Friday, April 30, 2010

In Third Grade all Kids Go to Princeton

This post will be somewhat different. This post will be ranty. Ranty (word? no?) and possibly disorganized. If you follow me on Twitter then this will not be new to you. OK then.

I am on the board of a local parent group that advocates for gifted education in our town. This has allowed me to gain a mountain full of information. It also allows me to be privy to knowledge before it is released to the public. Our district recently made some changes to gifted programs offered and our group was able to meet and hear about it first. We met with two higher up district education employees and were impressed with the changes that were being made. Towards the end of the meeting we started some small talk and she said something that made me want to leap out of my skin. She suggested that since we were in an affluent area that most of the children come into the system enriched already and that by third grade most children even out. E-v-e-n O-u-t.
Pause. Breath. OK. This concept or theory is not new to me and I have read this in different forms. I just couldn't believe that this woman who is pretty high up in our district buys into this way of thinking and is sharing it with a group of people who actually have gifted children.

I understand that children in this area are fortunate to have certain opportunities that will become part of who they are. I also understand that many can afford the many educational opportunities available as well. I can’t speak for the others but my child is not being drilled at home with workbooks or worksheets. We don’t do flashcards or number drills. He’s does not attend regular enrichment classes focused on school topics. Actually, I haven’t done anything with him this whole year and he still manages to be a top student surpassing others by years in reading and math. NATURALLY. Yes, naturally. I understand that some students are getting all these extra “pushes” or “help” but mine is not and to tell me that he is going to “even out” in third grade is just nutella nuts to me. I understand that some of the kids who were possibly struggling early on at this point may catch up to an acceptable level but to suggest that those who were higher to begin will slow down is well, like I said, nutella. Even if in the next few years he stays stagnant, he’ll still be two reading grades above.

This is not only my districts or even my states way of thinking about gifted children. As a country we tend not to recognize gifted children and offer them services until 3rd grade. This is mostly based on this “even out” theory. By not challenging our students at a younger age they start to tune out and by third grade some of these previous outstanding students lose interest and start to underachieve. So how about challenging my child until then? Why not demand more of his brain to counter this risk of him becoming an underachiever. How about educating teachers to proactively identify gifted children earlier. Also, give them the tools and freedom to do what they need to teach high achieving children. Demand the teachers not to let students who were at the top to drift to the middle. You can read a much better description of this “even out” theory Here.

Maybe I’m out of touch with this reality. Maybe this does happen but if my child becomes an underachiever in third grade, I might just go nutella on someone at that school.


  1. I totally agree. I don't know if I'd call my son "gifted" but he is super smart, beyond others his age and even though the teachers all see this about him, no effort is made. The underachievers get all the attention while the kids at the top are left to "even out". Not cool.

  2. Yes, the Gifted Fairy descends from above in 3rd grade to sprinkle Gifted Dust on the Chosen Few. gifted son is in 3rd grade and this has been the hardest year ever. He's struggling. A combination of twice-exceptional/ higher expectations with less support/boredom. We had him tested years ago and still couldn't get support from the school. A GT focus school, no less. And that 45 minutes once a week, you know, is alllll he needs. (banging head against the wall)
    Jen at Laughing at Chaos

  3. As a teacher, I never understood the whole 3rd grade thing (it was like that when I was in California). The answer I got from higher ups was that it had something to do with funding. Not a great answer at all. My current district includes all grades....not that we are offered any support. :(

  4. it just does not happen. gifted kids do not even out. i can not tell you how many times i have heard this in the 14 years of having a gifted kid so far...

    what can happen is that some of the less mature readers in the class ( traditionally boys ) start to catch up - which is a good and natural thing. so the gap within the classes can "seem" smaller than in the earlier grades. but it should have no reflection on the gifted kids.

    in our system, the written demands also jump in the third and fourth grades and some gifted kids begin to hit bumps if they are twice exceptional. which is much more common than you think. so a "gap" may happen for them...but they do not become ungifted, their needs change.

    identification in grade three just seems silly to me. official gifted designation happens in grade 4 in our system. even more ridiculous. the only thing that changes is that if you do not already have an IEP in place, this is the time it usually happens, which is a huge positive. it was for us. with our 2X kid, we continue to use the IEP and support it offers us in high school. not as a crutch, but as a means to ensure that our kid is getting the education he needs.

    our guy is 14 now and continues to grow in directions that are just not the norm.

    and teachers. god bless them. we have had great ones and not so great ones. the ones that are in touch with the needs of their students will challenge them appropriately, identification or not, gifted or challenged. we had some of the best teachers before our son ever had his IEP. they just "knew" he learned is the not so great teachers that need identifications to...encourage them to meet the needs of gifted ( and not gifted ) kids.

    we are often at odds with the system but continue to work within it to make sure the path to learning for our son remains positive. and when it does not work? we hope for a better year and try to limit the damage,lol.

  5. I think a lot of what people see as "evening out" is actually "dumbing down." That may not be the best term for it, but you know what I mean: they're not being challenged or stimulated enough so they start to abandon their efforts, their passion for learning, and become lackluster students. IF an "evening out" does occur it's only the fault of a failed gifted curriculum, not because a child suddenly becomes less advanced. That's such a crock!

  6. You might want to suggest that your, 'district higher up' watch this."
    There are some clear implications from this piece which was developed by the National Institute on Media and the Family.
    1)The experiences we provide for students affect the actual physical structure of their brains.
    2)All children’s brains, including adolescents’, are a work in progress capable of blossoming and pruning.
    3)If gifted students are working below their ability level and do not experience growth, they will have diminished dendrites and hence capablilites.
    4)All students, including gifted students, need activities that are challenging and provide for dendrite growth.

  7. One of the children I taught in my kindergarten class was gifted. I knew it, his parents knew it. Our school, being private, had so much freedom to take his giftedness and really work with him to enhance his learning.

    Instead, he was continually asked to be like everyone else. I was told to make him conform. No extra materials were provided for him.

    Not recognizing a gifted student early on, in my opinion, prevents them from a love of learning and sets them up for boredom all through school. Regardless of age, no giftedness should ever be overlooked until later on.

  8. Yes Jen, I think I even remember disagreeing with them at that same meeting! It's a totally untrue statement made by people who DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING about the gifted child. and made by people who do not want to take responsibility to make things better for gifted children. Yes now in third grade my daughter detests school because it's so boring. Fight fight fight, just keep fighting. Kari

  9. Meh. Cathy and Rita already said what i would have chimed in with. I'll have to watch your blog more closely so I can be first next time!

  10. Amen sista...Love this post, rant and all.

  11. This has always been lazy thinking. It's also lazy thinking to think you can teach all kids the same thing as the gifted students will just "pull up" the slower kids. It's why I ended up doing my teacher's job for most of fourth grade.

  12. I sooo agree with you.

    *Just found you through Twitter #FF by the way*

    My daughter is gifted and has had excellent teachers through the years. When I entered her in Kindergarten 4 years ago I was surprised that they didn't have special programs for the younger kids. We've since moved and she transferred schools in 1st. They tested all the students at the beginning of the 1st grade, told the parents who would be eligible for the gifted program for the 2nd grade. I did a lot with her when she was younger, but not now. She's naturally gifted just like your son. She keeps progressing because of her desire to learn - she doesn't slow down at all! Crazyness...

    Oh and her gifted program is 2 hours a day - 1 day a week, so it's not that much more than what the kids that aren't in the program get. I don't understand that either...

  13. My daughter hasn't reached grade school yet. I'm know a world of frustration will probably come when she does. At the school she is currently at she tends to gravitate towards adults and older children. Because she can have conversations with them. She's one of those three year olds you can easily forget is three because she is having a full blown conversation with you about parasites, etc. Unfortunetly she tends to pick up habits that the other kids in her class display in a sense to fit in. I tell her you can speak normally you don't have to speak like the other kids in your class. But, anyway enough of my crud, excellent rant. I am also here because of Twitter and I'm glad that I am.

  14. Also found you through #FF on Twitter...
    But have to say that my kindergarten-age daughter is performing above the other kids in her class...and has been put in a "separate" group for reading and math (akin to solitary confinement) that does not challenge her, but instead makes her feel like a freak.

    I'm concerned that she will try to conform now to avoid this "separation" from happening again.

    I can only imagine what happens in grades above kinder. Seems like there are much better ways to meet our kids' needs and continue to keep them challenged without expecting them to be like everyone else or cloistering them.

  15. Humm...I was in gifted and started in second grade. The third grade thing doesn't make sense to me either. Neither does the evening out thing.

    And San Diego Momma, my gifted class met once a week and we were taken out of our current class for half a day and put in the gifted class. I never wanted to avoid the separation, but instead looked forward to it every week. Maybe your daughter will do the same.