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    Let The Gifted Fly
    By Alex "Sandy" Antunes | July 29th 2011 10:00 AM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    One fundamental myth of gifted education is "you can't put all the smart kids together, because the less-smart need the smarties around to challenge the others".  You can reword that as "it's okay to drag down the smarter kids for the sake of the group", but let's tackle the basic premise first.  Does the presence of smarter kids help the middle of the Bell Curve do better?

    Answer: No.  In the mundanely titled "Assessing the Impact of Gifted and Talented Programs on Achievement" (full PDF here), authors Bui, Craig and Imberman evaluate "the causal impact of enrolling in a GT program on achievement for students on the margin of eligibility." Their test year is 6th-7th grade andir primary question is whether being surrounded by brighter kids helps those students that are borderline cases for being considered academically gifted.
    If peer effects follow a monotonic model whereby being surrounded by higher achieving students improves one’s own achievement, as found in Imberman, Kugler and Sacerdote (2009), better peers should be helpful. For a marginal GT student, however, the peer effect may not necessarily be positive. That is, a marginal GT student is likely to go from being near the top of the regular class to being near the bottom of the GT class.
    You can say this is elitism, but to each their own.  As the Offspring say, gotta keep 'em separated.  As ELO says, don't bring me down.  Or maybe take heed from the Mr. T Experience's "leave the thinking to the smart people"?  Okay, so misused song lyrics will simply raise the call of 'elitism'.

    The Wall Street Journal has some discussion of this paper, as does Barbara Schultz's look at gifted underachievement.  As a warning, some sites are over-reaching the conclusion (gifted programs do not benefit marginal students) by stating gifted programs do not benefit any students.  Not so, though given the way the paper is written, it is hard to tease out any conclusions about any population other than the marginal.  Put simply, their result on 'academically brilliant kids lift their less-academic peers' is "nope", but their results on the benefit of gifted education are less distinct.

    Getting back to facts, it makes sense to divide students so they learn with peers who progress at the same level.  In sports, we call that Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Club teams.  That might be a good model to use for academics, too.

    cover variant for 'Fly Like an Eagle' 
     Maybe academically gifted learners
    need better marketing,
    or a catchy logo?

    Until next week,
    Alex
    Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)

    Comments

    In my unhappy experience, un-gifted kids tend to drag down the rest. Too many resent 'tall trees'.
    Mind you, my year's monster was a moderately bright kid whose birthday fell such he started primary school a year late, so was head and shoulders above his early peers. Upon reaching secondary school and discovering that he was now only average --And would had to work at learning-- he turned psycho...