Feb. 5th, 2009 03:43 pm
flea: (Default)
[personal profile] flea
Casper came home with a folder from the gifted program at her school. She has been recommended for evaluation by her teacher, and we had to sign a form authorizing their evaluation. I signed it, and we'll see.

I tend to take for granted Casper's strengths, which include being in general very bright and very verbal. She's also pretty creative, a storyteller, good at problem solving in some circumstances (on the other hand, *finding her shoes* is sometimes a challenge). On the couple of occasions she's been in research studies (which I've done for fun and geekiness - I can help science!) the students evaluating her have commented on her intellectual and verbal precocity and level of understanding, and they use standard metrics, so they should know.

On the other hand, she's five and a half and not yet reading (not that there's anything wrong with that, but it doesn't yell "gifted"), and we spent (well, mr. flea spent; I drank) a tearful 45 minutes with her last night practicing her sight-recognition words, most of which she would not or could not recognize. She does fine at her schoolwork, is performing at the expected levels for her grade (which, let's remember, is kindergarten, after all), but doesn't seem especially motivated to excel. She likes drawing and art generally, and likes the science special they have, but her level of motivation isn't shouting "gifted" to me either.

I've read the school district's official materials on the gifted program, and poked around a little at "gifted kid" stuff on the internet, but I don't have a lot of knowledge about gifted programs. I have heard anecdotally that in some districts "gifted" is code for "let's pull out the upper middle class kids from the poor" (often with added racial coding) and since we are in a heavily poor and minority school, and school district, this is a concern to me - I don;t want to play that way. Some of the big web sites on gifted children say you can't define gifted before the age of 8 or so; a lot of what is defined as gifted before then is precocity, and the other kids catch up. I took some IQ tests in elementary school (in a small town in rural Maine) and was sort of treated as a gifted child at school myself; though there was no formal gifted program, I was homeschooled half time one year, basically as a form of enrichment; they thought about skipping me a grade, but didn't, though I did have to learn the times tables really fast when they were talking about it, which sucked; and I did some special pull-out work at times. But once I was in a larger school district of high-achieving parents & kids I wasn't treated differently from anyone else; I don't know if they had a gifted program and I wasn't in it, or if it was just assumed that half the damn school was gifted (my guess would be the latter). So would Casper be gifted if we lived in Lexington, MA? Shouldn't defining gifted be less situational than that?

I guess I am feeling mixed about this. Pleased, but also no big deal, but also skeptical. We'll see, and presumably we'll meet with the gifted coordinator if she indeed tests out gifted.

Date: 2009-02-05 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Definitions of "gifted" vary hugely -- basically, each school district can define it however they want to. I've worked a few summers at a program for gifted kids where the identification is to first take the kids scoring at 97th percentile or above on the regular standardized tests, and give them a test designed for kids several years older and take the kids who score above a certain level on that one. (For seventh graders, the cutoff is somewhere around 520 on either section of the SAT, which is a little bit above the average for high school seniors.) Some school districts say that anyone who scores above the 90th percentile on the regular standardized test is gifted. (There have been reports of some suburban districts around here where 60% of the students are labeled gifted.)

In my mind, and based on my experiences at that summer program and from what I learned from the various education specialist people there (the counselor for the kids, who I talked to a lot because I had a few students who were having problems, was working on her masters in gifted education, and I had a bunch of discussions about this stuff with her), the basic point of gifted education should be to provide services to kids who either can't learn or aren't learning too well in the regular classroom. There are lots of characteristics of how gifted kids tend to learn that just don't mesh well with the usual classroom setting. My general feeling is that, if things in the regular classroom are going well, then there's no real need to find something else.

It all depends on the kid and the school and the program, though, of course. Is it a pull-out program, or separate classes, or just a label?

Date: 2009-02-05 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, and from what I've seen, parents' perceptions of their kids' giftedness are frequently all over the place -- I think it's mostly that, your kid is your kid, so what your kid normally does is what seems "normal" for kids. At the summer program, I've had parents ask me, "Do you think my kid is ready for sixth grade math? Will it be too hard for him?" after the kid just finished the entire course of Algebra I, which is generally taught in eighth or ninth grade, in three weeks.

(Despite all the stereotypes of pushy parents of gifted kids, I only ever encountered one, in the fifty or so kids I taught. Far more common were the parents who really weren't sure that their kids were actually as gifted as their test scores said they were.)

Date: 2009-02-05 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think at this age it's pull-out each day. It's not entirely clear from the info I have right now.

Date: 2009-02-05 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As a person who tested at the high ends of gifted, I can assure you gifted != motivated.

Date: 2009-02-05 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, according to our state-legislated definition, motivation is a component, along with ability, creativity, and leadership! You can test into the program in one or more areas. It is all-inclusive giftedness around here.

Date: 2009-02-06 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Their standards appear well-meaning, but kind of dumb.

I had culture shock when I moved from gifted ed, which was 3-6th in my district, to Honors in middle school. The kids who did well in honors were the motivated ones who were good at coloring in the lines. Then when we hit IB in high school, those were the same kids who couldn't handle it. Different learning styles. Unless the practice is different from what it sound like on paper, that seems like a recipe for learning style disasters.

(I was actually kicked out of middle school honors classes. I weaseled back in in high school.)

Date: 2009-02-05 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*laughing* Indeed, most of the adults in my family are eligible to join Mensa, and I can't help but notice that it doesn't keep them from behaving as though they haven't got the good sense God gave a guppy, much of the time.

I don't think being motivated has a whole lot to do with giftedness; rather the opposite. Most of the gifted people I know are...selectively motivated.

And yes, there are various weird socioeconomic things around the ways "giftedness" is dealt with in schools, which weird that it's hard to sort through what's actually going on.

Date: 2009-02-05 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As I said to min: "Eligibility criteria for placement in this program are determined by the State of Georgia Board of Education. Students are evaluated in the areas of Mental Ability, Achievement, Creativity and Motivation." (!)

Date: 2009-02-05 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*laughing* Oh, it's good to know they have a standardized test for creativity, now....

(No, really. "Superior rating on a standardized scale of creativity characteristics." Bwah!)

Date: 2009-02-05 11:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You see my skepticism...

Date: 2009-02-05 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I certainly find myself skeptical about the state of Georgia's ability to write a coherent set of guidelines for what constitutes giftedness....

Date: 2009-02-05 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It may be like pornography that way.

Date: 2009-02-05 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oddly enough, I was just thinking, "Hmm, what do I use my former child prodigy powers for, anyway? Well, this afternoon, I've hung up laundry, started some seeds, and read pornographic fanfiction. Hrrm. Somehow I don't feel like I'm living up to my potential."

Date: 2009-02-06 12:02 am (UTC)
ext_12719: black and white engraving of a person who looks sort of like me (Default)
From: [identity profile]
"Not living up to her potential": the bane of my childhood report cards. (And yes, I was in gifted programs of one sort or another as a child...)

Date: 2009-02-06 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I'm about to go to the farm store and buy chicken feed, which seems pretty achievey. *GRIN*

Date: 2009-02-06 12:37 am (UTC)
ext_12719: black and white engraving of a person who looks sort of like me (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Better than I managed today. *g*

Date: 2009-02-06 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Me too. And I'm now in grad school for math, after coming very close to failing math from grades 7 through 10. Although my day today was spent napping and reading Lemony Snicket. And my day tomorrow will be spent first doing annoying medical stuff (physical therapy and then x-rays of my shoulder, which I partially dislocated a few months ago by getting my arms tangled in the straps of my backpack), and then cleaning my apartment so that when my parents come visit, it will be somewhere vaguely resembling presentable. I'm not sure where "ability to remove backpack from back" and "ability to maintain semblance of organization" fit into the giftedness scales.

Date: 2009-02-06 12:39 am (UTC)
ext_12719: black and white engraving of a person who looks sort of like me (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Somewhere in college I came to the realization that being smart didn't mean I had to do something stupendous. Or that I *had* to live up to my potential.

Now I am a contented substitute librarian (or would be, if I had more hours. damned economy.)

Date: 2009-02-06 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hah. I am SOOOO all about lack of motivation and failing to live up to my potential. And yet, I am well aware that I am wicked smaaht. (When I use the word "wicked" I feel the need to affect a Boston accent on the next word, pardon me).

If you don't put her in now, is it harder to put her in later? Sometimes they get pissy about it, so that's something to think about. But if not, then why bother, if she's not un-challenged/bored? If she is later, then get her tested and get her in.

Date: 2009-02-06 07:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's probably very different in the USA than in my part of the world, but still:

First, I think your reaction to all this is just great - you'll never tie her self-esteem or the way she sees herself strictly around how gifted and smart and doing-well-at-school she is. That's one of the first things that parents for gifted kids around here do, and for me, it's heartbreaking, because there's just so much more to the kid, you know?

Then again, I can see how being defined "gifted" is not about what she already knows or motivated to learn, but about how she approaches these questions and mysteries and figures them out. Knowledge can be gathered relatively easily, after all, but the techniques of describing something, making something new or figuring out how to solve something are much more difficult to assimilate, IMHO.

And finally, I think - again, the way it's done and/or should be done here - that programs for gifted children should vary according to the child's needs. Are they bored in school and seek the challenge or do they just enjoy the special-programs stuff? Do they need the extra challenges, and in what form? Do they need the new and different learning experience in order to acquire learning techniques and finding out how to cope with not-understanding-quickly the things explained to them (which is often the problem with gifted children, and prevents them from learning how to learn and develop good working methods, which makes studying anything that is not easy-for-them in later ages a really difficult talk)? Will it create social problems for them with the other kids (or will the damage outweigh the benefits)?

Um, all those questions aren't helping, right? Sorry.

Date: 2009-02-06 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
These are excellent questions, and include some I had not thought of. Thank you.

Date: 2009-02-06 12:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Our district doesn't actually have any specific enrichment for kids before third grade, but they do keep an eye on kids earlier. For parents, that means filling out forms for a few years before your kid is going to get pulled out anyway. So, wheee! Who doesn't love filling out forms?
Anyway, my third grader tested gifted in math. What he really likes, and does on his own, is language arts stuff.
Still not so hot on the "putting on shoes" thing.


Date: 2009-02-06 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
To add to your anecdotal evidence... My recollections of being in the gifted program in a small-town public elementary school was that I got to leave class and go learn cool things with other classmates who thought it was fun (rather than boring) to learn more stuff. Putting aside all of those admittedly thorny question about the process of selection for a moment (there were one or two African-Americans in the gifted program in my grade, if I recall correctly), for me, it was a good thing since it made school and learning more fun.

Still, kindergarten DOES seem a bit early to be pulling kids out into a gifted program.


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