Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting the George W. Bush Institute on the campus of Southern Methodist University. In the midst of construction leading up to the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the Philanthropy Roundtable held its opening session in the newly finished theater of the Institue. I do not often have the opportunity to attend such events, but I had a two-fold reason for wanting to attend this conference in particular: 1) I had hoped to connect with Andy Smarick over an interesting post he authored over on the Flypaper blog that hit home:
Many of us are focused on providing better educational opportunities to low-income kids, especially those in cities. This is certainly where I’ve spent most of my time.
And for this reason, we’ve built organizations and pursued activities with this in mind. But as a result, our community has all but ignored the needs of suburban and more affluent families.
Our community’s reflexive response to this charge to date has been, “So what? We can only do so much, and urban ed reform is where we’re directing our scarce resources.”
But this fails to recognize that everything we do takes place in a political-policy context, and state legislatures and Congress include lots of people who represent suburban, middle-class, and affluent areas. (from General Failure on the Flypaper blog)
and, 2) A trip to Dallas would give me an opportunity to reconnect with a student I had interviewed from one of our subsidiary high schools who is currently studying civil engineering at SMU.
I never did connect with Andy Smarick – (but I am fascinated by the topic of spreading education reform to our leafy suburbs. My work at KnowledgeWorks often leaves me struggling to understand why so much innovation in the education sector seems to be passing the middle class by. Competency based education, online learning and credit flexibility have much to offer the high ability student.)
I did, however, have the opportunity to attend the opening remarks at the George W. Bush Institute. The grounds surrounding the building were simply beautiful and the native flowers in bloom were a welcome change from the not-quite-yet Spring of Ohio. Here are some of my pictures from the evening:
- George W. Bush Presidential Library “We believe in open societies ordered by moral conviction. We believe in private markets, humanized by compassionate government. We believe in economies that reward effort, communities that protect the weak, and the duty of nations to respect the dignity and the rights of all.” - President George W. Bush
- Native Wildflowers on the grounds of the Bush Presidential Library
- President Bush delivered welcoming remarks I was expecting a Skype, not The President!
- Entrance to the Library I wondered if the lighting fixture was inspired by something?
In Cincinnati we are quite fortunate to have many local employers interested in creating opportunities for high school students to become familiar with careers in technology – so much so that they sponsor an annual “TECHOlympics.”
This year I attended (again) as a volunteer and wrote about hacking a Kinect motion sensor on the The Maker Mom. If you haven’t yet checked it out, The Maker Mom is curated by Kim Moldofsky, #STEMchat founder, who is dedicated to helping parents raise STEM-loving, Maker-friendly kids. The blog highlights Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, gifted education, and STEM for girls and I am thrilled to have a post published there.
A poorly reasoned article published earlier this month in the New York Times implied racial segregation in the gifted classroom in city public schools, suggesting that all children deserved enrichment – not just the ones who have an ability test showing that they are gifted.
A big shame-on-them was promptly and correctly issued by Chester Finn on the Flypaper blog along with an OpEd rejoinder in the offending publication drawing largely on the data supported in Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools. And although I was pleased to see someone stand up for the voice of gifted I was also left with a nagging feeling that as a nation we we are missing the point. Yes, “Exam Schools” are critically important and there should be more of them. But what do we do for these kids earlier, in grade school or middle school? Then I ran across a wonderful Blog Talk Radio interview with Dr. Linda Silverman (thank you Maker Mom for posting the original link.) The following quote was transcribed by me from the Blog Talk interview:
“What is gained in the name of democracy by allowing a child who has already learned a concept to sit in class bored while the teacher goes over and over and over material they’ve already mastered. Who gains from this? How does this serve anybody?”
I believe one of the essential challenges facing gifted education is understanding and articulating the difference between what Silverman calls “the psychology of eminence” and the psychology of giftedness.
1- Giftedness is seen by many to be an artificial designation of the education system rather than a psychological designation. This does a huge disservice to the intellectually gifted student and any advocacy efforts undertaken on their behalf. There are scientific implications of giftedness we haven’t begun to comprehend along with patterns and combinations that could emerge when studied alongside other exceptionalities (e.g. dyslexia, Aspergers, vision and auditory issues, etc.)
2- There is general confusion between giftedness and what is perceived to be a natural outcome of giftedness – eminence. Silverman introduced the notion of eminence as a white male construct. To obtain eminence in your field requires resources, assets and a single dedicated focus that is simply rarely available to the general population. It’s not fair but that’s how it is and it is wholly unrelated to giftedness.
3- Research from Karen Rogers demonstrates that the learning rate of children above 130 IQ is approximately 8 times faster than for children below 70 IQ. How does a teacher in a public school classroom of 30 meet the need for a faster paced curriculum for the handful of students that require it? Proven accommodations for gifted children in the classroom include ability grouping for faster paced learners, telescoping curriculum, acceleration (subject and whole grade when appropriate – see The Davidson Institute for more ideas) – but all of those accommodations are rarely employed for a variety of reasons wholly unrelated to the well being and education of the gifted student. What is left? Enrichment.
And here we are back at square one with the clarion cry for equal access to museum field trips for all students – the ones in remediation along with the ones who ready for Shakespeare in 3rd grade. It is well intentioned but poorly thought out.
What does “equal access to enrichment” look like in the classroom? While the student who needs remediation visits the museum he is missing the hour block time normally dedicated to bringing him up to grade level in reading. The gifted kid who is already reading at grade level – or two, three or four years above grade-level – also enjoys the museum. The next day everyone goes back to the assembly line of school routine in which the teacher has to now spend two hours of block time to make up what the students not reading at grade level missed while they were at the museum. The gifted student? Well they can sit for two hours and watch and wait. Perhaps by 9th grade they will be lucky enough to get into an Exam School and actually learn something.
Enrichment is what we do when we have nothing else in our toolkit to offer the gifted kid. It is the very least we can do for these children.
I had good intentions – I just ran out of steam last month when the rubber hit the road on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Stanford (see “Reframing Gifted Education Delivery“). With everything being written about online learning I was very excited about the potential to reimagine an online community for high ability students. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to gather some of my colleagues in gifted education and brainstorm ways to improve learning options, particularly for urban and rural kids without ready access to enrichment.
November has been (and continues to be) a particularly busy time both professionally and personally – honestly I just never had the time to sit down and “work” the system. The colleagues I had identified to join in the fun were already too busy to engage and I lacked the skills and/or time to assemble a like-minded team by promoting myself in the online forum process (designed for that purpose.) By the second week of November I realized I couldn’t pull it together and I dropped the course. No harm, no foul? Or does it speak to the intrinsic motivation required for successful free education systems. If there is nothing at stake, no tuition or course credit, then what is to keep us from abandoning the chosen path at the slightest obstacle? For decades education professionals have relied on online learning classes to challenge high ability students in the regular classroom. Yet the success of those programs is often dependent upon the guidance of a teacher, mentor or parent engaged in helping that student stay on track. It is fascinating to follow the evolutionary journey of online learning when educators, mentors and parents realize that even the best and most engaging curriculum requires student supports in order to achieve good outcomes. I am thankful that online learning options have existed for high ability students for the past few decades (Stanford was a leader in that field, too). But I also need to express concern for that quiet, introverted student (or adult) not comfortable with our education systems current reliance on leadership skills to rally troops around a collaborative effort. Not all careers are dependent upon group-speak or collaborative action – so when outcomes are based on the performance of the group as a whole aren’t we selling the quiet singular mind short?
Sunday morning before the election in Southwest Ohio is bright and cold – one of those crisp fall days that cries out for a football party with chili dip and an evening bonfire with neighbors. How curious that a state so absorbed in just living, working, playing, growing, harvesting and planting is thrown into the national spotlight every four years. Perhaps it is that quirky mix of farmland, industry and technology that gives us that privilege. I estimate that I responded to half a dozen polling calls (and one “push poll” for Josh Mandel) before we stopped answering our land line several weeks ago. Both eligible voters in our home have already voted absentee – I expect the calls would have been more numerous if we hadn’t. No one has come to our door, at least when I’ve been home. But we have had neighbors tag our mailboxes with campaign literature. And a quick perusal of the morning news could be summed up in the following tweet from @MHarlow23:
Republicans happy that Michael Barone predicts Romney win. Democrats happy that Dick Morris predicts Romney win.
As of this morning the election outcome prediction is still too close to call.
Next week Stanford University will be offering an online course “Designing a New Learning Environment,” with instructor Paul Kim, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Dean, School of Education, Stanford University. Running from October 15 through December 20th, the course is project based and will require attendees to create virtual teams in order to complete.
According to the course description: “we invite educators, school leaders, researchers, students, parents, entrepreneurs, computer programmers, illustrators, interface designers, and all those who are interested in working together, to create a new learning environment.” My proposal? That we assemble a virtual team of parents of gifted students and gifted students themselves and focus on creating a new learning environment for gifted learners.
If you are interested please sign up for the course on the Venture Lab website and then come and find me on the course Discussion Forum during the first two weeks of the program (I have no idea what that interface looks like yet but I am sure we can figure it out.) Because I want to create an innovative model I want to keep the team confined to parents of academically gifted students and academically gifted students. Why? Because many of us have already been creating innovative blended learning models out of necessity (the mother of invention, remember?)
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counselling in order for them to develop optimally. (The Columbus Group, 1991)
Won’t you join me?
I did not even glance at Twitter last night. I hunkered down with my Mac on my lap and flipped on C-Span to watch the debates. I had a couple distractions: 1) when my daughter came into the room during the Dodd-Frank portion of the debate and declared she didn’t like either one of the candidates and 2) one point when Barack Obama was chastising Romney for changing positions from those stated during the GOP primary when I tuned out and checked Pinterest.
My own opinion was formed as I went to bed – I really believed that Romney owned it. This was somewhat confirmed by my Yellow dog Democrat husband who was audibly crashing around the kitchen after the debate and shouting out angrily during it (we watched the debate in separate rooms on separate floors of the house.) I will say that Romney was well prepared by his sparring partner Ohio Senator Rob Portman. Obama seemed tired, annoyed and ill prepared.
This morning I rose early and headed for the traditional news reports. I started with the BBC report (odd, huh? not really – I wanted to read the least biased report first and I thought the BBC could deliver) followed by the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The commentary from Stanley Fish was the most memorable:
The visuals were also bad for Obama. He filled less of his side of the split screen than Romney did. He seemed smaller in stature just as he seemed smaller in substance. Even Romney’s tie was better. Obama did occasionally flash a smile that gave promise of a more relaxed, confident and exuberant performance. But that promise was never redeemed. The best that could be said of him is that he was likable enough.
As painful as that may be to hear for Obama supporters it gave me a chuckle to think that I wasn’t the only one to remember that devastating, mocking salvo aimed by him at Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary.
And yes, in case you were wondering, I have been known to hold a grudge.
I am pleased to announce that I have been invited by The Maker Mom to join a panel of experts on #STEMChat on Twitter on Thursday, September 20 at 8 PM Central (9 Eastern, 6 Pacific). I expect the blog post I wrote on the World of Learning blog (Raising a Mathematician for “Math Nots”) had something to do with it. Either way, I am very excited to bring the parent voice into the conversation about preparing our children to be successful in science, math, technology and engineering (what STEM stands for).
I am also particularly interested in exploring the ability of blended learning to provide an appropriate foundation for gifted students in the STEM fields. For those of you not up to speed in the latest edu-lingo, blended learning is the practice of using both teachers, books and traditional curriculum in conjunction with online learning options. In the education world this is a novel concept that needs to be defined ad nauseam and put through a democratization process. For those charged with challenging high ability kids, blended learning is what the talent search organizations (and home schooling parents) have been doing for decades.
Our public school district included the following sentence in its stated mission: “Instruction must begin at the point where the current achievement ends and must be based on the strengths of the learner.” I couldn’t agree more. What we know from research performed by Karen Rogers, PhD and author of “Re-Forming Gifted Education”
GT students are significantly more likely to retain science and mathematics content accurately when taught 2-3 times faster than “normal” class pace.
GT students are significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content when they must drill and review it more than 2-3 times
GT students are decontextualists in their processing, rather than constructivists; therefore it is difficult to reconstruct “how” they came to an answer
How does this factor into a STEM discussion?
I believe we have to nurture our academically talented students if we have any expectation of improving our national ability to compete in the STEM fields. Don’t agree? Agree? Join us on September 20th for #STEMChat!
Okay, I know that’s an old saw but I have to say that multiple incidents of cheating by students and schools have called into question just how poignant that old schoolyard chant may have become. First, let me begin by defining the word cheat – only because it seems like the definition has become quite fluid recently:
From the good folks at Merriam-WebsterAs a transitive verb:1 – to deprive of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud2 - to influence or lead by deceit, trick, or artifice3 - to elude or thwart by or as if by outwitting <cheat death>As an intransitive verb:1 - a : to practice fraud or trickery b : to violate rules dishonestly <cheat at cards> <cheatingon a test>2 - to be sexually unfaithful —usually used with on <wascheating on his wife>
3 - to position oneself defensively near a particular area in anticipation of a play in that area <the shortstop wascheating toward second base>
The Cleveland school district wiped more than 1,700 students from its rolls in a single year for being chronic truants. That school year, 2010-11, Cleveland school workers didn’t file a single truancy charge against students in juvenile court.