Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gifted Students Shy from Fast-Tracking

Fans of Prof. Miraca Gross (of the University of New South Wales in Australia) will be happy to learn she and her colleagues are undertaking a study of how Australian schools deal with gifted children. Gross has spent years advocating radical acceleration for profoundly gifted kids. Of course, in Australia, as in the U.S., sometimes it feels like shouting into the wind, according a recent
in The Australian.

“I'd rather be doing well in an easier grade than be behind in a harder one,” one girl named Ceili told the newspaper.

Her attitude, the paper notes, reflects that of many educators, who worry that acceleration puts too much “pressure” on students.

For whatever reason, in the past few years, mass media in the US -- and Australia, which does not escape the English language media echo chamber -- have decided that kids are under too much pressure. They feel pressured to do well on tests, get into good colleges, participate in the right activites, etc.

Of course, given children’s actual test scores, the percentage of kids enrolled in college who need remedial classes and other such realities, I’d say they could use a bit more pressure. Or maybe any pressure they’re feeling isn’t applied in a direction that achieves results. I’d also point out that children in the US watch an average of 4 hours of TV a day, and some measurements in Australia have clocked well over two hours a day for children. If families turned off the tube, some of that time pressure might be alleviated.

But I digress. Fortunately, Prof. Gross has several good responses for those who worry that accelerated gifted kids will be under too much pressure of the kind news stories claim all kids are under. “Most of these kids would be topping the class if they went up a grade. They don't realise that,” she says.

And then the kicker: “Teachers equate acceleration with pushing the child. Teachers are afraid of hurting a kid by pushing them, so they feel better doing nothing -- but that can in fact do more harm.”
Hopefully, Prof. Gross’s new study will lay the ground work for acceleration becoming the default option for kids who need more challenge -- the accepted option -- rather than something strange and “pressured.”


Debbie said...

We are advocating early first grade entry (skipping kindergarten) for our child. The kindergarten teacher has said "oh, he needs to play." I said "don't first graders get to play?"
My concern is that he is ready and eager and already independently pursuing topics in the areas of science and social studies, which kindergarten doesn't touch. We aren't "accelerating" my son, we want to accelerate his education - to keep up with him! There won't be pressure - there will be appropriate challenge and opportunity to learn. He has been bored and a behavior problem in preschool. He attended a CTD class with Northwestern Univ. and just beamed with excitement every day - learning about science and doing experiments with color and crystals. I don't see any pressure there. I see a good choice for my child's happiness.
Now if we can just convince the school administrators and teachers!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If you can find a private school to accept him for 1st grade you could transfer him back to public school next year into 2nd grade.(IL law) We faced exact issue four years ago although we opted to stay with the private school.

Kim Moldofsky said...


You may want to check out Science and Arts Academy in Des Plaines. It's a private school for gifted children. Many children from the North Shore (and all over the Chicagoland) area attend SAA.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading a book about the daily life of high schoolers, it might have been called "doing school." It shows what young people feel that they must do to "get the grade" and "get ahead." the pressures aren't about learning or discovering who you are and what contributions it is your destiny to make. The pressures are about "gettting in" to that just right college that will solve all of one's problems for their entire future. I think we've failed as parents and adult role models if we aren't pushing high schoolers towards a more comprehensive view of the situation. It makes me wonder if there is any place at all in schools for kids who love to learn.

Anonymous said...

I was accelerated (many years ago) by moving into first grade in the middle of my kindergarten year. I just want parents of young children to know that acceleration by grade skipping probably won't be enough to keep your child challenged. As soon as he or she catches up with the new grade level, the pace of the class at school will still be the same as it always was. Instruction in a "regular" school will never be as exciting as a special class like the one at CTD. Unless a gifted child gets a very special teacher, they will be bored at school even with one year of acceleration.
I guess my point is: don't depend on one acceleration to solve all his school problems forever.

Laura Vanderkam said...

It's funny-- I just watched a Simpson's episode the other day, in which Lisa is accelerated to 3rd grade. I'm sure she would do fine, except older brother Bart was demoted to third grade at the same time. So all of a sudden he's doing great because he's seen all the work before, causing Lisa to be upset that her brother was beating her. At the end, the principal asks if she wants to stay in third grade, or go back to second and be a big fish in a small pond. She yells "big fish! big fish!" Eek... not such a good show for the idea of acceleration! But anyway, the last poster is right. A one-grade acceleration gets you somewhere, but not too far out in front of the kid, who could be compared to a speeding train. A lot of kids need to be accelerated more than once.

Anonymous said...

I have two boys. One 2 and the other 5 1/2..both born from ivf. I have noticed they BOTH have extremely high vocabularies. In Kindergarden the teacher eluded to the fact that my son's vocabulary was much higher than many of his developmental/cognitiive abilities but he stillneeded time to mature. tHEY Made me get his peripheral vision tested since he had trouble copying the board. the specialist thought that was rediculouS. hE IS BORN IN NOV and there are children int the class born in jan..almost anentire year older. there was nothing wrong with his vision. anyway...he is reading now..he will start first grade in the fall. he seems pretty normal to me. my 2 year old has an extnesive vocabulary as well. saying words that a much older child says and uses them very clearly "i want to sit on the couch...when a cup is empty he turns it over and says empty...when something is too snug he takes it off and says it's too tight...it's pretty incredible. They may just both be bright. what are anyones thoughts.