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Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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More Online Resources for Gifted Education

In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
Exquisite Minds is created and maintained by Stacia Nicole Garland, a national award-winning teacher who worked with gifted children for 16 years. She includes practical, user-friendly information for both parents and educators as well as a long list of links of "Brainy Games."
While 96 Essential Sites & Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers is designed for homeschoolers, it also contains some great websites for children who are more traditionally educated. If you are looking for ideas that support or supplement your student’s interests and abilities, you will find many ideas here. Topics include
  • General Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
  • College Prep
  • Science
  • Math
  • Writing
  • The Arts
  • Forums 
Related Gifted Education Web Sites, from the American Psychological Association has an extensive alphabetical listing of gifted associations, programs, university connections, schools, research organizations, and publications.
Top 10 Gifted Education Blogs, from, lists links to the best blogs in gifted education. I’m pleased to say that Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog is included in the list.

Conflicts in the Definition and Identification of Giftedness

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) periodically issues position papers having to do with gifted education. For a list with links to current position papers you can click here. I would like to highlight a couple of the current position papers, including what I see as conflicts that can be confusing about the definition of giftedness and the identification of students.
Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm (approved by the board of NAGC in March 2010)
Defining giftedness has been a controversial topic as long as I can remember. I believe that a  lack of consensus in the field has often impaired progress. Different school districts adopt different definitions and different methods for identifying children who might benefit from advanced services. Misunderstandings result and parents and teachers are frustrated. This NAGC position paper feels more inclusive to me than some other definitions. For instance, the paper defines outstanding competence as “documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer)” instead of the 3% figure that used to be in vogue. The paper also states that those competencies may take place in one or more domains. Although it lists possible domains (e.g., mathematics, music, dance), it does not limit the definition to only those domains listed.
The position paper recognizes the development of ability or talent as a lifelong process. “As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence ... achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness.” In previous definitions, the emphasis often was placed on “potential” rather than accomplishment. We can see and recognize accomplishments. Potential is not as clear. How does one really know a person has potential if he doesn’t demonstrate it?
Educators need to adjust educational materials and methods for students who demonstrate that they can do more difficult work. I think that’s a premise that is difficult to argue.
Students who experience poverty, discrimination, cultural barriers, physical or learning disabilities, or motivational or emotional problems may be much more difficult to spot, so we need to lighten up a bit and consider more deeply if, given the right opportunities, these kids might be able to raise their levels of accomplishment.
I question whether this position paper should be rewritten to more closely align with the position paper above. In Redefining Giftedness for a New Century, I think the reader is being told that each gifted student should be provided an educational experience that matches his or her needs. In The Role of Assessments in the Identification of Gifted Students, we are told that assessments should be used that align with a program’s goals and objectives. So, should we be figuring out what modifications a particular student needs or should we only be finding and serving students who fit into a particular program that we have designed? In The Role of Assessments in the Identification of Gifted Students, it sounds like the latter is true.
This second position paper also gets into the discussion of using alternative assessments (i.e., nonverbal ability tests) for students who are under-represented in gifted programs. It is my understanding that nonverbal ability tests have the potential to identify students who can solve unique problems. One cannot automatically come to the conclusion that a student who does well on these tests will be capable of handling the advanced language arts or math program that a school has created. If these types of tests are used, the school must carefully examine what types of programs need to be created that will be meaningful.
Under best practices for using assessments for gifted identification, the position paper states: “the choice of assessment tools must match the definition of giftedness that has been determined by the state, district, or school.” Here we’re coming back to the muddled conception of giftedness again. As a family moves across the country, parents may find that their children were “gifted” in one state or city, but not in another. No wonder there is such confusion.

So we need to figure out which comes first—the horse or the cart. Should we be figuring out which students have very strong abilities and then design programs around those abilities or should we be designing programs to match our state, district, or school definition of giftedness and then trying to find students who would be a good match for those programs? I personally like the slant of Redefining Giftedness for a New Century, and would like to see NAGC better align their position on identification.

TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed., Available in May

TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed.

Let me give a quick notification to any gifted education coordinators, school counselors, or district-level diagnosticians involved with gifted child identification.

If you are currently using the TONI-3 as a part of your school's gifted child identification processes, please note that the TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed., will be released in mid-May. The TONI-4 is a completely revised instrument and will replace the older version of the test.

The TONI-3 is no longer available, but we will be shipping the TONI-4 in just a few weeks.

National Standards for the Gifted

For a very long time, our country has maintained a hodgepodge of educational expectations for students, often not even coming close to the standards of other developed countries. You may have read recently about the proposed national standards for math and English, which have recently been released. They are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)—a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents who are working to create benchmarks to bring all areas of the country in alignment with the same expectations. As reported by The New York Times, these are not without controversy. Alaska and Texas declined to participate in the standards-writing effort, arguing that they should decide locally what their children learn. After viewing the proposed standards, some states, like Massachusetts, may oppose the proposed national standards because state educators feel that they already have higher standards in place and may want to keep those.
Although the implementation of high academic standards is probably a good thing for our country in general, we must also be careful that the standards (if accepted) do not limit the learning of gifted students. It would be impractical to set a unique set of standards for the gifted population because these students fall on a long continuum of abilities. Instead, it is best to think of any national standards as a baseline of expectations, allowing more capable students to progress much more quickly and in greater depth.
Are you aware that back in 1998, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) developed and released the Pre-K - Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards designed to assist school districts in examining the quality of their programming for gifted learners? These are standards for creating and maintaining effective gifted programming in schools. At the very least, these gifted program standards should be implemented in addition to the national educational standards. The NAGC standards include:
  • program design,
  • program administration and management,
  • student identification,
  • curriculum and instruction,
  • socio-emotional guidance and counseling,
  • professional development, and
  • program evaluation.
While national educational standards are probably a good idea for the general population, they should only be considered as minimal expectations. Students who are capable should not be held back by these proposals, but allowed and encouraged to move beyond them. Pairing the proposed national standards with the NAGC program standards is a good option for able students.

Do You Want a Gifted or a Hard-Working Child?


Psychology Today recently featured a provocative article on its website, titled, Parenting: Do You Want a Gifted or Hard-Working Child? This particular article caught my eye because it presents an alternative way of thinking about parenting gifted kids. I wanted to share it with the gifted education community because it provides some food for thought. The author of the article, Jim Taylor, notes that although "the world is full of gifted failures," parents continue to "hope beyond hope that their children are gifted."

Kids often feel the same way. According to Taylor, whenever he asks a group of kids whether they would rather be gifted or hard working, almost all of them say that they would rather be gifted. In their view, being gifted means that that they are not only destined for success, they won't have to work that hard for it either.

Hard work and perseverance are crucial components of success. However, many people tend to negate the importance of hard work and practice and instead believe that achievement is based on ability alone. This is a dangerous misconception, particularly for gifted kids.

Because learning comes so easily to them when they are young, gifted kids often fail to learn that there is an important link between effort and outcome. They assume that their achievements are a result of their natural ability and that, conversely, their failures are a result of their ability, as well. As Taylor writes: "If gifted children attribute their successes to their ability, when they fail--which they inevitably will sooner or later--they must attribute their failures to their lack of ability (they must be stupid or untalented)." Unfortunately, this kind of misguided thinking can lead kids to give up on a task prematurely because they fear that they aren't good enough. They don't understand that effort is just as important to success as ability.

If these kids continue to succeed with limited effort, they will eventually find themselves in an environment (such as a selective college or university) where nearly everyone is gifted. As Taylor writes: "At this point, giftedness isn't what ultimately determines who becomes truly successful. What separates those children who are simply gifted from those who are gifted and successful is whether they possess the skills to maximize their gifts. Unfortunately, these children will find that their inborn talent is no longer sufficient to be successful. Because everything comes so easily to them, many never learn the skills--hard work, persistence, patience, perseverance, discipline--that will enable them to become truly successful."  

Taylor even goes so far as to say that parents should not tell their children that they’re gifted because it will put an unnecessary burden upon them. As Taylor writes: "Instead of emphasizing your children's giftedness, you should talk to them about the attitudes and skills--which are under their control--that they will need to fully realize their talents." Taylor also believes that we should not tell a child that he or she has great potential because having potential means that a youngster has done nothing yet. Potential implies eventual adult success, and, as Taylor writes, we are simply not very good at predicting who will become successful in life.

According to Dr. Anders Ericcson, a professor at Florida State University who has studied expert performance in sports, music, mathematics, and other activities, the single greatest predictor for success is how many hours a person has practiced an activity. The more hours one practices, the better he or she is. (Remember the 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell championed in his book, Outliers? That rule is based on a study that Ericcson conducted. According to the 10,000 hours rule, it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery.) As Taylor writes: "Hard work means children putting in the necessary time, sticking with it when it's not always fun, persevering in the face of setbacks and failures, and developing all of the skills necessary to become successful."
And so now we have one more way of looking at the capabilities and possibilities of young people. Be sure to check out the comments section at the bottom of Taylor's article for an ongoing discussion of his viewpoints.

What Does It Mean to Be Gifted?

I am often asked the question, "What does it mean to be gifted?" and my standard answer usually is, "I have no idea." I realize that is a rather strange response from a gifted and talented specialist, but it is an honest answer. I will then expand my reply by stating that although there isn't a universal definition of giftedness, I still consider myself an advocate for students who have strong interests and/or strong abilities in one or more areas.
I am not alone in realizing that there is not a universal definition of giftedness. Even the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) acknowledges this.
For a broad discussion of the many definitions of giftedness, you can consult previous blog entries on this website, including:
As you can expect in the evolving world of technology, a few of the links in these blog entries are no longer valid. Nevertheless, you will find a rich exploration of the various theories of giftedness.
We shouldn't get too hung up on the definition of gifted. No one is denying that students need educational paths that suit their strengths and interests (and some of these needs are quite high). However, we also shouldn't let the definition of a word cause stumbling blocks that hinder the process of those needs being met.

David Shenk's Giftedness Controversy


David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, to be released next year, has created a blog of the same title for The Atlantic magazine. The Genius in All of Us focuses on initiating and perpetuating a research-based conversation about the nature of giftedness and the institutional responses that are filtered through gifted education. Many will find Shenk’s research and resulting conclusions controversial. Some will find him threatening to their view of giftedness; others will find his views heartening. But this controversy is what makes him interesting, creating potential for field-enhancing questioning and discussion.

Shenk hopes to post blog entries several times a week and is off to a good start with the following titles:

  • The End of Giftedness
  • How Genes Really Work
  • The Truth about IQ
  • Should Kids Know Their Own IQs? 

Some of the broad areas he plans to cover in the future include:

  • How brains work
  • Where child prodigies come from
  • What nature/nurture really means
  • The creative process and work habits of high achievers
  • The roles of parents, schools, culture, and technology 
I am curious to see where Shenk goes with all of his ideas—if he makes convincing arguments for his view of intelligence, what implications this will have for future research in gifted education, and what suggestions he will make for parents and educators.

To Label or Not to Label as Gifted

Some schools are doing away with the label of “gifted and talented” yet still attempting to address the academic needs of bright students. Two schools in Maryland are participating in a pilot program in which second-graders are tested to see if they qualify for accelerated and enriched instruction. The qualifying students are then placed in accelerated classes that are tailored to their strengths. The theory behind this concept is that children don’t need to be labeled to get the instruction they need.
I have personally seen schools where students are labeled as gifted but do not receive an education that is appropriate for their academic needs. I have also see situations where young people are not formally identified, yet are subject-accelerated or are taught with the aid of in-depth studies using high-level thinking skills that are well above grade-level expectations. These same students may be linked with mentors or offered intense enrichment classes that are geared toward specific strengths. So I ask: Is the label necessary or even desirable?
Wrestling with Misconceptions: Is the Gifted Label Good or Bad? (scroll down the page to see the article) by Dona J. Matthews and Joanne F. Foster presents some of the pros and cons of the label and how it affects students. It may help you look at the term differently.
The basic questions I ask are:
  • Is the label of “gifted” necessary to get an appropriate education?
  • Does the label of “gifted” assure an appropriate education?
On the many listservs and forums to which I subscribe, I frequently see questions from educators asking advice on what methods to use to identify gifted students. I can assure you, that there are no definitive answers given other than that multiple criteria should be used. There is no consensus on which criteria should be employed or what the cutoffs should be.
I am sure I am dating myself when I tell you that when I was in public school, we never heard the word “gifted.” We did, however, know that some kids were smart and some kids were very smart. We also knew that there were students who dedicated themselves to their studies, working very hard. Those who were academically strong and applied themselves were provided with more difficult work or advanced classes. Expectations were high and it was considered an attribute to be asked to take on more challenge.
So I ask you (and would love to hear your comments): Is the label “gifted” necessary? Does it improve education or should we expect that a top-notch education be provided even without the label?

Upcoming Webinar on Developing a Gifted Program

Friday, March 20, 2009 - by CFertig - Category: Label of Gifted, Parents and Educators, Teaching Gifted Children
Coming up next week is an online seminar that will target program leaders in gifted education—preschool through grade 12. Check it out and see if it is something in which your school/district should participate. It will take place on March 26 from 4:00-5:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
The webinar titled, Develop Your Program Using the National Gifted Ed Standards, will address the following questions:
  • What are the national standards for preparation of teachers of the gifted?
  • What is the implication of accreditation standards in teacher preparation programs for Pre K – 12 teachers, schools, and districts?
At the end of the session, participants will be able to
  • Describe the national gifted education standards.
  • Identify ways that school districts can use the standards.
  • Plan specific activities for implementing the standards in professional development.
The presenters are tops in the field: Susan Johnsen, Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, Diana Montgomery, and Margie Kitano.
To participate, one only needs a speakerphone, a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection. Administrators can arrange for as many individuals as they would like to participate for one low price. Teachers and educators can earn .2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
The sponsor of the online seminar is the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which is “dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents.”

The Evolving Definition of Giftedness

The definition of giftedness has always been controversial. In recent years, authorities have continued to explore the meaning of the word.
This last fall, a live chat was held by Education Week with three editors (Frances Degen Horowitz, Rena F. Subotnik, and Dona J. Matthews) of the book The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span. The following are some of the points made in the chat.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests giftedness is not static. Instead, gifted behaviors can appear at different points in one’s life, and once in evidence may or may not continue. Rather than thinking about whether a student is “gifted” or not, we should focus on subject-specific programming options that meet advanced learning needs. The more options that are available to support gifted development, the greater the chances that child's learning needs will be met.
Some individuals may have pre-dispositions towards high abilities, which can be nurtured through the environment. In addition to nurturing these pre-dispositions, we also need to foster gifted-level development more broadly in more diverse learners. Both agendas are essential, and we shouldn’t choose one or the other.

Giftedness is developed in three stages:

  • Helping students to fall in love with the topic or area
  • Providing advanced skills and knowledge of the topic or area and sharing the values associated with it
  • Coaching to help refine individual voice and contribution

There is much research that should still be done as we try to understand the definition of giftedness. We need to ask:

  • How and why do some young children teach themselves to read?
  • How does a prodigy's brain develop?
  • What happens when a young person has intense instruction or when a strong ability is ignored?
There should be also be more longitudinal studies of talent development in specific domains and intervention studies of effective instruction and programming in each of those domains.

The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span discusses important variables that affect functioning, including:

  • ethnic minority status and how it can be both an advantage and disadvantage in talent development.
  • the role of social skills in successful expression of talent.

Profoundly Gifted

There are many different levels of giftedness. Profoundly gifted kids are so advanced that they may have a very difficult time finding peers. They often skip several grades and/or begin college before they enter adolescence. This group of students makes up a very small portion of the population and resources are difficult to find. Here are some that you may find helpful:

New Tests of Giftedness

The ongoing discussion of the definition of intelligence and how to measure it continues with a recent article in Education Week.
Robert J. Sternberg is a nationally known psychologist who has spent much of his career designing new measures that might more accurately capture the full range of students’ intellectual potential. He believes that conventional assessments measure only a narrow subset—memory and analytical skills—and do not necessarily measure all the abilities students need to succeed in life, namely a combination of practical, creative, and analytical skills.
While traditional assessments are frequently good predictors of success, plenty of people succeed without ever fitting that pattern—people like Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson or filmmaker Steven Spielberg, both of whom were high school dropouts.
A team of Yale University researchers is taking Sternberg’s ideas and rethinking tests that schools use to identify students for gifted and talented programs. Dubbed Aurora Battery for the colorful spectrums created by the northern and southern lights, the assessment is being translated and tested with tens of thousands of students between 9 and 12 in the United States, England, India, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and other countries. Aurora is a comprehensive battery that includes a group-administered paper-and-pencil test, a parent interview, a scale for teacher rating of students, and some observation items.
With the Aurora assessments, scholars hope to get a read on the skills that make the Bransons and Spielbergs of the world successful, as well as the academic skills that intelligence tests have traditionally measured.
The new assessment could yield a very different pool of gifted students—one that includes a higher proportion of those from traditionally underrepresented minority groups. It also has the potential to capture a population of students with a more varied and better-qualified array of skills.

Trends in Gifted Education

The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
  • Underachievement
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Pullout/enrichment
  • Advocacy
  • GT resource teachers
  • Affective issues
  • Identification
  • Learning Styles
  • Differentiation
  • Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
  • The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
  • Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
  • Special schools and programs
  • Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.

Concomitant Characteristics of the Gifted

Patrick was consistently the first to raise his hand in class and he always had the correct answer. The problem was, he never gave anyone else a chance to contribute. Can we show Patrick other ways to demonstrate his knowledge? Should he be moved to a class that is more challenging?

Both at home and at school, Joslin had a terrible time moving from one activity to another. She would get so “into” whatever she was doing that she hated it when her parents or teacher would ask her to switch to something else. Would it help to give her advanced notice of when to expect a change, with several reminders?

Seneca was curious about everything, so he had lots of questions. The problem was that he had so many questions that it was annoying and often intimidating to others. Can we give Seneca projects that require a lot of idea generation? Should he be taught skills for finding his own answers rather than asking everyone else?

Every behavioral characteristic has its positive and negative side. This includes characteristics that gifted children tend to have. These two-sided attributes are known as concomitant characteristics.

While we should not excuse bad behavior, we can help direct kids to positive outcomes. We also can learn to be more tolerant ourselves by understanding that someone else’s seemingly irritating behavior also may have a very positive side.

Some examples are:
Positive Aspect
Negative Aspect

Verbal proficiency

Good at articulating

Dominates the conversation

Accelerated pace of learning

Can move through material quickly

Gets frustrated with the pace of learning

Ability to concentrate and persist

Is able to focus on a task and learn in depth

Resists interruption

Seeks order

Likes to plan ahead and keep everything neat

Difficulty with spontaneity

Sense of humor

Entertaining and resilient

Uses humor in inappropriate ways that distract or offend

Heightened self-awareness; feels different

Realizes the potential of being unique

Feels isolated and self-consciousness

High expectations

Sets high standards

Critical of self and/or others when high expectations are not met

Self-confident, leader

Able to influence others

Perceived as bossy

Huge store of facts and long memory

Learns quickly

Becomes bored and impatient with others


Innovative thinker


Many interests

Has many possibilities in life

Has difficulty choosing between interests

Goal oriented

Gets tasks done

Viewed as stubborn and inflexible 

Deep thinker

Conceptualizes on a greater level

Hates deadlines


Does everything well

Avoids tasks for fear of not doing them perfectly


The Label of Gifted Education

About 2 ½ years ago, one of my blog entries was titled The Label of Gifted: Is There a Better Way?  You might want to revisit it and also look at the reader comments that follow the article. Today I am no closer to an answer to the question about the label of “gifted.”
In a recent Washington Post article, Labels Aren’t What Kids Need, high school English teacher Patrick Welsh brought up a number of issues about identification and programming for gifted education that are worth considering.
One of the problems with the term is that educators and parents often look at kids as gifted or not gifted, rather than looking at abilities on a continuum. Can a gifted program meet the needs of all able children? Can the needs of a highly gifted child be met in a regular gifted program? What happens to the child who is very capable in math but not in language arts? What happens to the youngster who is intensely interested in geography, but the gifted program is designed for more mainstream subjects?
Kids who are selected for a particular program often are given enrichment activities, from which all students would probably benefit. While the students in the gifted program may be capable of moving more quickly or studying a topic more in depth, can you understand why the parent of a “regular student” may want his less capable child to also be exposed to this enrichment?
How does a school handle the problem of some parents regarding the label of gifted as a status symbol? (Note: I am not saying that the kids are not very capable, but I am saying that SOME parents regard the label as a status symbol without truly understanding the real needs of a small percentage of students.)
How do we handle the affective consequences of labeling, both for students who are identified and students who are not? As Welsh states in his article, “When we apply this tag to a tiny group of children . . . we are in effect saying that the rest are ungifted and untalented. We’re denigrating hard work and perseverance, telling children that no matter how much effort they put forth, they just can’t measure up to their special peers.”
“Just as bad, we’re telling those on whom we deign to bestow the coveted label that they have it made; we’re giving them an overblown sense of their intellectual abilities and setting them up to fall short when they face real challenges later . . . What most parents don’t realize is that the gifted label can harm not only those who don’t receive it, but also those who do.” (See the research of Carol Dweck.)

Welsh goes on to suggest a highly sensitive topic: “. . . school administrators are caught in a political and moral trap. They have to assure mostly white middle-class parents, who provide most of the tax dollars for the schools, that their children can progress academically without being held back by lower-income kids.” Can we be honest with ourselves? How much of this is true?

When I was a kid, the term gifted was foreign to my ear. Everyone did, however, agree that some kids were very smart in some areas. Some kids were even very smart in all areas. At least in the district where I went to school, the system may have done a better job of trying to challenge all of the students all of the time.
There obviously is no perfect solution to the controversy of the label “gifted” and how it should be handled. But, let’s not shut the door on some of the realities of the dilemma by feigning to believe that there must be a perfect solution.

New Gifted Blog from Teacher Magazine

Blogging about gifted education is growing. Unwrapping the Gifted, written by Tamara Fisher and published by Teacher Magazine, is the latest to hit the scene. Each new blog that is created (scroll down in column on left to find a list with links) approaches gifted education from a slightly different perspective, and each is a valuable resource for a different reason. I really encourage you to visit the different blogs often.
Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. With Karen Isaacson, she is also coauthor of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. In her blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students. She presents some interesting analogies about understanding and working with this population of kids, as well as thought-provoking questions. Her aim is to “generate some timely thought, reflection, discussion, and questions.” She does a good job of modeling higher-level thinking questions by posing open-ended questions for teachers to consider.
Be sure and read through reader comments after each post as they offer a variety of perspectives on gifted education and also offer strategies that other teachers have used successfully.
The two most recent posts on Unwrapping the Gifted are about the meaning of the term “gifted” and how gifted kids may be “shut out of class participation because they’re perceived as being ‘already where they need to be.’”

Are We Failing Our Geniuses?

The August 16 issue of TIME Magazine features an article titled Are We Failing Our Geniuses? In the article, John Cloud criticizes the American school system, saying that it “has little idea how to cultivate its most promising students” and that it spends a disproportionate amount of money on students with learning disabilities, often ignoring the need for money to meet the needs of gifted students.
He cites that “many school systems are wary of grade skipping even though research shows that it usually works well both academically and socially for gifted students—and that holding them back can lead to isolation and underachievement.”
While I agree with much of what Cloud says in this article, I do question some of his conclusions. He states that, while the most recent data indicate that U.S. universities are awarding more doctorates than ever before, the rate of annual increase has fallen dramatically. In 1979 it hit nearly 15% for the year, but for more than a decade now, the number has grown less than 3.5% a year. His assumption is that we are now coasting and the implication is that this is because we are not adequately attending to the education of the gifted. While it may be true that there was a dramatic increase in the number of doctoral candidates following the post-Sputnik era, I question whether the number of students seeking advanced degrees should be expected to increase by high percentages every year. Are there that many people who would benefit from a doctorate? Is a doctorate important to all high-level professions? Is this really a valid measure of opportunities available for gifted students?
Cloud also states that the year after President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, Illinois and Michigan cut large amounts of funding from gifted education. Yet, he offers no documentation explaining the link between the cuts and NCLB. Although there may be a link, he did not provide evidence. He just came to that conclusion on his own.
The premises of Cloud's article revolve around The Davidson Academy, a public school for profoundly gifted students that has received a lot of press. But, this is not perfect either. The school’s admission policy relies on test scores. One consequence of this is that its population does not mirror the population of our country. Both girls and African Americans are represented in disproportionately small numbers.
A couple of forum threads from The Math Forum@Drexel Website discuss Cloud’s article.
One discusses the question of who should be adapting to differences in ability, geniuses or average people? “Special schools for genius children? If the genius child is not adequately exposed to the rest of society, how then will she/he cope later in life?

What about educating all of us 'average people' more effectively, so that we can learn how to live with and work with real genius, giving them adequate emotional support at least, even if we cannot quite match them intellectually? This route is barely explored anywhere in any society or school.”
The other questions some commonly used terms or phrases. “The continued assertions that a) there is some monolith called the ‘education industry’ and b) a bias against exceptionally bright students remain, as far as I can see, undefined and unsupported, especially the former.”

Autism and the Nature of Intelligence

Thursday, August 09, 2007 - by CFertig - Category: Label of Gifted, Parents and Educators, Exceptional Children, Gifted Education
The debate about the nature of intelligence and giftedness continues.
A recent (August 3, 2007) news release from the Association for Psychological Science relates research results concerning autistic kids and intelligence tests.
Led by psychologist Laurent Mottron of the University of Montreal, a team gave both autistic kids and normal kids two of the most popular IQ tests used in schools: the WISC, which relies heavily on language; and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which measures the ability to infer rules, to set and manage goals, and to do high-level abstractions. The Raven’s presents arrays of complicated patterns with one missing, and test takers are required to choose the one that would logically complete the series. The test demands a good memory, focused attention and other “executive skills,” but—unlike the WISC—it doesn’t require much language.
The difference between the scores of the autistic and normal children on the WISC and the Raven’s test was striking. Not a single autistic child scored in the “high intelligence” range of the WISC. In fact, a third of the children with autism had WISC scores in the mentally retarded range. Yet fully a third scored in the “high intelligence range” on the Raven’s.
The scientists ran the same experiment with autistic and normal adults, with the same result.
While it is probably true that people with autism possess extraordinary perceptual skills, and that they use unique cognitive pathways for problem solving, their intelligence clearly goes far beyond rote memory and perception to include complex reasoning ability.
I would like to know…
Because autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees, how did the team from the University of Montreal chose its subjects? Did they choose kids who were high functioning or not? Does that make a difference when considering the results of the study?
What implications does this research have for the education of autistic children?

Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog

You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
·         Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
·         Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.

Finding a Qualified Person to Test Your Child

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - by CFertig - Category: Label of Gifted, Parents and Educators
Parents have a variety of reasons for wanting to have their child tested. Some want to better understand their child’s strengths and get recommendations for providing the best educational environment. Some need to supply a certain aptitude score for their child to enter a gifted program. Still others see that their child is very bright but also has some pretty significant problems. They want to see if there is some type of diagnosis and get suggestions for helping the child. Finding a qualified person to provide an appropriate evaluation for any of these dilemmas may be a difficult hurdle.
Typically, a psychologist will administer necessary tests and interviews, but it is best to find a psychologist who really understands gifted issues, including various levels of giftedness and the pros and cons of the spectrum of tests available. I receive e-mails from parents asking for recommendations of people they might contact in their area. While I cannot give specific recommendations, I often refer them to their state gifted association or the gifted arm of their state education department. Another resource for parents to consider is a list on the Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page.
When considering a specific psychologist, find out what tests he or she offers and how information will be presented to you. Will the tester make recommendations? Make certain that the psychologist has experience working with gifted children who are of the same age as your child. Find out as much about the tester as possible, including his or her fees. If your child needs to provide a score on a specific test to be admitted to a gifted program, make certain the appropriate assessment will be administered.

The Label of Gifted Child--Is There a Better Way?

Saturday, April 16, 2005 - by CFertig - Category: Label of Gifted
Recently, I was with a group of gifted education specialists and our discussion revolved around the meaning of the label “gifted.” One person commented that we (being specialists) all knew what the term meant. I questioned that. So, we went around the group and asked just what “gifted” meant to each person. Very quickly it became obvious that we all had very different views of it. This went way beyond the common definitions of gifted children and ventured in to its subtleties.
Some people feel that all students have gifts. Some people feel that being gifted requires a high I.Q. or an exceptional analytical ability. To others it is a student who earns straight A’s or it might be a person who has social problems because he is so smart. There are many definitions of the word and many different interpretations of those definitions. Along with those interpretations go both positive and negative feelings of gifted children.
My question is: Should we use the term “gifted” at all? Is it a useful term? Rather than label students as gifted, would we not be better off using more specific descriptors? As an adult, wouldn’t I understand more about a child knowing that she has great insight into her reading or has the ability to solve complex math problems in creative ways or that he is a great public speaker? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to know a student is highly organized and goal oriented or is very sensitive to the feelings of others or is a wizard at science? If we need to use some general term, would we be better off using “smart” or “high-ability"?
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