Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I really think that a big problem of gifted education is its label. When a child is declared gifted, he or she is somehow set apart from "non-gifted" peers, causing many educators and parents wring hands in desperation over flawed testing techniques, under-representation of minorities, and their own children's failure to test high enough to get that "magic" label that separates gifted individuals from the rest of us.
I truly believe that everyone is gifted in something, and every child deserves to experience support, deserves to be helped to explore and identify his/her talents and deserves to feel successful in areas of strength. In my ideal world children would not be tested for "giftedness" the way they are tested today. Instead, they would spend at least two years at ages from 4 to 6 in a free "real kindergarten" playing, catching up with their vocabulary and math for those who did not have enough support at home and trying different things while being observed by experienced teachers and/or psychologists. Then their personal educational plans would be customized to support their needs. More academically minded kids could be grouped with older peers for academic subjects while still enjoying art, music, practical skills classes, and sports with their age peers. Kids who need more movement would have extra breaks, kids who love art would have more time for it in their day. This  kind of open-ended education with flexible grade placement could go all the way to the time young people turn 13. In my observation, by that time almost everyone has a good sense of what they are good at and not good at despite all the growth mindset stories that are trying to make us believe that we all can be equally good at anything. This is when a young person assisted by a trained counselor can start making a meaningful plan for his/her future education that might include several hours a day of training for someone who is really into sports or more than one science class for someone who is into science. Sure, there will still be a need for some mandatory classes, but the curriculum for them could be different for someone who wants to be an artist vs. someone who wants to be a historian.
I really wish we would stop to try and solve the problem of supporting kids of different abilities through putting everyone in the same classroom and then "differentiating instruction". It's unfair to the teacher and unfair to the outliers on the both ends of the "grade expectations". If education is personalized for everyone and leads to career readiness, then there might be no shame in not taking the most advanced class available if a student is not interested in the subject. What we are doing right now is a conveyor belt approach trying to optimize (not maximize) the outcomes, Clearly, we are failing when only a third of our nation's seniors are ready for college and when we don't have a meaningful career prep for the other two thirds. The solution is not necessarily to make sure that everyone is ready for college by lowering the requirements. The true solution would be in personalized education for everyone.

Your Turn

Do you think a meaningful educational reform in US is possible or is it doomed to fail?


Joyful Learner said...

In Korea, I believe they begin specialization around 13 when they apply for high schools. I always thought it was kind of sad that kids were slotted so early as if they are done growing in all areas. K is really into Humanities but also has an interest in science which she has yet to explore more. In that aspect, I like the American system which allows kids to be kids without the pressure of being locked down for a career early on. I think this is one of the reasons why people send their kids overseas to America. You can focus on one subject but always change your mind even at college! Probably not as efficient than other systems around the world but more humane.

Joyful Learner said...

It looks like people confuse what growth mindset is just as much as what giftedness is.

MaryAnne said...

I think it's possible if we will embrace smaller classrooms (and possibly smaller schools)

Ticia said...

It would require a complete overhaul of our current education system, and a change from creating cogs to put into the wheels of business. It would also require acknowledging that college is not the right path for everyone, and our drive to send everyone there is hurting kids who may be gifted craftsmen, but our school won't recognize that with the current system.
So to answer your question, no, because there's too much money put into the status quo and the current system.