Dear Public Schools, You Have Been Warned

 WARNING: Gifted children are not receiving an appropriate education sitting in regular classrooms in our public schools, and gifted learners are showing less academic growth compared to their same-age peers. Parents of gifted children are increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of or non-existence of much-needed gifted education programs in our public schools. Parents of gifted children no longer believe the claim that enrichment classes, honors classes or AP classes are the same as true gifted education programs. Differentiation, acceleration and compacting within the regular classroom by a regular classroom teacher are not always a suitable substitute for an appropriate gifted education program taught by certified gifted education teachers and specialists. THE RESULTS: our gifted, high-ability children are bored, learn to hate school, are underachieving, dropping out of school,  turning to delinquent behavior such as drugs, and falling into depression and committing suicide. Gifted children are also said to be the single largest group of students turning to homeschooling, and with successful results.

I am a former public school teacher and the parent of three gifted children. Personally, our family has been directly and painfully affected by our public schools’ failure to appropriately educate our gifted children due to the schools’ inability to understand the unique learning needs of the gifted in the regular education classroom. When regular education teachers in the regular classroom do not understand the unique needs and characteristics of gifted learners, the effects on gifted children and their families can be nothing short of devastating. Unfortunately, my family’s own experience with this, as with many families of gifted children, was not unusual. Sadly, it is very much the experience of way too many  gifted learners who are trying to get an appropriate education in our public schools today.

Through my involvement with gifted advocacy,  I have crossed paths with many, many families of gifted children who were underserved in the public schools and I am stunned by how titanic this problem truly is. This neglect of our gifted children in our public schools is so pervasive; it is common knowledge and is the primary topic of conversation among parents of gifted children. It is so common and expected that our public schools will not provide an appropriate education for gifted children that parents of gifted children understand they need to gear up for the long, tedious fight with their public school to try to get their gifted child the much-needed appropriate education. Many tire of the battle or make the decision to not fight at all, and then they leave the public school system altogether, seeking out alternative education opportunities. Most often they just turn to likely the best educational alternative available which has proven extremely successful–homeschooling.

Recently, I was stunned–really stunned–to read a very lengthy gifted issues forum thread that asked posters to the forum to express what they thought about the quality of education their gifted child was receiving in public schools. It was so very telling.

I knew from my past experiences that most families were very much dissatisfied with the education their gifted child was receiving in public school, but after reading the 137 responses in this lengthy forum thread on the quality of a public school education, the utter distrust and disgust of our public schools were chokingly palpable. Honestly, this forum thread was a revelation to me during my early days of gifted advocacy, showing me just how widespread and devastating this issue of the miseducation of gifted children is. This common dissatisfaction and distrust of our public schools seemed to have just reached a new level of negativity in my mind at that time. At that moment, I realized that the public school systems need to seriously get their heads out of the sand.

One parent on this forum thread had this to say about having to fight the public school system for an appropriate education for her gifted child:

“What I have found most distressing is the level of callousness and inertia, though. Yes, I’m cynical to the core at this point.  I’m also exhausted after over 8y of this happy horse-puckey. I cannot wait to be quit of this in June. Can.not.WAIT.  I loathe my dd’s school!”

Another parent in this same forum thread had this to say about her experience dealing with public school administrators:

“The principal of my son’s former school once raised her voice with me in the school lobby and said, ‘WE are education PROFESSIONALS.’  I was flabbergasted. I wish I would have responded, ‘I have an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership just like you do!’ ”

And another parent’s experience dealing with public school administrators:

“A mirroring effect can be observed in meetings with school administrators– bright and inquisitive parents are not seen as ‘helpful partners’ but as PROBLEMS to be ‘solved’ or ‘eliminated’.”

This comment is from a parent who now homeschools her gifted child:

“For us, homeschooling is the best solution and I am so glad to be done with fighting the school and becoming ‘that mom’ in order to try get my kids what they need–and that was just in preschool and K level!”

Parents of gifted learners are fed up with the public school systems’ disregard and indifference to the educational needs of gifted learners, but we also must acknowledge the negative affects this has on our gifted children.

One gifted parent relayed what her child had to say about his school experience:

“What makes me particularly frustrated and upset is my son’s nosedive with regard to his attitude to school and the adults in it.  He went on a 15 minute diatribe the other day after I asked him if he wanted to learn about something. He screamed at me, ‘I don’t want to LEARN about anything. Learning is the worst thing in the world and I hope that nobody on the planet ever has to learn anything ever. Learning is so horrible!’m blog paint on face

I started to laugh. I thought that he was kidding because all DS loves to do is learn. Then I asked him what learning means. He said, ‘learning is what you do in school when you have to sit there all day and learn things that you already know. Learning is sitting and being bored and listening to grown ups talk about the most boring things and then they ignore you all day.’ His school environment is not allowing him to learn.  And as administrators and teachers have told me many times, they are focused on the ‘high’ Common Core standards and making sure that everyone passes the test. The teachers have no choice but to follow their CC-aligned curriculum, the administrators have no choice but to enforce the teachers’ following it. Everyone is focused on the test scores and bringing the bottom up.   Any teacher with the means and the brains have left, by and large. So my son, and many other children who are merely above average are being held hostage in this nutty environment.”

It seems America’s parents of gifted children are fed up with the public schools’ neglect of the educational needs of their gifted children, as are the gifted children themselves. We can easily see this from the above snippets of the replies in this gifted issues forum thread, but this fact has also been statistically substantiated by the National Association for Gifted Children.

The NAGC very recently came out with their 264-page report,  2012 – 2013 State of the States in Gifted Education which clearly demonstrates that America’s public school systems are, almost across the board, underfunding and neglecting our high-achieving, high-potential gifted learners. In the report’s introduction, it is stated that, “While there are pockets of progress, our nation has yet to comprehensively address the lack of consideration of top learners. As our country’s need for scientists, mathematicians, and other highly skilled professionals in every field continues to grow, the 2012-2013 State of the States in Gifted Education report shows that in many places high-ability and high-achieving learners are expected to fend for themselves and succeed in spite of the lack of attention and understanding of their learning needs.”

Our public school systems are neglecting our gifted children and letting them “fend for themselves”. And the negative results are underachievement, dropping out of school, delinquent behavior, drugs and suicide. The lucky ones are leaving the classroom and turning to homeschooling and other alternative education opportunities with positive results. Soon, the public school classroom will be the last place to find our gifted and high-ability students.

Dear Public Schools, 

Consider yourself warned. You are neglecting our gifted children and denying them an appropriate education. If public school systems do not begin to make adequate gifted education a priority, then your classrooms will soon be the last place to find our high-achieving, high-potential gifted learners.


America’s Parents of Gifted Children

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19 Comments on “Dear Public Schools, You Have Been Warned

  1. Your articles are so amazing! Homeschooling, or as I call it, “class schooling” was the only way to go with my gifted child. 11 years ago I looked at many of the schools in my area (S. CA) for something appropriate for my to be kindergardener, and was totally disappointed by what I found. A friend convinced me to homeschool my child which was what she was planning on doing. We joined a homeschooling group and found many wonderful classes to take our kids to. The group met at the park every Tuesday and I taught arts & crafts, while the other parents did fun things like organize field trips, Olympic games, teach their own classes, and bring broken VCRs to the park to take apart. I did my share of teaching too, but I am not gifted! It became tough at 5th grade when my son had taken all the possible elementary classes, and there weren’t many at the junior high level. We joined a 4-H club (with the other homeschool friends) and he took 9 projects, which were like classes, and supplemented the lack of classes. He learned woodworking, gardening, cooking, using Photoshop, public speaking, rocketry and robotics in 4-H. In junior high I enrolled him in a hybrid homeschool charter school where the kids go to school 2 days a week. He still goes there, but takes his physics class elsewhere. So my son is now in 10th grade and hardly spends any time on schoolwork and tons of time working with his team on this year’s rocket for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Last year they were 51 out of 720 in the nation. He gets straight A’s and some 100%s on the state tests. He is ahead in math and science so next year I think he’ll have to take math and science at the junior college (for college credit). He plays piano last at his recitals (the best plays last). I know he would be bored to tears at a regular public school. The hybrid charter school has a lot of great things going on like historic festivals where they participate in activities and eat food from the period of history covered. They have dances and parties for the jr. high and high schoolers where they do contra dancing or are themed, like a Hobbit/Middle Earth party. The Hobbit was voted the school’s favorite book. I love your article about how the public schools have failed the gifted. It affirms what I have known all along. Everyone needs to stay clear of regular public schools. They are the demise of our children and our society!

  2. One of the things that still irritates me is having a teacher ask my son (without my knowledge) to give up his place in the spelling bee as ________ had studied so hard and it wasn’t fair that M. would win that again as he had already won a place to (another academic competition). NO ONE would ever ask her son to give up his starting place on the basketball team. WOW!

    • Oh wow! I’m just shaking my head here. Yeah, asking your son to give up his spot in the Spelling Bee is pretty … well …. I just can’t think of the right adjective to describe how wrong that was.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. In Kinder he was in a dual language immersion school. He was ok. In First, they changed the zoning and he was one of the only who spoke English and had been reading by 3 years old. I asked for grade acceleration and although they had never seen a kid do the extensive math he could do and he reading level was way ahead they wouldn’t accelerate. They kept trying to put him on a behavioral IEP. I said, test his IQ, he is bored. They did and he came back highly/profoundly gifted. He told me lessons he learned in first grade like… you never want to come in first because it draws attention to you. When he said he wished the school would burn down so he wouldn’t have to go there (age 6) they threatened to press charges…. They then threatened to call CPS because he showed signs of depression. We were able to switch schools when they went out of compliance with a Speech IEP and we just treaded water for the next 2 yrs when gifted services started in 3 grade. Honestly that wasn’t enough and we were lucky to have two decent teachers 2nd and 3rd grade who allowed a lot of self directed learning. By 4th we moved and I was in the office 4 times from August to the beginning of October. Again discussing behavioral IEPs. “What do you have him reading?”, I asked. “Flat Stanely”… you have to be kidding me… I was told he didn’t deserve to go to the Library because it was a reward, and his behavior didn’t warrant it. I asked if anyone had taken the time to talk to him… He started hiding from white cars because that is what his teacher drove. We were paying tuition for this fabulous educational opportunity! I went to the district we were zoned for and met with the principal. He told me he didn’t believe in Gifted Education. I asked him then if he felt it was ok to treat a kid with a 70 IQ the same as an average IQ and he said no. When I pointed out treating a kid with a 130+ IQ the same as and average kid was just as unjust… He didn’t agree. I left my teaching job to homeschool but not before the speech therapist told me within 5 minutes of meeting with me, that as a parent, I was not qualified to homeschool. We are in our 4th year homeschooling. I continually fight the baggage of public school but we are almost there…. most days. Looking back at my teaching career, I know I failed kids and I didn’t mean to. I had no idea until I had my son what it meant. They teach you a lot about special ed on the other end of the spectrum when getting a degree, not on the gifted side. I also think, I was an educator who knew the laws and couldn’t get him the help we needed… I feel for parents who have to fight the system

    • “I continually fight the baggage of public school but we are almost there…”

      Oh, Seeker, I can honestly say, I know how you feel and what your child has to overcome. I am really trying to fight back tears writing this because we went through such a similar journey with the school system and are dealing with the emotional repercussions. Homeschooling is helping him to overcome the emotional baggage and regain his self-esteem and desire to learn.

      Thanks for sharing your heartbreaking story. It is through sharing, talking, connecting and advocating that we can work together to make changes because no child should have to suffer because he is gifted.

  4. I love this – thank you! I have a 2E (or possibly 3E) child – who began a homeschool charter (2 days on-site & 3 days at home) 5 weeks ago. The amount of work we’ve successfully completed by finding curriculum that works for him as amazing – when he was accommodated for his fine motor needs at school, they pulled him out of class for “resource” to catch him up using the exact same techniques that caused him to fall behind in the first place….keeping fine motor separate from the math and language arts (he can type beautifully at age 9, but writing slows him down immensely), he couldn’t keep up – not that he wasn’t capable of doing the work, but because he couldn’t do it the way he was expected to. In 5 weeks we’re through 1/2 a grade level (we went back to last year’s work, which is where he started to fall behind) – at this rate, we’ll be back to at or above grade level by the end of the school year AND we’ve figured out how to help him be successful with academics! I LOVE what the homeschool opportunities provide students who shouldn’t have to do everything the way others do – no two children are exactly alike, and yet the schools expect them all to learn exactly the same way. So why teach to a test when we can actually teach our children to love learning……(and yes, I became “that mother” by the end of our run at traditional public schools, also with an MA in Education Psychology & a PhD almost complete in Special Education, Disabilities & Risk Studies, but kept being reminded (by teachers & principal) that his teacher knew best! When I was in school, we were always reminded that the parent knows their child best… why can’t the teachers recognize this now when trying to figure out how to teach a child who doesn’t learn the way they teach (NOT the child’s fault!!!)

    • We love homeschooling, too! It is so unfair for schools to keep trying to squeeze the square pegs into the round holes, and I swear, those round holes are more constricted than ever before. When I was working on my MEd, the overriding philosophy being enforced was, “don’t have your students learn the way you teach, instead teach the way your students learn.” That is what our performance was judged on then – individualizing and meeting the needs of each child! Also, as teachers, we were expected to treat all parents as “customers” because it was understood, as you said, that parents knew their child best. The pendulum has swung to the other side now and our gifted kids are bearing the brunt of this change.

  5. I really appreciate this article. We decided to homeschool because we knew that my son would not do well in a regular classroom. He was far too advanced academically before kindergarten, and he has a tendency to cause a lot of trouble when he is bored. I am happy that we are homeschooling, but I sometimes wonder if my kids are learning enough because my oldest(now 7) only does about an hour of school a day. He is about 2 1/2 years ahead in most subjects, but I still worry that I am missing something. Your article was a good reminder for me that he probably wouldn’t be getting a good education in the local schools, even if her were there for 8 hours a day.

    • I always worried about that too, but I have seen many times over where unschooled kids went on to a very successful college career. Remember, it is not so much what your child learns because every child cannot be taught everything! It is so much more important that he strengthens his love of learning, becomes an independent learner, and grows into a life-long learner!

  6. I am getting ready to pull my (gifted) 1st grader out after Christmas break. I am starting to freak out, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know where to start and our finances are very limited. Any suggestions?

    • Amy, the elementary years are a great time for homeschooling! Resources are plentiful and many are free! Don’t freak out! Homeschooling is a fun and freeing environment! Remember, you don’t need to reproduce the classroom at home. I would lean towards a child-lead learning environment at first until you get a routine that feels right for both of you. Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s website is the first place I would start for information and resources! Good luck and have fun!

  7. We were fortunate to be able to pull our DD halfway through 3rd grade and put her into a private school that can meet her needs and keep her engaged. When we left public school a year ago, we had a new principal who came from a GT background. I was so excited to have her! Well that principal told me that “according to her test scores,” our DD was being challenged at the appropriate level. Then why, we wanted to know, is she telling us she’s bored and has learned nothing new since the beginning of the school year, 2 months ago? That same GT-background principal also stood in front of our school, in a very public area, and made sure to make the point that our daughter was NOT the top one in her class, and that if they hadn’t “dropped the bar” on the previous year’s testing, she wouldn’t have been even getting pulled out for the extra GT work that she was getting. I was… stunned. I wasn’t trying to argue any point about her being the best in the class, though the fact is, she had gone through 3 years of school always head and shoulders above her classmates. It’s so tragic that this problem is so very wide-spread. What an amazing future resource that our public schools are killing!

    • Denise, your story shows just how uninformed many in our public school systems are about gifted children. The most hurtful myth about gifted children is that they are high achievers who score consistently at the top of their class! Many, many gifted children are bored with school, homework and tests, and then they just give up. The children who are high achievers and scoring well are likely being challenged at their appropriate level. The gifted children who are failing and underachieving are not being challenged at their appropriate level. Grades and test scores ARE NOT infallible! And expecting gifted children to score well on material they have long already mastered is ridiculous.

      Many thanks for your comment! Sharing with others is one way we can all keep this issue at the forefront so that one day, hopefully, gifted children will no longer be neglected in our school systems!

  8. Well said! The only other thing I would mention is the negative effects on the gifted child. Yes, they are losing their love of learning but their is so much more. Teachers do not understand the uniqueness of these children, their sensitivities. These children know there are better ways to learn, they know that the learning process can be so much more. Each day they feel going to school is a waste of time, doing repetitive homework is a waste of time for these children. The school system does not understand this. These children are misunderstood. They need teachers that love to teach, teachers who understand that these children can bring so much to their classroom given the methods of teaching that work for them. The public school experience is having a devastating effect on these children psychologically. We are pulling our children out of school and homeschooling these children to save them and to try to reverse the psychological effects that are directly caused by the way that teachers are ridiculing our children because they just don’t understand them.

    • “The public school experience is having a devastating effect on these children psychologically.”

      Unfortunately, this is so very true! I personally know of a gifted child who now suffers from depression, severe learning anxiety and PTSD – all resulting from his traumatic experience in public school. The psychological toll is unacceptable.

      Your comment is compelling and heartfelt – Thank You!

  9. I have three grandchildren. The oldest was reading at age 3 or 4 and the second was similar. The third is adopted and catching up quickly – he may be gifted given the hurdles he has had to overcome. When my son and d-i-l decided to homeschool, I was relieved. I was pretty sure a rural school in central Illinois wouldn’t know what to do with a child reading two years above grade level, who could explain what a meniscus is.

    • Thank you for sharing your success story! Bravo to your son and daughter-in-law for recognizing that their children’s educational needs would likely not be met in a traditional school. Hopefully, one day soon we will change the state of gifted education in our public schools!

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