pressure not to be “a nerd” is fierce,
and being pulled out of class often
embarrasses gifted students at this
age. A recent Fordham report (Xiang,
Dahlin, Cronin, Theaker, & Durant,
2011) describes how “high flyers” often
hit a wall in middle school, where the
emphases on social development, well-roundedness, and athletic competition
can trump meeting students’ academic,
artistic, and intellectual needs.
The fact is that if we expect students
to take AP courses in high school, we
need to lay the foundation in middle
school. Many 6th graders could take
pre-algebra or algebra and possibly
complete a high school–level honors
geometry course before they leave
What Schools and Districts Can Do
Continuum of Services
There should be no one “gifted program” in a school or
district, just as there should be no one special education
program. Some profoundly gifted learners
may need radical acceleration (two or more
grade levels); other advanced learners may
just need to be in an advanced math group.
Gifted learners benefit from time spent
with their intellectual peers as well as with
gifted specialists who can help them navigate the sometimes-difficult social experiences connected to being gifted, such as
being bullied and teased.
A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back
America’s Brightest Students,
1 the 50-year
meta-analysis of research on acceleration or
“grade skipping,” showed that acceleration
is an underutilized tool and that most students who are accelerated are successful. This includes early
entrance to kindergarten or 1st grade. Each school district
should have a policy for implementation of grade and subject
acceleration just as they have policies for grade retention.
When making acceleration decisions, using the Iowa Acceleration Scale as an information-gathering tool can ensure that
key stakeholders consider all available data and perspectives.
District testing and assessment policies, including screening
entering kindergartners and transfer students, should include
opportunities for identifying gifted learners.
This is especially important in urban
areas and in areas with sizeable popula-
tions of low-income students and English
language learners. Schools can identify
advanced learning potential and giftedness
using many of the same tools they use to
identify students with learning disabilities.
Reliable early screening and identification
tools include the Wechsler Preschool
and Primary Scale of Intelligence; the
Woodcock-Johnson III; the Cognitive Abil-
ities Test (CogAT); and checklists such as
the one developed by the Ohio Department
of Education in its publication The Young
Gifted Child: A Guide for Families.
School and district policies should include provisions for students to receive both special education services and gifted
services where appropriate. For example, a student who has
support for his or her attention deficit disorder through the
special education department should also be eligible for any
advanced groups or classes for which he or she qualifies.
Schools and districts may need explicit policies that instruct
teachers not to penalize students by insisting that they make
up homework or classwork missed while they participate in a
pull-out gifted program. Forcing students to make up missing
work may make them feel that being gifted is a punishment.
1Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. M. (2004). A
nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students.
Iowa City: The Connie Belin and Jaqueline N. Blank International
Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
2Ohio Department of Education. (n.d.). The young gifted child:
A guide for families. Columbus, OH: Author.