Just sharing a few myths and questions — quiz yourself on how much you know about gifted education!
All children are gifted.
MYTH: While all children do have areas of strength, as NAGC explains, "not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word. High-ability learners in one or more subjects (including the arts) require more than their age or grade curriculum in order to be challenged and learn new material at their own pace." Just as not all children are extraordinary performers at basketball or piano, not all children are equally academically able.
Won't gifted children be just fine in a regular, mixed-ability classroom?
High-ability learners need very different things from school from their non-gifted peers: they have much more interest in learning about subjects in depth, to even an expert level; in working at a faster pace; and in getting more challenges in their learning environments. Gifted students who are not appropriately challenged can become disengaged from their education, which may result in frustration, depression, anxiety, and/or underachievement that can be very difficult to reverse.
Is acceleration harmful to the social development of gifted students?
Gifted children may feel out of place, bored, or unhappy with children their own age, and placing a child with intellectual peers (who may be older) can benefit these children in many ways. Additionally, although we often use it as shorthand for whole-grade "skipping," there are 18 different kinds of acceleration, not just one. Decades of research have shown again and again that students who are accelerated are generally happier and achieve more academically than their non-accelerated peers.
Gifted education programs are elitist.
MYTH: Gifted does not mean "better" or "worse," it just means different. According to NAGC, "with no federal money and few states providing an adequate funding stream, most gifted education programs and services are dependent solely on local funds and parent demand. This means that, in spite of the need, higher-income school districts are often the only ones able to provide services—giving the appearance of elitism."
Gifted children only seem so far ahead of their peers because their parents are pushing them.
MYTH: Gifted children are, indeed, often substantially ahead of their peers, but not because their parents are forcing them to study and learn. Rather, gifted students are often dragging their parents along while they seek out the challenges their very hungry brains demand. If parents of gifted students seem pushy, it is perhaps because they often have to advocate so fiercely for schools to meet their children's needs.
Won't all children "level out" by the 4th grade, anyway?
All students deserve to learn something new every day. In other domains, society understands that a "leveling out" effect is clearly an undesirable result: imagine a child who has music lessons every week from 1st to 4th grade. If her skills are not markedly more advanced after 3 years, her parents would (rightfully) be furious! The same holds true in education: children who are gifted deserve to be able to grow just like their non-gifted peers.
Further Reading on Myths in Gifted Education
- National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC): Dispelling the Myths about Gifted Education
- A Davidson Institute interview with Robert A. Schultz, Ph.D., on The Myths of Giftedness
- The 2e Student: Damaging Myths, by Michael Postma, Ph.D.
- The Emotional Cost of Prevailing Myths about the Gifted by Steven I. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.
- Read other posts on this topic from our blog: Are You a Gifted Myth Buster?, What in the World is a Gifted Underachiever?, Why is Acceleration Still So Controversial?, and The Myth that Hurts Gifted Learners.
- A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, by Nicholas Colangelo, Susan G. Assouline, and Miraca U. M. Gross, presents research supporting the academic acceleration of gifted students. Its success led to the creation of the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration.