Announcing Prufrock Press' Web Affiliate Program
A Dynamic Partnership
I’m proud to announce Prufrock Press’ new web affiliate program.
If you write a blog or manage an education or parenting website, Prufrock’s web affiliate program offers an exciting way to generate additional revenue for your site. As a web affiliate, you will receive a 10% commission on sales made by individuals coming to Prufrock Press’ website from your website.
In the past, when bloggers or web masters created web links to our books for their readers, they provided a link that directed the readers to a major online retailer like Amazon.com. I want to change this by offering an incentive to link directly to the Prufrock Press website.
I would much rather service my customers directly. We provide a superior experience to that of the large online retailers. (Ever try to reach a real person on the phone at those retailers?) If you have a question about a book or need help with an order, my customer service department is available by phone, e-mail, or fax (that information is on the bottom of every page of our website and catalog). Our attention to building relationships with our customers is simply something that the major retailers don’t offer.
To encourage bloggers and web masters to directly link to Prufrock’s website, I asked our programmers to build a web affiliate program that is superior to that of the major online retailers.
If you write a blog or manage an education or parenting website, visit Prufrock Press’ web affiliate page for more information about participating in this program.
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 administration and management,
curriculum and instruction,
socio-emotional guidance and counseling,
professional development, and
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.
The Science Behind Olympic Competition
NBC Learn has teamed up with NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part online video series
that highlights the science behind winter sports, demonstrating how athletes preparing for the Vancouver Winter Games ski, skate, jump, and curl their way to Olympic gold. Each video illustrates how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. This is a great opportunity for educators to incorporate the Olympics into the classroom. It will engage both athletes and non-athletes alike with video titles such as:
In each video, an NSF-supported scientist explains how a specific scientific principle applies to the sport. The athlete’s movements are captured on high-speed camera and then slowed down to illustrate scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction drag, speed, and velocity.
Athletes who are featured in the videos include:
(hockey)—two-time Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate
(short track speed skating)—2010 Olympic hopeful
News Sites for Gifted Kids
Kristin Hokanson (elementary teacher turned high school tech coach) maintains The Connected Classroom Web site. Hokanson understands the growing importance of technology in our lives and urges teachers and parents to incorporate technology into their children’s learning experiences. Connected Classroom contains many interesting sections. Today, I’d like to tell you about News Sites for Kids.
News Sites for Kids offers a comprehensive list of links to news that kids can understand. Many of these links also offer lesson plans or teaching ideas such as the following listed on The New York Times Learning Connection:
In the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." And the Buddha is supposed to have said, "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger." Choose one of these quotations or find another expression about human nature by searching an archive of quotations, such as About.com's Quotations page or Bartleby.com. Then read The New York Times for a week, looking for articles that support (or refute) the expression you chose. Good starting places are the Opinion, N.Y./Region and U.S./National sections. Then write an essay that explains the degree to which the expression seems to be true, backed by the examples you found.
As always, teachers should check sites out first to make certain they are appropriate for the learning levels of their students.
Links for the younger set include:
For upper elementary and older:
Hokanson has including additional links to visual sites using world maps to organize the day's headlines, world newspapers, commercial newsites, and sites that help teachers develop lesson plans about current events and the nature of journalism.
"Facets of Gifted Education" -- An Interview With ... Me
I recently had the chance to be interviewed by Laura Vanderkam, a co-author of Genius Denied and the author of the Gifted Exchange Blog.
If you get a chance, click this link to read the interview. It's a short piece, but it covers a wide range of gifted education topics (changes in the field of gifted education over the last 20 years, differentiated instruction, and some opportunities the field faces in coming years), and it touches on some of the publishing plans here at Prufrock Press.
Thanks to Laura for conducting the interview and posting it on her blog!
May Clearance Sale on Gifted Education Books
As many of you know, once a year, I need to clear out some of our oldest or overstocked titles to make room for our exciting new releases for the next school year.
Each May, we offer a selection of titles at drastically reduced prices. The books I have placed on clearance are in perfect condition. Many of these wonderful titles have been quite popular over the years, but I simply have too many in inventory, and I want to sell them while they are still great tools for the classroom.
Save money on exciting classroom materials during Prufrock's year-end inventory clearance.
Order before May 31 and receive these books for 99¢–$1.99! Supplies are limited, so please act quickly.
[Link Removed: Sale Ended on May 31, 2008]
Click here to visit our "Web-Only Clearance" sale.
School and School District Purchase Orders Accepted Online
If you need to make purchases using a school or school district purchase order you may do so online. Our online shopping system accepts purchase orders.
Identification of Creatively Gifted Students
Recently, I had a request from a teacher about how to identify creatively gifted students at her school. The Center for Creative Learning
has in-depth information on this subject.
· Assessing Creativity: A Guide for Educators. This 121 page PDF file was originally published by the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, at the University of Connecticut.
· Database of more than 70 instruments used to assess creativity.
However, before considering the assessment of student creativity, one should ask a few basic questions.
1. What is the purpose of the identification?
2. If a child is identified, will that child be treated differently?
3. What areas of creativity are you assessing (i.e., scientific, art, music, school project development, general problem solving, oration)?
4. Is your assumption that children are born creative or that only certain young people have that potential?
When we talk about someone being generally gifted, it is best to state the area of high ability. The same is true for describing a person who is creatively gifted. We simply can’t expect any individual to be creative in everything. So, we must ask ourselves, what information do we expect to gain from these formal assessments?
As students advance in age and abilities, it is probably most accurate to have experts in specific fields determine creativity, as only they will have enough knowledge compare these students with the general population.
Pairing youngsters with others who are creative in similar ways is beneficial as these students will appreciate one another and feed off of one another’s ideas. (Aside: Remember that it is possible to be creative in ways that are not acceptable, in which case you wouldn’t want to pair kids.)
We should not forget that it is very beneficial for all young people to frequently be offered opportunities to be creative both at home and at school. Creativity is not a static attribute.
For more information on aspects of creativity, be sure and visit previous blogs.
Thoughts on Individualized Learning for the Gifted or Nongifted
Individualized learning can help a person of any age move through a subject at his or her own pace. Neither kids nor parents need to wait for their schools to figure out how to arrange for individualized learning. There are other choices, including private lessons, technology (much of it costing no more than an Internet connection), and mentors.
I am personally rediscovering how individualized learning works. For quite a few years I’ve been thinking about becoming proficient in several languages and also studying piano. A couple of months ago I took the plunge.
For a foreign language, I decided to start with French. The last time I studied a language was in college. Technology has totally changed the way I can now learn. Rather than spend a lot of money on a class that has a set time schedule and curriculum, I’ve subscribed to a couple of French podcasts over iTunes (free). The podcasts include pdf files on vocabulary and grammar, which I download and print out to accompany the audio podcasts. That way, I can both see and hear the language. I’ve also signed up for an online class at LiveMocha
. I learned about this Web site from an article in The New York Times
, titled Learning from a Native Speaker, without Leaving Home
. I can progress through the LiveMocha course at my own pace with both visuals and audio. I also have the opportunity to communicate with real native speakers by writing, talking together, and even using a Webcam. Once I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the language, I will join a group in my community that gets together with the sole purpose of speaking the language.
The second thing I’m doing is studying piano. (I had taken lessons as a child, under duress, and had never done very well.) I knew that I needed formal, private instruction for this. I interviewed four different piano teachers. Each had a very different style. I am very pleased with the person I chose. He is explaining techniques to me that no one had ever explained before. My teacher does not write lesson plans before working with me; instead, he listens to what I have practiced and watches the way I am using my hands, and then teaches me according to my performance on lesson day. While there is a general plan for the areas we will cover, the real value is in discovering where I am with my studies at a particular time and figuring out what needs to be taught. I can’t think of a better way to learn.
Before starting on either of these learning pursuits, I made a commitment to myself to work hard and enjoy each. The coupling of motivation, plus the individualized learning seems to be the perfect match. When hearing my enthusiasm for French and piano, some of my friends have used the words “obsessive” or “highly focused.” Sometimes, in gifted education, we more kindly say a person has a real passion.
We hear so much about the benefits of individualized instruction, but it isn’t easy to accomplish in a school setting. At least for some subjects, individualized instruction is the best way to learn. Remember that there are options outside the school setting to learn at one’s own pace.
Black History Month Resources for Gifted Kids
February is Black History Month and there are rich resources available to learn about important African Americans and their contributions to history. With a click of the computer mouse, teachers and students can access audio interviews, music, video, photographs, text, and Internet links from reputable sources. You can read biographies, listen to live performances of spirituals, hear great speeches and discussions about cultural influences, learn about important movements, and view study guides.
Here are just a few of the resources available.
If you are an iTunes user, go to iTunes U and see the free downloads on Black History Month that are available for your computer or MP3 player.
Enhancing Creativity through Elaboration
Another important element of creativity is the use of elaboration—to embellish, enhance, and enrich. Elaboration allows for the addition of significant detail to basic ideas, making thoughts and products more complex and intricate.
Think of the artwork in Where’s Waldo? books or Richard Scarry books. Young children delight in the pages completely filled with minute illustrations. Consider a very detailed description of a place or person. After finishing the passage, you have a clear picture of what that place or person is like. You cannot only “see” the object of interest, but you can also “smell,” “hear,” and perhaps “feel” it.
Examples of elaboration activities you can practice with kids include the following:
- Give each student a blank piece of paper along with pencils, crayons, or markers. Instruct them to draw a simple house by sketching a square with a triangle on top of it for the roof. Next, set a timer for five minutes. During the allotted time, students should add as many details to the picture as possible. At the end of the five minutes, share the pictures and talk about them. Encourage children to add more details as they see/hear the ideas of others that they like. The object is to make the pictures as elaborate as possible.
- Sit down at the computer. Have your student or even a whole class take a seat near you. (You are going to do the typing.) Write a simple sentence, such as, “The boy walked down the street.” Together, generate questions and answers that will allow for the elaboration of the story. Why was the boy walking down the street? Was he by himself or with someone else? Can we replace “walking” with another word? What did the boy see around him? How was he feeling? What was he wearing? Fire the questions out as quickly as possible and insert answers before, in the middle of, and after the original sentence. You will be surprised at how you can turn a simple sentence into an elaborate story.
Have a child or a small group of children help plan a party including invitations, decorations, games, food, and entertainment. Use everyday materials that are found around the house. The more detailed the decorations are, the better. This party can be for people, pets, or stuffed animals. It might be fun to have it theme oriented.
Review classified ads and human interest stories with your young person. Look for ideas that evoke images. Take turns creating stories based on the mental images created from the ads. For example: “Lost—bag of pearls in blue velvet bag somewhere between Main Street and 7th Avenue after large dog grabbed it out of owner’s hand. If found, please call 644-5983.” What kind of story can be created using elements from this ad? What kind of a person would walk around with a bag of pearls? How did the person acquire the pearls? What was the person going to do with the pearls? Where did the dog take the pearls? The possibilities for a great story are endless.
Encourage students to put lots of detail into their school projects, when appropriate.
When a young person tells you something, encourage him to elaborate with statements like, “Tell me more.”
A System of Organizing Books for Gifted Students
Keeping track of all the books I read has always been a problem. I’ve floated from one system to another. Recently, a friend told me about GoodReads. At first I was skeptical because I figured it was just another gimmicky Web site, but I tried it and now I am hooked. I think it would also work for gifted kids. In fact, in addition to students using it as a way to keep track of books they’ve read, it also encourages them to write and to communicate with others about their reading.
The Web site is free and you can keep recorded information as private as you want. Right now, I am only sharing my input with one other person, though I’ve invited a couple of friends who are also avid readers to join.
As a parent, you would want to monitor the way in which your young person uses the site. While GoodReads is a useful tool for any age, like any public site, it is probably most appropriate for emotionally mature students who will use it appropriately. If you have elementary or middle school children, you may want to first test it with your own books to see if you are comfortable with it.
Let me tell you the parts I really like:
- I can list all the books I have read and rate each on a scale of one to five.
- I can list the dates on which I finished each book.
- I can easily access a summary of a book or information on the author. This is good, because sometimes I can’t immediately recall the theme of a book if I read it several years ago.
- By clicking on edit, I can record anything I want about the book. Sometimes, I find it helpful to write down meaningful quotations or passages. Sometimes, I just want to remember a particular impression I had, or cite what I learned from the book. I can also write my own review of the book.
- By clicking on the title of a book I’ve read, I can see comments that others have made after reading it themselves and click again to see threads of discussion about the book. I can also rate the reviews of others.
- I am also able to list books I am in the process of reading and books I want to read.
For those who like to organize information, this is a great way to do it. The books I read become my friends, and when I go back years later and review some of the things I have written, the words bring back warm memories.
If I choose to become “friends” with others on GoodReads, I receive an email every time these people post books they have just finished, or reviews they have written. That way, I can keep up with the interests of others.
A group of readers can be formed by a parent or teacher to discuss books read in class or through a homeschool group. GoodReads is one way to be able to organize and voice opinions outside of class.
Aside: If you had access to my section of GoodReads, you would see that I just finished reading Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri and am a little more than half way through War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Both are well worth reading.
Creative and Critical Thinking for Gifted Students through FPSPI
We all have problems we’d like to solve. Some people aren’t very good at math. Some people have nosy neighbors. Some people go to bed hungry at night. No matter how small or how big the problems are, we’d like to solve them. It’s hard to solve a problem, though, unless we understand the problem very well. Who is involved in the problem? What is the problem? When and where does the problem occur? Why does the problem happen? How does it occur? The first step in successful problem solving is defining and describing the problem.
This is just one type of thinking fostered by FPSPI. The program (for students in grades 4–12) stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages young people to develop visions for the future through both individual and team activities. It nurtures global awareness not only through choice of topics, but by knowing that the same problems are being studied by over 250,000 students annually, including those from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
Curricular and co-curricular competitive activities, as well as non-competitive activities are offered.
Through FPSPI, students learn to
formulate and attack complex, ambiguous problems
analyze and better understand material
improve in oral and written communication
work together in a team.
You can get an idea of the scope of current and future topics by reading their descriptions at the program’s Web site.
Debt in Developing Countries
Even if your student never participates in the formal program, the organization’s website contains good instructional materials for creative and critical thinking. Materials include both written offerings available for purchase and also links to other Web sites.
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
GT resource teachers
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.
Debunking the Science Education Myth
BusinessWeek recently ran an article about the current state of science and engeneering education in the United States. I haven't reviewed the actual research report cited in the article, but BusinessWeek does a nice job of summarizing the results.
The article, The Science Education Myth: Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support, contridicts conventional wisdom. According to the article, the U.S. is doing a good job of preparing students in science and engineering.
From the article:
The authors of the report, the Urban Institute's Hal Salzman and Georgetown University professor Lindsay Lowell, show that math, science, and reading test scores at the primary and secondary level have increased over the past two decades, and U.S. students are now close to the top of international rankings. Perhaps just as surprising, the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.
Using Fluency to Stimulate Creativity
There are a number of elements of creativity that teachers and parents can use to stimulate their students (and themselves). Fluency—the ability to come up with many ideas—is one of those elements. It is difficult to find innovative ideas if one can’t generate many from which to choose. You can have a lot of fun with these activities. The exercises fill odd moments (waiting in line, driving in the car) with stimulation and can also help generate ideas for projects.
techniques are used when working on fluency. When brainstorming,
- No criticism is allowed. Defer any judgment until a large number of alternatives have been produced. (If you judge too quickly, you risk shutting people down.)
- Freewheeling is desired. The wilder the ideas, the better. (From those crazy ideas might come some very sensible ones.)
- Quantity is desired. Include the small, obvious alternatives, as well as the wild, unusual, clever ones. (The more ideas one can generate, the greater the chances that one of those ideas will be a good one.)
- Combine alternatives and hitchhike upon alternatives to produce even more ideas. (Often young children will complain: “He stole my idea.” But, it’s a compliment to take someone else’s idea and change it slightly or expand upon it.)
For fun activities try some of the following:
- List all of the words you can think of that begin with a certain letter, certain two letters, certain three letters, etc.
- List all of the synonyms/antonyms you can thing of for a certain word.
- Name all the objects you can think of that are white and edible, or mean and yet soft.
- Name uses for a bale of hay or a needle or a broom.
- What are all of the uses (conventional or nonconventional) you can think of for a fork?
- Think of all of the possible presents you could give to a person if you had no money.
If you ask at your local bookstore, you will find books that list suggested topics for brainstorming.
Some ideas for using brainstorming for academic subjects include:
How many aspects are similar/different between two books?
How many ways did WWII affect the culture of the U.S.?
List as many equations as you can where the answer is 6. (3 + 3, 2 x 3, 26 – 20, etc.)
Name as many kinds of penguins as you can and their natural habitats.
List all the possible settings for a scary story.
How many different techniques can you think of to make a presentation to the class?
NCLB Devastating Gifted Education Programs
On February 7, The New York Times ran a good article on the negative impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act on gifted education. The article, "Federal Law Drains Resources for the Gifted," offers a powerful look at how the act has devastated gifted and talented programs across the county.
From the article:
The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that virtually all children become proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014, and this demand is forcing many school districts to focus attention—and money—on students who are not proficient in reading or math. Many families of exceptionally bright children like to say that it is the gifted who are being left behind.
In the years after the law’s signing in January 2002, Illinois jettisoned its $19 million allocation for gifted programs and Michigan cut spending to $250,000 from $4 million. Here in Connecticut, 22 percent of the state’s districts eliminated or shrank gifted programs in 2002, and others have since scaled back. It doesn’t take a gifted person to figure out that the law is siphoning off the money.
March 2 Success: A Free Online SAT and ACT Prep Course
Sandra Berger, the author of College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting Into the Right College
sent me an e-mail this week to let me know about a free SAT and ACT test preparation site. She felt the readers of my blog would find it valuable, and I agree.
The site, March 2 Success, is sponsored by the U.S. Army; however, the resources available are "no-strings attached" (i.e., a recruiter will not contact users of the site useless a user explicitly asks them to do so) and are free. Given the site's quality and that the content was developed by Kaplan, a similar course would cost between $500-$700.
According to the site, March 2 Success "is a free, web-based program that makes high quality, test preparation instruction available to all. Designed by Kaplan and Educational Options and sponsored by the US Army, it is more inclusive than traditional college entrance test preparatory courses."
To see a demo of the site's features, visit the March 2 Success demo page.
CNN to Air Special Report on Genius
On Sunday, September 17, 2006, CNN will air a special report on the subject of genius.
Being gifted and being a genius are not the same thing. Geniuses are a small subset of the total gifted population. Although "genius" is probably the more popular phrase for this subset of individuals, most gifted education professionals choose to use the phrase "profoundly gifted." I think the latter phrase is less loaded with implication, expectation, and bias. However, I don't get to name CNN programs, so I'll use the term "genius" in this post.
The following is excerpted from the CNN press release titled "CNN’s Gupta Unravels Mystery of Genius for Prime-time Special."
In the new Dr. Sanjay Gupta Primetime Special, CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines the mysteries behind genius and attempts to answer the classic nature/nurture question of whether high intelligence is inborn or the product of environment. The one-hour program, “Genius,” premieres Sunday, Sept. 17, at 10 p.m. (ET)
A practicing neurosurgeon, Gupta starts with a look inside the brain and a discussion with scientists who are using cutting-edge brain imaging to find remarkable differences in the brains of highly intelligent people. Gupta’s quest takes him from the physiology of genius to the links and differences between intelligence and creativity. Along the way, he meets savants – people with severe mental limitations who possess breathtaking talent – and gifted students, whose educational needs are often unmet.
"As a new parent myself, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to nurture intelligence and creativity, especially in children," Gupta said. "From that starting point, we’ve met all sorts of remarkable people, from those you might call geniuses or prodigies to the people who study the concept of genius from all sorts of perspectives. Hopefully, we’ll shed some light on the meaning of genius and the way great ideas are born."
Inexpensive SAT and ACT Test Preparation
Guest Post by: Lacy Elwood
About This Blog Entry's Guest Author
Lacy Elwood is one of Prufrock Press' editors. Lacy is the editor of Creative Kids Magazine and acts at the primary editor for many of Prufrock's parenting and education related books.
Preparing for College Entrance Exams
With the start of the fall semester swiftly approaching, college-bound students across the nation are gearing up to take the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. In 2005, 1.47 million students took the SAT. Another 2.1 million ACT tests were administered that year. Preparing for these exams has become the norm in the lives of many gifted high school students.
Reflecting these trends, several companies have popped up to offer preparatory programs for the tests. Whether students go to a local learning center, take the prep courses via the Internet, or simply opt to purchase a study guide from a local bookstore, preparing for the SAT or ACT test has become a must. However, choosing and selecting the right preparatory program is mostly a matter of taste and expense.
One option is to take a specific test prep course at a local learning center, college, or even through a school district. Kaplan and the Princeton Review are reputable companies for this type of service. Kaplan’s SAT Classroom Courses and the Princeton Review’s ACT Classroom Courses and SAT Classroom Courses are good options to check out. Courses can be costly, but the classroom atmosphere often helps some students concentrate on the task at hand.
Inexpensive Test Preparation Materials
Students and parents looking to save some money on preparatory programs should check out the Victory Sports Group Agency’s collaboration with eKnowledge LLC. In this program, NFL, NFL Europe, AFL, and CFL athletes have donated several million dollars worth of SAT and ACT preparatory programs. Students can receive the $200 DVD or CD-ROM courses free, by checking out http://sat.eknowledge.com/nation.asp (click "Order" on the left side of the Web site and enter sponsorship code "31585F21A6"). Parents must pay the cost of shipping and handling ($9.95), but it’s a cost that pales in comparison to some of the other programs available.
A great option for the busy student is to consider taking online courses or utilizing the various companies Web sites for review. Both the College Board and American College Testing, Inc. offer resources via their Web sites for students. The College Board’s SAT Preparation Center provides students with practice questions, test-taking tips, and a free tour of its online courses, and the ACT’s ACT Student Web page gives students test tips, sample tests, and links to its preparatory programs.
The Princeton Review’s Web site also offers a great resource: a checklist for figuring out which type of test prep course is best for each individual student. Whatever your students’ preferences, there’s an option out there ready to help them prepare for the college entrance exam.
Public Schools Perform Well
Today, the New York Times ran an interesting article titled, "Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study."
According to the Times, "The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.
"The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools on eighth-grade math."
The article includes a summary of the report and includes a link to the full report in PDF format.
Gifted children are not specifically addressed in the study; however, this study offers some very strong validation for public school teachers and administrators.
Oprah's Disservice to Public Education
I generally enjoy the Oprah show. I don't get to watch it that often, but I did catch snippets of a program she did recently called "Schools in Crisis." To view an excerpt from the show, visit the "Video Dog" section of Salon.com
(you have to watch an advertisement to view the video, but it's worth it if you want to get your blood boiling).
According to Oprah, "Bill Gates first sounded the alarm" about a crisis in public education in a speech he gave last summer. Gates believes our public schools are "obsolete," and he is "terrified" about America's workforce of tomorrow. The rest of the video is a reiteration of the notion that we have a crisis in public education.
I want to admit two biases. The first has to do with our notion of "crisis" in public education. Anyone, and I mean anyone
, who has taken a course in education history knows that we have always
had an education "crisis" in this country. Critics of public education haven't stopped their "sky is falling" mantra since free, public education first opened up opportunities to all citizens and not just the privileged few.
Had Oprah wished, she could have featured several authors of "educational crisis" books that support the thesis of her show:
Quackery in the Public Schools
by Robert Hutchins
Why Johnny Can't Read
by Rudolph Flesch
by Arthur Bestor
The trouble is that the crisis these books were concerned with was the state of public education ... well ... 50 years ago.
I'll also mention a second bias. When I watch Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, two of the richest people in the world (the kind of folks who live in gated compounds and shop after hours in exclusive Paris boutiques
), get together to talk about what's really
happening in America's public schools, I start exhibiting a neurotic tick.
Playing Fast and Loose with the Facts
The really creepy thing about this video is the way the show plays fast and loose with the facts. After watching it, I looked up every "fact-let" spouted off in this video. Admittedly, there was a grain of truth to each, but you really had to dig deep to find it. It was like watching the equivalent of a high school debate where the other team didn't show up and the one team that did felt free to exaggerate.
For example, Melinda Gates (who appears on the show with her husband) states that of all the U.S. students going to college, "more than 40% are doing remedial work." It took a bit of time to track down the obscure study to which Ms. Gates was making reference. The study in question looked at Ohio students, and it found that up to 40% of of college students in that state took at least one remedial class in college.
If you enroll in a community college after high school and try to brush up on your algebra skills by taking a remedial class to get yourself ready for calculus, then you get to be part of Melinda Gates' students in crisis. The fact that I did just that when I attended Northern Virginia Community College more than 20 years ago makes me part of Melinda's crisis--I suppose.
Ignoring Improvements in Public Education
Today's critics of public education pick and choose among their facts. They decry U.S. students' drop in scores when compared to other countries. They cull through large data-sets looking for any drop in our standings in order to decry free public education in this country and to promote everything from the privatization of public education to the dismantling of the institution altogether.
Never, and I mean never, do they point to US students' significant improvements in achievement over the last decade
. They never mention the fact that during the 1990s and up through today, after rolling up their sleeves and working hard to help students, American public school teachers improved their students' performance on international assessments. Additionally, big achievement gains made by U.S. African-American and Hispanic students over the last 10 years are all but ignored by such critics.
Critics of public education simply side-step the results of a massive government-financed study that recently concluded that when it comes to math (the only subject area reviewed in the study), students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools
Despite the significant improvements and ongoing successes of public school students, these critics still decry U.S. public education.
Didn't Oprah Learn Anything from the James Frey Fiasco?
If all this wasn't enough, Oprah ends the episode with a video of a Chinese student who could name the first five presidents of the United States. Then, the video goes on to show some American students who could not. Oprah says it's worrisome and eyebrow-raising (she actually raises her eyebrows when saying it). I say it just means you can go out and find some kids that can't name the first five presidents. I'm sure they could have found many that could--had they wished to feature them in the video.
Didn't the fiasco with James Frey’s falsehoods teach Oprah anything? Sensational exaggerations may sell books and get you ratings, but hard facts and information are what this country deserves--especially when we are talking about the education of our children.
Geography and Gifted Education
When I started working as a gifted education specialist at one elementary school, I was told that there was a second grader at the school who was a whiz at geography. Peter was a whiz-kid! His father had introduced him to the subject before he ever started public school and he had been devouring it ever since. Ask him to locate any place on the map and he could point right to it. But he wasn’t just good at place names. He could tell you the climate, the animals, and the vegetation of the area. If asked to reason why a certain event might take place in a specific country or city, he would pause and then begin his sentence very slowly with, “Let’s see…” He would then take all the information he knew about the place and reason very logically why that event might have taken place there. He might also add, “But I would also like to know…” Peter was a phenomenal reader. At second grade, he was reading at a 12th grade level. This enabled him to research easily. Peter was gifted in geography.
I often wonder how many other kids might be gifted in geography if they were just exposed to it. After all, a child can’t get excited about something to which he has never been introduced. While most students in first or second grades are learning about their neighborhoods in school, Peter was exploring the world. Peter knew that geography was not a dry subject.
Geography is much more exciting than many people think, involving far more than places and locations. Geography helps us to understand the relationship of places and people. With a little searching adults will find that there are resources available to introduce young people to this subject.
To give you an idea of the scope of geography, check out the definitions
that were compiled from participants at the Geography Summit II which was held at Southwest Texas State University in 1996 and collected by Dr. Ed Fernald of the Florida Geographic Alliance.
Great Resources for Teaching
To help people gain a greater understanding of geography, in 1984 the Joint Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) developed Five Themes of Geography.
These themes include location, place, human/environment interaction, movement, and regions. Be sure and take a look at this site as it explains each of these themes and lists fun activities to teach them. More activities for teaching the Five Themes can be found at Education World
At the National Geographic Xpeditions
site, you will find not only the U.S. National Geography Standards, but lesson plans, activities, an atlas, and an interactive learning museum.
Want to know if you have a student who is gifted in geography
? The national curriculum of England has actually set up standards.
Finally, if you would like to pursue geography on a competitive basis, take a look at GeoBee Challenge
. This site includes information for kids, parents, and teachers, including information on the National Geographic Bee.
So, have lots of resources available to students, including maps, atlases, and globes. I have a large world map hanging in my kitchen. There’s no need for me to look for it or open it up when I want it. If I read about a place and I’m not sure where it is, I can look it up. If I’m doing a crossword puzzle and one of the questions pertains to geography, I can look it up. Have maps for everything. I live in a sports oriented state, so I have maps of bike trails, hiking trails, ski area trails, and cross-country ski trails. They are fun to study. Also interesting are topographical maps, relief maps, political maps, and weather maps. Each gives different kinds of information.
If you go to the zoo, get a map of the animal locations. If you go to a museum, get a map of the exhibit locations. Have your child make a map of your house. Talk about the arrangement of the rooms and how the present locations function in your house. Then have your child create a map of his ideal house. Have him explain why he placed the rooms where he did. Is it more functional that way?
Use maps when studying history. Observe border changes. Why do they change? How does geography influence where people settle? How does it affect where people move? Discuss geography in relationship to current events. How does geography affect alliances and conflicts throughout the world? Why do the names of countries change?
Teach students how to read legends. Understand longitude and latitude and time zones. How does geography affect climate? Make geography a part of everyday life both at home and at school.