Over at the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Shea asks "Do gifted programs work?" citing the study of students who either just made the cut for a gifted program, or didn't.
Oddly enough, one of the study results being highlighted under this headline is that students who just got into the gifted program got lower grades than students who remained in their home schools. Why? Well, most likely, the gifted program is more challenging. Of course students who barely squeaked in would have a harder time acing the work than they would in coursework aimed to a less challenging level.
I definitely have seen this in my own life. My first academic "B's" ever came when I was able to take algebra in 6th grade. If I'd taken pre-algebra or normal 6th grade math, I would have aced it. Likewise, when I transferred from Clay High School of South Bend, IN to the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities, I got several consonant grades that first semester. The work was harder. So I had to learn how to work.
The story has a happy ending in that, in both cases, I figured out how to get A's in harder classes: more studying, more practice on problem sets, etc. But I hardly think anything would be gained by staying in easier classes just to keep up the good grades. The great thing about gifted education, done right, is that it teaches children who have often never had to work hard for anything the joy of throwing themselves into something difficult. We need more of that, not less.