were also, well, nerds.

What are your suggestions for a great gifted program?

It sounds trite, but push them to do more than they think is possible. If they are making straight 100s, you aren't trying hard enough. For the ones who need to be there, it is sufficient to point them to new challenges and get out of the way.

With respect to Zcorp's initial comment about de-tracking advanced students and having them tutor the others instead, I must respectfully disagree. I found tutoring to be very helpful later in my college career and in my daily job, but I don't think I had the maturity, or more accurately the time, to do that when I was in grade school. Remember, most of the really advanced students are going flat-out just to do their own work.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Parsifal » Fri May 27, 2011 11:32 am UTC

A response to a second comment.

Zcorp wrote:

Your sense of entitlement is incredibly destructive to the goals of a school, and your perception greatly harms your own potential to learn skills beyond what you perceive as valuable or fun. AP/4.0/'gifted'/valedictorian students show great potential in jumping through hoops, and many become phenomenal employees. However, that you, one of our systems 'gifted', express an inability to expand your knowledge of the topic without the assistance of the classroom teacher - who has more pressing responsibilities - despite the plethora of free resources that can help you such as: wikipedia, Stanford,Khan Academy or Connexions is a greater failing of our educational system than the 15% high school drop out rate.


I hate to admit it, but this describes me to a 'T'. One of the most effective lessons going to a (public, scholarship-based) boarding school for science and math nerds was how to do *just* enough to succeed. And it worked - despite having sub-par math skills, I got into 3 of the top 5 ranked computer science programs in the country. HOWEVER. For two years, I developed only a few friendships, read nothing for fun, neglected my foreign languages and generally turned into an entitled, bitter, exhausted (but oh-so-well educated) kid.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Sun May 29, 2011 5:33 am UTC

I'll share my experiences about being in a family of smart folks. Since Zcorp has hijacked the thread to discuss how awful it is to separate students by ability and interest, I'm going to use n > 1 anecdotes to refute that by stressing how not being part of the "usual" curricula has seriously helped us.

My HS-age siblings and I are all AP students, but in two different and non-mutually exclusive ways. I was the student who too Advanced Placement classes and tests, but only in the subjects I was interested in/had definite abilities in. My siblings are both in the Alternative Program in our district (and also smart, presumably). The alternative school is based on "experiential learning" rather than standard teaching methods, and everyone I know who goes/went to there says that it made a huge difference being in that community instead of their home HS. Once I found out about what that school was really like, I regretted my decision to stick with the usual HS back in 8th grade—I heard that the alternative program's drug usage rate was 94.3% as a low estimate, but that really is a rumour from a teacher who sarcastically said that all they did at that program was smoke pot with the students.

My little brother reached middle school age as the alternative middle school was accepting its 2nd class of 7th-graders and applied to go there on my sister's urging and enjoyed it there. I have no idea what all went on there, besides everyone started the day with either a music program (if they were a part of one) or alternating days of art and writing to get the students' brains turned on for the day. The most important thing that I've heard about it is that it saved one of my brother's friends with severe ADHD (definitely with the H) from having to go to one of the private alternative schools for students with problems. It may have been the school, or it may have been my brother being an inert recpitical of his friend's energy, but it kept him controllable and with his peers. <This is the last part I wrote, and I'm really tired, so etc…>

I, on the other hand, was part of the normal schools. I did take the advanced classes, but only when the subject interested me. The big part where I noticed the help of "tracking" was in out maths dept. I tested into 7th grade Algebra (it usually is an 8th grade class in my district, and some really smart 6th-graders can take the class after elementary school gets out) for middle school, which put me on track to take clac before I graduated. Other students were not able to take that class unless they took summer school/tested out of a year of maths. If I were put into the usual track, I'd have been bored as all balls to the wall and probably would have put my energies to something disruptive. I am thankful that I had a certain history teacher my freshman year there because he inspired me to be interested in history, unlike my god-awful middle school history teachers, and take the advanced history classes, which I enjoyed. The contrast to these advanced classes came in the form of my English classes, which I took the easy ones. The teachers sometimes taught both the normal and advanced sections, like all the maths ones did (maths policy: the higher maths you teach, you have to teach a maths on the opposite side of the curriculum: eg. Calc BC and remedial Alg 1). I could identify those because they were the ones who asked me what the Samuel Heck I was doing in their "easy" class. The answer: I do not have a passion for writing in an academic context. I learned about nothing from those classes—I learned far more about proper research techniques and paper writing from my history classes than English. The other students were usually fun to make fun of, though.
I never had the issues of not being the person people come to to ask for help. Even in my advanced classes, I was frequently referenced as the go-to guy for help, so I've been helping others in that department for a long while.

The other part of gifted ed that I forgot was our school's elementary programs. They seem to change from year-to-year due to funding changed, or so I'm told, so I'll give my version of things. Our classroom teachers identified bright students in English and maths, starting in 2nd grade with the big push in 3rd and had them tested for our EPP. The EPP was a once (or twice, I don't remember) weekly pull-out session that alternated quarters of whether it was Maths or Reading EPP was in session. I arrived for the 2nd half of 3rd grade in both EPP sessions. However, in 4th grade, after my first Reading EPP, I dropped out of the Reading EPP. In fact, I regressed/failed to progress enough that I was later tested to see if all the lights were on upstairs (something that was noted had something to do with my inability to grip a pencil the normal way) and sent to a tutoring program in middle school instead of taking a foreign language. The only conclusion about that from everyone involved at the end of my time with that program made was that whoever elected to get me the extra help—and more importantly to enforce that I get it, needed or not—clearly was incompetent. In the more ironic twist, I was put back into the advanced 8th grade (by now an actual class, not a pull-out) English and enjoyed it, thanks in large part to our teacher (the only one to make any appearance at the festivities when I graduated). I then went back to normal-folks' English for HS, and from what the enriched English students told me, made the right choice.
In retrospect, the programs were ill-set up. We got pulled out whenever the EPP teachers were in the building, not when the classroom teachers were teaching the corresponding subject, so it really meant more work (other pull-out sessions were had for orchestra and band—choir was during lunch, IIRC). However, the maths was interesting because classroom maths was basic arithmetic and possible preparation for algebra, whereas the EPP maths was much more into 3d geometry and a bit of computer programming.

In conclusion, I spent so long thinking of everything to put here that I've probably been über-ninja'd. Let's see how that turns out…
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby DavidSpencer » Sun May 29, 2011 4:26 pm UTC

I can't speak knowledgeably on the effects of gifted programs on average students, but I have to disagree with the idea that gifted programs help gifted students only minimally. I could probably talk for a while about how my elementary school program helped me and those around me mature and gain critical thinking skills; but in that case I can't vouch for a cause-and-effect relationship between gifted programs and accelerated development because the program always existed.

In my middle school, though, I think my anecdotal evidence is a bit more useful to look at than in my elementary school. The students one year older than me (and all the students older than them) had three options in math, one of them being an "Honors" track in which you take Algebra I in seventh grade. They ended up changing the program, though, because some parents were forcing their kids into the program when they weren't ready (the school system never stuck by its placement tests, parents could always get their kids into anything). Those kids would end up having to retake Algebra I later. The school system changed the Honors track to Algebra I in eighth grade so nobody pushed too far and fell behind. I was one year too late to take Algebra I as a seventh grader.

Fortunately, my parents managed to push the school system into letting me join a class of seventh graders in Algebra I while I was in sixth grade. I have a number of friends, though, whose parents didn't push the school and thus ended up behind their potential. Some are doubling up sophomore or freshman year in order to reach precal sophomore year and get to BC by senior year, but that is certainly not an optimal solution. For example, I have two friends - both of whom I consider equally intelligent to myself, although one is less hardworking - that have doubled up to take precal sophomore year. They pay no attention to the teacher; they spend all of their time in that class teaching the other kids, acing the tests, and goofing off. We have an auxiliary hour-long block about once a week, though, and I teach them calc in there - they are clearly ready for it. One is going to the same boarding school as I am next year, and he could be taking graph theory and multivariable junior year if he had been able to take algebra earlier, but as it is he has to spend much of junior year getting through Calc BC. I know someone else who went to a magnet program freshman year that was taken away, forcing her to my school, and now she's been messed up by some peculiarities of the block schedule and what she had taken at her old school - she can't even take precal sophomore year. She'll have to skip either precal or AB if she wants to take BC. None of this happened to the class a year older than us. I would argue that watering down the gifted math program in my middle school has had a serious negative impact on students like these.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Parsifal » Sun May 29, 2011 6:59 pm UTC

I agree that gifted programs only marginally benefit gifted students. The problem is that regular classes don't benefit gifted students *at all*.

I had a similar experience in middle school as DavidSpencer. I chose not to take honors chemistry* as an 8th grader, not realizing that this pilot program would have qualified me to essentially skip a year of algebra. Like a chain of dominoes, this stopped me from taking algebra a year early, which placed me into pre-calculus as a junior, which forced me to take calculus and physics concurrently as a senior and so on. Long story short: I never did get a solid grounding in calculus, which caused me problems throughout the last year of high school and into college.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby jcelia » Sun May 29, 2011 9:09 pm UTC

If you were/are in a gifted program of some sort, what did you do? What worked? What didn't?

I've been in gifted programs starting with Talented and Gifted (TAG) in elementary school. The program was, in hindsight, not that useful, not because we were separated from the other students for a certain time period each week, but because the teacher and the curriculum for the program were not that great. In middle school, I participated in Humanities in 6th and 7th grade, and I found the same problem there, the program was so focused on being interdisciplinary (instead of reading about the history of the Mayans, we would make sculpture similar to theirs- and I was terrible at art) and trying to be worldly that all details were really glossed over. It couldn't have helped that the teacher had a strong political bent which stood in direct contrast to mine, and that most assignments were subjective, so in order to do well, you had to agree with her. My other advanced classes, on the other hand, fulfilled their purpose. I was in the Advanced Math and Advanced Science tracks (they didn't have advanced versions of anything else). In those classes, I found refuge. Most of my other classes were filled with kids whose sole purpose in life was to bully and to pay absolutely no attention to the teacher (in short, they drove me nuts and are part of the reason for my social issues today). These classes, on the other hand, contained only students who were dedicated to learning, questioned everything, and generally cared about their future.

In high school, having slid into the Honors/AP tracks, I can say there is a benefit (at least for the more intelligent students) to tracked education. Instead of trying to figure out ways to avoid doing homework and get drunk on the weekends, my fellow students (most of whom I've become friends with upon meeting them in these high-level classes) often go out of their way to extend learning in the classroom. Our AP History class, for example, is usually spent with half the time learning about what happened at one specific period in the past and the other half the time as class discussion about how it connects to time periods before and after that particular event. My AP Chemistry class was just assigned a project to pick something, anything, we found interesting, whether it be guitars, military history, the pharmaceutical industry, etc. and write a paper about how chemical properties have affected this area of interest. Our AP Prep English class has read 22 books, 5 plays and studied around 50 poems this year, while the CP English class (for the regular, average student) only reads 3 books, and none of them were done independently.

To sum up, my experience with the gifted program is that it puts the brightest students in the best position to learn, where they are consistently challenged (or at least the teachers try to challenge us), and they are separated from the less-caring ilk who terrorize us "nerd-types."


What are your suggestions for a great gifted program?

I'd say to have as many levels of classes as financially possible, or be extremely selective when choosing candidates for classes. Our school works on the prerequisite program, you get this grade in this class, and you get to go to this class next year. While there is room in junior/senior year to choose electives, the tracks are essentially set up as a goal-reward system. The problem is the restrictions are not tight enough, and there's always people (namely, a few in my Advanced Spanish and Honors Pre-calc classes) who have no business taking the class, even though they got a certain grade the year before. A gifted program should also have a great (or at least, above-average, teacher). While it's not right to stick all of the lower-level classes with bad teachers, it's not fair to a student to want to learn more and have a teacher who is completely incapable of teaching them what they want to know. Finally, a gifted program should have a set curriculum, with flexibility based on student interest, not teacher interest. The reason why the early gifted programs I was in failed was because the teacher wanted to show off how widespread of a knowledge base they had developed in the students, while they never actually covered the details. As much as I can't stand the AP curriculum (because the "teaching to the test" limits discussion in class), I have to say, having a strict curriculum for a gifted program is a lot better than having none at all.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Elias » Tue May 31, 2011 6:32 am UTC

I have been in a gifted program since an early age. The support for the specific program I am in is a fully seperate program at the elementary and middle school levels, though within the same schools as normal students. At high school the gifted program means clustered classes for English, Science, and History during freshman year, and English during sophomore year. At junior year it self-selects out to AP classes. Mathematics is a variety of tracks, but I would say the most common culminates in Calc AB or BC senior year. The requirement for joining the gifted program is scoring in the 98th or 99th percentile on some test. I can honestly say that I can tell the difference between 98th percentile students and 99th percentile students with relative ease. (Though perhaps it is the difference between 98.3 and 99.7 or something--to my knowledge the test does not specify to that level.)

The program has been absolutely wonderful for me, and the few on-level classes I have taken in high school (graduation requirements) are nowhere near the level of stimulation of my Highly Gifted or AP classes. I would be very much against integration with the general population, and in fact would be in favor of further stratification (99+ separate from say, 95-98).
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Andromeda321 » Tue May 31, 2011 9:31 pm UTC

My elementary public school had a TAG program but neither I nor my twin brother ever took the IQ tests that were required to join the program though we were very obviously qualified. The reason for this was two years prior my older sister was rejected from the program because they claimed she was something like two IQ points too low on the test and it's pretty obvious to anyone who knows her my sister deserved to be in it (she later went to a top school where she did a biochemistry degree cum laude and is now in grad school for evolutionary biology, so yeah...).

Honestly I am glad it happened the way it did because I still have never had my IQ tested and in fact never was told I was "smart" until I was about 14 when a teacher let the cat out of the bag in her frustration (I've always been a never let schooling interfere with your education type of person, and this was a bit trying on teachers). To be honest I'm glad of this because in this life we can't do a thing about being smart or not and it matters so little compared to things like working hard and learning to socialize which are things a kid can work on. I'm glad I didn't know for the same reason I'm glad no one told me I'm cute-looking until I was 16, which is to say I worry this information would have distracted me from other things. Mind I'm not saying things like intelligence and appearance don't matter because they obviously do, but my point is they're not anything you worked to get and people who place undue priority in them often neglect other things.

Also realize in 6th grade I moved from the public school to a rather academically intense private school where it counted as all honors classes so no need for a TAG program so these are rather limited conclusions beyond that young age.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Locke_Watts » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:46 am UTC

Wow. Having read this whole thing, I just have some questions zcorp. Rather than citing studies, I would appreciate it if you can actually explain the mechanism by which this happens. You call it Tracking, but I have yet to get a firm definition on what that is. So, I'm going to throw out a few things so we can get a base read on them.

Are the following things Tracking:
SAT?
ACT?
CRCT?
Iowa Basic Skills Test?
Graduation Testing?
State End of Course Tests?
Finals?

They're all forms of testing, and all designed to give indicators of students' progress. That would seem to indicate to me they're all Tracking, but I want to confirm that. If so, how do they harm my education? What is the mechanism by which that happens?

Now, we could also talk about the effects of Tracking. Your argument is from what I can tell that the student body as a whole, including those with higher aptitudes, will benefit from integration of classes. As a formerly gifted student (now graduated) I seem to be not understanding how this would benefit me.

Things I've seen you mention are primarily social factors, not learning ones, so I'll try to consider those. You say it creates a hostile environment within the school. Beyond the fact that this is true of any situation where people are chemically predisposed to be competitive and confrontational, I don't see the mechanism here. But lets consider the class differentiation first.

Anyone had the option to be placed in any class, all you had to do was have a parent sign a form, no questions asked. So there's no real argument to say that one child or another was excluded from this opportunity, all were given equal share at the beginning. From there, classes have requirements that must be met in order to take them. Prerequisites, I think you will agree, cannot be done away with.

If a student did not perform well enough to pass their advanced class their Freshman year, they're moved down a level and placed in a curriculum that's more at their aptitude level. I think you would argue that this is detrimental to their learning, but I cannot understand why. They couldn't perform in the higher class, and they would be bored in the lower one. Tracking allowed them to be at a place where they were most comfortable learning. Can you explain how this harms any student?

Back to the social structures. My graduating class this year had 445 people. Of them, 60 of us or so decided to take a majority of the highest classes possible, and about 20 of us took the hardest schedule possible. From personal observation alone, high school social groups that maintain any kind of regular interaction have a peak capacity of about 15. Beyond that, and they start to fragment into smaller groups. That's a maximum mind you. So within this group, we were easily able to form social constructs and interact in a "normal" high school way. We were around people with which we had fewer conflicts and shared more similar interests. Can you explain how this was detrimental to us? In what way was our exclusion harmful to those who were in other classes?

As for allocation of resources, another point I saw you mention. You say that the most able teachers shouldn't be allocated to the most able students. (I'm paraphrasing here, so correct me if I'm misspeaking.) I think there is a disconnect here, because there are two concepts to consider. The first being the innate intelligence and education of that teacher. That person has more "value" associated with their knowledge, because it took more effort and more money to obtain. Because they have more options, they cost more to acquire. Similarly, the teacher who only has a B.S. in teaching, less so.

Neither of these means that those teachers are more or less effective at teaching than each other, merely the knowledge they have in their field. And from personal experience, I've found that gifted classes do not always receive the teachers who are most effective at teaching.

This boils down to an efficiency consideration. If I have 4 teachers who have the following degrees:
2 have PhDs
1 has a Masters
2 have Undergraduate degrees.

I have three classes I need taught:
Differential Equations
Trigonometry
Algebra I

Obviously they have varying levels of difficulty. For the algebra 1 class, I don't need anything more than somebody with an undergraduate degree in math, it's just not required. For trig, I probably want somebody who has greater knowledge of the subject, so I higher the Masters. Finally, the Differential Equations class is taught by the person with the PhD in math.

Now, as stated before, as your education goes up so does the value of your ability to impart knowledge. This just boils down to an efficiency consideration. Sure, I could higher the PhD candidate to teach the Algebra 1 class, and another to teach the Differential Equations class, that way the advanced and the remedial students are being allocated the same level of money for a teacher, but that's asking me to waste my money. I don't need somebody with a PhD to teach Algebra I, but I might need it to teach Differential Equations.

This is obviously a simplified example, but the point I make is that it's about allocative efficiency, not about trying to divert the most funds to the gifted classes. This is a result of Tracking, sure, but I wouldn't argue it negatively harms anyone. The remedial kids don't need a PhD candidate, in fact he might have a harder time interacting with them because of his advanced knowledge. Somebody with an undergrad degree, by comparison, is better suited to the task from an economic standpoint.

Now lets consider your alternative, which is integrating all classes. Okay, I'm going to take math just because it's easily stratified and is a good indicator of overall intelligence.

I started taking advanced classes in...second grade, I believe it was. There was no system in place for kids moving up in classes at that level, but my teacher fought for me to get that opportunity. She recognized that I was sleeping through class and getting 100s on my tests, so the class was benefiting me not at all. So I walked down to the 3rd grade hall during math and did what they were doing. I learned more doing that. I'll stop here and ask again how that hurt my peers in either class?

Anyway, from there through all of high school I've taken math classes 2+ years ahead of my grade. Had this never happened, had back in 6th grade they said "okay, we're going to place you in Algebra and Geometry concepts along with everyone else" I would've gone back to sleep during my math classes. How would this have helped my math learning? The on level class for seniors is Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry. I took AP Calc BC, and hopefully am exempting my first year of math in college. Can you explain to me how this hurt me?

I know that socially if I had to interact with instead of my select group of about 20 people, I had to instead deal with a new set of people that were interested in things that, quite frankly, are just below what I'm interested in intellectually I would have suffered. I would try to talk politics or philosophy or current events with people whose primary focus was getting high or what girl they'd slept with last night. And while it might have left me with a bit of a superior attitude, I know that isn't an unfair cross section of the general population of my school. The conversations I had in my homeroom class (allocated by last name) were of that calibre.

So please, answer me that.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby nehpest » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:54 am UTC

Locke_Watts wrote:This boils down to an efficiency consideration. If I have 4 teachers who have the following degrees:
2 have PhDs
1 has a Masters
2 have Undergraduate degrees.

I have three classes I need taught:
Differential Equations
Trigonometry
Algebra I

Obviously they have varying levels of difficulty. For the algebra 1 class, I don't need anything more than somebody with an undergraduate degree in math, it's just not required. For trig, I probably want somebody who has greater knowledge of the subject, so I higher the Masters. Finally, the Differential Equations class is taught by the person with the PhD in math.

Now, as stated before, as your education goes up so does the value of your ability to impart knowledge. This just boils down to an efficiency consideration. Sure, I could higher the PhD candidate to teach the Algebra 1 class, and another to teach the Differential Equations class, that way the advanced and the remedial students are being allocated the same level of money for a teacher, but that's asking me to waste my money. I don't need somebody with a PhD to teach Algebra I, but I might need it to teach Differential Equations.

This is a minor nitpick, but if you've got someone who did an undergraduate math degree and can't teach high school differential equations, you might as well fire them. None of the topics you listed would have any need for advanced degrees. In fact, in my experience secondary educators are better served by advanced degrees in education, as opposed to research degrees.

Also, the tracking that Zcorp is describing refers not to keeping records of grades or exam performance, but rather to a system of keeping cohorts of students with similar ability levels together.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby doogly » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

You must have some sort of tracking, because students need to be in *this* room rather than *that* room at each point in the day. Why are in one class, rather than another?
- Track according to age group
- Track according to ability / aptitude
Really, there is no good justification for the former.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Sungura » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

I don't think my high school really ever tracked people, if anything, they did the opposite. It was always up to the student if they wanted to jump to a faster math or science route, and the only way they were stuck on the slower track for those is if they failed out for a whole year. Sadly it took me too long to figure out I liked math (college) but that's just due to the shitty way it is taught more than anything else, so I always stayed in the normal route thinking I sucked at math (I did ok, B's usually, but struggled and worked very hard for them. Once I hit college and got past calc and into more fun maths, my grades in math went up!) in science at the start of high school they offered a block 9th & 10th grade science course to take all that first 9th grade year (courses were physical science and biology). This made it easier to take chem, or both chem and physics, the next year, and then focus on the AP science courses for both jr and sr years. But all of the going-advanced route was determined by the student when we registered for classes. If you had questions as to which routes you should take, you talked with the guidance councilor, but no one was checking what you signed up for.

Sadly, problems arose with this system in that after you jumped so much in their curriculum, they didn't know what to do with you. Happened to my brother in math (finished the harder of the two AP Calcs -whichever one that is I forget - his sophmore year) and me in science (finished AP science courses my junior year). My brother ended up able to be pulled out and home schooled again (aka screw this, I'm starting college now, and just jumped right into college basically) and I dual enrolled for my entire senior year, basically spending 2 hours at the high school and rest of the day at college.

I really liked the openness actually, once you finished battling the admin about going to college (they loose funding from the state to not have you there all day so they aren't fans of it going on, even though they have to let you by law here) overall I think I had a lot more options than most school districts give, and it was nice that the options to jump forward were always up to the student to take if they wanted because it allowed a natural breaking off of putting people where they belonged. There were a lot of smart kids, for example, in the normal courses simply because they didn't want to put in any extra time or effort the more advanced courses took. So it really kept the advanced courses just for those who *wanted* them.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Locke_Watts » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:22 pm UTC

This is a minor nitpick, but if you've got someone who did an undergraduate math degree and can't teach high school differential equations, you might as well fire them. None of the topics you listed would have any need for advanced degrees. In fact, in my experience secondary educators are better served by advanced degrees in education, as opposed to research degrees.


It was just a differentiation example, it's not completely applicable, I realize. However in some areas like chemistry I think it can make a difference, having seen the difference between our AP Chem teacher who had a masters, and the AP chem teacher now who only has an undergraduate degree. Our schools scores dropped by near 2 points (out of 5) in 1 year.

Also, the tracking that Zcorp is describing refers not to keeping records of grades or exam performance, but rather to a system of keeping cohorts of students with similar ability levels together.


Thus the majority of my post.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Kaleid » Sun Jun 05, 2011 9:47 pm UTC

Honestly, all I would ask from my county / state is make early graduation a possibility. I didn't learn much of anything in high school, just wasted time. On top of that, not much is required to graduate in the first place.
As a foreigner who has gone to school in other countries, I feel that the education system here is complete bs. I am not trying to insult the U.S. or anything like that, but high school is a joke. No one has to put any effort to graduate, just attend. At least that is how I feel.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Boingloing » Mon Jun 06, 2011 4:00 am UTC

I've been in gifted education since 2nd grade, and I can say that it really didn't carry a stigma(at least in my school).

Elementary School(grades 2-5): The students are pulled out of class for the 2nd half of the day(lunch-> the end of the day) Once during the 6-day cycle. We would all gather in the room(my school had about 14 in my grade alone :P) and we were all assigned a topic. Then, we'd do a group or individual project. In 3rd grade, we did Medieval times, and each student was assigned to a specific social class. The nobility had to control an army of the students below them against the other student armies. In 4th grade, we did Greek civilization. I forget what I did for that project...

Middle School(grades 6-8): The teacher had all of the students in the room after lunch for about 30 minutes. We were "required" to do two projects per year. We could either choose participating in competitions or do the alternate topic for that grade. I would enter the Computer Fair competition. Not many people actually got work done in this class, but I did.

High School(grades 9-12): I just finished the 9th grade, but this year, we did a few things. For the beginning of the year, the teacher would require us to do a project or competition. I did the Scholastic Writing competition. We were graded on our effort and handing the project in. Then, while there wasn't any competition going on, we would discuss a new topic every day. These topics were more complex than things we would talk about in a regular class, like discussing economies and education paradigms. I also entered the Computer Fair competition again(to no success :( )

I really enjoyed being able to participate in a gifted program. I feel like it was more open to topics that the students wanted to explore, but we still had to do work. It didn't interfere with my other classes(except in elementary school), and it was fun.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Lost_Cause » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:52 am UTC

before I get started I have to say this about the whole good grades and valedictorian only meaning they are a good employee. Isn't the point of an education to learn enough things to be able to go into the work force and be an employee. And the better employee you are, the more likely you have a job of your choosing that you like and make a decent amount of money doing. Isn't that the point of getting an education and being able to much up in social rank. Just had to get that off my chest.

I have an interesting perspective for the education. I know that zcorp touched on the children with disabilities and people in lower income families. I was born in the summer months making me one of the youngest kids in my grade. I also have dyslexia and my parents are in the lower middle class. Neither of them have anything above a high school degree, and aren't home a lot and spend most of their time working. With that being said I fall in the category of the less fortunate than most. But tracking for me also brought with it social mobility if I worked hard enough and wanted to learn. I realized this early on and did all I could to learn and succeed.

Elementary school: my learning disability was found early on but the problem was that my school had a policy of not helping students until they were at least 2 grades behind. That being the case I was on my own for school. I had a great kindergarten and first grade teacher. When it came to second grade I had one of the worst teachers ever. It was a first year teacher and after the school year was fired. As a result in order to not risk failing my first year of state testing and risk staying back I had to learn on my own. I ended up having to stay after in an after school program and doing more home work to learn. At the start of the 4th grade the extra work paid off and I was in special pull out class for "gifted students. They also gave harder test during class for those people that did well. I.E. during math I got a 100 question test that was varying in multiplication and division problems with numbers from 1-20 and had 5 mins to do it. The rest of the class that was on normal level got like 30 questions with smaller numbers. On a few times their were kids crying because they couldn't do the harder test. They weren't below average they were a little above average. They just weren't in the gifted in that class. This was by no means good for any one.

Middle school: No special pullouts or classes. It was a giant waste of time and I didn't learn anything. My history teachers idea of improving learning for people ahead was coloring. I SPENT 3 YEARS IN SCHOOL COLORING AND DOING SUDOKOS. I ended in the office in trouble a lot for simply not going to class and trying to sneak into gym classes.

High school: Their was tracking in their being regular level, honors, and AP classes that you had to apply to be in. I wasn't allowed to take honors history my first year or English because of my learning disability. Not because I didn't meet the qualifications but because they thought it would be too overwhelming. The not taking honors history meant it would be impossible for me to take AP history which really made me mad. In math and science I was in honors class. I had a rough year outside of school and had a surgery that left me out of school for over a month and on some having drugs that really messed me up. I still did alright and got mostly all As and Bs. The next year because of my academic performance I wasn't allowed to move up to honors history because I had a 89 not a 90. So I spent another year in a class that I could have not gone to class and gotten an A in. I didn't try at all and got through the class with a 96 including a 100 on the midterm when the class average was a 65 and the next highest grade was an 82. It was than that they allowed me to take honors history after wasting a year in a class that I couldn't stand to go to. This was also the year I had an algebra 2 teacher that lacked any decent ability to teach. I was good at math and was able to learn from the book with some effort. The problem was no one else in the class understood it and the teacher often asked me to explain it to them. I got a week worth of detentions for saying that its not my job to teach the class its yours so just let me sleep. Apparently get an A average on test and turning in all the assignments wasn't enough. You actually had pay attention in class and follow the teachers orders like you are in military. The algebra teacher left half way through the year to have a baby. Funny how the student teacher that was just teaching to get through engineering school was a better math teacher than the full time teacher.
The next year I was in all honors expect for english and got all As and loved the challenge. My biggest honors class was 13 people. It allowed for way more learning and going more in depth into the topics. My senior year I was in three AP classes and the rest was a bunch of BS electives that I had to take to fill my schedule because my school didn't offer early graduation and I couldn't afford to go to college a year early. Even with a few AP classes it still wasn't that challenging. I taught myself AP physics C and python because I was interested in them and my school didn't offer comp sci classes or physics C. The thing I found the saddest was the fact my school's or towns library didn't have any texts on Physics with calculus in it. I had to spend my own money from working 20 plus hours a week to pay to teach myself a class. I ended with all As in them and I am currently waiting to see what I got on the AP test.
I had an elective class on the Holocaust which I my honors history class went way in depth into and I learn a lot about just by reading the news paper and watching the history channel. Apparently if you just show up to take the test and email your homework so you get the highest grade of anyone in the class and get an A you still don't get credit for it. It was expected that I suffer through dealing with idiots in the class that ask questions like "so the nazis were actually elected to office in the first place?", and "So why didn't the jews just tell the police?". The class I did go to I spent most of the time reading the new york times on my phone or managing my server through my phone. Their was no need to be in the class at all, it was a waste of time and I had to make up the missed classes after I had already completed the class to receive my credits.

Unless you have been sitting in the back of class in tears for not having fun in school cause you aren't doing anything new, I can't respect you saying that their shouldn't be tracking. Kids have a choice to make whether they want to learn and do something with their life or just to stupid to realize that need an education to survive. I have a cousin that had good grades up until high school when they decided it was better to get high than do home work cause it was funnier. They ended up finishing high school by the skin of their teeth and didn't get into college. They are 23 living at home with no job and no future. A good school system, with perfect teachers, and all the money in the world can only get you so far. They students have to want to learn and than they have a chance to succeed. It isn't a matter of anything other than the student them selves. America has great opportunities for social mobility and their are a great amount of success stories out their. It is up to the students to go out and get them theirs and not the government or teachers to hand it to them on a silver platter.

All in all I would end this with say our education system only gears itself toward the middle part of students. The higher end don't get challenged and the lower part don't get the help they need. And detracking them will make it worst. I have jumped from the lower part of the track to the top despite a few setbacks and hope to get a good job and do something with my life. tracking students and allowing them to be in classes with people with similar goals and abilities allows them to be taught if they are willing to learn. I could actually enjoy my higher level class that were filled with kids that wanted to learn. I couldn't stand being in classes filled with people that could only focus on how to go get high or drunk that night. For me it has payed off and I am going to RPI in the fall and going to cali on google's expense for their CSSI program. tracking just allows people to challenge themselves and separate themselves from the rest of the pack and show their ability to do amazing things.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Ortus » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:20 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:
Stuff about gifted programs


The gifted program at my school was considered pretty smashing stuff, to the parents and faculty. It provided at least a few interesting opportunities, namely the one-off chance to video-conference a similar class from China. The classrooms I was in from the second to the fourth grade were all considered the gifted classes, but they functioned pretty much exactly like other classes at the school but were taught in a different manner than whatever the school determined the 'norm' as.

As a small example of something else mentioned earlier in the thread, we would, once every two weeks or so, read to kindergarteners and first graders and help them read the books they were reading in class. Unrelated but humorous, I still have graphite in my lip from where a kid stabbed me with his pencil while I was reading to him. The only 'real' gifted program I was in happened as a result of my FCAT (Florida something something something) scores - it was a leadership program. I learned a few valuable lessons from it, actually, and they wanted to me to come and take more programs with them, but I was having troubles at this point with my K-8 school and I wanted nothing to do with it.

So, K-8 issues: Because of my FCAT scores, my propensity to read a staggering number of books*, and my placement in the schools gifted program, going in to 5th and then 6th grade (touted as the start of my 'mature' or 'real' education) I encountered many many many problems with faculty. You see, there were expectations. Standards. Rules and guides to how someone like me, who didn't think of himself as very smart (and still doesn't), but apparently had so much potential, should act and behave and perform in class. I looked that right in the eye and told it to fuck itself.

The truly only good thing about my experiences at this K-8 was when the Vice Principal, whose name is literally the only I remember from that school, handed me a copy of A Brief History of Time and tried to engage me in adult conversation about the ideas in the book. I respected the hell out of that, even if it hadn't worked... because I wasn't ready for it to work, not with everything else going on in my life at however old I was (I think I may have been 9 or 10?).


Funny story: I went from gifted programs, to being all but thrown out of my K-8 at the end of 6th grade, to bullshitting my way through 7th and 8th completely online (Florida Virtual School [FLVS], if anyone cares), to being forced to go to afterschool tutoring programs, to remediating a fair portion of High School, to graduating High School with far less than a 2.0 GPA. Obviously, there's more to it than that, but that's what I can type down clearly enough.

Gifted programs aren't really all that great of a thing, looking at it from sides other than my own experiences, and I think our entire system needs to be scrapped and the whole thing re-imagined for the future of the USA and any other like-minded country to be anything other than drab.

*Seriously. AR Points ring a bell to anyone? Scholastic? We'd have a fair, where we could spend points which we had accumulated during times of the school year by reading a book and then taking a quiz on said book. I had damn near a 100% correct record on those quizzes, and whenever I cashed in on my points, the cashier person would look at me with the stunned look of, "there's no fucking way this can be right". Yeah.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Kurushimi » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:16 am UTC

http://www.education.com/magazine/artic ... ts/?page=2

Just an article I was reading about American education. It talks about tracking under point 5.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby bluebambue » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:26 am UTC

I know the thread is a bit dead, but I feel like the misconception that private schools don't track never really died.

I went to a private school. I entered in 8th grade, but it was a 5-12 school. 5,6 grade there were 16 students and there was no tracking. They were structured like a normal elementary school with 1 or 2 teachers teaching almost everything. 7 and 8th grade was structured like a normal middle school. There was only tracking in math, except in special circumstances. I entered with very advanced language skills and was placed in a Spanish class with mostly 10th graders. 9th and grade was much the same. 11th grade students could chose one of two science classes. There was no test. You had to take the more advanced one to take the AP science classes the following year. You could also chose to take AP physics if you concurrently took AP Calc. 11th grade is also when people could choose to take more advanced history and english classes. There were advanced art and theatre classes for those interested. The only thing that didn't have levels was PE.

If a student needed more advancement than the norm, it was provided. Such as with my language. But also with my friend who did Kumon and finished Calc BC her sophomore year.

---

At the engineering school near to where I did my undergrad, if you didn't have Calc BC you were behind and playing a lot of catchup. I don't think it is possible for everyone to reach that level of math, probably most people. However, there are people with mental handicaps and there are people who, for whatever reason, lack motivation to put in any work. I don't think it is remotely feasible, given the reality of society, to adequately motivate everyone (just more people than we do now).
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby modularblues » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:13 pm UTC

Stratifying kids too early can deprive opportunities from those at the "bottom", who might have been as successful as the "top" had they been give the same nurturing.

In Denmark, there are apparently no "gifted" programs until kids are about ten years old, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success. This ensures that the playing field is even for those who develop a tad slower than most.

Similarly in sports, there's the curious observation of how pro athletes in certain sports are mostly born within the same cluster of 3-4 months of the year. For example, if the enrollment cutoff birthday is in month N, then most of the athletes would be born in months N, N+1, N+2. (Canadian hockey is Jan 1, so most birthdays are in Jan., Feb., March). In other words, initially some kids are developmentally more mature and thus stronger and play better, and they get selected into the A leagues, get more practice, get even better, etc.

And of course, the reeeeally successful people were given the right opportunities at the right times. They rarely, if never, make it completely on their own.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Zcorp » Thu Aug 25, 2011 2:02 am UTC

modularblues wrote:Stratifying kids too early can deprive opportunities from those at the "bottom", who might have been as successful as the "top" had they been give the same nurturing.

In Denmark, there are apparently no "gifted" programs until kids are about ten years old, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success. This ensures that the playing field is even for those who develop a tad slower than most.

Neuro development continues until the early twenties and there is a huge developmental period in the 12-13 age range with of course variance in that development. So waiting till age 10 to Track students, while better than age 4 or 6, is still poor practice.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby spamtrap » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:01 pm UTC

GT education addresses the parents' bragging needs and the administration benefits: they can put their organization efforts in their reports.
At least the way it is done today it is about administrators, and parents. The teachers don't have enough control, the students. From administrative point of view independent school districts could be great systems, if they could just get rid of students and teachers.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Dippy » Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:11 am UTC

I'll admit now that I haven't read the entire thread, I have read most of it but have now run out of time so my apologies for that.

I work in education in the UK, I have worked with gifted children, average children, below average children and children with learning difficulties. My own childhood experience is of being well below average in sports, design technology (woodwork etc.) and arts, average in music, geography and history, a little above average in English and French (though well above average for the school that I attended), above average in science and a long way above average in mathematics. I know what it's like to be the kid who can't cope and for whom things are moving too fast - by the time I learnt how to sand wood without burning it the other kids could use every machine in the technology room. I know what it's like to be taught at the correct rate. I also know what it's like to have finished all the work for the term by the second week and to then teach it to others. Fortunately I already knew I wanted to be a teacher so I valued that experience rather than resenting it but I would not have been so happy with my situation if I had not also requested additional work from my teacher. She gave me an A level text book and 5 minutes of her lunchtime once per week which is a kindness I still appreciate to this day. I didn't get any credit for my extra work, I didn't get put into A level exams early (that is incredibly rare in public education in the UK and my school simply didn't permit any exam to be taken early) and I didn't care, I was doing it because I was geeky enough to find it fun :wink:

I was placed into sets for all academic subjects during high school (but not for sports, design technology or arts - which is where I could have done with some remedial help!) but the school size was small enough that the abilities within each class were still quite mixed. Every class still had people towards the lower end who needed help and people towards the top end who gave help. There was mobility between the sets, the curriculum was not so different between classes that you couldn't move easily from one set to the next and the movement was almost always upwards. The top set was always the largest class as it was expected that those children would need less teacher time in order to succeed, the lowest set was always the smallest and usually also had a teaching assistant.

Throughout my teaching career I have worked with children aged 3-13. I have seen much the same type of setting as described above for the older children. For the younger children I have seen everything ranging from no setting whatsoever throughout primary school (up to age 11) and children in ability groups for some things right from the age of 3. I have also taught in a small village school where I had to teach ages 3-9 in the same classroom, fortunately there were only 20 children. I have never worked in a school where the children were in sets for every single subject.

To my mind the question is not whether to set, it is when to set and how to set. Setting for everything would be hugely detrimental, to my mind the purpose of education is to prepare the child in all ways for the adult world. As adults we often have to be able to communicate effectively with people we have little in common with, we change our vocabulary, our accent and our body language depending upon who we are talking to without conscious thought. If we spent our entire childhoods with only those people who are similar to ourselves we would not be so adept at doing this (and in fact I met at university rather a lot of people from private schools who were terrible at this). Never setting at all would also be detrimental in the older ages. I could handle teaching ages 3-9 together in a small class without too much difficulty, however if you handed me a class made up of 13 year olds of the range I usually find within a public school and asked me to teach mathematics I would not cope so well. In that class I would have children who had to use their fingers to work out 4+5 and others who could solve simultaneous equations. And if you handed me the entire spectrum? I would have a child who has no communication at all and a child who already has degree level mathematics. I don't think anyone on here would think that those two children belonged in the same mathematics class.

Personally I prefer to set in mathematics from a very young age, there is far less to be gained from whole class discussions in this subject than in others and so the detriment to the less able from the absence of the more able is vastly diminished. The subject is also not as easy to teach to mixed abilities as the child can either do it or they can't, if they can't yet count then there is no point them sitting there while you teach multiplication - they simply will not be able to do it. However if you are teaching creative writing, while you may still have the same sort of gap, it does not impact on your teaching anything like as much and the whole class discussion is hugely valuable so I wouldn't want to set in that subject until much later. For me though the most important thing is not whether the children are in a set but whether they are given the correct work. Even within a set the children are not all equally able, the work given to the children needs to reflect that. A child who is given work that is too hard for them usually stops trying, messing about and failing is far easier to cope with emotionally than trying your hardest and failing. A child who is given work which is too easy for them will often get bored and start acting out. Either way if you set the wrong work not only will it impact on their education it will also impact on the education of those around them. Every single child deserves to be set challenging yet achievable goals, whether that goal is to learn to write their name independently or to write a novel. If you don't challenge the brightest children then they often do not learn how to apply themselves, they coast as far as they can and then they fail. If you don't challenge the less able children then they learn far more slowly and often think of themselves as unable to learn. A child can be the least able in the classroom and still have good self-esteem if they are able to say "I am better at this than I was last week".

Where we fail in the UK is by not offering enough choice. It doesn't matter if a child is in the bottom set of a subject provided what they are being taught is relevant to them and provided they are succeeding within a subject that matters to them. I didn't care that I filled the technology room with the smell of burning wood because I had no desire to be a carpenter, I still needed to take that class, it taught me enough that I can now assemble IKEA furniture and change a lightbulb. But what if all my classes had been like that? What if I had never been taught maths or science? I would have hated school. There are children in school in the UK who want to be mechanics, bricklayers, gardeners etc. but who are sat in classrooms learning Shakespeare and algebra and failing at both, children who can barely read and write and who should be being taught how to read and write but because they are "entitled" to learn Shakespeare they are being taught that instead. Everyone should have to learn basic skills, I need to be able to change a lightbulb without electrocuting myself and they have to be able to read their shopping list and count their money. They don't need algebra and Shakespeare the same way I don't need to know how to build a car. And in the end it is those of us who are suited to the algebra and Shakespeare route who caused the financial crisis and those who work in manufacturing who have the best chance of working our way back out of it. There should be no stigma in following a less academic route.

As for specialist education for the gifted (yeah, the actual topic, I didn't forget!), I don't like the idea of pulling them out of another class to provide it. I do like the idea of special clubs being available to them so that they can take part in more ambitious projects if they choose to but I would not want these to be mandatory. Those who go on to be top of their field do so because they have the drive to do it, those with that drive should have the opportunity to follow it (would you deprive Mozart of a piano until the rest of his class were ready to learn to play?) but there is little point in forcing someone with the ability but not the drive, if they'd rather be outside playing then let them play outside, they'll only end up mucking about within the group if you force the issue. In the UK clubs like that (and many other clubs which are open to all) are run by teachers working as volunteers over their lunch breaks and so have no impact whatsoever on the resources available for other children.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby spamtrap » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:56 pm UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:But I still think that the question that you're not asking yourself because it's hard, it's really hard, is that who is more deserving of the resources? You seem to firmly believe that tracking (which is exactly what Meem1029 went thru - he didn't teach himself entirely, he was in a class) is very detrimental to lower ability students. So if it's detrimental to remedial students to have tracking and detrimental to advanced students to not have tracking, what are we going to do?

Well, look at some countries where the education is good. How do they do it?
Measuring ability with standardized tests is difficult. Basing anything of data so biased is foolish, but it is a good way for administrators, because they can save their ass if any issue comes up. This is simply because they can fall back to some paperwork: "look at this test, this poll and this questionnaire, we did the best choice that we could based on the information we had."
But in reality only the teacher and the kid's family can tell if a kid should enter some kind of special program. So at the end of the day the good way to measure things is to give freedom to those who want to teach to do so. Encourage them by money, benefits, and lower number of weekly classes hours to do extra; let the kids have a wide variety of different level of programs and let them freely choose from them. Of course the teacher can advice the kid and his parents. A degree of academic freedom is needed for good education. And it is not completely unknown in the US school systems. At least in high school and junior high the kids are free to enter any preAP and AP level classes as long as they can maintain a high enough grade and they have the prerequisites. More freedom would be better, but then teachers should have more freedom too to keep order in the classrooms. This of course is not going to happen, so the kids have all the freedom in choice in difficulty level of their classes they are ever going to have. Sooner or later someone will dream up a new standardized bullshit and that will take away this level of freedom too.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby JShilpetski » Fri Aug 26, 2011 9:54 pm UTC

In elementary (1st through 6th) we pretty much played on computers. We did some puzzles, mind-games, general trivia. (How do ants follow each other? SMELL!) I really liked it at the time, but in retrospect, it did nothing for me. We were removed twice a six-day cycle for about an hour. We had an entire computer lab to work in.

In high school (7th through 12th) we signed contracts that stated we would complete a project every semester. Usually a research paper, piece of creative writing, little presentation, something musical. The teacher, though, was very lax and nothing ever really happened. We played a lot of Monopoly. It was scheduled as a "special," like Chorus, Band, Gym, Computers, etc. Met twice a six day cycle for 42 minutes. In a closet in the library. Four computers. Doubled as the newspaper office.

In both, we were pretty much forced to participate in Odyssey of the Mind.

Overall, I was quite disappointed. I think there is a place for teachers to work with the gifted students outside of the classroom, push them further in their interests and in general. Losing class time, though, was always a detriment and I was often teased for being so special as to deserve the gifted program.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Softfoot » Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:46 am UTC

The primary school I attended was a small, independent school in country South Australia. Options for gifted students were therefore limited to what the teacher could offer in class, and was often self-directed. The teacher would let us choose a special project to work on, or would give additional options so that we were following the same general curriculum as the rest of the class, but being challenged to think more creatively.

High school was my first experience of streaming. Physical Education, Science, English and Maths were streamed according to ability; I was put in the bottom stream of PE and the top stream of the others in year 8. The top streamed classes were larger because they figured we didn't need as much teacher time - I figure streaming wasn't for the sake of the students, but of the budget. In year 8, 9 and 10 I would do the set tasks for Maths and Science and spend the rest of the time reading. In English I either completed the task early and then read, or I would turn in assignments that were twice as long (or more) than they needed to be.

My teachers suggested acceleration. My parents gave me the choice, and I refused. I'd seen a couple of other students accelerated and I didn't believe it helped them. I still feel that acceleration is like trying to build your education with missing pieces - there are likely to be some core skills, pieces of knowledge that wouldn't be taught, that will be needed later.
In Year 11 and 12 we chose all our subjects - of course, we'd already been streamed towards them. There weren't many highly academic students at my school, and so my class sizes shrunk, meaning that we got more teacher time, which also meant we could be pushed and stretched further.

I now work in the education system. There's an overall policy of keeping students with their age peers. Teachers are supposed to be able to differentiate the curriculum so that the needs of all students are met. Some teachers do this brilliantly; others struggle with any student that deviates even slightly from the 'norm'. Some of the schools in my district are small schools, and so have combined Reception/1/2 classes, and so teachers have students who have just turned 5 up to students who are 9 and nearly 10. These teachers differentiate their teaching all the time and ask for more ideas, so that they can deliver the curriculum content and build the skills of all their students.

In the primary years I believe it is skilled and effective teachers that make the difference to their students - whether their students have learning difficulties, disabilities, are neuro-typical or gifted. These teachers need the support of their school communities - their fellow teachers, their principals, support staff, and the parents of their students. When students learn how to set their own goals and reach for their own dreams, the structures need to be available for them - whether they be accelerated classes, technical classes, or specialist arts/music/drama courses.

I'm interested to know more of what people consider 'gifted' - and when signs of gifted-ness emerge.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby markop2003 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:34 pm UTC

Solt wrote:Here's the thing, I actually agree it's possible to make sure all students proceed equally fast given the right environment.

The only way that's going to happen is boarding school where you can change the entire surroundings.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby gorcee » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:58 pm UTC

Back to the OP.

I was in a gifted program in elementary school. There were four elementary schools in my town. Once a week, the gifted students in this program would leave school, go to the middle school for half the day, and participate in "other activities."

"Other activities" was essentially just code for "more work." I didn't particularly enjoy it. Also, all the other kids were dicks.

In fourth grade, the last year we had a single teacher for all subjects, my teacher split the class into Group 1 and Group 2 students. Group 1 learned the same material as Group 2, but often went into greater detail (ie, more word problems, more complicated assignments, etc.). Also, we had to do 2 book reports per month instead of 1. The group wasn't aligned with the district-wide gifted program, but it was pretty clever because it allowed students more capable of independent motivation to work on their own stuff, while she focused more of her efforts on the students that required a greater level of her time. Not every lesson was bifurcated, but it did give her the flexibility to separate the class and keep the Group 1s productively busy when she felt the need. There weren't many social issues because we still acted like a class on other activities, and the Group 2s were never jealous of our extra workload.

Overall, as much as I hated it at the time, looking back that was one of the more effective teaching techniques I experienced (even if it was a little Brave New World).
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby Vangor » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:37 am UTC

Seeing as how what I work with and continue to educate myself on is Gifted education, figured I might chime in on the discussion. What seems to be difficult to understand is what it means to be Gifted and what Gifted instruction should consist of. For the vast majority of states, Gifted refers to being at least two standard deviations above the norm on norm-referenced intelligence quotient testing. I have worked with the WISC, KBIT, Standford Binet, and a few others, though infrequently aside from WISC and KBIT. Those are, in my experience, poor measures of Giftedness by themselves (clarifying for future discussion: some of those, such as the WISC, are excellent for several aspects of Giftedness, but, because there are several dimensions of Gifted and huge cultural assumptions as well as variability in student ability day to day, a single measure should not be used).

Myself, I prefer Retzulli's Rings of Giftedness which focus on task-commitment, creativity, and above-average ability. Above-average ability often comes from the IQ tests; little way around this. Measures of task-commitment come from interactions with the student and conferencing with the teacher to assess intensity of focus on certain subject matter, either personal interest to the detriment of school work or single-mindedness in any activity, school or otherwise. Creativity we have done through divergent thinking tests either with physical items, basically verbal/hands-on spontaneous for those of you familiar with Odyssey of the Mind, or a simple spatial aptitude test, drawing by incorporating printed shapes.

All students display those qualities to varying degrees, and all will display two or all of those qualities simultaneously. Gifted students have greater frequency of displaying those qualities simultaneously, common enough to not be unexpected; this is, unfortunately, rather subjective and imprecise. Unless we did routine screening and testing of all students, "routine" meaning about thrice annually to give adequate opportunity (will not generally continue testing if a student is uncooperative, uncomfortable, unwilling, etc., but with few students this gives an opportunity to reschedule) to perform, a degree of subjectivity always exists by way of the teacher recommendation as few parents recognize or pursue Gifted testing. For one, teachers rarely recognize Gifted traits, and each should have some exposure and means of comparison, thus parents cannot be expected, plus the testing is expensive if not done via the school which may be prohibitive.

Such is Gifted, in my opinion, but what is Gifted education? While I am in Gifted education, I do not support Gifted programs. I support differentiated instruction for all students based on strengths and needs with a similarly academically relaxed environment once per week. But, seeing as how creating the best Gifted program possible is more plausible than altering the entire structure of the public school system, I do what I can. Foremost, Gifted instruction should not be academic acceleration; high-achieving students, ones who master material swiftly, may have academic acceleration, and Gifted students may be high-achieving, but not necessarily especially as material becomes more specialized and requires more study and attention. Nor should Gifted instruction be assistance with other students in the classroom; cooperative learning and peer support/conferencing are fantastic to use, but within the classroom for all students based on strength with the material. Gifted instruction also cannot be without instruction or merely free time with games, puzzles, etc.. Finally, Gifted instruction is not service learning, nor should service learning only be available to Gifted students (and if you do service learning, have learning components to differ from community service). Seen numerous programs where those are deliberately or happen to become the focus due to ease, and those are, again my opinion, worthless.

In essence, Gifted education resembles nurturing of critical thinking processes. Why are we concerned with commitment to finishing and/or pursuing tasks, thinking in new directions, and being able to absorb and utilize information or synthesize novel information? To solve problems. To this, my Gifted framework includes divergent and convergent thinking, metacognition, focus projects, and collaboration and presentation. Material consists of ways to generate novel ideas, means of finding solutions and supporting answers, understanding our own processes and use of strategies, application, working with peers or school/community resources, and communication of ideas, actions, results, etc.. For instance, a group of students had heard about how few American citizens spoke more than one language and the importance of this with a global business environment and immigration. Those students researched if this was a significant problem, what could be done to help solve this, and more and determined teaching Spanish to young students was the best course. We determined a measure of success by having pre- and post-tests. After, students researched foreign language and early childhood pedagogy and created materials and lessons based on those as well as key phrases for travel and conversation. The group went and spoke with teachers in the school to do this project, and taught, gathering data as we went. When finished, the group presented to their peers. This was a long project, but was only the ends of other instruction throughout the day and year and is a start to what can happen.

My overly long rant is done. The major take-away should be differentiation of instruction based on strengths and needs, not finding a small group of the student population to teach X to.
Last edited by Vangor on Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:53 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gifted Education

Postby lanicita » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:28 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:And at some point, you have to ask for things or you'll never get them. How else do you think students with learning disabilities are allotted things like extra time and private rooms? They asked for the things that would help them succeed.
Not entirely true. Yes, some parents request special education evaluation for their children. But schools also do universal assessment to target children who might be in need of special education services. All students are entitled to an appropriate education by law, and schools do a lot to make sure their students are receiving the proper education, mostly by testing them and then pulling in the kids who do poorly for more tests (and also increasingly by noting problems in the classroom, including behavior and learning issues, and testing those). A lot of students never ask for extra services, although their parents do have to agree to them in order for them to be provided. The student, especially the very young student, is rarely asked their opinion, although that too is something that is currently changing.

I would also point out that speed is way too overemphasized in our education system. I think there are a lot of students who feel pressured to perform more quickly, and as a result the quality of their work goes down. That is one thing I hate about accelerated classes -- the students who are in them are prized for their speed more than they should be, and the complexity of their work less than they should be. I would much rather track by learning style than learning speed (or maybe by both).
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