One in Five US Dropouts May be Gifted

Alison Kepner:

They are bored — so much so that they may not pay attention in class or will act out in frustration.
Some make poor grades, either because they no longer care or because they have spent so many of their younger years unchallenged that when they suddenly face a rigorous course in middle or high school, they don’t know how to study.
They are the nation’s gifted children, those with abilities beyond other children their age. Too many of their abilities, advocates argue, remain untapped by U.S. schools that don’t serve them as they focus instead on lifting low-achieving students to meet the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Statistically, 20 percent of U.S. school dropouts test in the gifted range, said Jill Adrian, director of family services at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit founded by philanthropists Bob and Jan Davidson out of a concern that the nation’s most gifted and talented children largely are neglected and underserved.

Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” by Laurie Frost & Jeff Henriques:

Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:
Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.

3 thoughts on “One in Five US Dropouts May be Gifted”

  1. This article raises interesting issues, but far less issues than first impressions would indicate — or maybe more?
    The article says that statistically 20% of kids are gifted. Is that true, or even meaningful?
    Many years ago, actually back in 1966, J.P. Guilford published a book “The Structure of Intelligence” (or SI) where he evaluated the many different psychometric tests and questions, and found (using correlational statistical techniques) that there were about 120 different types of “intelligences” organized into three dimensions of 4 x 5 x 6 categories (later expanding it to 5 x 5 x 6 = 150). Before one becomes impressed with this list, note that he did not include in his definition of intelligence many areas with which the term “genius” often applies such as music (performer and composer), art, dance (performer and choreographer) — psychometric tests don’t tend to measure such things.
    Nonetheless, as often is the case in such measures, people’s scores on these individual tests do tend to fall along a Normal (Bell) curve. As is the case regardless of what is being measured, about 68% of the people score close to the average (1 standard deviation from the mean) and the other 32% of the people score farther below average or above average — 16% other either side.
    So let’s simply define “gifted” as those 16% of the people (kids) who score far above the average of others on a particular measure. (Now we have our article’s “about 20%”). As research shows (and hypothesized when extrapolated), however, most of us not only will score near average on most of the 120 (150) tests, but most will also score in the “gifted” range for many of the 120 (150) tests.
    What does this say? Most of us are “gifted” in some way based on these limited psychometric tests.
    If you add capabilities not measured by such tests as I mentioned above (music, performance, dance, interpersonal relations, public speaking, carpentry, quilting, gardening) the probabilities of any of us not being “gifted” is exceedingly small.
    So, what does this article truly say? Not much except the obvious.
    The fatal flaw in this article is the use the specious argument 20% “gifted” to argue NCLB is focused on lower end kids at the expense of average and above average kids. (And we’re wasting our resources on kids who will never succeed anyway). This is the old racism raising its ever-present head in a new guise.
    The real fact that the educational system (fadsters and educrats) have never been any good at education (you either have the resources to learn within the home environment or you don’t) is not addressed. NCLB is just another fad, without any real desire or purpose to actually create a functioning educational system (public or private).
    Eliminate NCLB or not. Nothing will change for the better in any case. And there is no chance the public or its representatives will ever have a clue.

  2. Re gifted minority students, I had a personal experience where a very smart African American boy of my acquaintence moved into a new school district, and was denied automatic placement in the AP program, although he had been in such a program in his previous school. His Principal said that there wasn’t room, and he was a late-comer who had to wait for an opening. His teacher told him he had to “earn the privilege” of getting into the AP class. (She could send him to the AP class on a daily basis). He was bored and therefore noisy and “disruptive”. His Grandmother appealed to the Principal.
    The Principal at the boy’s old school was his friend and talked with him often. The Principal at the new school said that he had full confidance in the teacher (who could not possibly be racially biased) and talked to the teacher, rather than the boy. The teacher became more hostile to the boy in the classroom – letting other kids know what score he got on quizzes, etc. The school started questioning his Grandmother’s ability to properly prepare the child for eduction. (I saw him at long, long church services, never moving about or making noise). His Grandmother did not know the “magic words” for addressing the Principal, the teacher, or indeed all that educational system gobbledygook. In the end: they moved out of the MMSD school district to get him in a more accomodating school.
    Was the problem the lack of AP programs? No. The problem was the inherent racial bias of individuals in the school system. How do we address that? In part I think, by allowing us to non-judgementally acknowledge that all of us have racial stereotypes lodged in our subconcious that need to be brought to light and addressed in our jobs – especially jobs involving children. Another solution: ombudsmen for racial minorities in our schools. There used to be one in every school from primary to High School, but funding squeezed them out of the lower grades. (They were called “Community Liaisons” and similar titles).
    In case you’re wondering how I discovered the situation, I was working as a substitute SEA with another child in the classroom. It was obvious to me that my friend’s child was bored, and I mentioned the incident to his Grandmother. She poured the story out, including her uncertainty about what to do or where to turn – and even about not being able to understand what train had just hit her!

  3. “[I]nherent racial bias … acknowledge that all of us have racial stereotypes ….”
    I don’t buy these assertions, but thanks for relating this incident. Incidents like these are open secrets, and there is no support within MMSD or MTI to allow correction (hostility would be more likely).
    Assuming this incident is as you described, then the principal and teacher should be canned. Incompetence is incompetence. One doesn’t have to raise racial bias.
    Other anecdotal evidence I’m familiar with shows actions like this occur elsewhere within the system. I represented parents recently where the principal refused to review teacher’s behavior toward my client’s child (and other children within the classroom) using the same standard that you cite: “full confidence in the teacher”.
    What you have here, even if bigotry is real, is a teacher who cannot teach; likely (s)he mindlessly goes about the lesson plan without regard to his/her students’ needs, doesn’t continuously evaluate where each child is and doesn’t adjust based on each child’s academic needs. I would be interested if my prejudgment of the teacher is accurate or not.

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