The troublemaker, the back-row recluse and the child who often skips school may be the most intelligent students in the class.
They may be out of step with the teacher and other students not because they are stupid, but because they are gifted."Many gifted students are the ones who drop out or get in trouble," said Glenn Bird, teacher in Springville High School's gifted and talented program. "Their whole future is jeopardized because they cannot mesh with the system and the system will not mesh with them."
Most schools in the Nebo District have gifted student programs, but Springville High's is one of the most comprehensive. It started seven years ago when Darlene Amott, a counselor, now retired, and Pat Kauffman, an English teacher now working as a librarian, noticed the needs of gifted students were not being met. The first step was to identify the gifted and talented.
"We use test results and teacher interviews," said Bird, who has been with the program two years. "We look at grades, but they may not always tell the whole story.
"Gifted students may get bored when classwork moves too slow or may have conflicts with a teacher who gears lessons toward the average student. The gifted students may simply decide they're not going to play `the game.' "
During staff interviews, many teachers express shock that certain students are being considered for the gifted program, Bird said.
"They look at the grades or remember the troublemaker, and ask us why we would consider that kid.
"A large part of the problem with education is we can't agree on what gifted means."
Springville High considers about 10 percent of the students - those with top scores and/or high recommendations - to be gifted or talented. Of that 90, the top 20 to 25 are eligible for a special class offered second semester, but all may apply to do a special project, guided by a mentor.
"Students have worked with attorneys and artists. Some want to be docents for the zoo. One student submitted a proposal for a project called `Local Retinal Regions Control Local Eye Growth and Myopia.' It will study the effects of visual deprivation on the eye."
The students who attend the class for the gifted study a variety of subjects intensely, Bird said.
"The students sit in a circle and we ask questions that we hope will inspire more questions. We try not to cover things the students have done in their regular classes. If they have studied music theory, we study someone from popular music."
The gifted class also has guest speakers. They have heard from several local artists, an engineer, a psychologist, a surgeon, a cartoonist and a film reviewer, among others. And there was the man from the Brigham Young University testing service who tested students to see if their orientation was more "right brain" (intuitive and creative) or "left brain" (logical and scientific).
"The results were exceptionally unusual. Of our students, 21 were dramatically right-brained and three were dramatically left-brained. We were all surprised, including the tester."
Most people's test results show more of a balance, he said.
"If their way of thinking is that different from average students, it's no wonder they don't mesh with the regular system."
Bird said it would be egotistical for the program to take credit for helping students with college or careers, "but I have heard from students in college that our program is better than the honors programs they are in."