"To minimize frustration, we focused my son on learning, not grades. If he could get a 100 on an exam without doing the homework, we believed his time was better spent doing another activity in which he actually learned something...My son received a C-plus in his chemistry class because he didn't do all of his assigned work and received zeros on many of the 18 assignments. The class didn't move fast enough to cover all of the material, so he did different work -- on his own -- and handed notes to his teacher and classmates to help them. He's the only student in the history of the school to get a 5 on the AP chemistry exam, but this type of result never gets fed back into the course grade."
Boy, does that remind me of my younger brother! He has an IQ that places him in the "highly gifted" range but just barely graduated high school. His grades were all over the place depending on whether he liked the subject and the particular teacher. He aced tests but rebelled against anything he considered to be "busywork". Whereas I hated all the stupid busywork but was willing to put up with it to get the "A", he refused to "play the game". He would rather take a low grade (even failing) than waste his time doing too-easy assignments. He did very well on the SAT's and was accepted to a specialized music college willing to overlook his uneven grades in favor of his musical talent. He excelled in a challenging audio technology and computer synthesis program that played into his strengths of math and music and is doing fine today.
The letter-writer regrets sending her son to a traditional government-run school and wishes that she'd homeschooled him. She writes:
"After paying considerable Virginia taxes for the past 36 years, I feel cheated that top Virginia state schools won't let him in because of his high school record. If he had been home-schooled, they'd have had to look at his same test grades and SAT subject test scores and let him in."
Her son is on track to graduate high school and has been accepted to college despite his lackluster GPA. Like my brother, he appears to come from a stable, middle-class family that values education. He'll presumably be able to overcome the underachievement of his secondary schooling years and go on to reasonable success as an adult.
A significant number of gifted kids are not so fortunate, however. An estimated 20% of high school dropouts have an IQ >120, even though only 10% of the population meets that cutoff. These gifted dropouts are disproportionately likely to be from low-income families. How many of them wind up using their talents in negative ways, such as crime? What is the cost to our society for our failure to help our brightest young minds reach their full potential?
Homeschooling is certainly an excellent option for gifted kids, but not all families are able or willing to homeschool. There need to be better educational opportunities for gifted students available in traditional schools. In many places, gifted students from families unable to afford the pricey tuitions for private GATE schools (our local one charges $23k per child per year for elementary) are plumb out of luck :-(