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Tracking advanced kids

Posted By: Tammy Steele on January 15, 2003
There is a lot of research showing that "gifted" children need to be tracked at least some of the time with intellectual peers. They drop out at a very high rate from high school and/or stay in with a dropped out attitude. Asking them to lead other students as a method of challenging the gifted child does not work as a stimulation to the gifted child unless teaching is their area of giftedness.

As mother of a student who was very good at math and science, I watched him refuse to engage in math and science classes because it was boring at the high school level. He is now in a PhD program at MIT, but previously dropped out of high school and of college. He was never a behavior problem at school, he just slept through it all. School was never that interesting to him until Junior year in college when he became a physics major. It was a long wait for all of us before he "got it" that doing the work could be interesting. Unless such kids are challenged at their level, they never need to rise to an occasion in school. I have repeatedly seen such students become truly lazy adults. They think something is wrong if they have to work on a problem, because in school they never needed to work.

Most people are neither gifted nor slow across the board--in the arts, in math, in language, in science, in political skills, in physical skills. Students need to be challenged and educated in what they are good at otherwise they can grow up disliking the very skill set in which they are most talented. They should also be challenged in what they are not good at so that they can develop those life skills as well. Schools do a generally poor job in challenging students to develop their political skills, physical skills and artistic skills. If students are truly talented in math, science, language they may not be challenged there either.

It is very difficult for an individual teacher to challenge a wide range of skills in one room. Administrators need to build in options for children at both ends of the range. They don't need to be separate full day programs, but they need to be pulled out sometime during the week. Just as it is difficult for teachers to teach all levels, it is difficult for administrators to schedule all levels, but we will not be educating all children unless we do.
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 Tracking....good or bad? by Christina Rhoades on November 24, 2002
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