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Educating “Gifted” Children

Five years ago, we took our older kids for an intellectual evaluation (WISC-V for David, who was 6, and WPPSI-IV for Elizabeth, who was 4). They both tested in the 98th/99th percentiles on all the indices, right in that “moderately gifted” range. We’re not talking Little Man Tate here, by any means — but still, they’re not typical learners. The psychologist said they would benefit from some accommodations, like “vertical enrichment” and independent projects.

Sadly, our state has no mandate that gifted students be educated appropriately, nor any state-level support or funding for gifted education. Our particular school district offers nothing for gifted students at the elementary level, nor do they do any academic “tracking” before 7th grade. I fluctuate between bemused and infuriated that the federal government mandates that children with disabilities be provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education tailored to their individual needs, while gifted children are left to their own devices in mainstream classrooms.

An example. At the beginning of Elizabeth’s 2nd grade year, her class took a baseline “timed test” in math: given 60 problems of alternating addition and subtraction facts, how many problems could each student answer correctly in 3 minutes? At the fall open house, her teacher told us that students’ scores on this test ranged from 2 questions answered correctly to 60 questions answered correctly. 😮 There is no way one teacher, even a great teacher, can provide optimal differential math instruction to a group of 22 kids with such disparate abilities. 

The Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education keeps trying to push through gifted education bills, which invariably die in committee. We’ve chosen not to pour our limited energy into fighting the system, at least on this point. We just supplement: a home filled with good books, strategy games, and engaging dinner table conversation. And they have private Judaics lessons where they can move at their own pace, one-on-one with a brilliant teacher.

Playing chess with Grandpa (2015)

My biggest worry isn’t that they won’t “reach their potential.” That’s their business. My biggest worry is that they won’t develop a work ethic, because they’ll be able to coast along on innate intelligence throughout their academic careers and never develop good study habits. Which may describe someone else in our household…hmm… 😇

Categories: Educational Philosophy


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