In April 2004, Simon & Schuster published Genius Denied, co-authored by Jan and Bob Davidson with Laura Vanderkam

Welcome back!  Since our last newsletter, Jan has had very successful visits to school districts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas. She was encouraged by the efforts of many parents, administrators, educators and school board members working together to bring about positive change to help all students (including bright students) learn to their full potential! We applaud the efforts of everyone in these districts, as well as those we haven’t had a chance to visit; it is a joy to see gifted students nurtured in school! 

This month we’ve added a section, “Your Mail,” to share some of the feedback and suggestions we receive from our readers. We enjoy hearing from you and hope this newsletter can be an exchange of useful information and ideas. 

We look forward to hearing from you,

Jan and Bob Davidson

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?  J.H. 

A. 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 accomplishments.
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 educators.
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.

For more information on Underachievement see the items on the sidebar.

Q. 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.

A. You are very wise to recognize your son’s interest, and we suggest you begin your search by contacting the faculty 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 Sigma Pi Sigma, 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.  K.M.

A. 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.

Q. 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?  S.D.

A. 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 Learners.



 Meet the Authors 

Book Tours or Presentations will resume in the Fall 2005.

We plan to be in the 
Washington, D.C. / mid-Atlantic states
between mid and late September.

In October,  we will be in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, 
 and Michigan.

If you wish to schedule a presentation and visit with Jan and/or Bob,
contact Carla Priester at



Genius Denied
is now available in PAPERBACK!



"Promoting a positive achievement attitude with gifted and talented students" by D. Siegle & B. McCoach
"Dealing with the stereotype of underachievement" by J. Delisle
"Overcoming underachievement"  by
S. Schneider
"Giftedness and academic underachievement: What lies beneath"  by A. Mahoney
Why bright kids get poor grades: And what you can do about it  by S. Rimm
Get off my brain: A survival guide for lazy students by R. McCutcheon & P. Wagner.

Talent Development & Mentorships

U.S. Physics Talent Search 
"Parenting tips: Finding a learning guide for your gifted son/daughter"  by Davidson Institute for Talent Development
"Home influences on talent development" by K. Sloane
"Mentor relationships and gifted learners" by Davidson Institute for Talent Development
"Parenting practices that promote talent development, creativity, and optimal adjustment"  by P. Olszewski-Kubilius

Other articles on mentoring on in the Genius Library

Grouping Gifted Learners

"Grouping the gifted and talented: questions and answers" by K. Rogers
"Educational decision making on acceleration and ability grouping" by J. Van Tassel-Baska
"An analysis on the research of ability grouping" by J. Kulick 
Description of Caryn Ellison's  multiage, self-contained gifted class in Genius Denied, Chapter 2, pp. 46-47.


Differentiation & 
Gifted Learners

"Differentiation tips for teachers: Practical strategies for the classroom"  J. Kirchner & T. Inman
"Differentiating curriculum for gifted students"  S. Berger
"Planning effective curriculum for gifted learners" J. Van Tassel-Baska 
"The "No Child" law’s biggest victims? An answer that may surprise" M. DeLacy

Your Mail:

v Summer Bergen, from Houston, Texas, writes: “As my highly gifted daughter approached school age, I desperately began looking for a good first year option. A Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program in English and Spanish became available in our area. The first two years (K and 1st) of the program are taught in 90 percent Spanish. Though not a GT program, it has provided a stimulating kindergarten environment for my daughter. I highly recommend it as an option for gifted children.”

v Margaret DeLacy, board member of the Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted students, past president of the Portland, Oregon school district’s talented-and-gifted advisory committee, and parent of gifted children, thought a statement in our last newsletter was overly optimistic: “Any savvy school administrator will not ignore an organized, well-prepared, reasonable group of parents seeking an appropriate education for their children...”  We agree with her. Instead of saying “will not ignore,” we should have said “will find it difficult to ignore.”

v We heard from Kris McElligatt, co-chair of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Advocacy Committee, that the state of Illinois, which has withdrawn ALL funding for gifted legislation in the past, now has legislation in the works to restore gifted education in the school code. Details can be found on Kris' post on the Illinois State Discussion Forum

To get involved in state policy discussions, register at Gifted Education Policy Discussion Forum

* * * 
Please send any questions to be answered or any feedback about the contents of this newsletter to:
NOTE: Due to space constraints, questions answered in this newsletter may be edited and similar questions combined.  The Davidson Institute's team Family Consultants contribute to the contents of this newsletter.

If you or your organization would be interested in a book signing or a "Meet the Author" session with the authors of Genius Denied, please email your request to or visit Genius Denied - On Tour.

"When it comes to leaving no child behind, highly gifted students 
are the most likely to fall through the cracks in American classrooms. 
They are the most likely to underachieve, to suffer the greatest gap 
between their potential and what is asked of them."
from Genius Denied

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Supporting our nation's brightest young minds.


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