Monday, April 17, 2006

Another Early College Story

Following on the Mary Baldwin post, here's a story of a youngster going to an A-list college at an early age. Joe Fang, a senior at North Gwinnett High School in Georgia, is most likely on his way to MIT next fall. He's also 15 years old. You can read his profile in the Gwinnett Daily Post, here .

I found a few absolutely refreshing statements in this article. First, Joe's acceleration began when an elementary school teacher noticed he was very bright, and decided to test him to see if he could take more advanced classes. “She realized that I had a special talent in math,” Joe said. “I did really well, so they let me keep going.” Did I read that right? "They let me keep going..." He was simply allowed to work at his own pace. No one got particularly angst-ridden about it. What a contrast between this situation and the district in Kentucky I wrote about recently that sent a family a bill for having the audacity to put their 5-year-old daughter in first grade!

Second, what about the "problem" of being much younger than his classmates? Apparently Joe didn't get too stressed out about that either. “They knew I was younger, and a lot of them already knew me,” Joe said of his classmates. “I really was not scared at all because I was already used to taking classes with older kids.”

I'm glad Joe had an understanding school system that saw no reason to hold him back when he was capable of doing more advanced work. The article notes that mom and dad are a little worried about sending him so far away for college, but my guess is that he'll do OK. Hopefully there will be a follow up article letting us know, so we can add this story to the "Lives of Purpose" collection from Mary Baldwin.


jason smith said...

In the old NYC school system it was common for students to be accelerated to college at the age of 16 or less (my mom and dad were). Given the number of Nobel Prize winners and other major contributors to society produced by the system one could argue that the acceleration system has already been tested and found to be successful. Also the recent SMPY studies at Vanderbilt have made clear quantitatively that it is a successful strategy for both student achievement and psychological well being.

It is surprising and unfortunate that the education establishment remains recalcitrant to it (although perhaps as my Dad points out by keeping kids in school longer you make more jobs for teachers). I believe part of the problem that acceleration advocates have is they focus way too much on the truly unusual (the 11 year old who goes to college) as opposed to the large majority of children who would benefit from the program (whose college start would be accelerated j 1 to 4 years).

Furthermore the extremely accelerated students rarely go to top (or even 4rth rate) colleges and usually take fluff majors so it is difficult to really show how the acceleration was of any benefit other than for show.


D said...

My understanding is that there are certain obstacles in the higher tiered colleges that make it challenging, difficult, or illogical to enroll at one of those schools. U of Southern Califonia, for instance, has a rule to only accept 16 college transferable units of those taken before high school graduation.