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    #79268 - 06/29/10 09:36 AM Exactly what is "thinking Big"?
    PoppaRex Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/09/10
    Posts: 44
    I am of the opinion that the obvious answer is, "Teach each to his/her ability", but is that something that is doable? I know there is some effort ongoing via "Race to the top" to define base programs and individualized learning, but it is my impression that teachers do not see that individualized learning is possible considering current funding and class sizes, and part of me thinks they are right.

    The problem I see is the moment you create a separate system for identifying and educating the gifted, then there will be a tremendous amount of resistance as the concept flies in the face of "No Child Left Behind". The issue is that there really is no definition of what NCLB really means. The perception is that it means every child has the right to the same level of education as any other child, whether they are capable or not. That automatically drags the system to the lowest common denominator whether intentional or not.

    What I envision is a system that, from an early age, attempts to identify/quantify ability and set minimum targets for those levels. It needs to be very flexible to ensure that a child is not pigeon-holed into a categorization that is not appropriate.

    I would think the ability and testing are fairly simple. It's just a matter of designing something that is used continuously to assess and reassess. I don't think it would require a full psych analysis for every test. It's likely that much of that just needs to be defined clearly.

    The individualized learning might be a bit trickier. How does the Davidson Academy handle this (I didn't see Teacher/student ratios on the website). Again, the issue as I understand it from teachers is that it woudl be impossible for a teacher to be aware of the various levels that each student is learning at. I am not convinced that that is not simply a problem that no one has tried to work out in an efficient manner.

    What is the future for computerized training? Obviously it has never lived up to the model predicted on "the Jetsons", but it that simply a matter of a lack of vision and focus? Could it be done in a way that provides access to the masses?

    Thoughts?

    Thanks!
    Poppa

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    #79317 - 06/29/10 02:42 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: PoppaRex]
    Grinity Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Poppa - if you aren't familiar with NWEA's MAP test, take a look.
    http://www.nwea.org/products-services-0

    I love your idea of "Teach each to his/her ability" and think it's a great keystone of what education could be about. On a more practical level, I think that "Teach each child within their readiness level" is more 'actionable.'

    To me that implies
    1) figuring out what are the steps to learning a skill, or advancing in a subject
    2) testing which steps the child has mastered
    3) moving the child to a location where a lesson is being taught that is designed to teach that skill

    Computerized teaching seems so appealing to me, but after observing my son, I see that in the end, he really wants several children to interact with (and show off to.) Perhaps computerized learning will really flower when it allows peer interaction in some meaningful way?

    Always fun to hear from you -
    Grinity
    _________________________
    Coaching available, at SchoolSuccessSolutions.com

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    #79318 - 06/29/10 02:51 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    traceyqns Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/18/09
    Posts: 460
    I dk how they do it but a montessori school by me does teach to each kid individually. It somehow works. Kids are not pinned against each other. The parents know each kid is doing their own thing. They all have diff books etc. When a child finishes a book they move on to the next level book. There was no following the group. I just wish the school had higher grades. They have individual instruction and it may not be all day but even 10 minutes of individual attention is better than hours of useless instruction. Most of the kids flourished. It is amazing the difference in a traditional school setting.

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    #79323 - 06/29/10 04:09 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: PoppaRex]
    MsFriz Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/22/08
    Posts: 313
    Originally Posted By: PoppaRex
    I am of the opinion that the obvious answer is, "Teach each to his/her ability", but is that something that is doable?


    It is doable with small classes. My son's small private school teaches each child at his/her level of ability. Students are pretested at the beginning of the year and when new material is introduced. Then, the teacher plans and designs an individualized curriculum for each student based on the pretest results. Although the kids stay in the same class as their agemates, each child has different assignments and goals. In my son's kindergarten, some kids got kindergarten level work. Some got 2nd grade math and 1st grade reading. Some got 1st grade math and 4th grade reading. But there were also less than 10 kids in the class, with one teacher and a teacher's helper. The entire school, which runs from K-12, has less than 100 kids total.




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    #79325 - 06/29/10 04:21 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: traceyqns]
    Grinity Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Originally Posted By: traceyqns
    I dk how they do it but a montessori school by me does teach to each kid individually. It somehow works.


    The problem with Montessori is that in many people's hands it become a rigid expectation. As in: 'Before one is ready to learn x, one must have mastered y.' It does work for many, but I don't think the model of 'how kids learn' is complex enough. A good start for sure though!
    _________________________
    Coaching available, at SchoolSuccessSolutions.com

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    #79343 - 06/29/10 07:00 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    Ace Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 09/27/07
    Posts: 22
    Loc: Michigan
    The school my daughter attends (a private school for gifted children) does a fabulous job of individualizing instruction. In the lower school, the classes are multi age - K/1, 2/3, 4/5 then off to middle and upper school. In her 2/3 class, there were 19 kids and 2 teachers- not an aide. And her class was the largest 2/3 class. When the 2nd graders go off to art, science etc., it leaves the 2 teachers with the remaining 9 3rd graders for math and reading/writing. Very easy to individualize with those circumstances! The school is so good at meeting children where they are and providing the appropriate level of challenge.
    _________________________
    Alison

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    #79557 - 07/02/10 05:32 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    traceyqns Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/18/09
    Posts: 460
    The flexibility of the montessori school was great. Handing out diff sheets of work for the kids to do or hand a kid a dictionary and tell him to get you 10 verbs or dictate sentences to a child to work on spelling. But like anything it is a good teacher that matters the most. The diff stations was cool too so the kids can actually learn on their own w/o a teacher standing by them. But Public school sure frowns on montessori! But from personal experience there is no comparison to public.

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    #79563 - 07/02/10 07:11 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: traceyqns]
    PoppaRex Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/09/10
    Posts: 44
    I have been chatting with a local teacher about what they call "Differentiated Instruction" that teachers here in Mass. are now starting to be taught. Wiki seems to define this as something that just allows different methods to be used for children who learn in different ways, but on some various websites describing the method, it sounds as if they really do try to allow kids of different abilities to progress more at their own speed. I am not sure if there's a limit to exacly how different a student can be and i suspect that teaching algebra while everyone else is learning multiplication might not be something they are expecting.

    I wonder if it's a matter of designing support systems to track indiviual kids so the teacher don't have to or if there's really a need to have one teacher responsible for all instruction regardless of the level. To be honest, there are a lot of teachers failing the most basic certification tests never mind spanning multiple levels of a subject.

    Lots to ponder.

    Poppa

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    #79583 - 07/02/10 11:41 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: PoppaRex]
    Grinity Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Originally Posted By: PoppaRex
    I have been chatting with a local teacher about what they call "Differentiated Instruction" ...but on some various websites describing the method, it sounds as if they really do try to allow kids of different abilities to progress more at their own speed. I am not sure if there's a limit to exacly how different a student can be and i suspect that teaching algebra while everyone else is learning multiplication might not be something they are expecting.

    Poppa


    Our local public school uses 'Differentiated Instruction' to explain why they can meet the needs of all students. But since they don't actually pretest to see what the learning needs of the various students might be, there is a tremendous problem with the expectation that they have no students with learning needs way above what the teachers are planning to teach.

    My approach to schools is to plug my ears with cotton when they explain what their system is and why it works, and ask specific questions about hypothetical situations and do lots of observation. I've been told 'We do provide differentiation - but your child has never gone over to the 'extra work' area when he finishes his required work, so he must not be interested - it's his fault.'

    And if the extra work offered is still years below his readiness level, being offered as an 'additive'instead of a substitute, and not actually having any teaching go along with it, is my son still going to be judged lazy because he doesn't do it?
    ((shruggs))
    Grimity
    _________________________
    Coaching available, at SchoolSuccessSolutions.com

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    #79586 - 07/02/10 12:10 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    PoppaRex Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/09/10
    Posts: 44
    It takes a long time to shed the guilt of being "lazy".

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    #79619 - 07/03/10 05:55 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: PoppaRex]
    traceyqns Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/18/09
    Posts: 460
    If only a "gifted" class had certified gifted teachers they might have a clue how to teach a gifted child.


    Edited by traceyqns (07/03/10 05:55 AM)

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    #79642 - 07/03/10 09:57 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: traceyqns]
    onthegomom Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/28/09
    Posts: 1743
    traceyqns - My DYS son had a certified gifted teacher. GT was very nice person but did not seem to get the learning needs of my DYS son. I wondered how long ago she was certified and if she did anything to stay current. OR was it the school/Principal who held back getting my son what he needed. In consulsion, a gifted certification can be helpful but it's not always the solution. When I came to this school, I thought we are all set they have a gifted program for kids. (I had lots to learn.)

    I read in "Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom" an example with a gifted teacher inlightened by a Gifted seminar. She was proud of her gifted student for "A"s on all the Spelling. Then she learned to pretest and found they already knew the words.

    Pretest and Pace of learning seems to be a big part of the solution need.

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    #80052 - 07/10/10 06:33 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    LighthouseKeeper Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 08/13/09
    Posts: 24
    Originally Posted By: Grinity
    The problem with Montessori is that in many people's hands it become a rigid expectation. As in: 'Before one is ready to learn x, one must have mastered y.' It does work for many, but I don't think the model of 'how kids learn' is complex enough.

    The trouble is, letting a child skip ahead isn't necessarily a great solution either. The Montessori materials are designed to work on multiple levels, to assist with the development of the "whole child" -- including those areas where our gifties may have challenges. For instance, the cylinder blocks teach size discrimination, but they also help to establish the pincer grip, left-to-right sequencing, and even core strength and sensory integration (via what an OT would call "heavy work"). The more advanced materials don't tend to have all these aspects built in, because it's assumed that the child who's using them has already mastered those developmental tasks.

    The question is, what should the teacher do with the gifted 3 year old who could benefit from some aspects of the sensorial materials, but has no interest in spending hours putting pegs into holes? It's possible to work around this by modifying the way the material is presented, but in order to do this, the teacher needs to observe carefully, to be willing to "follow the child," and to have a very thorough understanding of the didactic materials... in other words, to be a true Montessorian. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of so-so Montessori teachers out there, really great ones aren't that plentiful. The more traditional types often come across as rigid, and the less traditional types have often been influenced by mainstream ideas about what's "developmentally appropriate." I can't imagine that this situation would suddenly improve if the method were widely adopted in public schools. frown

    If anyone is fluent in German, here's an interesting-looking book on the subject of Montessori and highly gifted children:

    Lernprozesse hochbegabter Kinder in der ...ri-grundschulen

    It's by Esther Grindel, who works at the International Centre for Research on Highly Gifted Children (ICBF) at the universities of Muenster and Nijmegen. I bought a copy from amazon.de several months ago, but my German is pretty limited, and I haven't had the time to decipher much of it.

    Dr. Grindel will also be giving a presentation at the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) summer seminar in the Netherlands. The theme of the seminar is "Montessori and Neuroscience." That would be a fun trip... wish I could make it. smile


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    #80054 - 07/10/10 06:56 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: LighthouseKeeper]
    Kriston Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/19/07
    Posts: 6145
    Loc: Midwest
    My son entered preschool reading quite fluently. The Montessori school he attended thought he was *behind* in reading because they required him to do "learn your letter" exercises that he'd mastered over half his life ago, and so he simply stopped going into the language arts section completely.

    He should have been skipped! When my husband and I tag-teamed the head of the school at the mid-year conference--in *January*--they finally skipped him past all the things he was far beyond. They eventually allowed him to read a book only once, not twice as all other kids were required, because he was so clearly far ahead in reading.

    Some kids *must* be allowed to skip some requirements because the requirements do not meet the needs of the child.
    _________________________
    Kriston
    Mom to DS13 and DS10

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    #80058 - 07/10/10 07:40 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    Taminy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/16/09
    Posts: 282
    Originally Posted By: PoppaRex
    I have been chatting with a local teacher about what they call "Differentiated Instruction" ...but on some various websites describing the method, it sounds as if they really do try to allow kids of different abilities to progress more at their own speed. I am not sure if there's a limit to exacly how different a student can be and i suspect that teaching algebra while everyone else is learning multiplication might not be something they are expecting.

    Poppa


    Differentiation is supposed to refer to differentiating both in approach and in content, depending on a child's needs. An example: a class studying U.S. government at the elementary school level is pre-tested. Some students don't know anything about the branches of government. They are given "who", "what", "where" words (name of branch, primary member of that branch, basic responsibility of that branch, building that is main work site). They group the words according to branch and quiz each other by setting the words up with one deliberate error for a partner to find. Another group of children knows the branches and most of the associated basics, but with some errors. They create a poster representing this information (after reviewing/checking their info), and are also charged with finding out at least 3-4 specific responsibilities for each branch. Yet another group of children know the basics and several specifics. They are assigned a webquest to locate additional information and are individually or in partners, assigned one branch to study in more depth. They create an informational brochure about that branch. Possibly there is also a child who has in depth knowledge about the government and its structure. That child is given materials to read about the debates leading to our three branch structure, and is then to prepare a project to share what they've learned (project structure negotiated with teacher). In this example, the study has been differentiated in both format and in content.


    Originally Posted By: Grinity
    My approach to schools is to plug my ears with cotton when they explain what their system is and why it works, and ask specific questions about hypothetical situations and do lots of observation. I've been told 'We do provide differentiation - but your child has never gone over to the 'extra work' area when he finishes his required work, so he must not be interested - it's his fault.'

    And if the extra work offered is still years below his readiness level, being offered as an 'additive'instead of a substitute, and not actually having any teaching go along with it, is my son still going to be judged lazy because he doesn't do it?
    ((shruggs))
    Grimity


    You've hit one of the biggest problems right smack on the head. There is this odd idea that while most students are required to do their appropriate work whether it strikes their fancy or not, gifted children need only be "offered" the opportunity to do appropriate work. Seems rooted in some very tiresome stereotypes about gifted children. When gifted children are more uniformly required to do appropriate work *instead* of (rather than in addition to) inappropriate work, we will be in much better shape!

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    #80061 - 07/10/10 08:26 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Taminy]
    La Texican Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/10/10
    Posts: 1777
    Loc: South Texas
    When I was in school the Christian highschool used something called the P.A.C.E. packets in the A.C.E. Program.
    This program divided everything into little packets.  You finished one packet, turned it in, they gave you the next one.    The thing that made it work was that everybody was pacing through the same cirriculum and assignments with the same answer key as each other, just each in their own time.  One teacher could easily tutor a class of twenty-five different grade highschoolers each doing different work at a different pace because they really just answered quiestions and graded papers, no lesson plans or lectures.  A program like that would make it possible to teach each student within their own readiness level.   (A.C.E. students and parents agreed it wasn't very good cirriculum, but it met some needs). 
    What would make it not work is that the schools would then end up using the same cirriculum as each other.   This wouldn't work because the authorities are proud that the states and local school districts are free to chose their own books and programs, they're just accountable to meet federal standards. Even that would have to change to make a PACE style program work fairly.  The standard testing would have to be given to each student individually at different times, whenever they reached the end of a grade level.  The testing could be computerized in a quiet testing room in the school so the grading and filing wouldn't cost the Ed.dept extra money for not doing everybody at once.
    Then the whole school system would have to change. You'd have to compare the student against their own history.  If their pace changed drastically from the previous year they need intervention.  How would you catch cheaters if their papers didn't look the same?  And this would only "teach each child at their own readiness level," 
    It would not come close to "teach each to his/her ability."
    Sadly the latter would only add to the debt.  It would require better educated teachers doing even more extra work and really giving kids different cirriculums than each other.  I love the thought written somewhere around here that gifted education teachers should have their masters degree in something other than education, but who's willing to pay for it for everybody else's kids?
    Maybe this would work for the local schools, so that no child is left behind and every child gets the same educational opportunity.  And having a different cirriculum at the magnet schools for kids that can and will work harder will help keep America's education competitive.  It's actually not a good idea.  I'm going to think some more.  It's cost effective, actionable, and equal opportunity but I'd rather see a plan where it's "each to their ability".
    That's what I got from reading the Davidson webpage that the kids don't have to just hurry up and get through the same program as all the other school kids and graduate and go to college. They can spend the same amount of time in school as everybody else does without stagnating.  Also that PC or not this requires ability grouping.  Duh.  I'm eager to see how.
    Could it involve a whole different cirriculum and a different federal test for at least the three different ability levels?  Or is that segregation into a caste system?
      
    Wow Taminy, that last paragraph you wrote ought to be mailed in to the NAGC to be used in one of their lectures or brochures describing why we need better gifted education.
    _________________________
    Youth lives by personality, age lives by calculation. -- Aristotle on a calendar

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    #80065 - 07/10/10 10:16 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Kriston]
    LighthouseKeeper Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 08/13/09
    Posts: 24
    Originally Posted By: Kriston
    My son entered preschool reading quite fluently. The Montessori school he attended thought he was *behind* in reading because they required him to do "learn your letter" exercises that he'd mastered over half his life ago, and so he simply stopped going into the language arts section completely.

    We had a somewhat better experience with our DD. I'd heard about situations (in both Montessori and conventional preschool/K) where the teachers never realize that the child can read, so I was explicit about her abilities during the admissions interview. I explained that she started to read at age 3, and mentioned the titles of some books she was currently reading. They said that they would still present all the introductory materials in sequence, as was their policy, but it would just be a quick review to make sure she knew them; she'd be able to move ahead almost immediately. This did turn out to be the case. Unfortunately, since it was a primary-only school, their language materials maxed out at around 2nd grade level, so she soon ran out of things to do in that area. In hindsight, I wish we'd picked a school that went through elementary, so they would have the option of bringing in more advanced work.

    It does seem a bit crazy that the teachers wouldn't clue in that a child was far ahead of what they were teaching, but the 3-6 curriculum is broken down into so many small, specific tasks that I can kind of see how this could happen, especially with a child who isn't inclined to speak up much (which would describe all of mine!). OTOH, if you told the teachers up front that your son could read, and they didn't pay attention and check it out for themselves, that would indicate mighty poor observational skills on their part. I think they might have to go back and spend some time working with the sound boxes, to improve their auditory discrimination skills. wink

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    #80066 - 07/10/10 11:15 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: LighthouseKeeper]
    LighthouseKeeper Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 08/13/09
    Posts: 24
    BTW, when I said that skipping ahead in Montessori wasn't a great solution, I was speaking in ideal terms (since we are "thinking Big" here wink ). Given the existing options, having a gifted child fast-track through Montessori school isn't such a bad thing. It's certainly preferable to boredom and stagnation. smile

    My caveat was simply that because of the way the curriculum is set up, children who don't go through the early stages are going to miss out on some of the benefits of the method. It's possible that this could be remedied with some extra effort and understanding on the part of the teacher.

    Another approach would be to start children in the program early, say at early toddler age. This hardly seems feasible for most families, though Maria Montessori would have loved the idea. (She had a great desire to make the method available to all infants and toddlers, in the form of daycare for families who needed it, and drop-in playgroups and parent groups for everyone else.)

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    #80182 - 07/12/10 11:47 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Taminy]
    Grinity Offline
    Member

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Originally Posted By: Taminy

    You've hit one of the biggest problems right smack on the head. There is this odd idea that while most students are required to do their appropriate work whether it strikes their fancy or not, gifted children need only be "offered" the opportunity to do appropriate work. Seems rooted in some very tiresome stereotypes about gifted children. When gifted children are more uniformly required to do appropriate work *instead* of (rather than in addition to) inappropriate work, we will be in much better shape!


    thanks Taminy - that would explain the giant headache I had at the time! I love those gifted kids who are just love to chew what ever the school hands them, but I don't happen to have one of them.

    I think that schools still think that above level work is 'dangerous' to kids in some way, and are afraid to require it of kids who are above-level in their readiness. I also think that teachers are baffled by kids who aren't uniform across a particular subject, and yet in Language Arts that can be a breathtaking chiasm between reading level, discussion level, spelling level, penmanship level, and writing level. Maybe we need to develop robot children who can be programed to imitate children of various LOG and 2Eishness to send home to live with teachers-in-training?

    Smiles,
    Grinity
    _________________________
    Coaching available, at SchoolSuccessSolutions.com

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    #80191 - 07/12/10 12:34 PM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: LighthouseKeeper]
    Austin Offline
    Member

    Registered: 06/25/08
    Posts: 1840
    Loc: North Texas
    Originally Posted By: LighthouseKeeper

    The trouble is, letting a child skip ahead isn't necessarily a great solution either. The Montessori materials are designed to work on multiple levels, to assist with the development of the "whole child" -- including those areas where our gifties may have challenges.


    I agree with you, but the PACE of standard Montessori is not the best.

    Mr W (2.5 yrs) did all the exercises in his Montessori Class the first week. He can also do all the ones for the older kids as well. His school is not rigid and they are perceptive - they noticed he knew his letters and could count very high the first week he was there. He gets some individual instruction, but we spend more time with him than they do. Is it really fair for them to work with him on reading when most of the kids - even the older ones - don't? (He can read easy readers aloud and count > 100.)

    Montessori is different from what he gets at home, though, so it has value. But, is mostly structured day care and I am seeing signs that he is becoming bored.

    He needs to be grouped with kids on his level and get a hybrid approach where they spend time doing stuff for K-2 but paced for the dexterity of kids his age.

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    #80260 - 07/13/10 07:34 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: Grinity]
    inky Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/10/08
    Posts: 1299
    Originally Posted By: Grinity
    I think that schools still think that above level work is 'dangerous' to kids in some way, and are afraid to require it of kids who are above-level in their readiness.

    I see this too. As I posted on another thread, it frustrates me to no end to see schools avoid giving challenging work because it's seen as damaging but turn around and allow in-school advertising exploit young children who can't fully understand persuasive intent.

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    #80276 - 07/13/10 10:37 AM Re: Exactly what is "thinking Big"? [Re: inky]
    traceyqns Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/18/09
    Posts: 460
    The schools are probably afraid their test scores would go down and the schools would not look good. Dumb down the tests , kids score higher and principal and school looks great. A friend who teaches at a public HS said they have made the math regents even easier this year and kids have to get less right to pass.

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