That being said, I am excited to see that some schools and lobbyists and legislators are starting to work more on finding the hidden gifted kids who are out there- the ones who are as bright or brighter than the ones who are scoring high grades in classes or on tests, but who are underperforming, and often not willing to jump through the hoops of being top performers without some inspiration/encouragement/motivation that moves them in a way that doesn't usually come from traditional schooling.
We have tons of gifted children who are gifted at being in the middle- who don't want to play our academic games or who are missing skills because of other issues in their lives, and yet who are wonderfully talented and brilliant when their interests are tapped. Those are kids who we can reach and make a huge difference for- who could be achieving with the other more acceptably-acting students, but who are at risk of being the lost students who drop out, drop down to lower classes, hurt themselves, self-medicate with illegal drugs, join gangs when they don't feel they fit in, end up in prisons when they do dumb things with their intensities, etc. These kids are not any less gifted than their peers- but they usually come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or are limited by stereotypes that teachers and administrators and even their own parents and themselves believe about what a "gifted" child must look like or act like.
I'm hopeful that as we look beyond kids who can perform well on tests, hand in their homework, and behave well in school, that we will find kids with untapped potential and use their brilliance and energy to improve the way we all think about education in general.
I was one of those kids and I scored well when I wanted to, and bombed tests when I found something was more interesting to do than study... I caused just enough trouble to keep life fun and novel, but not too much that my parents would be too upset (ok, except for in middle school when they moved me to a private Christian school in the hopes that they could
keep me in line. Lol.) I did not like sitting still (still don't)... or following directions (still have this problem at times when I don't think the directions are good for children!)... and I certainly did not like to hang out with other kids who always did everything they were supposed to do. I know a lot of kids like that, and I love teaching those kids. And when all is said and done, often those are the kids who will make big changes in our world and do things that we haven't even dreamed of to move our civilization forward. They are the risk-takers, but they are also at-risk themselves because they don't play all our education
games as well as the stereotypical top performers do.
Looking at our statistics in most districts in our state, we have allowed those stereotypes, and sometimes even comfort levels of staff, limit what students we serve. Looking at diversity, we have failed to be equitable with placements of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students- compare district population percentages with actual gifted program
statistics for just about any school district and you will find a discrepancy that is alarming. We have alternative high schools full of highly intelligent students who otherwise would drop out, and certainly the drop out population is full of brilliant kids too.
It's the underperforming, nonconforming gifted kids we should all be focusing on. Just as we hate how people discount smart kids who are performing at the top- there is the same tragedy (if not a worse one) happening to our smart kids who are performing under their abilities. Those kids face the same gifted characteristics that make the top performing kids stress, plus add biases and homelife disadvantages and stressors on top of those and just think how hard life can be for those kids.
I'm all for opening the sky to top performing gifted kids (and any kids who are top performing, even if they are not gifted but are bright, hard working students too.) But just as our state definition of highly capable students in Washington says "...students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels...", (and like what the Javits definition says, or just any other gifted definition out there...) we need to identify those students who have potential and are underperforming too and support them to the greatest extent possible.
What do you think? Do you believe we should just restrict the gifted classification to those who are already performing at the top?