Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Post Test Part 2

Researchers are finding baffling trends in gifted education. If they bothered to ask gifted parents, they wouldn't be baffled.

I had to come out of retirement a week later to address the ongoing gap of education research between reading statistics and meeting actual children. In this article, I'm going to answer the leading questions in gifted and talented research and help you understand how critical a parent's role is.

4 Studies

This article from Education Week is notable in that it does not condemn gifted education. How refreshing to find on my news feed. It also brings up 4 issues that the researchers can't solve but a parent can. They are big issues. I think we should stop labeling children 'gifted and talented' and start labeling parents 'gifted and talented parents'. Granted, the child has to do all the work, including growth in skills, but it's the parent that needs to find the right pasture and whack the sheep with your staff occasionally when he's playing video games and should be reading.

Slow Growth

Gifted students during 3 to 5th grade grow academically during the summer, but slowly during the school year relative to their peers. Why is that?

The first reason is that math curriculum during this period, as I have pointed out 100 times in this website, is the most lame and useless of all curriculum at any time and in any subject. During the summer, we study interesting and important topics like algebra and functions, and then during the school year my poor student has to slog through pre-algebra and other boring topics that I don't remember because we skipped them. I had a teacher conference in 5th grade so that my son's math teacher could show me 75 homework assignments that had a single answer to the first question and a line drawn through the rest of the blank page. She asked me what I was going to do about it, because he was getting a D. I told her we would study math at home that didn't suck. It was her first year of teaching. The next year, we started in on the SAT and she transferred out of the gifted program. Even worse, we both live 4 miles from this school but 3 blocks away and see each other weekly. Too bad. She's one of my favorite teachers and the gifted program really needs her. My son pointed out that he lost 7 teachers in his 8 years of GAT. I blame him but he likes to share credit to his classmates.

I know what you're thinking so stop it. I generally support our teachers or don't talk to them at all.

Another reason for this slow growth is that we can tackle a huge amount of math in the summer but don't have time during the school year. When homework starts, we usually scale way back on math because there's no reason to be more than 2 years ahead until middle school.

The last reason is this fear that I have always had. There is no such thing as gifted at all and if there were, we wouldn't be gifted. So my dummies catch up during the summer and get passed by during the school year. One year, I think 6th grade, the student's learned how to share their assignments online. One day I walked into my son's room and there on his computer were hundreds of science and reading papers and projects. Of course I read them. In awe. At the extraordinary work. My son is busy counting words and sentences on his paper so he can do the minimum to get a B. Yet he's reading adult level books and has an encyclopedic knowledge of many topics not taught in school. Many discussions followed.

There is a group of kids who take a leap at age 15 in academic scores. This group comprises 16% of all children in the US, and probably 75% of kids who go on to crush college. It's a well documented and well researched topic, but you'd really have to dig to find these studies. The authors of this paper didn't think about any of this. Maybe they don't have children. I'd rather have a kid in this group than a kid getting all A's in 5th grade, because one counts and the other doesn't count.

Better Identification

We could save hundreds of millions of dollars and lots of angst and hang ringing with my simple solution to gifted education. For selection, just ask the parents these questions:

Do you want your child to be in gifted education? Are you willing to spend many hours every day for about 18 months catching up? Will you place academics in top place in your house, read all the time, possibly pick up music and other geek activities that your child's peers do? Will you change the behavior and culture in the home to align with top academic performance? Is this worth the hours of parenting effort? Is your child willing to get a whole new set of friends, possible none if that's what it takes?

I think some would - they would be like 'I didn't think about any of this or know it existed, but yes I'll do it.' But most wouldn't. They'd rather blame the test or culture or invent conspiracies. It's not that it's so much easier to blame society than blame the one person who can do anything about it. I've found that most people are offended if you think you know something or have a better way. When did that become part of our culture? My wife pointed out that the main problem is that I am offensive. In retrospect, I've only had success when I work with children first and parents second. I'll have to think about this more. Perhaps if we make the case to the kids first, which they could totally do if they want but will be a lot of work and pain, but make it mandatory that the children get their parents to sign up, it might work better.

If it sounds like I'm problem solving out loud, I am. Gifted programs are for the 5% of kids who are serious about academics. Most families are more serious about sports or other things. My kid is never going to be able to pitch in little league because we're too busy doing math or a project to practice pitching. The coaches judgement isn't the problem, it's us. But my child really wants to pitch - for a total of 20 minutes a week - then we go back to our non-pitching highly charged academic lifestyle. The only way he's ever going to pitch is that if he works out a deal with a pitching coach behind my back and then talks me into it, and then I get a parent-pitching coach to keep me from f-ing up the whole deal and we'd have lots of arguments because I suck in this regard. I've sat in below poverty homes in Chicago (it's worse than you think) wondering how to pull this off on a more massive scale when the leadership in Chicago is inept and corrupt and doing everything to keep things as bad as they are. I'm not saying non-white leaders are any more criminal than white leaders - what I'm saying is that this corruption makes my taxes higher than they should be, which I'm not happy about, but destroys the lives of minorities.

Gifted programs don't have gifted curriculum

It is possible to have a successful gifted curriculum for 30 kids under the following conditions: A tenured teacher with 20+ years experience who ignores mandatory testing and is insane.

Otherwise, you have 2 choices. You can complain about the teacher or the program or fill in the gaps with At Home Schooling. I know many parents who send their children to science camp in the summer. This is the hardest subject to fill in at home for us non-scientists. Reading and math are not hard to accomplish at home. I would say our gifted program is easily the best in the entire history of the universe, possibly the multi-verse, but losing 7 teachers took its tole on education. I had a lot of work to do until 7th grade.

Ultimate end goal giftedness

There is a achievement formula that is well known: cognitive skills + will + interest = success outcome. One of my favorite researchers has complained on occasion that research tends to ignore important concepts like this one that have been known for over 100 years. The article and the paper behind it probably mention it somewhere (haven't found it yet but I'm still looking). Instead, it should be the first sentence in both the article and the papers behind it.

Cognitive skills training is fun and important and should keep you busy as a parent until 4th grade or so. Will and interest are far more important after that and should keep you up at night with anxiousness and fear for the next 12 years. My post-4th-grade blog talks a lot about academic skills, or will after I get it going, but every time I write an article about some interesting method I'm experimenting with, I'm thinking 'Is this activity going to develop will and interest, or will it kill it and ruin my child's academic future?' I noted that some of my early childhood education experiments were a failure on this topic, but you can take a year off at anytime and reset the child at zero. You can't do that at age 16.

My general rule is this. A book or an inspiring teacher or a topic or hobby could explode your child's interest. A parent can only ruin it.

I don't have a rule yet on will. It's probably similar.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What to Worry About Post Test

Test results have recently been sent out in the bigger districts. They've been sent out for the last 6 months across the country. It's time for the parent to worry about next steps.

My research has now moved to 6th grade through high school. I'm sorry to say that this will be the last post on this blog. I'm moving to to continue my quest to be an adequate parent with over the top research and competitive strategies that leave others in the dust. I chose my url carefully to stay under the radar until me and my 15 readers make some headway. In this article, I'm closing the chapter on GAT programs.

Test results

It can take a few attempts for kids who are behind to catch up. It can take a few attempts for especially bright children to pass the GAT test and get into a gifted and talented program. If your test results fell short, try harder next time. That was the situation we were in for my second child. My first child was fortunate to end up in the best program in our city despite having test scores that were a full 10 points short. We had lots of catching up to do those first rough years.

All gifted kids face an odd challenge - there are only a few years when academic capability and school grades correlate perfectly - 7th grade and Junior year in high school; the rest of the time the brightest kids aren't necessarily the ones with the best grades. Once your test scores say your child is gifted, you have this problem.

If your child is accepted into a gifted and talented program, the challenge is just beginning. Assuming your child passed, and your child is between age 6 and 9, here are your priorities, in priority order, with the most important priorities first:

  • This is the golden age of reading.
  • The internet is full and library is full of wonderful science experiments.
  • Between 1st and 3rd grade, you can develop memorization skills at the 99.99999999% with minimal effort.
  • You can continue normal math studies, ala Kumon IXL Khan Academy, in order to stay ahead, or you can look to the next major academic event, most likely 5th grade or middle school, and start planning for something extra-ordinary.


This is the golden age of reading. Time spent here will pay off big for decades to come.

The Magic Tree House series is well over 150 books at this point. In the average gifted program, there is a group of children enjoying the competition of reading every single one of these books. We started right before 1st grade with me doing a lot of the reading and within time marched through all the books. I had to supplement the reading program with readers (see my reading page). I highly recommend getting all the books from the library in which ever order you can. First, you don't want to end up with hundreds of books on your shelf that you have to throw away. More importantly, every time we went to the library we had to pick up a dozen books of all kinds, like adult level picture books, fables, random history and science books.

Once you get past Magic Tree House, there is everything written by Roald Dahl and a brand new literature of awesomeness written by young female authors. The end goal is a child who loves reading and does it really well. This is a useful skill in high school and beyond.

We came back to reading comp practice at the end of sixth grade. We used SAT practice test books and had a phenomenal showing on the reading section of the SAT at age 12. Apparently I did something right. My father-in-law taught high school English for 40 years. His advice on reading was simply to read. He also mentioned that the key to writing was to simply write, and that advice paid off in middle school.


We didn't know at the time that using the Word Board to survive our At Home vocabulary and school grammar and spelling (1st through 3rd grade) would result in kids who could memorize new vocabulary on the spot. When my oldest was facing 7th grade Chemistry, we bought a high school AP Chemistry book the summer before to knock off the vocab. I had one kid doing the Word Board for spelling and the other memorizing words I didn't know on sight. The light bulb went off. This super power is developed by practicing vocab at the right time in the development of the brain. I should write a paper on this topic.

The next step

In our case, the next major academic event was a strong sixth grade showing in preparation for 7th grade. During 7th grade, test scores and grades determine high school entry. I asked the question, "what do we have to do in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade to prepare for this event"? Do we need high test scores and straight A's? Only if there is a 100% correlation between these activities and getting into a gifted high school. So we stayed focused on higher order cognitive skills and subskills related to our next goal, and I accepted B's, C's and even one D on the report card in areas that didn't matter.

I didn't like to see low scores in science. Science seems to put together math, reading, projects and other base skills. So we did a lot of science.


Most of the brightest students in our program saw their test scores fall to 85% on the map by 4th grade. These are the children of college math teachers or other professionals with multiple graduate degrees. I talked to a lot of worried parents. The reason for this is long division, pre algebra, multiple digit multiplication, and other math topics on the annual test that are the opposite of intelligence. We totally blew off school math during this period in order to stay focused on the skills that the child will need by middle school.

I wrote the Test Prep Math series with this in mind. While other kids were practicing their arithmetic in 2nd and 3rd grade, we were practicing thinking through convoluted, vague, open ended problems. I got a lot of negative reviews for this approach and at times felt bad taking this huge risk.

My child scored 8 questions above the 99% in math in 7th grade and ended up on the math competition team. Math competition? Waste of a spot for a kid who should be writing books. His little brother went through the full Test Prep Math program (4th edition, the one with almost no mistakes) and never scored as low as 99% in any year. Was I right? There are kids who went though 8 years of Kumon and scored higher on the SAT during 8th grade. But my kids learned trig and calculus in just a few sittings. Plus we spent 0 dollars on math and 0 dollars on test prep for high school and 0 time driving to math programs. So there.

The bottom line

My parting advice is to stay focused on the next step and not to worry about grades and test scores until they count. Every child has gaps and weaknesses, such as reluctance to read, need for exercise or social skills or music. If you're going to be at the top of the academic heap, you'll be doing a little bit of extra work every day at home. Focus this work on the next step and the gaps.