Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frustratingly Misleading Piece on GATE in "Ed Week"

EdWeek.org has an article on a forthcoming book on giftedness to be published in January by the American Psychological Association entitled The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Lifespan. I found the EdWeek article interesting, but very frustrating because it perpetuates the myth of "evening out" in the 3rd grade.

Here are some excerpts:
"Academic talents can wax and wane, the latest thinking goes, meaning that a child who clearly outpaces his or her peers academically at age 8 can end up solidly in the middle of the pack by the end of high school."

That's confusing intellectual potential with academic results. IQ is remarkably stable over time after the age of about 6. But certainly there are plenty of gifted children who underachieve in school. An estimated 20% of high school dropouts are intellectually gifted. Many more manage to graduate from high school but without stellar academic records. As I've mentioned before on this blog, one of my brothers was like this.

The EdWeek article also quotes Randy Collins, the director of one of the best-known schools for the gifted in the U.S., Hunter College Elementary School in New York City. Hunter receives along the lines of 1800+ applications each year for a mere 48 kindergarten slots. Collins told EdWeek:
"Third grade is probably a better place to admit someone because assessments are more reliable at that age."
This is the same kind of nonsense I heard from the superintendent of our district when I questioned her why the district's GATE program did not start until 4th grade. Research has shown that while the highest IQ stability was found among those tested at age 6+, testing at age 4 (Hunter's current practice) results in only somewhat lower stability (median correlation of 0.72). That means nearly 3/4 of those tested as preschoolers will not see a significant change in IQ if they are retested later!

Yes, children who are "late bloomers" ought to have the chance to participate in GATE programs if they qualify at an older age. Schools like Hunter ought to take a certain number of additional children who did not initially qualify at about the 3rd or 4th grade. But that doesn't mean that educators should deny those who show signs of giftedness at an earlier age the chance for a properly challenging environment.

Most educators who will read this EdWeek article will presumably not be all that familiar with the literature on giftedness. It's really a shame, therefore, that the article perpetuates the "evening out" myth :-(


Kristina said...

Most schools do not have any gifted programs available before 3rd grade and no real difference in instruction until middle school. Even in middle school, it's usually just a slight difference.

What they're not getting is that by the time these children (the ones that really need gifted instruction-not just enrichment)reach 3rd grade, they're already feeling the effects of having to work way below their ability. As they move through the grades, it just gets worse. Eventually, they just don't care, anymore.

Thanks for the article.

DrS said...

"Academic talents can wax and wane, the latest thinking goes, meaning that a child who clearly outpaces his or her peers academically at age 8 can end up solidly in the middle of the pack by the end of high school."

I think this is really a comment on the insipidity of most high school programs.

As a member of our college's admission's committee, I have to remind myself that high grades in high school are often more a result of diligence than of native intelligence. Aptitude tests are more reliable than grades.

prdmama said...

My SAT scores didn't qualify me for an engineering program at a state college. My GRE scores, on the other hand, qualified me for Mensa. What was the difference? My gifts were NURTURED in college in a way they had not been in K-12. But keep thinking inside the box, Crimson, and our schools will keep squandering the potential Feynmans among us.

Crimson Wife said...

Actually, plenty of people who qualify for MENSA wouldn't get admitted to an engineering program. One only needs a combined 1250 for MENSA but it would take a SAT-M score >700 to be competitive for a slot in an engineering program.

prdmama said...

Thanks for the clarification. My SAT-M score was quite a bit below 700, my GRE-M score was quite a bit above. When I took engineering classes anyway the department invited me. I graduated cum laude and went on for a graduate engineering degree.