My Son Is Not Gifted And I’m Glad

My son was disappointed when my wife broke the news, “Lynden, you didn’t make the Gifted Program at school.”

He played-off his dejection, but I could tell the finality bothered him.

I was relieved.

Sure, there was a part of me that scoffed at the notion of my straight-A-earning, otherwise seemingly capable third grader wasn’t good enough to be included with the school’s brightest pupils.

I may have had a fleeting thought of disdain for the outcome of that evaluation to have taken over a year to complete.

After all, it is normal for a parent to be defensive when their kid is shunned.

Those moments of bitterness, though, quickly subsided.  The truth is, I don’t like the idea of any Gifted Program.

There are three principles I see at work, in particular, that I disagree with.

(1) The Importance of Testing

The final straw in my son’s process was that his composite score on a multitude of intelligence-measuring tests was too low to proceed.

Again, the over-testing of our children in elementary school as a way of determining who can and cannot learn rears its ugly head.

In our district, the Gifted Program requires, among other evaluations, two sets of tests to be passed with a minimum score:

  • The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test or the Naglieri Nonverbal Abilities Test
  • Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scale, Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children or the Stanford Binet.

I’ll keep it simple: I’m over, over, over any testing that is designed to covertly divide children up.  No matter how many Ph.D.’s the inventors of these tests have, I refuse to come around to the idea that any exam can (or should) validate intelligence.

(2) Pushy Parents Win

There are two ways that having an insistent in-home advocate helps children in pursuing the Gifted Program.

First, I’ve learned that the preponderance of students admitted to the program are testing at the behest of their parents.  My son’s assessment was encouraged by his second grade teacher – which, facts say, is an exception.

In most cases, if a parent does not push for admission, students have to rely on a perceptive teacher in order to take the initial steps in the process.

Secondly, if a child wants to be included in Gifted but they haven’t measured up during the aforementioned tests, there is an appellant process.  A third-party can be hired to re-assess their fit for the program.

This system, again, stacks the deck against kids without a strong in-home advocate or the financial resources to pursue such an alternative.

Not only are kids without advocacy less likely to be initially considered, they have no real options if they navigate through the school-based testing process unsuccessfully.

(3) Exclusion of the Masses in Great, Gifted Program Enrichment

The Gifted Program at my son’s school does some great enrichment projects.  The kids involved do charity work and take meaningful, educational field trips to places that would delight any student.

It seems to me that the program is teaching children values that I share – community involvement, learning through experiences, and camaraderie.

My question is: why not spread that enrichment to all students?

Is emphasizing the importance of civic-mindedness reserved for those with high I.Q.’s?  I think not.

In fact, Gifted Programs may very well be missing a great opportunity to bring more kids behind the curtain by carrying these values back to their classroom, for all to see.   In doing so, kids in the program can help break down the artificial divide that is created when tests deem them smarter than their classmates.

When I think about the Gifted Program, I really don’t think about my son’s recent exclusion.

I think of one scene that perfectly symbolizes my disdain.

About a year ago, I dropped my children off at school on a morning where three shiny charter buses idled in our normal rendezvous.

“What are those buses doing?” I asked with a hint of annoyance.

“The Gifted kids are going to Epcot today.”  My son replied with a crocked grin and shoulder shrug.

“That is great for them,” I blurted out in immediate contempt.

I paused, collected my thoughts and looked back at my kids, “Guys, go work harder so you’ll have the last laugh.”

The other day, when my Gifted-reject was momentarily disheartened, I told him the same thing.

If my son follows that advice, in my opinion, he wins.

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5 Comments

  1. Becky

    I think maybe you’re not fully aware of why gifted education exists and who it benefits.

    Intelligence can be measured on a bell curve. Most people fall in the middle of this curve. Some people will fall on the extreme left of the curve and we provide services for those children. They get Title I grants and special education aids and many, many other federal, state, and district funded programs to help them learn.
    Gifted children fall at the other end of that intellectual bell curve. They aren’t necessarily the high achievers or the straight A kids; they are another group of children who learn differently from the norm and they are just as deserving of education that reaches them and their learning style as the children in the middle of the curve, and those on the far left.

    Gifted education is vitally important for children who think and learn in different ways BECAUSE of their extreme intelligence.

  2. Meg Carroll

    Devhan is a principals list for 3 years in a row, EVERY SEMESTER ….. he is extremely smart…… every teacher has requested he take the test for gifted and I had him tested in 2nd grade…. he didn’t pass. …. the guidance counselor asked if I wanted him to be retested and I said no….. he is learning in his regular classes, and enjoying himself….. that’s all I care about…..

  3. Meg Carroll

    Oh…. I left out that I TOTALLY AGREE with what you wrote. Thank you, THANK YOU , FOR SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS!!! they are soooooo spot on…..

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