'All the children are above average': Should schools separate gifted students?

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • CHmom Cedar HIlls, UT
    July 21, 2014 8:55 a.m.

    Integrated classrooms are a great idea, in theory. But they are not effective with the class sizes our Utah schools are struggling with. Of course they work in Finland, where classes have less than 20 students. Teachers can focus on the individual students much better when there are half as many of them. My kids have had as many as 36 in elementary classes here- and the Junior High and High School classes can be MUCH larger. This is not effective for any level of student.

    Many children do much better in "gifted" classes- where the whole class is interested in being challenged and they don't have to sit through multiple repetitions of a concept that they understood the first time it was introduced. My kids have really enjoyed finally being in classes with other kids who really want to be there, rather than those who are constantly goofing off or being disruptive. They shouldn't be held back from succeeding- and it is NOT my gifted child's job to constantly be the "aide" that helps the struggling students understand (though I agree that sometimes it can be very effective for both the struggling student and the "gifted" student).

  • mattrick78 Cedar City, UT
    July 20, 2014 5:10 p.m.

    I can't stand the moniker "gifted" applied to these programs. My child is in a GT program and I always remind her you are not "gifted", you just work hard. The same thing applies to the workplace. Your boss doesn't care if you are "gifted" but whether or not you can do the work.

  • costarricense costa rica, 00
    July 20, 2014 4:21 p.m.

    Yes, schools have to give separate programs for gifted students. This studentes needs special advanced programs and also peers at their same level.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    July 20, 2014 12:54 p.m.

    Every child (and adult) should have the opportunity to grow and progress at their full capacity and speed without being stymied by artificial barriers.

  • Kinderly Riverdale, MD
    July 19, 2014 3:44 p.m.

    The truth is, I have seen this work in classrooms, with a couple of extremely talented teachers who know how to teach in a way that allows every child to progress, despite variation in kids' skill level. I've wondered, after watching one of these amazing teachers, if she could train other teachers how to do it and concluded, probably not. At least not with a high success rate.

    I love resources like Kahn Academy that allow kids to learn and progress at their own pace. The more I see schools focusing on the kids who start off behind, the more strongly I consider homeschooling in order to make sure my kids learn and progress every day. I haven't done it yet but many, many parents have.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    July 18, 2014 5:06 p.m.

    The best solution includes lower class sizes and more resources for the classroom teachers. This "integrated classroom" idea is not new. I was asked to use it many times under other names during my teaching career. Our legislators see fit instead to vilify teachers, attack their professional association, micro-manage the curriculum, and raise class size. Their testing mania had our principals during my last 15 years hounding us all year long to focus extra attention on students who were "on the cusp" (meaning those who were just below the "proficient" level). Funding for gifted programs languished, as did funding for extra materials we could have used to provide more interesting learning for our fastest learners.

    Here is a cynical proposal I heard from a principal who asked to remain anonymous. He/She said,

    "If you're only interested in scores and have no heart, forget the slow kids and spend all your time with the fast ones. The quick learners will progress twice as fast as normal, whereas the same attention focused on the slow learners will only increase their learning rate by 25% to 50%"

    Of course, we never did.

  • BYUtah Fan Herriman, UT
    July 18, 2014 11:30 a.m.

    There is a small group of students who really need to push forward academically and they should be favored by academic institutions. These will be the thinkers of the next generation - the entreprenuers, doctors, scientists, engineers etc. To waste these exceptional children, to hold them back for the benefit of other children is an horrific waste. These exceptional children will determine our future as a nation and as a people. Those people who do other types of work are significant in their own right. All work is honorable which fulfills the needs of the people. But they will not determine the future. Forcing all children toward a mediocre mean for equality is mush headed lunacy.

  • Commenter88 Salt Lake City, Utah
    July 18, 2014 10:50 a.m.

    Speaking as a parent, the concept and implementation of "gifted education" is not only warranted, but critical; the problem, however, is in the name. The word "gifted" is a horrible adjective for public school programs. It is true that every child is "gifted." But not every child is in need of "accelerated studies." The name seems to cause much resentment in the program itself from other parents, administrators, and sometimes even other educators. Can we please stop using this word?

  • Kjirstin Youngberg Mapleton, UT
    July 18, 2014 8:35 a.m.

    I come at this as a public school teacher, a mom with gifted children, and a "special" kid myself. In 1961, they considered me "retarded" (their terminology.) They were shocked by my scores. I listened to the fuss through the locked door with a Dixie cup: "She CAN'T be that high; she didn't even finish, and she entirely skipped two sections! Test her again." Schools had no clue ADHD was a gift.

    Imho, the entire system needs an overhaul. We depend too much upon "ceremony" as if a tassel dictates advancement. Grade levels must end; teaching should continue year-round to avoid reviews. Teachers should teach only their two or three strengths to students who move up or down as needed. By doing this, there is NO separation of "smart" or "dumb" as you go where you need to be, and progress as skills are learned, including on to college levels.

    Our current cattle-herding requires those who have not yet grasped concepts to move ahead, serving no one. Worse? The boy whose eyes I still see, begging me for a challenging math problem. After three scribbled sums, I had to return to the entire dummied-down class.

  • KWL Bountiful, UT
    July 17, 2014 8:56 p.m.

    I knew a young man in high school with a 160 IQ. He was flunking out in his senior year because he couldn't make the effort to pretend to be interested in school work that didn't challenge him. A concerned teacher recognized the problem and got him into some college level courses--but he had spent thirteen years in a school system where he never had to work or apply himself.

    Comparing it to sports, you don't tell the natural athletes to stand around and do nothing while the other kids run laps. You don't ignore them and never bother to have them exercise enough so they get winded and then toss them into a marathon and wonder why they quit.

  • birder Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2014 8:02 p.m.

    As a teacher of 32 years, it is very difficult to meet the varied needs in a typical classroom. I have higher level work available for the quick learners, but most don't want to do it because it requires more effort. As another person said, work ethic is every bit as important as native intelligence, and maybe more so. I'd rather teach less-gifted students who are willing to work than smart kids who won't lift a finger any day.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    July 17, 2014 11:33 a.m.

    In Finland they take a different tact - the gifted kids are in the same class as everyone else, and teachers will group students together on projects that allow the brighter kids to help the less capable.

    Kids are taught how to solve problems together, using the strengths of everyone involved.

    It seems to work well in Finland - their education system is consistently ranked in the top 3, worldwide. Interestingly, there are very few exams given, and kids rarely have more than an hour of homework a night.

  • ShortGuy West Jordan, UT
    July 17, 2014 7:21 a.m.

    This sounds great in theory, but is much more difficult in practice. I try on a daily basis to balance the needs of students that are farther along without boring them and frustrating the ones that need more help. What ends up happening is most of the emphasis being put on the middle ground students.

  • Misterjrh Atlanta, GA
    July 17, 2014 5:59 a.m.

    Most gifted students are very smart, some are not.

    It should really be based off far simpler criteria. As it stands there are too many different ways to qualify for a gifted program. Rather, there should really only be two criteria: book smarts and work ethic. If you are lacking either, you shouldn't be in a gifted program. I have seen far too many people who were "gifted" in school turn out to be below average or even criminal despite being "stimulated" by a gifted program.

    Intelligence, as measured by grades or test scores, and work ethic as measured by teacher observation, that's all you need. There is a great deal of research that supports academic ability and work ethic being mutually inclusive and not exclusive of each other, so eventually both of those qualities will dovetail into each other if students are placed in environments without the yahoos (Gulliver's Travels) in the regular education classroom.

    It's time we end the pseudo-scientific "research based" gifted programs that target non-starters, deviants, and those who could not care less for school. Separate the students who care, and can, but that should be the only criteria.

  • KWL Bountiful, UT
    July 16, 2014 10:10 p.m.

    Just so long as they apply it to PE and sports. No more first string, second string, third string. None of this channeling "gifted" kids into segregated groups like varsity.

  • Jeremy234 SLC, UT
    July 16, 2014 11:29 a.m.

    I was in the ALPS program in elementary. It was great for me. Everyone who was there wanted to be there, and the class moved at a better pace in general. We didn't have to stop to hear kids say annoying things like "when are we going to use this in real life?" or try to make an unfunny joke that stops everything.

  • Reader81 SLC, UT
    July 15, 2014 7:15 p.m.

    It is very difficult for a teacher to meet such a wide variety of needs when class sizes hover around 30 students. I had both high-needs resource and gifted students in my elementary classroom this year, and there was not enough time to plan individualized lessons for multiple subjects, implement and evaluate informal assessments, and carryout other responsibilities (recess and before/after school duty, meetings, parent contacts, and etc.). However, there is also difficulty if the top students are all placed in one class, leading to loaded classrooms. With performance pay, classes with high numbers of resource or lower-performing students will appear to be failing when using test scores as evaluation. The teacher is then penalized. Few teachers will want to take on classes with high numbers of special need when a paycheck is on the line. Ability grouping in certain areas, such a math and language arts, may be helpful if student are then spread equally among home rooms.

  • ThoughtfulTeen Salem, UT
    July 15, 2014 3:07 p.m.

    I've been a gifted child in an 'integrated classroom,' and it doesn't work. Maybe if class sizes were small it might work, but in my experience, if you ask a teacher to teach to all the levels, they won't be able to. They can only cover so much ground, and if someone is going to slip through the cracks, it's going to be the kid who get 100% on everything. Why spend extra time with them if they're already doing so well and there are other kids who aren't getting things? It's because they're bored out of their skull and might start looking to make things more interesting in ways everyone else might not appreciate.

  • Snapdragon Midlothian, VA
    June 19, 2014 6:16 a.m.

    The gifted program has saved our family! I have three "highly gifted" children and it is such a challenge in raising them! They need a place to thrive!

    If you think a smart child can be turned into a gifted child, read this...

    psychologytoday.com "Bright Child vs. the Gifted Learner"

    There is no way to drill your smart child into a gifted learner. These programs are so badly needed, and only parents of highly gifted children can truly explain why.

    As parents we figure we are either going to raise highly successful individuals or evil geniuses, there is no middle ground for the highly gifted child, they are going to do something amazing, good or bad. So, you should be grateful for the gifted programs too, with their flaws and inconsistencies!

  • sg newhall, CA
    June 19, 2014 6:09 a.m.