Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Able Pupils Lose Momentum

An interesting government report out of the UK, written about in a recent article in the Telegraph, comes to the conclusion that "Able Pupils Lose Momentum."

(the Telegraph URL is quite long and is defying my attempts to write it correctly in the link function on Blogger; it's: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=VN42UK5N014RNQFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2008/01/06/nschool106.xml)

Apparently, a quarter of the students who score very well on the state schools' tests at age 7 do not achieve high marks at age 11. The report looked at the various reasons and found that, in essence, schools are doing very little to actually nurture these "able pupils." They are often not grouped with children who have similar abilities, teachers spend more time with kids who are having difficulties, and the targets set for these pupils are often underwhelming. Apparently, teachers are supposed to set goals for these pupils (I am guessing this is something like a gifted IEP) but the report states that many teachers do not buy into this, and so the targets are things like "be neater." Of course, if people think the notion of challenging bright pupils is elitist, and everyone needs to be leveled off a bit, it seems to be working, at least for the quarter of students who don't do as well by age 11.

As we've said before on this blog, gifts are useless if they're not unwrapped. Gifted pupils will not inevitably do well in school. They do not necessarily fend for themselves. It is quite possible to turn an extremely bright kid off to learning by making his formal learning as unpleasant as possible. I have no idea why people would choose to do that, but as the UK report shows, it happens.

TOTALLY OFF-TOPIC POST: As many of you know, I'm a freelance writer, and write for all kinds of places beyond Gifted Exchange. Since many parents read this blog, I thought there might be some overlaps on this topic...I'm writing a magazine article, currently, on ways 2-income couples outsource household chores creatively in order to have a smoother home life. If anyone has ideas of people to speak with (folks who've used meal planning services, concierge services, children's taxis, etc.) please email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com. Thank you!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/06/nschool106.xml

Anonymous said...

Here is another thought on this result:

Is it possible that the 25% of students that seem to begin performing at a lower level at age 11, truly aren't particularly gifted? Perhaps these are the children who were "hot-housed" as very small youngsters, and ultimately that type of advantage wears thin. By age 11, only the truly bright will demonstrate high performance?

I'm not sure what I think of this, but that definitely seems like one possibility to me. Of course, I also think it is possible that these are gifted children who are under-served, as well. Or at least some of them.

But where I live, I see soooooo many parents paying big bucks to start their 5-8 year olds in special tutoring programs such as Kumon, etc. in addition to doing lots and lots of work at home. Of course they get a boost early on. But I guess I don't really believe that these programs actually make the children permanently "smarter".

midwest USA said...

Anonymous does make a good point about hot housing young children. I guess whether or not that is true in this study is dependant on the culture in England on hot housing.

But I do find this alarming and I'm quite sure there are highly gifted children in the system that are not challenged and their true potential is never realized after years of being neglected in the classroom. My son is one of them right now. We never taught him to read and he had no interest until kindergarten. He was a math whiz before Kindy, but we didn't know he was highly gifted. He's in 1st grade and reads now at 7th grade level or higher. However, he is taught 95% of the time at 1st grade level.

We are probably going to homeschool him next year.

Anonymous said...

Hi there...this is the same anonymous as above (on "hot-housing").

I have a question, maybe a little off-topic (okay, a lot), but Midwest's comment on homeschooling plans for next year has spurred this.

My son is also gifted (148 on WISC IV). He skipped 2nd grade, so entered 3rd grade this year at age 7. Last year when he was tested, he was reading at an 8th grade level. His math scores are also off the charts.

I am hoping never to have to skip him again. Although one grade skip was a godsend, there certainly are downsides, so two skips would be completely undesirable to me, based on my child.

I guess I'm wondering how much of the day can truly be "boring" to these children? For example, when they have a half hour to work on creative writing, surely they can write up to their abilities. Similarly, when they do science experiments, even if they are capable of some deeper exploration, if it is an experiment they haven't performed before, it should be enlightening to them. Art class, music class, gym class should also be stimulating. I see the biggest problems in math, but I think that is only 1/2 hour per day. What I'm trying to figure out is, what % of the day is truly non-stimulating, and if it isn't too much, isn't there a benefit to being with other near age-mates? I'm not really sure; I'd love to hear from others.

thanks!

lingsmurf said...

i want to take it upon myself to try answer this question based on my experience since i was operating in a very similar range in both math and reading at his age. The only part of my day I found stimulating was recess when I could study my sister's high school math books or read a book on my level.As I got older and we had only outdoor recess,I would sometimes intentionally not do my homework so I would have to sit under a tree as punishment and could read . Music classes involved learning to read notes when I already played two instruments and they spent so long going through it. Science class was frustrating because they wouldn't explain what was going on with enough depth,so i stopped asking questions. Art class was actually wonderful, we looked at perspective and created altered versions of famous paintings to express ourselves but that program disappeared after 3rd grade due to lack of funding.I don't know exactly what your son's school offers but pace and depth is very likely to be a problem for him especially if he has access to a lot of resources at home where he can get his information faster.I know that I was much happier in a gifted school with gifted children in middle school even if 1 or 2 of the classes were still a little too slow for me.

Anonymous said...

Another way of thinking about this is that this is probably an example of "regression towards the mean". Some of those who did well earlier-on did well because of chance (they had an especially good breakfast, happened to have read about the really hard word the night before, etc.).

Next time, chance did not smile on them. They did worse. (It could be hothousing, etc., too, of course.)

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