Friday, June 27, 2014

Common Core Standards and Gifted Education

It has been a year of growth and development as my children's school struggled to implement the CCSS using the NY state provided modules in ELA (and math, but my youngest to be advanced enough to be lucky enough to be a year ahead of the roll out for high school subjects). As I predicted, the modules were implemented slowly with little regard to my daughter's skills. The English teacher refused to differentiate the lessons because they were "challenging to her," a misunderstanding at its best. She was truly overwhelmed trying to teach the modules, especially with all the extras they decided to put in and the scaffolding for the struggling learners. It took a mere 4 months to read To Kill a Mockingbird. My daughter, who read the book in a week, was so frustrated she wanted to scream, but as a child who plays the game of school well, she did not. I am not saying the modules are bad. They have some wonderful lessons to pick and choose from. Slavish devotion, however, is a misuse.

The National Association for Gifted Children published an article that was picked up by NY's gifted organization AGATE entitled Common Core State Standards and Gifted Education. They not only acknowledge that the CCSS are more rigorous but how they fall short of meeting the needs of gifted children, a viewpoint my daughter's experience supports. The authors pull out the CCSS statement that "The standards do not define the nature of advanced work for students who meet the Standards prior to the end of high school." My experience is that some schools will do everything in their power to prevent students from achieving the standards early so they do not have to deal with the issue. There is simply a failure in the mainstream educator population to even acknowledge that these highly capable students should move at a rate any different than their less academically capable peers. There is a belief that age is the only important determinant in appropriate educational placement.

How do we get appropriate educations for our gifted children? We have to advocate strongly, some might even say fight, for an education that moves beyond CCSS. The problem is that our teachers are overwhelmed with learning the common core and the new curricular materials that go with it. Asking them to then go a step further is logistically unlikely. Therefore, we need our gifted teachers and coordinators  to be enabled to help with differentiating the material in the same way we differentiate for our struggling learners. We sometimes need to advance them outside of their grade level or establish separate classes for these precocious children. Most of all we need a testing protocol that enables testing appropriately. If a child is taking 6th grade ELA , she should not be required to take the 4th grade test just because that is how old she is. The math student taking geometry should not be asked to take the 6th grade test because of his age. We need to teach and assess in a smart way or we will lose our smart kids.

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