November 13th, 2011

Wall Street Journal on Advanced Learners

From the Wall Street Journal, Nov 12, 2011: “Brightest Stall, Low Achievers Gain–Some Say Top Students Need Attention Given to Weaker Performers, as Smart Kids’ Scores Barely Move

An excerpt reads:

A national focus on the lowest-achieving students has helped boost their academic performance, but it has left the country’s brightest young minds behind, prompting calls to rethink how schools teach top kids.

Recent data, including results released last week from national math and reading exams, show high achievers are stagnating and falling behind their international counterparts.

A report by the National Association for Gifted Children released this week said public schools deny top-performing children the resources, properly trained teachers and coherent policies they need to excel. It called for policy changes that don’t require additional spending, such as holding schools accountable for the scores of the top-fliers.

“There is this myth that gifted and talented children will be fine on their own,” said Jane Clarenbach, director of the National Association for Gifted Children, a nonprofit advocacy group. “But I think history is showing us that this is not true, and we now have a crisis in this nation where our top achievers are being ignored.”

Proponents of gifted education say a preoccupation with the lowest performers has relegated the most promising students to unchallenging classrooms. They point to the 1990s effort to “mainstream” gifted students who previously had been taught in separate classes, and to the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which put intense focus on the lowest achievers.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of national elementary and high school reading, writing, math and social studies exams shows dramatic progress—sometimes double-digit increases—for the lowest achievers over the last two decades, especially after No Child Left Behind. But the scores of the brightest students have, for the most part, inched up marginally or stalled.

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