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Exceptionally Gifted Children

reviewed by Nina Buchanan - 2005

coverTitle: Exceptionally Gifted Children
Author(s): Miraca U. M. Gross
Publisher: Routledge/Falmer, New York
ISBN: 0415314917, Pages: 307, Year: 2004
Search for book at Amazon.com

Have you ever wondered what happens to the Albert Einsteins, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts, or Mark Twains in today’s educational system? Exceptionally Gifted Children provides insight into the development and education of today’s highly intelligent children from an Australian perspective. From a longitudinal study of 60 of Australia’s most intelligent children who wereidentified by teachers, psychologists, and parents and found to have IQ scores of 160 or higher, Miraca Gross selected 15 profoundly gifted subjects. She details their paths, in some cases, for as long as twenty years. If you are a parent who suspects that your child is gifted, this book is a must read. If you are a teacher or administrator, this book will help you dispel myths about highly gifted children and provide you with research-based information to share with parents, other teachers, and administrators. If you are a college professor, this book is an excellent resource to use in courses on gifted education or to provide background material about highly gifted students in developmental psychology, educational psychology, or teacher education courses.

The new edition of Exceptionally Gifted Children comes after more than a decade during which little attention has been paid to meeting the needs of GT students. Indeed, at its initial publication of in 1993, a paradigm shift in elementary and secondary education in the

U. S. had just begun as the federal government moved toward standards-base reform and Goals 2000. Fast-forward to 2001 and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The focus of NCLB is on providing all students with curricula in order to close the achievement gap between minority and white, low and high SES, and at risk and average students. As Gross points out, “One approach to achieving equality of educational outcomes is to require that all children, regardless of their capacity to learn, should undertake the same curriculum at the same time, at the same pace, and to the degree that it can be controlled, in classes which contain as wide a range of intellectual ability as can be managed by the average teacher” (p. 24). Note that GT students are not mentioned in the NCLB legislation and, in fact, we might say that for GT students, the new move really means No Child Left Ahead. Hopefully, this book will sound an alarm and remind us that GT students are in our schools even if we don’t serve them well.

At the beginning of the book we meet Hadley Bond who invites us into the world of a highly gifted child. The first chapter provides a context for the study and introduces us, in brief, to each of the 15 children selected from the larger sample of sixty students. The book’s review of literature on exceptionally and profoundly gifted children is an excellent reminder of how we, as a society, ignore gifted students. Throughout history there has been ambivalence about what to do with exceptional children who score at the top end of the normal curve. Students who score at the bottom end are treated with no such ambiguity. The book also reminds us that profoundly gifted students are as different from moderately gifted students as disabled students are from severely disabled students. Although there is extensive research on ‘giftedness,’ Gross provides an excellent answer to the ‘what is giftedness’ question that differentiates it from the popularly held belief that each child is ‘special’ and ‘unique’ and has areas of ‘individual strength’ by declaring that “for some, a minority, these strengths are of such an order that they can justifiably be called gifts, and for these students the pace, level and content of the curriculum designed for their age-peers of average ability may be seriously inadequate” (p. 28).

The methodology chapter describes the use of multiple case studies and measurement techniques and issues including reliability and validity, and data collection strategies. This is an excellent resource for graduate students in gifted education. The questions posed provide direction for the study. Those of you who have read the 1993 edition might be tempted to skip to chapter 10 to see what has happened to the 15 students since 1993 and meet the new students who have been added. Don’t! Chapters 3 – 9, the findings, are worth reviewing in light of recent changes in educational policy in both the

US and Australia . They provide details of early development, family characteristics and history, academic achievement, reading development and recreational interests, school history, and psychosocial development.

In each of these chapters (3 – 9) Gross effectively uses data from a variety of sources and constantly compares her results to those of previous research. For example, one of the most interesting and depressingchapters in the book, School History, begins with a review of the research and a reminder of the number of highly gifted students an average teacher might encounter in one year. It is interesting because in 1978 when I helped design a GT program for my school district, there was a great deal of resistance to identifying students (too elite), acceleration (won’t this be bad for the child socially and athletically), and grouping gifted students for instruction (all those left will suffer because there won’t be any good role models left in the regular classrooms). Gross’s description indicates that not much has changed in the last twenty-five years. It is depressing because Gross details how difficult it was for parents to have their child’s gift recognized and then obtain appropriate educational interventions in the public system. The five sections within the chapter provide previous research and data regarding the school’s response to early reading, early entry into formal schooling, grade skipping and subject acceleration, radical acceleration, and other intervention procedures. While all schools are required by federal legislation to provide appropriate educational opportunities for special education students, not even all states have mandated gifted programs and funding. Indeed, in 16 states, GT program funding is discretionary often dependant upon yearly allocations or grants that must be renewed each year (NCES, 1999). This makes it very difficult to attract the highest quality teachers and develop exemplary programs for even moderately gifted students, much less highly gifted students.

What happened to these highly gifted students from the study in the decade, 1993 – 2003? Chapter 10 provides updates on the 15 children in the original study. Most graduated early from high school and went on to college. Five were working on doctorate degrees at the time of this edition. It is interesting to note that many were attracted to computer science and some form of economics. Later in the chapter, we are introduced to three new study participants, all girls of exceptional abilities. This serves as a reminder that even as we read this chapter, there are exceptionally gifted students entering classrooms throughout the world who will need assistance if they are to realize their potential and contribute to the development of the 21st century.

It is difficult to satisfy multiple audiences with one book that presents a longitudinal study in a scholarly way for other researchers and tells the stories of exceptional children as they and their parents navigate through a sometimes hostile educational environment. The scholars will find the format and amount of repetition familiar and acceptable while those who are searching for a coherent, concise story will need to work to connect the threads through the various chapters. Gross answered many of the questions posed at the beginning of the study but did not trace them in the chapters that detailed the findings. It would have been helpful to include a summary of the answers in the concluding chapter. One area that did not receive much emphasis was the role of technology, computers, and media in the lives of these exceptional children when it seemed that their career choices in many cases involved technology.

Overall, Exceptionally Gifted Children provides food for thought for all educators.


National Center for Educational Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Tables and Figures. 1999. [Electronic Version]. Retrieved August 2, 2004 from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d99/d99t055.asp

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 2, 2005, p. 261-265
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11370, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 4:49:55 AM

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