Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Year's Growth Is Not Enough

At a recent professional development meeting of gifted coordinators, one of the attendees said something to the effect that, although each of us have different methods and strategies operating in our schools, we all had the same goal: a year's growth for each of our students.

I respectfully disagree. If we are setting our sights for gifted students on a year's growth, we are aiming too low. As I have written before, if average students can learn 10 things in a given amount of time, our gifted students should be able to learn 13 or more things in that amount of time. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but I believe that, as a goal, it should hold up pretty well.

In fact, I would assert that, if we are doing things right in our classrooms, the gap between the highly able students and the less able students should get larger and larger each year. It is fine to talk about getting rid of the gaps among various ethnic groups, the gaps among different socioeconomic classes, and gaps between genders, but it is different altogether when we talk about the gaps between students of different abilities. The only way to close that gap is to hold down the top, while boosting the bottom.

As educators interested in gifted students, we should aim for more than a year's growth every year and an increase of the gap between the achievement levels of average students and gifted students.

Of course, this brings us to the problem of assessment. In general, I would say we know very little about gifted students' levels of ability or the change in that ability from year to year. Most of the tests just don't go high enough for proper baselines. I see great potential in the use of computerized adaptive testing, but I must admit, I haven't had much direct experience with it.


  1. And since I teach children on the other end of the intellectual spectrum I would say a year of progress in one year might be too much for some. It depends on the child and their abilities as well as their engagement in learning.

  2. That helps make my point. We aren't all looking for a year's growth for every child. It is far too much for some; far too little for others. The problem is, at least as far as gifted education goes, that most people seem to think a year's growth is good, and it would be fantastic for those of limited ability, but too many people are satisfied with that for gifted students as well. But, for gifted students, it means that they aren't learning many of the skills they need for the times in their futures when they will need them: planning their work, budgeting their time, struggling against difficulties, perseverance, methods of learning difficult material, etc.

  3. ABSOLUTELY. When I went to college, from a nationally ranked hs, I NEVER had studied for anything and wrote papers at the very last minute. I never got anything less than an A in my life.

    In college, I struggled to do lack of study skills, perseverance etc.

    Not good.