Hey America, Let’s Not Leave Our Gifted Kids Behind!

file1511236136264It’s like a scholastic Sophie’s Choice. Teachers today are forced to pick between the struggling student and the gifted student, with those stuck in the middle just going along for the ride. And you know who is getting the shaft? The smarty-pants students. Instead of shepherding these bright minds down the road to greatness, teachers are incorrectly labeling them self-sufficient.

With the implementation of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, teachers are now giving low-performing students more attention and energy than those who consistently excel. This isn’t just a problem for high-performing students and their parents, it is concerning for our country as a whole.

Newsweek posted an article with the attention-grabbing headline, “America Hates Its Gifted Kids.” Hate is a strong word, so I would rephrase the title to say: “America Doesn’t Think Gifted Kids Need Help,” but you know, they do. I would even say that they need as much help, if not more, than struggling students.

“Gifted children are a precious human-capital resource,” said David Lubinski, a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University. These kids are “future creators of modern culture and leaders in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].”

Every time a bright, gifted child complains that he is bored or ignored in class, it’s a missed opportunity. These promising kids lose interest in school at a critical time when they should be gaining momentum. To borrow from the 42-year-old iconic ad campaign from the United Negro College Fund, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

When you compare America’s education system and test scores to other countries, the results are incredibly disheartening. To see improvements, shouldn’t we invest more time, effort, and resources into the best and the brightest? The kids who have the potential to cure cancer, invent the next big thing, or become president surely deserve our attention, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any child “left behind,” but it seems that something needs to change, and drastically, so the ones who were born to lead don’t fall behind, too. Maybe the answer is as simple as grouping children not by their chronological age, but by their abilities instead. Newsweek describes this concept as “a gifted 9-year-old [sharing] a geometry class with high school freshmen. A 15-year-old [hitting] the advanced placement ceiling at his high school, and [heading] over to the local community college to take classes.”

Perhaps the solution comes with “personalizing an individual’s education.” A child may excel in math, but might struggle in English, so his classes could reflect that inconsistency. He would attend a higher level math class and an English class better suited to his skill set. His classes would be a mixture of ages, not a mixture of abilities, so the teacher could educate the students evenly.

This idea has been floating around for decades, with some school districts making it a reality. In Kansas City, schools embrace this concept, with advocates saying that “the approach cuts down on discipline problems because advanced students aren’t bored, and struggling students aren’t frustrated.”

None of our children should be left behind. Something needs to be done, and soon, to not only help struggling students improve, but to give gifted children with the potential for greatness the tools they need to succeed, too.

 

Photo Source: MorgueFiles

 

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