Some of our brightest still slipping under the radar

Jun 29, 2020 by

As students officially returned to school following the COVID lockdown, many gifted children found themselves returning to a mundane existence in their classroom.

Remote learning allowed them to compact the curriculum, work at their own pace, and still have time to pursue their interests, giving gifted kids a taste of what life could be if only they were correctly identified and effectively educated. Instead, many went back to staring out of the classroom window, using their imagination to offset the boredom.

While individual teachers, and even some schools, may cater well for gifted students, the
system is flawed and it begins with the inadequacies of testing methods. Graduate teachers are still walking into classrooms with little to no training in gifted education, and are rarely receiving support or guidance from above.

This lack of understanding at the executive level perpetuates an idea that achievement-based testing will flush out the gifted kids. The bias of these tests overlooks many factors –language background, socioeconomic disadvantage, and differing cultural values, just to name a few. Gifted traits and abilities can also co-exist with disabilities and learning disorders, often with one masking the other, particularly in testing conditions that lack

The inequity and ineffectiveness of such testing has even seen the NSW government update its outdated testing methods for selective schools in 2020. However, such practices are still widespread within schools. This leads to many of our brightest slipping under the radar, becoming disengaged in their learning and often drastically underachieving, negatively impacting their self-esteem and mental health. Essentially, the very system that
is supposed to educate them, is causing them to resent their education.

Gifted education and identification needs a rethink. While there are many reasons achievement-based tests can mask cognitive ability, there are plenty of identifiable characteristics gifted children share. These children stand out in every classroom I have taught in, but that visibility rarely comes
from looking at their academic outcomes. Rather, they are the children who challenge authority because of their strong sense of social justice. They joke with the teacher in a way that is more sophisticated than other children. They show high levels of curiosity, and contribute to class discussions with well-considered points rooted in strong reason and logic.

However, they are also perfectionists, self-critical, and experience emotions with incredible intensity. They are empathetic and sensitive, and have a strong moral compass.

As educators, if we do not start acknowledging the importance of these traits and rethink the way we identify our gifted children in schools, their attention will continue to be out the
window, along with their education.

Brooke Lumsden is a teacher and education consultant specialising in gifted education, and the author of The Busy Parents’ Guide to Raising Gifted Kids.

Source: Some of our brightest still slipping under the radar

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