Sunday, September 2, 2012

Talented and gifted

Something really funny came in the mail today (ok, yesterday). It was a letter from 8yo's former school informing us that  based on his IOWAs and other standardized tests he qualifies to participate in their enrichment program. The participants meet twice a week for forty minutes. This is the program's mission:
  • develop advanced research skills
  • develop critical thinking and logical problem-solving skills
  • develop advanced communication skills
  • develop creative thinking and creative problem-solving skills
This program costs extra 500$, and the reason we are getting this letter is because he took those tests last year. They obviously did not communicate internally that he is no longer attending the school. Getting this letter provided a chuckle, but it also got me thinking.

So, there is a subset of kids that tests well. Based on these standardized tests, these kids are presumed to be so smart, that they can miss class twice a week and still catch up. During the whole year, nothing so important will take place during those biweekly 40 minutes that would prevent these kids from attending enrichment. Or, does this say that they could probably miss ANY 40 minutes of ANY day, and still carry on? Or maybe, they do not need to attend their class at all? 

On a different slant, this letter clearly indicates that in regular classroom, kids do not develop advanced research skills, critical thinking, communication skills and creative problem solving. In short, if your child did not qualify for the enrichment, he is just going to develop very basic set of skills. Apparently, he has no need for logical problem solving or creative thinking. He just needs to follow what the teacher says and do exactly that. Now, I wonder, how many kids by the end of 5th grade would magically qualify for this program, if, for the past six years, they were always just taught to do exactly as told?

This program is literally taking kids out of the box of the classroom and allowing them to think outside the box. The rest? Oh well, I am sure there is a warm bench for you somewhere...

Again, all of this is hinging on a bunch of standardized tests. What if someone does not test well? What is some kid got bored during the test and wrote gibberish? That was a creative solution to a very annoying problem of sitting still and filling in the bubbles... of course, he will get penalized for it, by spending even more years learning how to fill in even more bubbles. That will knock any desire to write gibberish right out, along with creativity, spontaneity and desire to learn.

On the other hand, we are already running our own enrichment program here. 
  • Advanced research skills: my son picks his own books in the library on the subjects that interest him, talks to librarians about the books he cannot find, looks up words, watches videos, makes lists, draws pictures, asks questions.
  • Critical thinking: he manages his own allowance and his time, spends a fair amount of time in discussions of cause and effect, connects different events. He asks a lot of questions and comes back till the answer is to his satisfaction.
  • Communication skills: he talks to his siblings and parents about pleasant and unpleasant things, to grown-ups at the places we go to: the park, the library, the grocery store, shul.
  • Creative thinking and problem solving: he spends quite of bit his time figuring out how to make things easier for himself. Today's creative solution: make a rambunctious game out of dreaded laundry folding and putting away including singing, dragging of baskets, marching and teams.

Our program is free. The opportunity to participate is priceless.

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