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.


  1. I have been following your blog for years; even the times you thought only bots were coming to it- nope it was me. I printed out your pattern cards ( the ones with the animal patterns);read your blog; and followed many of your ideas-but I never commented once. I implemented 1)read to 2)two years ahead math 3)thinking skills book 4)extreme patience 5)heavy parent involvement. I however did explain most of the math concepts to my child My oldest entered the gifted program. So thank you for being a silent partner in my child's education.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I once told this to parents who came before me. My oldest is now entering gifted high school. I explained a lot too. Right now my 5th grader is starting SAT test prep which will be our curriculum for the next 2 years until they get to do functions and algebra in middle school. You can follow the pain on Hopefully I'll publish the March issue today.

    2. This is me norwood. Blogger is calling me Unknown.

  2. First, thank you so much for taking the time to create this blog. I've read it for a few years. You seem to be quite the expert, so I will ask you b/c I'm at a loss for this one... I've been searching for a *fun* way to help prep my son for the Figure Analogies & Figure Classifications sections. I've figured out toys & fun books for the other sections to keep his attention, but not these. He just won't pay attention to choose the right answer. He's 7. Any toys or fun activities you would suggest? Again, thank you SO much for all the time you've put into this.

    1. If someone knows a fun way, please tell me. The first few weeks of picking apart a question can take 45 minutes per question. I've outlasted all kids so far. We don't move on until they can prove their answer. Eventually the work becomes more pleasant, bit with stubborn kids, you have to wait at the table a long time before they try. Then you can do a few more questions and work your way up to 5 in one long sitting. They do the work, they prove it, they correct mistakes, and after behavior modification necessary by the parent, it's very productive some day.

  3. I just wanted to thank you for your response. I was slow to check in again. Now that school has started, it's back to prep. I was afraid your response would be something like that, but I value your honesty!

  4. Im homeschooling.... cane scross this and wish there was a curriculum for fummies i could simply follow. I gave a 4 and 5 year old

    1. In many ways, this entire blog, all 500+ articles (most of which I removed to help readers focus) is Gifted and Talented for dummies. It just happens magically when the parent and child work through the material. I think my own IQ went up 30 points over the years and I'm still learning.