Over at the Globe and Mail, economist Frances Woolley wrote about some recent research into the performance of gifted students on No Child Left Behind tests. The conclusion of the research was that there were no outsized gains for these students who were just barely identified as gifted on NCLB tests... and therefore, according to the headline, gifted education may not be a smart idea.
I think Woolley and the researchers are completely missing the point.
I understand the befuddlement. An unfortunately high percentage of gifted programs don’t really offer accelerated work for gifted students. They send them on field trips or into resource rooms where you learn about mythology or some such enrichment topic. What gifted students need is academic work that challenges them to the extent of their abilities. An unfortunate number of gifted programs, operating under the idea that the gifted label is a "reward," also set the bar in a place where many kids whose needs could be served in a regular classroom qualify as gifted. We should not be particularly surprised that there are not huge gains there, or that some of these students might struggle in gifted programs that actually are challenging.
(Regular readers of this blog will also get a good laugh out of the idea that gifted kids get "more educational resources coming their way").
But most of my readers here are dealing with situations where a child would score in the 99th percentile on a grade level test. Put her in a gifted program and, guess what, she’ll still score at the 99th percentile. Because that’s as high as grade level tests go! But a good gifted program may actually allow her to interact with peers on a similar level, and do challenging work, as opposed to grade level work that she mastered years before that leaves her bored to tears. What's so dumb about that?
[Deleting the part about Carleton College -- as it's Carleton in Canada, not in US.]