Currently, Illinois Association for Gifted Children’s stance on giftedness is performance based. Teacher identification of gifted students occurs during the primary grades and then, for those identified, “services” ranging from enrichment classes to grade level acceleration begin in 3rd grade.

What about the primary aged gifted students who eagerly enter school reading, understanding math facts, and/or having explored science topics in depth? Are they expected to joyfully perform tasks most of which are neither engaging nor fulfilling their academic curiosity for three years in order to be recognized for services? How many adults would joyfully complete boring, repetitive work with the hopes of being recognized for promotion at the end of 3 years?

In my 20 years of experience many of these young gifted students, especially boys, will act out. They will refuse to complete or do poorly on repetitive tasks and they will avoid reading classroom books because the contents of easy readers are not interesting. When these young gifted students ask to learn more they are often told to reflect on any errors in their work or sent to work alone on an “independent project” of little value in advancing their academic curiosity. Other young enthusiastic gifted learners, more often girls, adjust their intellectual aspirations to the socially accepted peer norm, “dumbing down” to the average level of their peers or perhaps accepting a role as the teacher’s helper.

Having completed their first three years of school, the gifted student who has not yet been served is considered for services, based mostly on teacher nomination. The gifted students who followed the instruction, even though it was not challenging, completing the required tasks, may not get their full potential recognized.. The gifted children who acted out or did not pay attention because they were not being challenged would not likely get services because they did not demonstrate strong student skills. This leaves only a few precocious young gifted learners who will be recognized and receive services. Unfortunately, many other young gifted learners will lose the joy of learning, lose their interest in going to school, and lose the personal drive to achieve at the level of their potential.

Elizabeth Blaetz
Head of School
Vanguard Gifted Academy