Offering children the opportunity for self-taught (autodidatcic), socially isolated learning is truly heinous, IMO. Shame on schools for doing this. This practice pairs advanced work with social isolation and encourages advanced kids to self-select to level out.
Last year in first grade, the school came up with an individual plan for math. He was given a math packet to do in class on his own and met with the math specialist once every week or every other week to check on his progress. It did not work out as well as intended. He wasn't really interested in doing the packet. I suspect that he did not like the idea that he was the only one doing the packet and he was not at the point where he would learn new math topics on his own without any instructions from the teacher.
In an article found on the Davidson Database, called Gifted children: Youth mental health update
, there is a section subtitled Giftedness and Self-esteem
, which highlights findings of a study by Miraca Gross:
There are also several means of assigning grades which may make children appear to have leveled out.
In her study of exceptionally gifted children, Gross has reported that the self-esteem of exceptionally gifted students tends to be significantly lower than the self-esteem of average students, especially when the school is unwilling or unable to allow them access to other children who share their levels of intellectual, oral and psychosocial development. Thus the gifted child is placed in the forced dilemma of choosing to minimize intellectual interests and passions for the sake of sustaining peer relations or of pursuing intellectual interests at the cost of becoming socially isolated in the classroom. As Gross poignantly added "The gifted must be one of the few remaining groups in our society who are compelled, by the constraints of the educative and social system within which they operate, to choose which of two basic psychological needs should be fulfilled."
They think the new math extension program they are setting up this school year for advanced 2nd grade math learners will challenge him.
What do they base their belief upon? This may be worth some gentle probing... as groundwork and prep for future advocacy.
Unfortunately, it sounds to me like yet another district which plans to keep gifted or advanced learners stagnated so they can close the achievement gap or excellence gap, and is thinly masking this as so-called 'opportunities' for gifted/advanced learners.
On one hand I wonder whether presenting the article "What a Child Does Not Learn" to the district may be helpful in convincing them your child needs a challenge worthy of his potential.
On the other hand, no matter how much good I find in any particular article, there often seems to be a catch... a phrase or idea which the school or district may focus on to turn the momentum in a different direction. In this case, I see
If during the first five or six years of school, a child earns good grades and high praise without having to make much effort, what are all the things he doesn’t learn that most children learn by third grade?
Unfortunately, if the school or district chooses not to focus on the larger point of a student's experience
in the face of a challenge (or lack thereof), but chooses to focus on grades
... it may simply choose to withhold high grades and/or praise and erroneously believe that it has created a rich opportunity for learning the 10 skills listed in the article... without having provided a challenge worthy of the child's potential.
I am not sure how advanced the other kids will be in this extension class and I haven't heard what the format it will be (pullout? in-class differentiation?), since this is a new program for the school (gifted programs start at 3rd grade).
You may wish to begin gathering a list of your questions. Ultimately you'll want to know the 5Ws
of any gifted offering.
Are there other possible learning environments or schools which you might be able to evaluate as potentially being a better "fit" for your child?