Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gifted in Kindergarten? My Blunt Opinion!

I just watched this episode of Nightline that aired from April 13th called Cramming for 'Gifted' Kindergarten Test.  I wanted to share it because it is VERY interesting (and it sort of hits a cord with me.)


I have posted responses, deleted them, rewrote them, deleted them.  I just don't know where to start with this.  So here is a few things that I want to say.  Then hopefully you will comment your view or comments.  
  • Just because you teach your toddler to read does not make them gifted.  Gifted by definition is the ability to reason differently than the other children, NOT the ability to memorize letter sounds or apply reading rules.   Many parents can teach their children to read prior to kindergarten, if they take the time and the effort to do so.  Although it is an indicator of giftedness, it is not a guarantee that your child is truly gifted.  Boy would I love to see some research done on this, the relationship of early reading to actual giftedness long term. 
  • In many schools gifted just means they go to a pull out program for a small amount of the week.  A great teacher will differentiate and move all kids 1 years growth. (I am not against them going if they are truly gifted.)  Yes, I admit, this is harder with children who are above grade level but it is a necessity of your job as a teacher.  It has been commented in several places that this type of labeling allows teachers to write off students because they are getting their services elsewhere.  I personally don't operate this way and I really feel that the push towards accountability will eliminate this as all kids are now being required to show one grade level growth (not just passing that years curriculum.)  But I am sure this viewpoint is out there as I have seen many crazy teachers over the years!
  • I have a problem with parents spending thousands and thousands of dollars (or even a dollar) for test prep at the age of 4!  That is just absurd!  Face it people, your children did not make it in because they are not gifted NOT because they did not prep enough!  You are teaching your children how to take the test and skewing their results.   The fact that these kids are making it into this school with test prep proves that this test is not testing gifted ability but the ability to train a human to perform a task.  The fact that they can go back and retake the test proves that the state does not really think it tests gifted ability, afterall, how can they be gifted this month but not the next?  I understand your desire to want the best for your children, but if your child is truly gifted they should be able to pass the test without intensive test prep! I don't blame you for doing this for your children, I blame the state for allowing a test at the age of 4 to determine opportunities to your students through high school!  I completely agree with the clip that of course any student who gets that type of education will shine as I am sure not all schools in NY have that great facilities or that well trained of teachers.  Just saying! 
  • I personally feel that putting this much pressure on little learners is not healthy and you are doing more harm for your kids than you think.  I even quit a job over it!  If you have followed me for awhile you would know that this year I quit and moved to a district that does not do rigorous testing for little learners.  At my previous job we gave our kinders a 60+ multiple choice test each quarter that by midyear had the full years worth of standards on it.  Third and fourth quarter had first grade skills on it.  And if the kids passed the test with an 80% or better they got to go to a party... cookie decorating, dancing, popsicle, or other fun stuff like that and they knew what they were working towards upfront.  It just felt so wrong... you are smart so you get a cookie, but you missed it by one point so I am sorry you don't get a cookie.  Of course I did not spin it like that to the kids but kids are smart social beings who get it!  Goodness, I had one student who went from like a 34% to a 78% and did not get to celebrate with her peers!  Just wrong and I was told that yes we can celebrate her in class but when it come time to line up at the door she did not get to go.  (I celebrated with her with a special Happy Meal that same day but at the expense of frowns from other teachers and administration I am sure!)  No matter how stress-free we try to make high stakes testing to 5 year olds, it is stressful and I genuinely believe at that age the kids don't understand the relationship of the answers they choose and the scores they produce.  They just want a cookie (or in this case to please their parents.)
  • We all look at our kids with rose colored glasses.  I personally don't think my son is gifted but he definitely has some characteristics of checklists you find on the internet for giftedness but does that mean he is gifted, no!  This is actually one of my biggest pet peeves personally and professionally.  I think people in general need to be more real about their children academically (and socially for that matter.)  Maybe it's the kinder teacher in me to be able to step back.  The video alone proves this theory!  The woman who decided that she did not want her child tested because she had all these interventions and they did not make a difference.  They did not make a difference because your child is not gifted and yet she still says 'how can this be?'  Take the glasses off and see your child for the amazing young lady she is!!!

I originally was going to post with actually research and data but the truth of the matter is that you can find research that goes both ways!  So I just rambled.  Sorry... please ramble below if you have anything you want to share!  

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14 comments:

  1. As a former kinder teacher with GT certification as well, I agree! :) Although there are a few students who OBVIOUSLY show the characteristics of GT at that age, pushing students that young to "qualify" through testing is absurd! This is the age they should be learning to LOVE learning!! Not to study for a test!
    Thanks for posting!
    -Lacey
    Wild about Teaching!

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  2. Jennifer, I completely agree with you. Personally, I feel labeling a child gifted in Kinder is a waste of time in some ways. At 5, it is hard to say how many kids are above where they should be because their parents spend a lot of time broadening their horizons by taking them to museums, theatre, etc. At my school, we don't have a big gifted program and a lot of times even if the children are labeled they are lucky if they get 1 hr a month doing extra things that the teacher hasn't differentiated. Yes, differentiating is hard and makes some kids feel inferior, but it does have to be done. I can't believe that parents would spend thousands of dollars for tutors when they can do it themselves if they just did some research. I could go on and on about this also, but I'm going to stop here.

    Another question, I have loved following you, but have recently learned that I am moving down to Pre-k. Do you know of any great pre-k teacher bloggers that I can also follow to get terrific ideas from since this will be completely new to me? Thank you for helping.

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  3. I was actually in the gifted program growing up, and I couldn't agree with this post more!! So many parents are so competitive, wanting their children in gifted, that they don't even take the time to enjoy the talents their children have! I had one child who didn't make it in kindergarten, so her mother (a teacher!!) had them retest her in 1st. She still didn't make it, so the whole summer she prepped her and she made a qualifying score to get in when she was in 2nd grade. Is this child truly gifted? No. I taught her, so I know she was smart, but she wasn't gifted. I wish parents could understand that your child can be smart, but not be "gifted."
    Vickie

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  4. I love your opinion! We have all sat with the parents of "gifted" k 's. My "gifted" one this year is socially immature. She also can only read books that she has practiced. Her parents do the old "kill and drill" help at home.

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  5. and to reply to Vickie's post, just because your child is gifted, does not make them smart!! Or book smart that is!!

    My son taught HIMSELF his letter sounds and how to read at the age of 3. I had NO IDEA he even knew how to read until we went to a restaurant one time and he asked what a reuben was!!! Anyway, he has always had a very broad vocabulary, but we attributed it to the fact that he had an older sister, and we never did the whole "baby talk" thing. His favorite thing to say at 3 was "well, actually..." Anyway, he was tested in grade 2 WITHOUT my consent (sore subject) and put into a special gifted class. My son has always struggled with social skills, and fine motor control. As it turns out, he is on the autistic spectrum, and is dyspraxic. YES, he is gifted, BUT, it does NOT mean that he is naturally smart, and he actually does not care for school. In the gifted program, the students were given MORE work, not HARDER work, and I really think that this turned him off of learning for fun. He is now in high school, and he does just enough to get by. He doesn't need to study as much as others, but he is not the most studious child. My psychologist said that just because you are gifted does NOT mean that you will be a straight A student!! I love my son for who he is, and how he puts others feelings above his own. NOT because he is smart in school!!!

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    1. Michelle, thank you for sharing your experience. I had never thought of it in the reverse way myself either. I think that when people in general think of gifted they think of learning easily and or being super smart. You do prove my point exactly... gifted testing is not necessarily something you can prepare your children for. I guess in reflecting, it's just the same as every child who is hyper is not ADD!

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  6. Some districts in our state wait until third grade to place students in a gifted program. That seems more appropriate.

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  7. Testing children at age 4 for giftedness is just plain wrong. In my opinion. There are many ways to broaden or deepen learning without testing and pullout classes. And in 20+ years of teaching, I have not noticed a correlation between early reading and giftedness. Many of my students who later tested as "gifted" were not early readers, but definitely thought differently, asked different questions, were concerned about different things than most of their classmates. Oh, I could go on and on ... but I won't.
    I found your very interesting blog through TBTS and am your newest follower.

    sandi
    rubber boots and elf shoes

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  8. I agree with you! Many "gifted programs" means getting pulled out one hour a week - seriously? Like that's supposed to fix anything! My son is (mostly) in kindergarten (he's taking some 1st grade classes bc he was hindering the rest of class who was learning how to read by reading it all for them - hah!) and although I know he is highly gifted, I as a parent could care less about the label. Why even bother? Should I really pay thousands of dollars to get the school to label him for a pull out program? Psh! I'm more worried about him succeeding in school through his differences and not hating it! Getting him to actually do any work is like pulling teeth! By 11 months old he had the vocabulary and sentence structure of a 3 year old. He completely taught himself to read by the age of 3 and now he is reading on a 3rd grade level. I never had to teach him his letters, phonics, or how to sound out words. I don't need a test to tell me he's gifted! In a way I got off easy because I never have to work with him! All that to say that as a parent of a gifted child I'm not joining the masses for some elite status that cost thousands of dollars and will give my son an ego trip. I think he's got that covered! His ability will speak for itself in a school setting. I'm fighting for my son to be well-rounded, capable to handle a variety of settings and strive for him to stay interested in academic learning. Yes, that may mean that he needs to be in a different grade level or as he gets older a different academic setting - but it will be for HIM, not in the name of a label.

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  9. I am a school psychologist and parent of a gifted four year old. I knew my child was gifted when she was just an infant. I will not go into the specifics as to why or how I knew, but at the time I was amazed and totally freaked out by her all at the same time. Now while I agree completely with many of the points you make in the above post (prepping for an intelligence test negates the validity of the test and only sets the prepped children up for failure), I do not agree that testing a child at a young age for giftedness is wrong or a waste of time. If that were true, then testing a 4-5 year old that has special needs would be just as wrong and/or waste of time. A child who is truly gifted is just like a child with a learning disability. They both think differently and require adjustments to the way they are taught in order for them to learn effectively and to the best of their abilities.

    My comment only pertains to truly gifted children. Not prepped children, not children whose parents drilled them with flashcards when they were toddlers. Truly gifted children are born that way.

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    1. I don't believe I ever said it was a waste of time. As a matter of fact, I was just talking to our gifted teacher today about how I felt more kids should be tested because we as teachers are not really trained to look or who is gifted and often just refer kids who are the smartest.

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    2. The point I was trying to make is just because your child loves learning and you work with them everyday and they catch onto things quickly does not mean they are gifted. And yet more and more parents these days want to say "oh my child is gifted" because they are above grade level or I am "not engaging" them and so they are behavior problems. I never said it was a waste of time. :-)

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  10. I was in the gifted program myself. In my opinion, I think that every child is gifted. Every child is unique in their own way. The person who wrote this said "gifted is the ability to reason differently than every other child." Well, unless you have several children in the classroom who had been drilled reasoning and logic skills since birth, I'm sure that every child could reason through a situation differently than another child. For instance, you can give a child a math problem, and the way they solve that problem could be different than another but they still get the same answer. Or they may get the wrong answer, but in their mind, they have a reason behind it.

    I do believe that grades do not indicate a child's gifted-ness. This is because every child has a different learning style. Every child has different interests. One child may be more interested in history and want to read books on history and go to museums or reenactments, but you stick them in a classroom environment to where they have to do math or science and they are miserable.

    I personally hated school. I made good grades (because I was forced to), but I LOVED going to gifted class because I was able to CHOOSE what I wanted to learn/study/research and do my projects on rather than sit in a classroom learning something that I was FORCED to learn about.

    As far as "social skills" I think that should be on the bottom of the list of concerns for kids to learn. It's perfectly fine if a child wants to be reserved and quiet with no friends. I'm like that. There are different personality traits and introverterness is just a part of that. Some of the smartest and greatest LEADERS are introverted.

    I'm just saying, I think every child is unique. Every child is gifted. I think the school curriculum should push children towards being individuals and unique and teaching them critical thinking skills rather than teaching them to conform to a set of guidelines and making them pass a standardized tests and teaching them they have to act and think one way in order to make it to the next grade. I think more kids would love to learn if they knew that they didn't have to memorize a list of information and was just able to learn what they were actually interested in.

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