“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ronald E. Osborn
For the past several years, our national focus has been on establishing and meeting a minimum level of competency for schoolchildren. While this is important, this policy neglects an entire segment of children falling through the cracks. Without being given the right instruction and setting, thousands of gifted children may go through school without learning anything new.
Gifted and high ability learners have intellectual, social, and emotional needs that are simply not met in standard classroom environments or typical pull-out programs.
- Gifted students may score two or more standard deviations above the norm on intelligence tests.
- They may be able to perform several grade levels above their chronological age cohort.
- They may consistently get perfect or near-perfect scores on tests, even when they don’t seem to have studied much.
- Or, they may not finish their assignments, saying it was too boring or they already knew the answers.
- They may complain about being bored in class, and even ask not to have to go to school.
- They may also experience asynchronous development, meaning one or more of their areas of ability outpace others. For instance, a student may be three grade levels ahead in math but on grade level for reading.
- Teachers may say that they are a distraction, because they finish their work too quickly or aren’t paying attention in class.
- They may spend too much time on an assignment, going far more in-depth than required to the neglect of other work.
- Gifted students often have common social-emotional struggles that may be unsupported in a typical school setting: perfectionism, anxiety, and/or over-excitability or sensitivity in a variety of areas.
- Gifted students may have difficult finding true peers, connecting with classmates, and generally fitting in.
Decades of research and classroom experience have made clear that such children require differentiated, enriched educational programming to have the best opportunity to reach their full potential. One commonly-accepted myth is that because of their abilities, gifted children are fine learning on their own, but the truth is that highly gifted children need more from school, not less. When surveyed, gifted students report much more interest than their peers in learning about subjects in-depth, to even an expert level; working at a faster pace; and getting more challenges in their learning environments.
Without truly individualized learning, on the other hand, gifted children restricted to standard, non-enriched learning programs display measurable underachievement in school relative to their gifted peers in enriched classrooms and, without needed guidance and support, are more prone to misdirection and poor decision-making, acting out or withdrawing from certain classroom activities.
“As a parent, I know my children’s needs are not being fully addressed from the constraints of their district’s gifted program, which meets only one time a week for 45 minutes.” – Main Line parent of a gifted 4th grader
While public, private and parochial, and charter schools may offer some services for high-ability learners, it is very uncommon to find an opportunity for students to experience gifted instruction all day long. Gifted children need an education that will meet their individual intellectual capabilities, and allow them to move at their own accelerated pace and level of instruction across all subjects—even when their abilities vary from subject to subject.
At the same time, gifted children don’t just have academic needs; they also frequently have social-emotional needs that may not be addressed in a regular education setting. The Grayson School aims to meet the needs of gifted children across the board–academically, socially, and emotionally. With small classes in a brick-and-mortar setting with academically-advanced peers, highly trained staff, and learning plans tailored to each child’s strengths and needs, gifted children will finally be given the chance to be challenged and supported the way they deserve to be.