Being Gifted is Often NOT the Same as Being High-Achieving

When most of us think of gifted children, we automatically think of high-achieving students—the smart ones. I think this misperception began in our schools.

Well, I am not saying they intentionally created this misperception, but—

Too many gifted education programs in our schools are implemented to recognize, identify and accept students into their programs based on their performance in school—grades, standardized test scores, behavior. These programs often then accept just the smart ones.

Not all schools, but too many.

Most of us only know about giftedness through our educational systems which all too frequently promote a stereotype of the gifted child as one who is consistently high-achieving, well-behaved, and who has advanced development in social, emotional and leadership skills. The promotion of this stereotypical gifted child is compounded by gifted education programs in traditional schools which often recognize giftedness in children by their level of achievement and performance in school.

Of course, that is my opinion based on my years of experience being both a mom of three gifted boys and being a public school teacher, but the fact remains, schools do continually cultivate the perception that giftedness is synonymous with high-achievement and due to two main reasons:


#1 For public schools, grades matter— they matter for recognition, they matter for funding, and they matter for teachers’ job security. Developing students who demonstrate high-achievement by offering them acceleration and enrichment in gifted education programs helps to ensure the high test scores needed to meet the high-stakes expectations placed on public schools. Would you ever believe that a child who had B’s, C’s and D’s on his report card would be placed in a gifted education program?

#2 Pre-service teachers are often not properly taught or trained to recognize giftedness in children. As a former public school teacher, I remember sitting in my two-semester long graduate class on classroom management and discipline. During an extensive, weeks-long focus on special education, one class period, one 1-hour long class period, was spent on giftedness in children. I recall coming away from that class period with a vision in my head of a well-behaved, more emotionally and socially mature student who consistently excelled in the classroom and likely possessed advanced leadership skills—you know, a future valedictorian.


Based on decades of research studies, doctoral theses and anecdotal evidence, we know that many gifted children do not fit the stereotype of the gifted child public schools incidentally promote. We know that gifted children may not excel in school for many reasons. We know they may not always be well-behaved or polite. We know they may have a learning disability or other challenges to learning. We know they may excel in one subject while lagging behind in another. Gifted children do not always appear to be the smart ones. Gifted children do make average grades in school, and some even fail and drop out of school. These are facts about gifted individuals that juxtapose themselves to the traits of the misguided gifted child stereotype–high-achieving, maturity and success in school.

Giftedness is a condition which is very much misunderstood by our schools, by our mental health professionals, by our medical professionals, and by society as a whole almost worldwide.

The facts about giftedness are out there and they have been available for quite some time as the body of knowledge about giftedness continues to grow. Research studies, doctoral theses, professional articles, blog posts, international and national gifted organizations, professionals in the field of giftedness, and advocates and parents have all provided the facts about what gifted means, what giftedness looks like in children and in adults, what it truly is, and what the varying attributes are—and yet as a society, we’ve missed the boat by a long shot. We still, most often than not, associate giftedness with high-achievement.

As long as our teachers continue to recognize and identify giftedness by a child’s grades, test scores and his performance in school, giftedness will be synonymous with high-achievement. As long as our schools continue to populate our gifted education programs with only exemplary straight-A students, giftedness will continue to be synonymous with high-achievement.

When all of our teachers know and understand that not all gifted children will have straight A’s in every subject, then we will be able to identify gifted children who otherwise would not be placed in a gifted education program. When all of our schools come to understand that giftedness is not organically connected to school achievement, and not all gifted children will excel in every subject or perform exceptionally well across the board in school, then we will be able to serve all of our gifted children appropriately. We need to disassociate giftedness and gifted children with achievement and future success in life.

What can we do to disassociate high-achievement from being gifted? How can we cut that unfortunate cord?


We all need to be a part of speaking out and speaking up, no matter how big or how small. We need to spread information, share the facts, talk to others, and encourage others to speak out. We need to speak up outside of the gifted community, stop preaching to the choir and reach those who do not understand. We all need to be part of the gifted conversation in order to help improve the education and the lives of our gifted children. We all need to do our part to dispel the myths, banish the stereotype and cut the cord.

Because being gifted is often not the same as being high-achieving; gifted children are not always the smart ones.




Giftedness is More Than a Function of Education

#1 Gifted Students Do Not Always Excel in School 

Achievement & Success. We’ve Got This All Wrong

The Misunderstood Face of Giftedness

I’m Jealous of Your Smart Kid 

Dear Teacher, My Gifted Child is in Your Class

The Surprising Downsides of Being Clever

How Stereotypes Affect Gifted Children


This article is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop, “Why Is High-Achieving Synonymous with Being Gifted?” Click on the link below to read more information about this topic.

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