Q. My son is 12 years old and has been identified as G/T. When he was in 4th grade he was put in an ALPS class (Accelerated Learning Program System) that was available in Menasha, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the program was cut due to budget issues. Now in middle school, he just seems uninterested in getting the best grades. Could this be due to becoming a teen or what?
It can be difficult to get to the bottom of underachievement because there are so many
possible reasons students “tune out” in school. In
Guiding the Gifted
Child, Dr. James Webb, et. al., offers the following
as a guide to possible reasons your child is underachieving:
"1) Rule out any physical causes of underachievement (hard
of hearing, vision problems, etc.).
2) Begin an inventory of the overall emotional status of the
family. See if there are problems or crises that could be
draining emotional energies leaving little left over for other
3) Is your child receiving as much support as can reasonably be
provided? This includes the school environment; consider whether
your child’s passion for learning is nurtured by his or her
4) Recall times when your child was particularly motivated: Who
were they with? How did the child feel about his/her worth and
pride of accomplishment?
5) Discuss with your child why he/she seems so turned off.
6) Examine the models that you, as a parent, provide for your
child: What amount of time are you involved with your child? How
encouraging are you? To what extent do you indicate that verbal
expression is safe with you? How much do you convey your own eagerness to learn?"
We’ve found that sometimes gifted students are not motivated by external rewards, especially grades. Try focusing on your son’s interests and encourage him to pursue them further.
more information on Underachievement see the items on the
My son is very interested in physics and its theories. How would
I find a mentor in our area? We live in Appleton, Wisconsin. D.M.
You are very wise to recognize your son’s interest, and we suggest you begin your search by contacting the
at Lawrence University’s Physics department or another local university; one of the professors may be able to help you find a mentor for your son. It might be useful to email the professor first and request a visit to the college to observe a class and meet the professor afterwards. That way the professor could get to know you and your son,
and be in a better position to recommend a person to mentor him.
You may also try contacting national interest groups, such as
for contact information of local chapters or members. PhysLink offers a list of physics associations that may also be able to lead you to a mentor.
Once you find a mentor, the next challenge is nurturing the relationship to make sure it is a good fit for both the mentor and your son. You may want to review Chapter 5 of
Genius Denied, in which we discuss models for doing this. Good
luck! Please let us know of your progress.
Here are some
links to more information on Talent Development and Mentorships.
Q. Our school district just cut its gifted and talented pull-out program. Do you have any suggestions for how our parent advocacy group should respond to this cut? The district does have a serious budget crisis; many services have been cut in addition to GT programming.
Your parent advocacy group can help your school district understand that even with its budget crisis, the educational needs of gifted students can still be addressed by creating self-contained classrooms for gifted students. These can be
multi-age classrooms based upon the students' skill levels. Research shows grouping gifted students together produces significant gains in student achievement
— a gain of half a year or more per school year when curriculum is appropriately accelerated to these students’ advanced abilities. With properly trained teachers, these self-contained classes for the gifted students in your school could significantly benefit the students as well as help the district control its budget.
Good luck in your advocacy
efforts! Let us know what happens.
Here are some
links to more information on Grouping Gifted Learners.
There is a lot of talk in our district about “differentiation” for gifted students. Do you recommend it, and is it an effective strategy for serving gifted students?
It depends on the type of classroom differentiation being
considered as an accommodation of gifted learners. A
differentiated curriculum in a mixed ability classroom,
containing only a few gifted students, is not a practical
solution as it is not likely to serve the students or the
teacher. As Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, one of the leading experts on
differentiation notes, “Without grouping in some form, differentiated curriculum is difficult if not impossible to accomplish.” If the differentiated curriculum is in a classroom for gifted students whose abilities range from moderately gifted to highly gifted, differentiation can be an effective teaching tool to accommodate this range of abilities. The more homogeneous the composition of the classroom, the more successful differentiation is likely to be. Differentiation takes a great deal of teacher training and experience; we’ve also observed that certain personality types are more effective using differentiation as a teaching tool than others. Differentiation is a good concept, but difficult to execute well. We strongly encourage schools to consider other options to address the educational needs of gifted learners.
Here are some
links to more information on Differentiation and Gifted