Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When "Gifted" Isn't Good Enough

Howard County prides itself on its excellent public education. Just recently, it was published in local newspapers that HoCo students are doing better than ever on Maryland State Assessments. Strong test scores combined with exceptional extracurricular/athletic programs make for a very desirable school system.

However, I believe that it would be naive to assume that every student is happy within the system. Teachers often complain about homework not getting done, even in "Gifted & Talented" (GT) classes. Why do "gifted" students cut corners on assignments and skip homework altogether?

Arrogance is probably one of the biggest reasons. Yes, you can blame it on procrastination or bad time management skills or too many things being scheduled for these kids, but often at the root of it all is arrogance. Homework is supposed to reinforce concepts taught in class. Too often, though, GT students do not feel that they need any further reinforcement. If they understand the lesson perfectly well (and for some, they already knew the lesson months, if not years in advance), they don't believe that doing the homework is going to help them at all. To them, homework is often just "busywork" meant to take up time.

As a student myself, I would probably be tarred and feathered by my peers for saying this, but perhaps the school system should make GT and AP classes more difficult. Hundreds of gifted students, in my opinion, are not reaching their potential, even in GT classes. They are sitting bored during class because they are able to master lessons in a fraction of the time in a 50 or 90 minute class period. An even more accelerated course would cut down on time spent being bored, and it would encourage learning. Yes, students chafe at the very notion of "more thinking," but deep down, they like it. It's the reason why they choose to enroll in as many AP classes as possible, why they participate in an inordinately large amount of extracurriculars, why they pursue hobbies like computer programming (hacking, to be "cool"), music, and sports.

There was a long-running joke in Patapsco Middle School about the "Challenge Reading" course. It was essentially an accelerated reading class. The students in it, however, would joke about themselves being put in the class because they were "challenged," in the "mentally challenged" sense of the word. Middle schoolers can be very politically incorrect. However, the irony was that these kids were not only the opposite of mentally challenged, but that they were not being challenged enough and probably wouldn't be for the rest of their K-12 academic careers. Howard County will never realize the potential of its students if we keep them in the "safe zone." Sometimes it is necessary to push kids to their limit, to find out how much more "gifted" they can be.


Anonymous mary smith said...

Gifted children are not the kids who are overlooked most often, it's the regular kids. We have programs for gifted kids, programs for academically challenged children. Where are the programs for regular kids? We should be spending their youths determining where they naturally excel - like energy generation; taking field trips to the Virginia Tech Decathalon house that runs entirely based on energy it generates, then studying solar power (yes, in middle school). And writing is not an art from bygone eras, but you'd think so to see the 'acceptable' work students submit. More homework is not the answer, but better programs, firm standards - for regular kids too.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The AP programs are not for gifted kids, they are for average kids pushing to please or being pushed by mommy and/or daddy. That is why the gifted kids sit feeling they're doing busy work - they are. Busy work that can be graded and used to pass those kids that can work their butts off but couldn't think to save their lives.

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