2017-01-13 04:41 pm

On Gifted Students: Continuing the 1899 NEA Report on College Entrance Requirements

IX. Resolved, That we approve of encouraging gifted students to complete the preparatory course in less time than is required by most students.

In this resolution the committee desires to approve a principle, rather, than to recommend a definite plan for the application of that principle. Gifted students should be allowed special opportunities quite as much in grades below the secondary school as in the secondary school itself, and it seems probable, indeed, that the saving of time may be expected most advantageously in the lower grades. The subject of the grading of pupils below the secondary school is, however, not in the province of this committee.

In laying out a course of study the average student must be the basis of reckoning, but in the schematization of educational work there is constant danger that the interest of the individual student may not be sufficiently considered. There are students who must take more than the allotted time in which to complete the preparatory course, while there are others who can easily finish the course in less than the schedule time. This can be done, too, without overpressure and consequent injury to health. It is a truism that some students acquire much more readily and easily than others. Modern educators do not accept the doctrine of Helvetius, that all men are by birth endowed with the same natural capacities. Instead of cramping and confining the more gifted students, it is the duty of the secondary school to discover them and to furnish them every opportunity for progress in their work. There are difficulties of administration, caused chiefly by the time schedule, which sometimes cannot be overcome; but it seems to the committee that students have a right to expect that the school officers will use their best efforts to overcome these obstacles, and, so far as is consistent with good administration, offer to the students full opportunity for progress according to their individual capacities.
2016-11-01 12:57 pm

Emotional Giftedness - Post 1 of 4

Earlier today, Paula Prober posted on her fascinating blog, Your Rainforest Mind, an entry entitled Too Sensitive, Too Dramatic, Too Intense –What Is Emotional Intelligence? . With the Facebook (FB) entry, she included the question "What does emotional intelligence look like in the gifted?"

James Duncan replied to her FB post:
This is very difficult to manage, and there's often insufficient or non-existent guidance. The person must develop insight into this trait and figure out a strategy to manage it. The trait is truly one of the best possible blessings when it can be managed. There can be many instances such as this one: I had a long career in broadcasting. One night I went to a special premier of "A Clockwork Orange" with colleagues. The station was doing a promotion for the movie. I went for free as an employee, and we had the best seats in the classy theater. When I got home, I felt depressed for hours as a reaction to the film. Fortunately, I later got insight into this issue and could better control it. It is after all a most powerful and precious instinct when it works for you.

Emotional sensitivity, emotional awareness, and "emotional intelligence" strike me as three different axes, with a degree of overlap if they were done as a Venn diagram, but only a small region where all three meet, while having many degrees of independence for each beyond that area.

I would likely recast Paul Prober's question to "What does emotional giftedness look like?"

This has been a question bandied about for decades, at least! There was a pre-conference exploration before a Roeper Symposium talking about assessment of emotional capability and what exactly 'we' were looking for. About 20 folks met in Chicago to bang on the topic. Lots of fascinating discussion, a few conclusions, but I have no idea if it went anywhere from there. (I suspect that it did for individuals, but that there was no further substantial group effort in that realm.)

James is absolutely right about the lack of guidance for at least the first two sets. The third there are beginnings of, increasingly. There are some pretty good resources for the people who have some of the first two, but no clue on the third. This is far easier to accomplish than the second and it is unclear to me that the first is teachable in the slightest - but that does not mean that those who have it do not need or cannot receive training in how to nurture it and how to be less overwhelmed by it!

Over the next few posts, let's explore these three areas of potential emotional giftedness - what each is, what the differences are, where they overlap, and what to do with them if you have them (or if you don't).
2015-05-22 11:57 pm

Even our counters to the arguments against programs are old!

"There is one department in this university which already sets unqualified excellence as its standard and which regularly produces conspicuous examples of the performance which a persistent effort to excel oneself can reach. We refer, of course, to our athletic department. Our athletic coaches offer us an example of Honors methods of teaching in action which we would do well to ponder. Is it too much to ask that we try to do as well by our best students as we do now by our best athletes? Is the maximum challenge of maximum ability an acceptable goal only in physical education, not in mental? We do not think so."

~Cornell (University) Honors Committee
as quoted in The Superior Student
Volume 3, Issue 2 - Page 15

This was presented in response to the question, "Does an Honors program create a second-class status for the rest of the students?"

"No properly conceived Honors program should have the effect of short-changing the general run of students. No either-or is involved here, but precisely the contrary; we are urging that we do our best for all students. We stress special attention to the superior student simply because his are the needs we are now farthest from meeting."

`ibid, page 16.
2015-03-01 02:33 pm

Acceleration in Physics as Applied to Education

A number of years ago, I attended a lecture given by the late Dr. Ted Sizer. For those of you who don't recognize the name, he was the founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, one of the more established educational reform movements. At that point, he was Dean of Brown University's School of Education, but previously he'd held the same title at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and still earlier he'd been headmaster of Phillipss Academy Andover.

Sizer enjoyed startling his audiences and this speech was no exception.

"I believe in tracking," he declared. Then he paused to let his words sink in.

"...so long as there is one track for every student." The other shoe had dropped and the audience felt much better!

In a subsequent conversation, I hearkened back to that speech, which he recalled with a chuckle. "But Ted, doesn't that imply that fully individualized education is the way to go?"

While he did not initially get my point, after a bit he conceded that perhaps that was the logical extension of his comment, but he did not concede that it was necessarily what was actually best.

But what does that have to do with acceleration or physics? Bear with me briefly. We'll get there.

In educationese, for more than 100 years, acceleration has usually meant skipping a grade (1). Radical acceleration has been defined by Miraca Gross for at least a decade as resulting in high school graduation 3 or more years (2). More recently, acceleration has included a variety of techniques including subject-only acceleration - techniques that are almost as old as grade skipping.

Physics, on the other hand, says Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity. Acceleration is inherently a vector quantity, and an object will have non-zero acceleration if its speed and/or direction is changing (3). (Velocity = speed and direction, both.)

To my mind, grade skipping barely deserves the label of acceleration at all. Imagine, if you will, a car going 60 miles per hour along a straight highway. No acceleration, right? Now, a beam of light appears around the car; the car disappears; then the beam places the car two miles ahead on the same highway going in the same direction.

The car has only been displaced - everything else remains the same: speed and direction.

This is almost a perfect metaphor for grade skipping. The student finishes a particular grade or even a particular day of a particular grade and then is a year removed forward from there without a change in the pace of the school or the direction of the student.

The thing that makes this not a perfect metaphor is that the first month or two in the accelerated school often involves some scrambling on the part of the student to acquire the full academic year of material that has been skipped past - it is often the most exciting time in the student's academic life! And it is sufficient for many if not most skippers. But for some of them (hg? pg? who knows!), the return to the regular pace after that burst of excitement is just as stultifying as the original grade was and all the student's reasons for being skipped return in spades, often to the thorough frustration of the school and/or parents, who thought they had dealt with the student's needs.

This is why we have radical acceleration.

From the physics perspective, though, there is more than a bit of irony in the resistance that so many teachers, principals, schools and districts give to acceleration.

It is not just that as educational interventions go that acceleration is among the most studied and best proven, though those are true and I am sure other bloggers have written about it and linked to A Nation Deceived among other documents that support this position.

It is that acceleration is an active standard tool actively used in almost every public school in America. I can imagine a few raised eyebrows, but remember that change in velocity is the definition of acceleration I am using, which means a change in speed and/or direction.

Our slower students and our SPED students get the benefit of acceleration regularly. (Or not the benefit in the case of grade retention!) Change in curriculum, extra time, adjusted curriculum or assignments or testing. Change in room for part of the time to get more support.

All of this is acceleration. And all of it would and does benefit the gifted student who gets it, too. Change the pace. Change the type of delivery. More or less time on a topic. adjusted curriculum or assignments or assessment.

I don't know that this is astonishing news. I don't claim that it is a new perspective. It's just the only thing I thought I had to say on the topic of acceleration. Hmmm... not quite.

In those times 100 years ago, they were conscious of having as much as 5 levels of knowledge (current year minus 2 through current year plus 2) in their cities' 4th grades, for example. They were conscious that as many as 25% of the students were one or more years accelerated in their knowledge, even when they were not accelerated by grade, let alone those who were accelerated by grade.

(1) For example, Annual report of the School Committee and of the superintendent of schools of the City of Chicopee for the year ending November 30th, 1914 (<http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?num=1&u=1&seq=16&view=plaintext&size=100&id=uiug.30112088234122&q1=accelerated>)
(2) http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10349.aspx
(3) http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/acca.html
2015-02-07 12:13 am
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The Tragedy of Mott Hall Bridges Academy


This link is to the story of Nadia Lopez, the principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. She shared with her school, in the aftermath of the great good fortune that befell her and her school, that she had been ready to give up, to surrender, because she had lost faith in her kids and her program.

As you may well know by now, Vidal, who is one of her students, had his brief story (and face) was captured by Humans of New York and put out on the internet where anybody and everybody could read it --> and his life, her life, and the school's life have been irrevocably changed - more than $1,000,000 has come in, her faith in them is restored by his story, and all is well or, at least, looking pretty good right now.

So, why then is this labeled a tragedy?

There are so many more Mott Halls out there. So many more Nadia Lopez stories - people with a dream who pour their hearts and souls and blood and sweat and tears and whatever metaphor for lives you care to use, but whose student was not Vidal, was not on Humans of New York, and whose dreams are dying or have died.

We are not a meritocracy. We are not a place in which a dream and hard work is enough to ensure success. We are a place of crap shoots and luck. We are a giant lottery with people investing their beings in the belief that that will give them a good chance of winning when it gives them, at best, a poor chance.

It is worse than that, unfortunately. The dreams of our private educators who have made their way up from the bottom are smashed into pieces, but that is not the worst of it, by any means.

Our public schools are filled with teachers, almost all of whom mean well. Among them, our most passionate, most caring faculty are burning out just as Nadia has burned out. They, too, think "I felt like typing my resignation. 'I don’t think I can do it anymore. Because I don’t think my scholars care. And I don’t think they believe in themselves enough to care. I’m afraid they don’t think they’re good enough.'

And they think their administrations don't care enough. And they think their school boards do not care enough. And they think their state and federal legislators do not care enough. And it is hard to tell them they are wrong in the face of what we are doing to our teachers, our schools, and our students.

Some of you, reading this, may wonder what this has to do with gifted education, which is most often the theme of these posts.

We see the same things in gifted education that we see in the rest of the field of education, folks. We see tired, burned out people. We see institutions that have died because the people behind them grew too tired to move forward, while being also unable to find young firebrands to pick up the cause.

This state organization. That regional conference. This other unique group's newsletter and conference.

Some of them are thriving because they got lucky. No, not because they are good, but because they got lucky. Their founder did not get sick or lose all their money in a scam. Or a benefactor joined them and brought them back to life, like Mott Hall. Or any number of other pieces.

Yes, yes, you need to be able to take advantage of luck when it happens, but when it doesn't or when it is bad, then what? What is resilience to an institution that ran on a shoe string, when the shoe string breaks?

We are losing precious gifted institutions. College programs with both research and courses, as well as community outreach are going away either from defunding at the state (or province) level or because the leader died or moved along. City wide programs have gone away for much the same reason. It's not everywhere nor all at once. But in an area that ran annual events for decades, two out of three years there is no event and what used to be sponsorship from the state departments of education is gone, not just some of the sponsoring groups.

Please understand - what happened for Nadia Gomez is a wonderful thing for her school, her students, and her. Celebrate what has happened. But do not think it is a more deserving program than some of those that fall by the wayside, unnoticed in their passing. It is both deserving and lucky.

Do you have luck that you can lend to something you believe in?
2014-09-14 11:49 pm
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Genius and Talent

"This quality of genius is, sometimes, difficult to be distinguished from talent, because high genius includes talent. It is talent, and something more. The usual distinction between genius and talent is, that one represents creative thought, the other practical skill ; one invents, the other applies. But the truth is, that high genius applies its own inventions better than talent alone can do. A man who has mastered the higher mathematics, does not, on that account, lose his knowledge of arithmetic. Hannibal, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Newton, Scott, Burke, Arkwright, were they not men of talent as well as men of genius’! Because a great man does not, always, do what many smaller men can often do as well, smaller men must not, therefore, affect to pity him as a visionary, and pretend to lick into shape his formless theories.

But, still, there doubtless is a marked distinction between men of genius and men simply of talent. Talent repeats ; genius creates. Talent is a cistern ; genius a fountain. Talent deals with the actual, with discovered and realized truths, analyzing, arranging, combining, applying positive knowledge,and,in action, looking to precedents. Genius deals with the possible, creates new combinations, discovers new laws, and acts from an insight into new principles. Talent jogs to conclusions to which genius takes giant leaps. Talent accumulates knowledge, and has it packed up in the memory ; genius assimilates it with its own substance, grows with every new accession, and converts knowledge into power. Talent gives out what it has taken in ; genius, what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought. Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision. Talent is full of thoughts ; genius, of thought. One has definite acquisitions; the other, indefinite power.

But the most important distinction between the two qualities is this : one, in conception, follows mechanical processes ; the other, vital. Talent feebly conceives objects with the senses and understanding; genius, fusing all its powers together in the alembic of an impassioned imagination, clutches every thing in the concrete, conceives objects as living realities, gives body to spiritual abstractions, and spirit to bodily appearances..."

~Edwin Percy Whipple, excerpted from an 1850 speech:

(For the curious, Edwin Percy Whipple and Guy Montrose Whipple (researcher in the field of IQ testing and giftedness) were 6th cousins, once removed, and though they lived comparatively near each other, it is unlikely that they knew each other. Edwin died when Guy was 10 years old.)
2014-04-30 11:59 pm
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Giftedness and the Perpetual Struggle to Change the Label

I have touched upon the label war off and on for many years, here and elsewhere. I strongly favor keeping the word we have for children of high potential: gifted.

I do not say this because I like the word - I don't. Nor do I say it because I like labeling children - I don't. I say it because labeling seems to be the only way to get services and losing the label gifted seems likely to make getting those services no easier and likely harder.

This is what I wrote in 2007:
One of the most commonly mentioned drawbacks concerns what would happen if your child is labeled gifted by the school. Depending on the speaker at the time, you may end up with a conceited and unpleasant child, one who thinks that s/he is better than the others in class, a child who gets picked on and bullied for the label, or even a child who is doomed to failure due to the excessive pressure placed on the child’s shoulders.

I have to admit, your child may be conceited. Your child may think s/he is better than the others in class. Your child may get picked on or be bullied. And your child may suffer from the feeling of excessive pressure on his or her shoulders.

None of this is particularly connected to the use of the term gifted by the schools.

Conceit: If you consistently know more than others around you, can answer questions they cannot, read books that they find too difficult, or use words that they do not understand, then there is a distinct chance that you may become conceited.

Better: When the teacher shows your work off, telling everybody to follow your example, when you are chosen for competitions, when you are the only student designated to tutor others during class, then you may well find yourself believing that you are the best student in the class.

Bullied: Should other kids notice that you talk funny, dress funny, act funny, look funny, or anything else different from them, then there is a clear possibility that you will be bullied. If you are used by other kids’ parents as an example, they may well resent you and bullying may follow.

Pressured: How you see the world and its troubles, and what you perceive as a response to those problems can cause some pressure. The belief that you need to do something about it will put pressure on your shoulders every time.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the gifted label causes none of that. Children have been conceited since before the word gifted came into the language. Similarly, they have been singled out for their accomplishments when compared to classmates, been bullied for being different, and have felt huge pressure to change the world – all without ever being called gifted by the schools, their parents, or anybody else.

As is my wont, I wish to harken back to history - to the period in which Guy Montrose Whipple led our field from one term to another:
First,what number of children in an ordinary school system can be termed supernormal children? Evidently the answer to this question must be: it depends on what you mean by "supernormal." I prefer not to use the term "supernormal" at all.In the minds of many persons the term "supernormal" carries a vague implication also of the abnormal. To be supernormal means that you are somehow outside the realm of the normal (outside of the healthy or desirable). A supernormal child is a freak, a child prodigy, an unwholesome hydrocephalic creature, an anemic, hothouse product whose youthful precocity is no whit more striking than his subsequent decline into mediocrity, if not into eccentricity or downright insanity. But the "gifted children"(which appears to be a better designation) of whom we are speaking are wholesome, competent children with sound bodies, lively ambitions -- whose future, when properly trained, only fulfills the promise of early years. (9/11/1920)

The modern Chinese still use "supernormal," with some claims that it does not touch on the nature vs. nurture debate. We clearly don't use that term, or at least not when it comes to children.

What other words might we use, if not "gifted" or "supernormal?"

"Exceptional" and "Special" are in use already. "Genius" is both wrong and worse than gifted. "Superior" doesn't seem to cut it. "Highly intelligent" might work for some purposes, but in a world of Multiple Intelligences or even Marland's 1972 definition of gifted, there would seem to be far more to the term "gifted" than intelligence of any height includes.

"Academically advanced" suffers from that problem and also precludes the inclusion of underachievers - while "academically advanced underachiever" makes sense to me, I suspect I am in the minority.

What do you think of "precocious?" If kids hate the gifted label (and some do), how do you suppose they will like "precocious?" Clever, smart, brilliant... none of those would be any more accepted, yet none of them covers the ground fully.

Superman!? Maybe not.

High potential.

I could live with that - it is wordier, but in some ways clearer.

But... imagine the reception the "High Potential Students" program would get from parents - "Are you saying my child does not have high potential?!"

This, then, is the crux of the matter.

We need a term that is not domain specific, but which can be applied to individual domains.

We need a term that is inclusive of non-academic realms.

We need a non-contentious term. (Not happening!)

I suggest we try the word "gifted."

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”). To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm
 photo Hoagies_Blog_Hop-G-word.jpg

Some links to my prior entries somewhat on the topic: