Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Social Economics of Giftedness

There's another article on gifted education in today's New York Times, this one citing an overwhelming difference between the number of students admitted to gifted programs in New York City public schools from wealthy districts and poverty-stricken districts. Nearly 40 percent of those admitted for next year came from the four wealthiest districts, while those in 14 districts with a poverty rate of 75 percent or more, accounting for more than 1/2 of total enrollment, account for only 14.6 percent of those admitted to gifted programs for 08/09. Read more here.

This kind of data is alarming, but not surprising. The article places the blame on the reliance on early childhood testing, which is very much affected by home environment and parental education/experience. The question is, what alternatives are there that would better encourage early intervention for gifted students of poverty-stricken households? Talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Child Left Behind

An article by Sam Dillon in today's New York Times cites a study that supports something many parents of gifted students have suspected for a long time: since the onset of No Child Left Behind, low-achieving students are improving at the expense of high achieving students. Click the link above to read it for yourself.

I was very happy to see this article in today's paper. Not that I'm happy with the findings, but it's nice to see something that looks like proof of a situation that parents and teachers of gifted kids have been talking about for years. I think the philosophy behind No Child Left Behind is admirable -- bring up the performance of poor and minority students who have not been treated fairly by the system. That absolutely needed to be done and I'm glad that it seems to be working, at least according to this study. But why does someone always need to be left out? When No Child Left Behind was enacted, Illinois (and probably other places as well), drastically cut funding to gifted programs because they needed the cash for federally mandated programs to help the lower end of the spectrum. How could higher performing students not suffer? This is, to me, yet another indication that more advocacy is needed at all levels. Advocacy for gifted kids in their own schools to get them the curriculum they need; advocacy at the level of the school system to get working programs in place; advocacy at the state level for funding for gifted kids; and advocacy at the federal level to get new educational laws passed that help all children, not just some of them. Don't lose the ground we've gained with the lower performers, but it's time to bring the higher performers up to speed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

After Seuss

If you look over there to the right, you will see a new widget for the AJ's Clubhouse goodreads account. A while ago, clubhouse contributorfreshhell and I were discussing the challenges of finding good books for kids with advanced reading and comprehension skills. AJ outgrew the text of picture books ages ago, but he still loves the pictures. He loves long chapter books, but the themes of many of them go over his head, because they're designed for older kids. So we started thinking about what were the best books for our kids. Because our kids are still young, we focused on books for intelligent 5-8 year-olds, or as freshhell has put it, "what to do when they outgrow Dr. Seuss." We made separate lists (which were frighteningly similar) and solicited ideas from other friends and readers. Freshhell is now in the process of publishing that list as a goodreads bookshelf. This list is a composite of our findings. Some of the books are good for early readers to read to themselves. Others might be better to read out loud now and maybe read independently when they are a little older. All of them are great books that are worth reading, no matter who you are. This list is primarily fiction. I hope eventually to add non-fiction as well and will probably have some posts on individual topic areas here as we we add to the general list.

We hope you will check it out and that you will find the list helpful and interesting. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know. But please keep in mind that the list will take a little while to be up in full. Freshhell's typing as fast as she can!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Welcome, Jeanne!

You may have noticed a new name in the contributors column on the right. Jeanne has joined freshhell and I as contributors to this blog. She's working on a couple of posts for later this summer. In the mean time, you can read what she has to say at her blog, Necromancy Never Pays. Welcome, Jeanne!

If you would like to be a contributor to this blog, you may contact me at harri3tspyATgmailDOTcom.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Onward and Upward

Today was AJ's last day of first grade. Among the million and one papers that came home were the results of the school administered standardized testing. He got every question on all the exams right. AJ and I are both sad to be leaving his teacher. We went back into the school to find her after the final bell and thanked her for all she had done (we also each made her a thank you card because I think these things are always good to put in writing). I told her about my meeting with the gifted teacher a couple of weeks ago and about how we were planning an education team meeting in the fall with AJ's new teacher and the gifted teacher and us. Mrs. M. volunteered to join us. I was thrilled. I had wanted to ask her, but had decided not to because she will be on maternity leave. Things are definitely looking up for next year. You can read a fuller account of today's events at spynotes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Big Science (yodeleheehoo)

I am not familiar with Brian Greene or his work, but his Op Ed piece in today's New York Times really hit home for me, so much so that I could have written it myself.

I am no scientist. My own work is firmly ensconced in the humanities. I haven't studied science since my freshman year in college when I sat in the back of a large biology course trying to figure out why everyone else was freaking out only to realize that I had wandered into a premed section. But I think the big questions in science are incredibly cool. I've been known to read books about physics for fun (although admittedly not since embarking on a dissertation). But unfortunately, a lot of us never get around to the big questions, because our educational systems think the small questions need to come first.

I'm not saying that the smaller questions, the details, aren't important. But doesn't it make sense to get people excited about science first and follow up on the details later? Because if you do it the other way around, they may never want to follow up. But if you start with big science, you can wow them. It's exciting. It's an adventure. It's philosophy and religion and history and art and poetry all rolled into one.

I feel the same way about math too. It's why I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day working on problems in base 2 for AJ to solve. It's why we celebrated Pi day on March 14. It's why we draw fractal trees in our crayon forests. Just because we can't grasp the details doesn't mean we can't grasp the general idea. If AJ learns to love the general idea, then eventually he will seek out the details on his own. That's my philosophy and I'm sticking to it. It seems to be working so far.