Saturday, February 5, 2011

GT and Academic Achievement

I think many people have a skewed view of GT students. GT does not equal high academic achievement. As a matter of fact there is a lot of literature out there on the lack of motivation (I won't say laziness) in GT students. The fact is, they are clever enough to figure out quickly how to do the minimum in order to get by. I have also had several students through the years with learning disabilities or who were ESL-their classwork does not show what they have the potential to do. Our district has now made a goal for all GT students to achieve commended status on their standardized testing. I think it's a really unfair standard. Yes, they possess an innate ability to pick things up quickly, but in this age of teaching to the test and ignoring the kids who can already pass, teachers don't often spend as much time with the advanced kids. They often don't show a much growth. And it is hard if a 3rd Grade student is already reading at a 5th Grade level to give them the skills they need to move up to a 6th or 7th Grade level-but it can be done. Instead our focus is on the struggling students and our poor GT kids just kind of stagnate.

Anyway, just to prove a point. I have a very bright class-they are creative, well-behaved (for the most part :) and most of them are eager to learn. For the 100th day I challenged them with working in pairs to be the first group to come up with exactly 100 counters-I wanted to see if they could apply what we've learned about grouping. They all used different manipulatives and we had a little competition. Now bear in mind, we have spent a good amount of math instruction this year on place value. They've been counting by 10's, 5's and 2's since Kinder. Only one group figured out it was faster to group them and count rather than counting by 1's and losing your count again and again. Of course, I explained it to them and if we played again, I bet many more students would apply that and count by 10's-but it's not automatic. They still have to be taught!

Even in Kinder-they begin the year, most them not being able to read. Even if they can read, you still have to teach them phonics rules and end up teaching them backwards, because they can already read the word but have no idea why. I had a parent once brag that their Kinder child could multiply-sure he could rattle off the facts, but had no idea what that process meant or when to use it, how to apply it. You should see how much patience it takes to teach them how to compare and contrast. "How are these 2 things different?", "they're just different.", "ok, but in what ways?", "they are different things." Ugh. Once they get it they can apply it readily, but getting there is like pulling teeth.

Anyway, my point is GT/advanced kids still need to be taught. They still need to meet with you in reading groups. If they finish the work in 2 seconds, they should have a more challenging activity-- not sit there reading a book or even worse yet, my pet peeve-"Johnny, why don't you go around and help the students who aren't finished yet". It's really ok to give different students different work! My class has 2 different sets of spelling words. I give out 3 different comprehension passages for their tests. If you're testing comprehension it should be at their reading level-if they can't read it, they definitely can't comprehend it.

All kids deserve to grow academically!


  1. My daughter (first grade) is advanced (no GT testing until 2nd grade here...and no services until 3rd) and she reads an entire chapter book at school a day because she finishes early and is told to do it...or the teacher sends her to the library to help the librarian. In kinder her teacher pretty much used her as a second teacher for the others. Often times she didn't have to do the work that everyone else was doing. She's a "pleaser" so she doesn't complain too often. But it breaks my heart to know so much time is being wasted and there is so much she could be doing. We do what we can at home to challenge her.

    My oldest son (he's 4) is like her academically in about every way, but like you said, he has figured out how to do the least amount possible to get by. I think he does it because he's got other things he'd rather be doing and feels a need to get back to it. He knows he can do more, but does not desire to prove it to anyone. As long as he knows it! And once this child has it in his head that he's going to do something...a project, he works very hard to accomplish it and DOES NOT want to be interrupted to do something else. I worry about him going to school because having been a teacher I can already hear the labels being thrown out about him.

    Completely unrelated, my daughter came home from school the other day saying she overheard her teacher talking to the counselor about skipping her to second. This is the first I've heard about it. I've never been a proponent of skipping because when I taught I tried very hard to meet the needs of all my students...advanced included. I would love to hear your opinion on this and any other advice you can give me that would help me with my children. Thanks for doing this blog!

  2. Brandy-wow! Unfortunately it's very common. Teachers talk a lot about differentiation, but utilize it more for the kids that are struggling. Your child should be doing independent study or reading response projects-something to challenge her and extend her learning.

    I'm torn about the skipping grades. I do think there should be something done for her, however, often there is curriculum that is important for them to learn and skipping grades can make them miss out on those things. Maybe it's something with your experience, you could teach at home, but again, you shouldn't have to do that. Also it might make things more awkward socially. But if that's the only option the school is giving...

    Your son sounds like many GT students I've known. There is often a quirkiness to their work habits. I truly hope he gets a teacher who will understand that.

    Have you talked to the teacher? Principal? Even without an official GT label this teacher should still have activities in her lesson plans to challenge your daughter. I'm sorry your family has to deal with this. Luckily at this age, they usually still love school no matter what. As they get older, they tend to get bored.

    Good luck! And I appreciate the comment!I wish I could take your daughter in my class!