Helping Underserved Gifted Students Grow
I recently was privy to a conversation that some well educated and well-to-do parents had about their two high school children who were trying to gain admission to several highly selective colleges. Their students had high grades, high test scores, were active in many extracurricular activities, came from privileged backgrounds, and had parents who had actively supported their years in school. Despite all of this, the parents still felt that it was necessary to hire a college coach to guide them through the process of admission. I couldn’t help but think about how extremely difficult it must be to come from a family who doesn’t know all the ins and outs of choosing and getting into a good college.
Too few bright young people from underrepresented groups, particularly those from lower-income families, receive the support and preparation they need to be highly qualified applicants for selective colleges. The Next Generation Venture Fund (NGVF)
is working to change that by offering financial help and academic resources to qualified students, beginning in eighth grade and continuing throughout high school.
NGVF is a joint venture of:
In addition, The Goldman Sachs Foundation
and other companies, foundations, and individuals provide financial support for the venture. An investment of approximately $22,000 is made in each student, providing a five-year program consisting of:
individualized education planning and counseling;
advanced and college-level courses focusing on analytical, quantitative, writing, and reasoning skills;
summer school programs on a participating college campus;
a peer network of talented students to foster a culture of achievement; and
career and leadership development programs to "encourage aspirations."
The nation’s three major university-based Talent Searches at Duke, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins and the Center for Bright Kids in Colorado recruit eighth graders from schools across the United States based on high test scores, financial need, and motivation to succeed. Region-based contact information is provided
so that you will know what institution to contact for your area of the country.
Parents and teachers should be aware of this program so that they can make certain that their schools are participating in the talent search.
Proposed Exams Could Allow Students to Graduate Two Years Early
A provocative eight-state initiative that could change the way high schools work was launched this week. The National Center on Education and the Economy announced a plan to pilot a national board examination for high school students. Results of the exam would allow many students to graduate two years early and attend junior colleges or move into the work force.
Each of the eight states (Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) have pledged that in selected schools, students will be given a national board examination at the end of their tenth-grade year. Students passing the exam could graduate from high school and immediately enter junior college or the work force. Those passing students wishing to enter more rigorous four-year universities could begin taking advanced college preparation classes. Students failing the national board exam would be required to begin taking remedial classes designed to prepare them to pass the national boards the following year.
The junior and senior years of pilot high schools would focus on either remedial education or advanced college preparation classes exclusively.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $1.5 million planning grant to help get the program running. According to the New York Times, the project organizers expect to cover additional implementation costs by applying for a portion of the $350 million in federal stimulus money designated for improving public schools.
To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this project. On the one hand, it will allow public high schools to intensely focus resources on two goals: helping struggling learners meet national standards and preparing advanced learners for the academic rigor of the university. However, it will dramatically change the way the last two years of high school are organized and experienced by students. I'm also a little less than enthusiastic about a plan that assigns struggling learners to remedial classes based on a single type of test. It is not clear how much flexibility is allowed under the plan.
Regardless, this project is incredibly interesting and has the potential to impact high schools in a significant way. It will be interesting to see if research data coming out of the pilot schools support the plan's implementation on a nationwide basis.
Do the Goals and Aspirations of Gifted Young Adults Differ by Gender?
As the nation embarks on high school graduation season, the New York Times blog, "The Choice," ponders several important issues raised in a study that sought to compare male and female high school valedictorians. Published last summer in Prufrock Press' journal, the Journal of Advanced Academics, the study reveals significant disparities for parents and educators to consider as we examine gender issues among gifted students.
The blog's author, Jacques Steinberg, writes:
The goal of the study, by an economics professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, was to examine the college choices, intended majors and career aspirations of high-achieving boys and girls, and see if there were any differences. Specifically, the study examined 150 valedictorians from high schools from the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, and surrounding counties.
Its main conclusion? That when stacked up against the boys, the female valedictorians tended to choose less selective colleges and plan careers in lower-paying occupations. While the girls were more likely to major in the humanities and social sciences, the boys were more likely to plan to major in math, computer science and engineering.
The results of this study seem to indicate that out-dated thinking about the education and career choices are still alive and well, even among our brightest young men and women. While this study was somewhat limited in scope, it raises important questions about how we parent and educate bright and talented females. Certainly, an excellent education can be received at less selective colleges, and majoring in the humanities and social sciences may be more about one's passions and interests than low expectations. However, these choices should be based on explicit decisions about what is best for a talented student, rather than social expectations imposed on young women by schools, parents, and the media.
Read the full text of the blog post, "Do the Ambitions of High School Valedictorians Differ by Gender?".
College Entrance for Gifted Homeschoolers
In the not-too-distant past, homeschoolers had valid concerns about applying for college admission. How would they be able convince higher education officials of their accomplishments and capabilities? But in recent years, the homeschooling movement has grown by leaps and bounds and even the most select institutions of higher learning now have procedures in place for admission of this group of independent learners. A recent example was cited in the Chicago Tribune article "From Home School to Top Schools." Chelsea Link, homeschooled beginning at age 5, was recently accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Northwestern. Of course, she has a stellar résumé with perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, and also aced all of her AP exams. In addition, she is the reigning world Irish harp champion. Chelsea also augmented her home learning with enrichment classes, lots of travel, and immersion in Chicago’s rich arts scene.
Almost two million American students are educated at home, and more than 80% of colleges have formal policies for assessing these applicants—up from 52% in 2000.
Homeschoolers are learning to package themselves. One way they do this is to rely more on outside sources to document scholastic rigor. This may include credits for college classes, online instruction from such credible groups as Stanford University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth, and recommendations from tutors and mentors. It also is important for homeschoolers to prepare detailed course descriptions of their independent course of study.
Colleges and universities are most impressed by a student’s genuine intellectual curiosity, which can’t be faked. Chelsea certainly has demonstrated this intellectual curiosity. She most likely would excel no matter what her environment because of her intense interest in learning. She loves literature and theater. For the last three years, she has taught Shakespeare classes to 40 youngsters. She studied the harp in Ireland most summers since she was ten. She also is intensely fond of French and reaps praises from her French tutor of ten years.
There are not many students like Chelsea, who have a strong intellectual interest, tenacity, and support of parents, but for those who fit into this category, the possibilities are unlimited.
Gifted Student College Application Rejected
There was an interesting interchange this past week on the Washington Post Web site. In What to Do With Gifted Students?, staff writer Jay Mathews talks about a letter he received from a mother of a very gifted student. (The boy was reading a college-level book in third grade.) Mathews admits that he has not been very sympathetic with parents of gifted students, but this one is an exception. In fact, he was so sympathetic, he invited readers to respond.
In a nutshell, the student in question had received rejections from a number of colleges/universities. The parents had focused on learning, not grades. The boy’s standardized test scores were very high and he had taken many advanced courses and scored very well on final tests. However, his grades were not great. He often didn’t do all of his assigned work, so received zeros. The classes didn’t move fast enough for him, so he did different work on his own and handed notes to the teacher and classmates.
After college rejections, the parents and student found out that many schools of higher learning do not look at things like AP scores until after students are admitted. (The boy had so many high scores on AP tests, that he would be qualified to place out of about a year of college.) The fact that his GPA (3.275) was low, in the minds of the admissions department, indicated to those decision makers that the boy is lazy.
In retrospect, the mother wishes that she had homeschooled her son. If he had been homeschooled, the colleges would have looked at the same scores that they now ignore.
The conversation of reader responses to this dilemma is worth reviewing. Since the staff writer who put all this together selected the responses to include, he was able to offer a variety of ideas by articulate people. You will not have to wade through a lot of the same comments written in a poor fashion. This article and letter responses would make a great discussion point for a group of parents, educators, or graduate students. I highly recommend that you read it.
Financial Aid for Top Universities
In the not so distant past, spots in elite schools in the United States were reserved only for the wealthy. Even today, many very capable students and parents of capable students feel that any college education, let alone at one of the nation’s top schools, is out of reach. Some students with great potential see no point in working hard in school because they feel they will have no opportunity to go on to a higher education, believing it simply can’t happen financially.
We need to let these students know that it is possible for them to get the best education at the best schools. They need a reason to work hard and explore options for learning. That may include going beyond the traditional school system. (See the many posts at this blog for possibilities beyond a traditional education.)
There actually seems to be a competition now among some of the elite schools of higher learning to recruit students from low and middle class homes. At some of these schools, if the family earns less than $60,000/year, the students pay no tuition.
Some of the schools that are making it possible for more students of lower incomes to attend include Columbia, Duke, Harvard
, Princeton, Stanford
, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale
. My guess is that more will follow.
This is all part of a growing national movement to combat the rapidly rising cost of higher education and to ensure that elite universities don't shut out all but the wealthiest students. Tuition at many private colleges and universities has risen so much in recent decades that even families earning close to $200,000 a year may struggle to afford it.
Under the plan announced by Drew Faust, president of Harvard, families earning more than $60,000 will be expected to pay a small percentage of their annual income for tuition and room and board, rising to 10% for those earning between $120,000 and $180,000 a year. All families that qualify for financial aid will receive that aid in grants, rather than being required to take out loans.
So let’s get the word out and give capable students an incentive to set high academic goals.
Science Video Sharing for Gifted Students
There are more and more groups of professionals who are committed to making information freely available to the public through the Internet. Many universities and scientists are willing to share their lectures and expertise. Instructional videos are available for students of all ages—elementary through graduate school.
SciVee is operated in partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It has a relatively new Web site that contains some material for elementary students and larger quantities of material for older students through scientists. Young people who are interested in careers in science will be fascinated by the various topics being studied. Just seeing what is going on at different universities may help students focus on their future objectives.
Examples of videos available at the site include Where Does Water Go When It Rains? Dissections, and Freezing by Boiling. There is also much information on highly sophisticated topics that will be appealing for highly able high school students.
Bio-Alive Life Science is another open access Web site. Available here are university lectures and videos on the human skeletal system, tissue engineering, and aging genes to name just a few.
Some scientists have been amazed at the number of people who are watching university lectures on the Internet now. Viewers come from a wide age range: Some are elementary school children, many are high school students, and others are adults who want to know more about science for a myriad of reasons.
Remember that these new uses of technology are still in their infancy; they are certainly on the verge of exploding, changing the way we learn.
Gifted Students Publishing Historical Academic Papers
When I took my first serious history course in college, the president of the university (a history buff himself) spoke to our class and encouraged us to submit our papers to various journals for publication. Being rather inexperienced, it had never occurred to me to submit anything I had ever written to anyone for publication. In my mind, I was "just" a student and couldn't imagine anyone being interested in what I wrote.
Now it is possible not only for serious college students to publish their work, but for serious high school history students to publish the papers that they have researched. The Concord Review
gives young people this opportunity. The Review
is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic expository research papers of secondary history students. Papers may be on any historical topic, ancient or modern, foreign or domestic, and may be submitted in two categories: short (1,500-2,500 words) and long (4,000-6,000 words).
Many of these young authors have sent reprints of their papers along with their college application materials. Their research has helped them to gain admission to some of the nation’s (and world’s) best universities.
High school teachers also use The Concord Review in their classes to provide examples of good historical writing. What a wonderful opportunity for students to see the work of age peers who have taken their work seriously.
Included on The Concord Review Web site are more than 60 sample essays for both students and teachers to view so they can get an idea of the quality of work accepted.
At this site, you also will find information about The National Writing Board, an independent assessment service for the academic writing of high school students of history. Each submission is assessed by two readers who know nothing about the author. These readers spend more than 3 hours on each paper. Three-page evaluations, with scores and comments, are then sent, at the request of the authors, to Deans of Admissions at the colleges to which they apply.
Language Immersion Programs for the Gifted
I was at a wedding reception this last week, talking to one of the guests and asking how her kids were enjoying the summer.
“Our son had the most incredible experience this summer,” she told me. He’s a bright kid, but hadn’t done well in his French class the last year. “We decided to enroll him at a language immersion camp at Concordia College in MN. The entire time he was there, nothing was spoken except French. All possible ways of communicating in any other fashion were taken away, including cell phones and computers.” She said he absolutely loved the experience.
The Concordia Language Villages
are located in Moorhead, Minnesota. They teach 14 languages (including Chinese, Finnish, Arabic, Korean, and Russian) and have sessions ranging from one weekend to 4 weeks for students 7-18 years of age. All levels from beginner through advanced are welcome.
Day camps are available at several locations for children 4-8 years of age to learn languages such as Norwegian, German, and Spanish.
Concordia also has an immersion program for children from countries around the world who want to learn English.
Scholarships and financial aid are available. Nearly 15% of the villagers receive scholarships.
I found out they also have immersion programs for adults and am going to look into that for myself. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn a different language every year?
Gifted Kids Plan for College
Attending college, especially an elite school, is a huge investment of both time and money. Therefore, planning for college should take place long before one’s junior or senior year in high school. You want to make certain that you chose a school that is a good match and that you have done everything necessary to get accepted and to be prepared for the experience. There are aids available to help with this process. Here are a few.
College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting Into the Right College
, by Sandra Berger. provides a hands-on, practical guide to college planning. The book’s author focuses on helping gifted students match self-awareness to the right postsecondary experience. She also provides practical advice for writing college application essays, requesting recommendation letters, visiting colleges, and preparing for the college entrance interview.
is published by Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. The magazine is geared toward gifted students in grades 7-12. Each issue is theme oriented and also offers advice on planning for college, student reviews of selective colleges, and profiles of fascinating careers. By reading the college reviews, students get a sense whether their particular intellectual and social styles will be a good match with each school. Many of the career profiles go way beyond the traditional careers one has come to expect (i.e., SeaWorld veterinarian, forensic paleontologist, and medical anthropologist).
is an advanced search engine sponsored by The Princeton Review. It combines your academic and extracurricular history with your preferences to help you find the right college.
If you want to have the greatest number of opportunities for your post-secondary education, you should start learning as much as possible about the process by grade 7.