#1 Gifted Students Do Not Always Excel in School

From "A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers"

 from the post: A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers

In my blog post A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers , I listed ten basic characteristics and traits of gifted children – really nine since I repeated #1 because it’s a biggee.  It is a list intended to easily help teachers and others by providing a brief and basic listing of gifted traits and characteristics which aren’t always so well-known, recognized or obvious.  I also hoped my checklist would bust some myths and correct some incorrect information about giftedness.

Let’s take each listed trait and characteristic on this checklist and delve into it further.  Let’s start with #1, which is also #10:


“Many gifted students are high achievers and excel in school.  Their inner motivation drives them to achieve with the desired high scores and superior grades.  On the other hand, many gifted students are not driven to achieve in school for many reasons – boredom, lack of a challenging curriculum, coexisting learning disabilities, they prefer learning for the sake of learning & not for high test scores, social & emotional issues and others.  If you have a gifted student in your classroom who is not achieving to expectations, look for the contributing factors.  I can assure you that underachievement in a gifted student is rarely if ever due to poor work ethic or laziness.  Simply assuming an underachieving gifted student just needs to work harder or be more conscientious with his schoolwork is always the wrong assumption.  And expecting consistent high scores and perfect grades from all gifted students can be emotionally, socially and educationally damaging to a gifted child.”

Face it, if you polled a large, random group of people and asked them to describe a gifted child, the very first adjective they would use is “smart”.  And if you further questioned this random group of people and asked them to give you the attributes of a smart, gifted child, I’m sure they would say things like, “excels in school” and “makes good grades”.  I would have said the same thing had you asked me before I had my own gifted children.  Yet, gifted children don’t always excel in school and  it happens more often than you would think.

It happens for many reasons such as lack of funding for gifted programs, and the misguided notion that gifted children do not have specific learning needs.  Therefore, schools have been neglecting the learning needs of their gifted students.  Governments and school systems have trimmed down or completely cut out gifted programs.  Why?  Most likely it is because most people believe gifted students are fine on their own and really don’t need any educational extras.  Gifted programs are viewed as optional, as nonessential and expendable.  This belief is also laced with the sentiment that gifted programs are elitist.  To put it bluntly, most believe that gifted children are already smart which is seen as an advantage, so why should we shell out more money to pad their advantage over other children even more?

I get that …

but it is so far from the truth!

It’s wrong.

Like the-Earth-is-flat wrong!

Here’s a good example I pulled out of the trash … virtually but literally.  I moderate the comments on my blog, and I feel it is only right to post all comments as long as it is not advertising spam or really nasty.   Anyway, here is one uncivil comment I chose not to post and I just put it in the trash – it was just too mean-spirited to provide any positive ideas, opposing opinions or solutions for anyone.  But hey, now there is a use for it!  This comment exemplifies the kind of spiteful, somewhat-envious attitudes that suppress efforts to advocate for gifted children who really, truly need educational accommodations specific to the way they learn:

I gotta tell you, this is the way you come across.

“My child is gifted and deserves all sorts of extras. Not because he has achieved anything, but because I have given him superior genes.

“Meanwhile your child, although bright, is not ‘truly’ gifted like my special snowflake. Your child could not POSSIBLY understand things the way my child does, and your child has absolutely no business learning any advanced anything.

“Your child should be grateful to sit in a regular classroom and read from the basal reader every day. Because, you know, she isn’t ‘truly’ gifted.”

Gifted individuals are born with unique brain functioning – a true cognitive difference – which must be addressed in school.  They are simply not smarter – they think differently, they learn differently, they perceive differently, and they sense differently.  Their learning needs, much like students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia and others, are outside the norm and must be addressed in order for them to receive a proper education.  This is why specific educational modifications and accommodations are needed for gifted learners.

In spite of the overwhelming amount of definitive professional and educational research studies and statistics which have proven, over and over, that gifted students have unique learning needs that must be met utilizing specific educational accommodations, we have seen the widespread decline of gifted programs.  This leaves our gifted children trying to learn in regular classrooms while becoming more and more frustrated and disillusioned with education.  Thus, not meeting the educational needs of our gifted children has resulted in many of our gifted students continually disengaging from school for the past decade or so.  They are like fish out of water.

Although I am generalizing the decline in gifted programs and gifted educational accommodations across the board, some countries, states and school systems do provide widely-varying degrees of enrichment, gifted programs, and educational accommodations taught by trained and knowledgeable gifted specialists.  I’ve lived in different states that vary greatly in what they offer; our previous school district had a 2-hour-a-week gifted pull-out in grades 3rd through 5th ONLY.  We now live in a school district where gifted identification and programs begin in Kindergarten and are provided through 12th grade.

Some gifted students can and will adapt to a less-than-optimal learning environment although it does not meet their needs or provide enough opportunities to be successful in school.  Many can’t and won’t adapt to an inappropriate learning environment, and their lack of school achievement is a direct reflection of their inability to learn in a regular classroom setting without the needed accommodations.  Their grades suffer which then pushes them further away from fulfilling their potential.  Poor grades and scores also have an added negative effect on gifted students’ acceptance into gifted programs, gifted summer enrichment programs, and acceptance into colleges and universities of their choice.

The main reason we have so many gifted students not excelling in school can be directly related to the degree to which a particular school district commits to providing the needed and appropriate education gifted children require.  The true belief in and commitment to the real, unique learning needs of gifted children within a school system is reflected in the achievement of its gifted students.

Without a universal commitment to educate our gifted children as they need to be, our gifted children will not always excel in school.  Worse yet, we all lose out on their potential contributions to better our world.

gifteddon't excel 2


The Miseducation of our Gifted Children

America Hates its Gifted Kids

Public Schools are Failing the Most Gifted

Gifted Students Have ‘Special Needs’, Too 

57 Comments on “#1 Gifted Students Do Not Always Excel in School

  1. My son is in kindergarten, I don’t know rather he would be considered gifted but in all of his tests he scores well beyond what they expect him too. However he has gotten into the habit of misbehaving at school and they are considering holding him back to do a second year of kindergarten, but with his scores so high I can’t help but feel that he is acting out because of boredom and not being challenged so holding him back will only cause him to get worse but the school does not want to listen to me and I am at a loss for what to do. Maybe he isn’t gifted but he always says he loves school and loves learning yet he is constantly in trouble at school and nothing I do changes anything

    • Kara,

      First, I’m not qualified to give advice, but…

      If I were you, I would find a child psychologist who is familiar with gifted children and get a complete evaluation and recommendation. That is what I had to do for one of my sons.

      As a former kindergarten teacher, I have never heard of a child performing above grade level being held back because of behavior–do they think his behavior will improve by being forced to learn information he’s known probably for two years, and now has to sit through it all again? Ugh!

      You know your child best, so trust your gut! Your child needs you to fight for what is right for him! Read up and learn all that you can about gifted children–get the facts and keep talking to your son’s school. Bring in articles for them to read about gifted children who misbehave when unchallenged. And try to get that evaluation if you can.

      Best of luck to you!

  2. Hello I Ve been aaa I think diagnosted is an ok terme tho I m not ( I m French ) gifted child I’m currently 16 I m having a real hard time here the last year of high school are so awful the 2 prespvious year I thought about suicide it s a little better this year but I feel lonely even tho my parents do whatever is in there power for me to feel ok I have awful grades in math and I feel pathetic I have not be truly happy since a long time and thing are none existent on the girlfriend side I watch lots of series movies anime play lots of video game to forget I really sad school is sad waking up every day is pure pain school is boring and it shouldn’t be I mean I m sure it can be interesting and i work really hard for poor results writing everything down like that I m sure I forget lots of stuff to tell but I wanna be happy I wanna feel smart and not like trash and i wanna have a bright future for my project I planned to study in England i hope it ll be ok

    • Your story is very common and happens too often to gifted individuals when school is not challenging or engaging. You are very lucky your parents are doing their best to support you! Make sure you rely on their support and always communicate with them about how you are feeling!

      Try to remember that school is not the absolute predictor of future success–many people have done poorly in school and went on to college and did very well. Or entered other careers, and were very successful. Myself included–my high school grades were HORRIBLE! And definitely, doing poorly or wonderfully in school does not determine whether you are smart or not! Keep in mind, Einstein did not do well in school and his teachers considered him a dullard. And we all know how successful Einstein was!

      Hang in there, keep yourself busy doing things that you really enjoy, try some new activities or volunteer opportunities, know that you are not alone, and make sure you always communicate to your parents when you are feeling down–that’s important.

      My family is French, also, or at least my husband is. He was born and raised in Quebec, Canada and didn’t speak English until he was 21-years old!

      If you need any resources or other support, just let us know! You can do this!

  3. My grandson is 16 and a gifted kid – read books voraciously, Nat’l Jr. Honor Society in middle school then transferred to a high school in another state where he was made to repeat a math class which he’d already taken at his previous school and saw no reason to repeat – that was the beginning of his dislike of school. He’s at a school that defines itself by it’s high graduation rate. He’s now in physical juvenile detention because he missed school days last year and was sent to truancy court and then missed a day already this school year which was considered contempt of court. He passes all his in class tests at or above 90 percentile even without being in class regularly, he can discuss almost any topic with adults, he simply cannot get himself to school on time (he is a night owl) but now with this detention and the truancy officer’s saying she will not “let” him be in a GED program because then what will he do (like she has to have control of him post high school GED) – has me furious! His school counselor says he could easily pass the GED which would then free him up to pursue what options he might want to rather than be a body in a seat in a school where he is truly uninspired. What rights to such students have? He has not committed any crimes – when he’s not in school he is at home not our carousing at the mall etc. I am afraid this situation will create a true anti-social attitude in this young man.

    • Oh wow, Lori, I’m so sorry you and your son are going through this. It’s awful and my heart goes out to you and your son. And you are right, this experience can really have an impact on your son.

      If I were you, I’d get a lawyer and learn what options you have from him/her. Also, I’d get the help of a psychologist who understands gifted children. I’m no expert, but that is what I would do.

      I hope and pray for the best for you and your son–he deserves so much better than this!

    • Hi Lori, I am so sorry to hear about your son’s situation. My son, almost 12, sounds very much the same. We missed so much school in the past and after only a couple of years, due in part to his high sensitivity and resultant anxiety, we homeschooled. There are many on-line distance learners out there as well so your son could still have the involvement of a teacher and go at his pace. This also allows for exploring subjects of interest in great depth. I really hope this is an option for your son. We are trying school again this year but even though the school has some options, it is a serious struggle. All the best to you and your son.

  4. Thank you for your checklist. I never thought I would find myself raising a gifted child, even though I always knew there was something different about my son. He has been diagnosed as Gifted with ADHD. He truly is a distracted gifted child and man is it tough! I never thought I would argue with a 7 yo so much about everything! I thank you for your blog. It has made me feel less alone, in a world where most other parents don’t understand the difficulty in raising a gifted child.

    • You are very welcome, Courtney. Yes, there are many of us raising these differently-wired kids–you are not alone! All the best to you and your family!

  5. Gifted/Talented problems in school are not simply due to failure to recognize talent, nor are they simply due to unnoticed learning deficits or other problems that ironically leave us labeled “twice-exceptional”, 2e.

    Much of my bad experience with school came from teachers lacking or denied the flexibility to deal with students as individuals.

    Almost all of the horror stories about the improper treatment of gifted or talented students are true somewhere, and very little of it is new; my parents had sent me to a Montessori school before I was five, and when we were transferred to Washington DC in 1950, I was glad to see books in the kindergarten classes – until I was forbidden to read to my classmates.

    Four years of doctrinaire education in schools in the United Kingdom would follow in a subsequent assignment abroad, where among other things I was repeatedly caned in one school when I couldn’t remember lessons from the day before, a deficit I learned on the edge of retirement not uncommon in high-functioning-autism.

    Uneven teacher quality would dog my heels all through my public-school years, but I blossomed under some teachers on our return to the United States, and this better-and-worse/worse-and-better ride would continue through High School..

    With that head start, however, I found myself enjoying a magnificent home library with college textbooks, novels, and books on sociology language, psychology and literature; at 11 I was reading my father’s 1936 physics book – and also Tolstoy,Chekhov, and Twain, accounts of World War II, and mother’s JC general education texts, as well as things like the Golden Bough, the Bhagavad-Gita and the huge unabridged dictionaries once fashionable in educated households.

    I built what I can call a “rail-gun” in my bedroom while experimenting with electromagnets at 11 or 12, which eventually led to a 21-year career in electronics in the US Army, and some 30 years in engineering (sans-degree or coursework) after I retired from the Service.

    Some time in Junior-High or High-School, I had found reading textbooks through on my own until I absorbed the content could get me good scores on examinations, and I accepted poor grades as irrelevant to my goal: I just wanted to learn, and did.

    This was not accepted at home and in school.

    The now-classic executive function/working memory deficits of HFA resulted in my not even wanting to turn in homework on subjects I had learned on my own already, and even though my PSAT scores had amazed staff and family, at 17 I ran away from home and joined the Army.

    I now ascribe the difficulties bright but learning-disabled children encounter as much to an unwillingness to give teachers and staff the freedom to modify a traditional 19th-Century approach, conformity. respect, silence and rote, and codes of student conduct that say little about *learning*; as much and as well to adoption of statistical process control and verification as a tool to control funding and hiring — education by checklist.

    My experience growing up, as well as in the military and industry, has convinced me that checklists are a hallmark of desperation, and — almost always — a last-ditch (and futile) attempt to achieve mediocrity. Or impose it.

    • Cortland,

      Your experience in school is like many gifted children and many other children who just don’t fit in the box of industrial-style, standardized education. I agree completely with the reasons you gave for why many gifted children don’t do well in school–it is a failure on the part of the school system, not the child.

      Also, having been a teacher, I agree that if we gave teachers more autonomy to educate their students and meet their students individual needs, we’d have less students falling through the cracks. Right now, education is so standardized that we are producing kids who learn compliance, memorization and regurgitation of facts is what constitutes achievement in school.

      I love your quote, “checklists are a hallmark of desperation…and a last ditch attempt to achieve mediocrity.” That is profoundly true.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience and your thoughts.

  6. I cannot agree enough. I was a “gifted” student who now teaches high school chemistry. I have a true love for learning and for teaching, but I learn best in a very specific style. I frequently would not turn in assignments in high school if I felt they weren’t worth my time/did not contribute anything significant to my understanding of a given topic. For example, I never minded writing essays, answering open-ended analytical questions, etc. However, the second a worksheet or coloring activity was handed to me, I shut down. As a teacher, I now struggle to meet the needs of my gifted students. I have classes of between 28-35 students and all of my classes include both students with IEPs for disabilities and gifted students. I find that worksheets, foldables, and “creative” activities are not only useful but absolutely essential to engage my struggling students, but I have pre-AP, GT labeled students that are failing my class because these assignments leave them bored and annoyed. It is very frustrating as a teacher because I have not yet figured out how to help my special needs students without punishing my gifted students.

    • Oh wow, Amanda, I can understand how it is a struggle to meet the needs of all your students when their needs are so different. And high school has set expectations and standards which resist individualization or accommodations. Your experience as a teacher emphasizes why public education needs to back away from the one-size-fits-all curriculum we often see.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  7. I am still in school but I continue to learn part-time and I am on the Dean’s honour list.

    Grade school was horror. I stood out and back then boys didn’t like pretty girls being smart. I bit my lip much of the time. High school was a bit better but some of the teachers said oxymoron’s, sometimes that was boring and sometimes it was at least interesting to analyze.

    Growing up I liked to study the all of the big picture. Analyze all variables and I think that is what makes students who think differently appear bad in school whereas many students do what is expected and too quick to move on.

    • Cate,

      You are right, school too often expects students to take in facts/knowledge for the sole purpose of being able to spit it right back out on a test to prove you had memorized it. What about using that knowledge in productive ways to prove mastery?

      Too often I had to tell my own children when they rebelled against regurgitating information just to make a good grade, “just play the game!” Sadly, and misguidedly, grades and test scores are what education institutions rely on to determine one’s ability and potential. Personally, I think they are missing the boat on many who have outstanding potential but for many reasons, don’t make straight A’s or 4.0 GPA’s.

      Studying the big picture and analyzing all variables is a very important skill in the real world, outside of school. You are lucky to have this critical thinking skill–make sure you nurture that!

      Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  8. I came along before “gifted” was a label, but I was considered one of the “smart” kids. I hated school from day one. Was I bored because it was too easy? Not really; I think I was bored because it was boring. Even if a class was interesting at first, I usually couldn’t wait for it to end by the halfway point. I avoided college for a year, but went because I was even more averse to menial labor. I considered dropping out many times, but stuck it out. I dropped out of my first graduate program halfway through the first semester, but finished the second because it was more career-oriented. I haven’t been a star in my field, but I’ve had a successful 25 year run. Fast forward to the 2000’s. Our oldest son is considered brilliant by his teachers. He makes straight A’s in elementary school, but starts not turning in all his work in middle school. By this time he’s in a competitive and challenging magnet program. In high school he is admitted to a competitive, nationally known math/science magnet school. He starts out doing well in most classes even though he doesn’t do several assignments. His grades fall steadily, although he doesn’t fail anything. He makes National Merit Semifinalist, and gets a sizable scholarship despite his grades. He is polite to his teachers, and doesn’t dislike any of them. Last week we learned that he lost his scholarship and didn’t finish several classes. He told us therapists/counsellors advised him to go to college despite his doubts as to whether it was a good idea. He hasn’t liked school for years, and being in college didn’t change things. The story is far from complete, but the point is that there are some of us who just don’t like school. We may love learning, but we hate being taught and not being able to decide on our on own when we’ve learned enough about a given topic. Our son liked being on his own in a different city, but he just shut down when it came to school. With our support and the help of therapists I’m sure he’ll find his own path, but it’s hard when you’ve had to deal with other people’s expectations all through school. I’m not sure anyone knows what to do with students like us.

    • Steve,

      Yes. Yes, when they have to deal with other’s expectations all through school, they can lose sight of who they are, what they want, and how to get there.

      School–elementary, middle, high school and college–is a historically narrow path to learning that has not changed much in decades, and many don’t “fit” on its pathway. There are many, many ways to learn and gain knowledge, yet we cling to the auditory-sequential format of learning even though we know it does not reach or teach many.

      I know your story all too well–I have a child like this– and I agree, most of us don’t know what to do with these brilliant students who chafe under the ill-fitting nature of school. Most of us turned to homeschooling and it is proving to be a really good option for gifted kids.

      Your story really gets to heart of why gifted education is so critically important, and why schools need to evolve and break out of their decades-old, lockstep industrial style of educating our children. When gifted children don’t excel in school, we label them underachieving, but it is really the schools not doing their part to appropriately educate our children.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You really zeroed in on a little understood, but all-too-common issue with our gifted children. All the best to you and your son!

  9. I agree with this, im in my 11th almost 12th grade school year, i have been called one of the smart kids a lot. I have bad grades for the most part though and when others hear that theyre like what happened youre so smart! My strong points would be History and Reading im alright at science classes depending on how much math there is, math itself im horrible at. Anyways i like school but i have a hard time showing up sometimes, im actually failing my ap/honors english classes theyre somewhat easy but i forget constantly about work and it seems whenever i do miss a class thats when everything important happens. I want to do better but sometimes my motivation slips away, i put it off, or just plain forget. Not to mention my school district doesnt have a very good reputation, it is a low performing school i go to and while my grades arent great most people i meet are usually impressed by the way i think. Partially lost right now

    • David, I very well understand.

      When school is not challenging, when it seems almost robotic in the way one has to learn and regurgitate information for tests, and then being told that because you are smart, you should have good grades–it’s not easy. Performance in school does not always equally relate to intelligence. Many, many of our greatest talents, entrepreneurs, and inventors struggled in school or dropped out of school. Albert Einstein struggled in school and a teacher once told his parents he would never amount to anything. Don’t let your performance in school define you.

      You may find help talking to your parents and telling them honestly how school feels to you. Talk to trusted teachers and ask for their help, explaining how school feels for you. It may be counterintuitive for educators to give a student more challenging work when their grades are not good, but being bored, not challenged or not engaged makes it hard sometimes to make good grades. And yeah, most kids are not gifted across the board, in every subject. Being “smart” does not mean you will make good grades in every subject. “Smart” is not the same as straight A’s.

      Sometimes finding engaging, interesting and challenging activities, groups and classes outside of school can boost your motivation to do better in school.

      Also, you are not alone in this regard–just read the comments on this post! Believe in yourself, and don’t judge yourself by the grades you make in school.

      These are a few simple suggestions, but talk to your parents and/or teachers and really let them know how you feel.

      Take care and all the best to you!

  10. I find myself falling into the same rut over and over again. I need to study but when I sit down to do it I have no idea how. In middle and elementary school I was branded “gifted” and everyone in my class knew I was the kid that knew everything. But my grades never quite added up i got A’s and B’s but my GPA was never close to a 4.0. Now I’m in high school and my GPA has slipped farther. I now get 3.2s and 3.4s and the only thing saving me is my honors courses which bring my GPA to a 3.6. I have a hard time studying and I’m not really motivated by school. It’s really frustrating to tell my classmates that I got a 3.2 when they got a 4.0 and they look shocked because they figure I’m a perfect A+ student.

    • It is so unfortunate that a gifted individual is burdened with the oh-so-common reputation of being high-achieving in school. Traditional school is just one, small narrowly-developed way of learning, yet we give this format so much credit. I have to remind my own children to not let school performance define them because most traditional schools don’t meet the learning needs of many of their students.

      Just like healthcare, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan even in treating everyone with cancer. Our traditional schools seem to use a one-size-fits-all method of educating and still expect consistent results. This one-size-fits-all method of educating hurts those students furthest from the norm, the middle. It seems so often to hurt our gifted students the most.

      Learning and knowledge exist outside of school and in productive, beneficial, exciting and necessary ways. Learning and knowledge gained outside of school plays a big role in future success, too. A straight-A report card is not always the golden ticket to success.

      Thanks, Chris, for sharing your thoughts and experience here. Best of luck to you!

  11. I fall into the category of an underachieving “gifted child”. I was misidentified as a learning disabled student, though I scored highly on a school IQ test. I have given up in school, just as much as people on the other end of the intelligence spectrum (though they receive help). I am a C and B student, forget many assignments, and score low on assessments. However outside of school I learn German and study architecture and engineering.

    It’s funny how it wound up this way. You would think people who got to be principles and superintendents would be “gifted” and would understand “gifted” students, but I guess not.

    • Bob,

      Your situation is quite common which is unacceptable, in my opinion. Personally, I’ve seen gifted students who failed to excel in school, but once in college excelled beyond expectations.

      You are right, educational professionals–principals, teachers and superintendents–should know better, but statistics prove otherwise. In fact, because the teaching profession is now so undervalued, underfunded, and poorly compensated, data has shown that those who have high IQ’s and/or gifted do not go into the teaching profession. I hate to even say this publicly, but the same data shows it is the weaker students who end up in the education profession currently.

      Keep learning on the side because once you are out of school and in the work world, it will be your knowledge–like German, architecture and engineering–and your desire to learn which will help you succeed, not your GPA or test scores.

      All the best to you, Bob! I think you’ve got this!

  12. I’m 22 and in my final semester of college and I an just now starting to realize that this might be me. I always did poorly in school and I always thought it was because I was unintelligent. I almost never study for tests even though I want to but I always get sidetracked with something more interesting and something that I see more valuable. I still don’t know if I truly am “gifted” because I very rarely feel like I am. Even writing this makes me feel like I’m being “elitist” for even thinking I am.

    • Hi Taylor,

      Yes, I know what you mean about acknowledging that you are gifted seems elitist! I still choke on my words when I have to say my own three sons are gifted. But, it is important to know because there are traits associated with giftedness that often are pathologized unnecessarily. Also, if we could all get it out of our brains that giftedness equals academic success–it doesn’t.

      Read up on giftedness and the many aspects of it, apart from school achievement. Gifted Homeschoolers Forum and SENG are good places to start.

      Best of luck to you and thank you for leaving your thoughts!

  13. Hi, I know I’m very late…
    Thank you. To me, being gifted intellectually is the same thing as being gifted in other areas of life. If someone has a very musical ear, you would not expect them to simply do well on their own in a general “musical class”. You teach them an instrument. You take them to concerts and teach them how to read and write music. You let them (or even make them) practise and watch the talent bloom. We should do that with all talents people have – and that includes a high IQ.
    What would be the equivalent to the example above? If you have an intellectually gifted child you would not expect them to simply do well on their own in school. You teach them a foreign language, about history, about other countries, art and science.. You take them to museums and teach them how to read and write. You let them (or even make them) exercise their abilities with apropriate materials (rube goldberg machines, anyone?) and watch the talent bloom.
    My daughter (8) is gifted. her older brother tests just below 130, but part of that is due to his difficulties in just one area, so I’m counting him as gifted, too. I ONLY had them tested after the teachers insisted basically that he was stupid and she was slow. I knew that they are very smart before the test and hearing a number didn’t really change anything for us. All three kids are bilingual and we provide tham with ample opportunities to learn new things. At home I try to nurture their talents, but they both don’t do well in school. I’m afraid that our relationship to the teacher is not good right now – she feels that we are demanding special treatment for our kids (they are in a multi grade class together) and we (DH and I) think that they aren’t helping our kids succeed and are more interested in showing us that we are wrong and the kids aren’t gifted after all.
    I feel like I have reached my breaking point. DS 10 will go to a different school this fall and he will have to show good grades to get into the one he wants (Gymnasium). His grades are good enough unless they grade him low on “nonmeasurables” like work ethic or working speed. So right now they get to decide about my kid’s future – but after this year we’ll have different teachers and another chance at a positive relationship.
    My daughter however is in second grade! She has to get along with the teachers for two more years! They will not let her excellerate at all. She was unbeleivably bored in first grade and I fear it has ruined her interest in school alltogether. (not her interest in learning. She rocks at googling things she’s interested in. Lives on Wikipedia.)

    Sorry for venting. I’ll put most of this in a blog post, too – and I know you won’t be able to help. But I know someone who understands is listening. Thank you!

    • Hi Veelana,

      Yes, there are many of us who understand, who are listening, and have traveled the same rocky road you are on now. If you feel you need more support from other parents, there are many wonderful Facebook groups for parents of gifted children. You can vent, ask for advice and share your experiences with other parents who are in the same boat as yourself. Here are two active gifted parenting Facebook groups: Raising Poppies and Parenting Gifted Children.

      No need to apologize for venting–we all need to do that with others who understand!

      Take care and thank you for sharing your about your gifted children!

  14. Thank you for this article and thank you for all the people that have responded. This is what is happening to my 6 year old daughter in first grade. She did well in preschool she did well in kindergarten but this year all kinds of behavioral issues. She does go to the gifted and talented program one day a week and in that setting no behavioral issues at all.

  15. I have a 13 year old son who has never done well in school. He is very smart. I am not saying this because I am biased, but because he literally teaches me something every day. He can learn from researching things that pertain to his interests and has a high knowledge of these things. However, when it comes to school, he can’t seem to get in the groove. He has always fallen behind because he seems to have zero interest. I am at a loss as to how to help him be successful with his education. His father and I fight over it all of the time. I have looked for help with him for years to find something that will grab his interest and help him through the remainder of his academic education. I am commenting hoping I can get some advice as to what I can do to help him out.

    • Hi Tamara,

      This is a common problem with many highly intelligent children–the often mundane, repetitive nature of learning in a classroom goes against their grain. And there are no easy answers. I hope you get responses from others here, but I would first start with your child’s teacher and work with him or her to try to engage your son.

      Teachers have many, probably too many, expectations on them already so maybe offering to provide any extra materials she believes could help your son. I would start there, but keep in mind that not excelling in school is not always an indicator of intelligence–many, many gifted children underachieve and even fail in school because the format of the learning doesn’t work for them.

      Good luck and keep in touch and let us know how it all goes for your son!

  16. I know this is a bit late, but I really understand where this article is coming from. I learnt to read at age 3, started speaking well before my first birthday and was classified as gifted in Primary School. I went to a pull-out program for gifted children for an hour a week, but things really changed when I got to high school. I’d always jumped ahead in primary, and outside of school I spent most of time reading and learning things I found interesting but weren’t taught in school (I adored meteorology and human anatomy/physiology). In high school, they basically took the kids with the highest grades and grouped them as gifted. Suddenly, I was being told I wasn’t smart enough to take gifted classes. I felt angry, upset and didn’t know why I wasn’t in these classes. I came to end up hating school: I was endlessly bored when we were taught things I already knew, just from my own personal reading and learning, and when people forced things upon me that I had no interest in. As a result, I ended up not doing as well as I hoped throughout school. I just can’t help but feel that many of the ‘gifted’ kids aren’t actually gifted: I already feel segregated from my peers, as I tend to think differently and look into things far more deeply than my friends. This article gave me some hope that maybe I will finally be able to express my desires to learn and create (and when I have children, if they present as gifted I will pursue their interests and desires too). I just hope that no other gifted children have to experience school like I did.

    • Louisa,

      I’m so sorry you had such a terrible experience in school, and sadly, many gifted children have had the same experience in school. Schools seem to rarely understand giftedness and can’t disassociate achievement with giftedness. I know this is no consolation for you, but do know you are not alone and schools fail gifted children way too often.

      Likely your children will identify as gifted because it is generally accepted that giftedness is inherited.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. It is important for as many of us as possible to speak out if we hope to one day make a positive change for gifted children.

      Take care, Louisa!

  17. I understand what your point is here but I have a question. If you say that “gifted” children could excel in one subject over the other or could have other different types other underlining disabilities, emotionally and socially, why do they continue to call these children Gifted. Why not come up with another name for it, like high functioning socially disabled. Or how about high tested emotionally disabled, or just different or anything labeled like that? When you call it a gift, it sounds so much better than ED (emotionally disabled) or some other label that all the other children are given. I think that’s where some people are having a hard time with. All children are gifted because they have a purpose. It may not be in an educational setting but should we really have degrading labels for some and not for others? Should all labels be positive? Thoughts?

    • The term gifted is a medical, psychological and educational determination that has been used for decades among psychological, education and medical professionals.

      A gifted child is one who has a higher IQ than 99% of the population. It is brain wiring. Although the exact threshold of who is identified as having advanced intelligence according to IQ tests and other criteria, an IQ above 130 is considered gifted. The gifted label should not be determined by a child’s performance in school.

      Children who have been tested and determined that their IQ is in the 99th percentile are like any human and can develop differently and at different rates. Many times, gifted children’s intelligence develops at a rate quicker and more advanced than their emotional, social or physical development, and more advanced than their same-age peers.

      I’m not sure what labels you consider degrading. But, I use the term gifted because that is the term that is used. If it were to be changed, and you are not the first one to suggest it because of its confusion with the word gift, every teacher education textbook, every psychological research study on giftedness published in professional journals, every organization which supports gifted children would need to change the word. I can imagine how difficult it would be if the medical, psychological and educational communities decided the word autism needed to be changed–it would be a monumental endeavor.

      But I use the word gifted because that is the one and only term used.

  18. An example of gifted thinking from my sometimes underachieving gifted kid: In first grade the teacher was doing a math lesson using a number line. My kid asked what was on the other side of 0. This was a fantastic teacher, so she explained to him there were negative numbers. He came home, mind blown, “Did you know there are numbers on the other side of 0?!” We spent weeks explaining how to add and subtract negative numbers. This was the same kid who lost his paper between his desk and the teacher’s desk if he saw it as busy work. He’s in high school now, and is EXACTLY the same. He loves music and robotics, does terribly in online classes (he cannot bring himself to just check off the boxes, he needs interaction with an adult and a purpose for learning) and his grades can be all over the place.

    Bright kids who are not gifted do not think about the other side of 0. Or become obsessed with Cuba for months on end (that was also 1st grade and we never did figure out why.) He doesn’t learn just how to do math, he questions its purpose, and can we do it this way, and what about that? That doesn’t make bright kids bad, it means my kid needs a teacher willing to let his mind go wild, who nurtures that creativity, and at least tries to answer his millions of questions.

    • Jenny,

      I have a child exactly like yours! And I love this quote: “Bright kids who are not gifted do not think about the other side of 0.” That should be written on a poster or a t-shirt! Yes, most often it is only a 6 year old who is gifted who will wonder “about the other side of 0” and then be consumed with all the ramifications.

      Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your experience, and telling us about the other side of 0!

    • Funny, my 5 years old made the same question the other day, about the other side of the “0” , it is fascinating how they push you to learn more, and the sometimes difficult questions they ask. Thanks God we have Google, but the questions about the after life and God are becoming too difficult to answer.
      Mine did great on the Grade Level exam, he is in K grade but scored like 2nd grade level for math and reading and 1% superior on national testing, but the teacher’s report shows everything “Progressing”, even in math, numbers, reading, things that I know he excels.
      The teacher knows he is gifted and they do differentiation in the classroom, and she says that he is doing just “average” like his peers. This is a Public school.
      He is not that good at handwriting and terrible at drawing.
      I don’t know if I should ask for more complex work for him or just let it go, as he is just in Kinder. I would like him in the future to get good marks and become Honors for a scholarship to College as he is very smart, but he doesn’t get the good marks.

  19. Hi there,
    My school had no way of testing for giftedness, so I was extremely bored in elementary and middle school. I learned logic games through observation at 3 and taught myself how to read at 4, so I spent most of my early years learning Mandarin and biology and other random indulgences. My third grade teacher yelled at me for reading books in class after I had finished the work, fourth grade enrichment consisted of an hour/week pull-out math class, and I was finally accelerated 1 grade level for math in high school. In a way, being neglected in school, although it created incredible resentment, was a blessing because it taught me to fend for myself intellectually. I can’t rely on others to address my needs, and I nowadays assume a system in question won’t address them unless I make some noise and find alternative ways to have them addressed.

    • I should add that I succeeded externally in high school: 8th-ish in my class out of 300 for GPA, a total of 7 AP classes over 4 years, a regional poetry award. AP classes cover more difficult content and have higher concentrations of smart kids in them than Honors classes do. Yet the AP classes didn’t satisfy my need for real learning–they are too broad and leave no time for discussion the way Honors classes do–and the reason I took them was to get into the colleges I really wanted to go to where I could learn at my own pace and explore and talk to teachers. I didn’t get into any of those colleges (eastern MA is pretty fierce regional competition already), so I’ll be going to a larger college praying I can get some real stimulation there. Throughout all of this, of course, my emotional needs were unaddressed save for a few high school teachers who understand my intensities and encourage my class discussion. So even if gifted kids do succeed in school, it doesn’t mean they’re truly satisfied and successful. I’m a senior, and I’ll leave the school system resentful, unfulfilled, and desperate for something to make me feel that succeeding in high school was worth it.

      • Archana,

        I sincerely hope and pray that college will finally quench your thirst for stimulating knowledge, an engaging education and future success! You’ve done all the difficult work being very successful in a much-less-than-optimal educational environment–something tells me you will be enormously successful in college, too! And keep in mind, in college, you may have greater opportunities to demand that your education engage and stimulate you! Use your well-honed self-reliance and challenge your professors 😉

        Thanks, Archana!

    • Archana,

      Thank you for sharing your story and letting us in on a few insights into how it felt as a gifted child in school when boredom and neglect were a part of your daily education. It took a lot of resilience on your part for boredom and neglect to make you more self-reliant! Way to go!

      Yet, many, many gifted children, especially 2E gifted children, when neglected and experience extreme boredom while their educational needs are not met, end up hating school, failing in school and often dropping out. That is why I am trying to make some noise here!

      Sharing your story of success over the boredom and neglect in school is encouraging for any parent of a gifted child who is bored and neglected in school right now, so thank you so much for sharing your story with us!

  20. My son’s year one teacher is skeptical about his ability. I know he is able to do maths sums in his head (multiplication, division, addition, subtraction), but the teacher sees no evidence of that, because he is just “average” when it comes to the basic concepts of maths that they are currently teaching. Yet, they don’t even start to introduce multiplication until year 3 or 4. It seems to me that he made deductive leaps, skipped the “fundamental” steps and just went straight to doing the sums mentally. He started uttering words at 5 months, was also a self-taught early reader since age 2. Although his reading level is beyond his years, the teacher again says that he is not meeting the “fundamental” steps to reading that they are currently covering. So, the impression I got was that he is just an average Year 1 student. On top of the that, the teacher suspects he may have an attention disorder, i.e. ADD.

    • Hai,

      Gifted children do not always excel in every subject, but for many schools, giftedness means high achievement in school–a pretty narrow and often erroneous view of what giftedness really is. Not excelling in school can be a sign of boredom and frustration that he is not learning anything new or challenging. And ADD is often diagnosed because the child is not paying attention to material he already knows. It would be nice if schools would reflect on delivering education to meet a child’s needs and not determine that it is the child’s fault in some way (i.e. ADD, misbehavior, lazy, etc.)

      Thanks for your comment, Hai!

  21. My daughter is 18 now, but was recognized in our local school system as gifted in the first grade. Thankfully, she had a wonderful teacher who cared. But her struggles come from not achieving as high as she would like.
    Boredom comes very often and being in college opens a lot of doors that as a gifted adult, leads her wanting to branch out in many areas due to her boredom. There is a huge misconception that gifted students should excel in all areas, especially academically. Not true. She scored in her cognitive areas on the genius level. Gifted students function and deal with every area of their life in a completely different way. She still makes great grades, but not at perfection like many think a gifted student should.
    It’s also hard and as a parent to see her struggle, wanting to find answers and trying to make permanent decisions.

    • Shelley,

      I understand, and many parents of gifted children and teens also understand. Personally, two of my three gifted sons didn’t exactly excel in school. It’s an uncomfortable irony, and as you said, many think gifted means excelling in school.

      Parents of gifted children do struggle to help their gifted child no matter their age. It is a difficult world for them to navigate–a world which does not understand them.

      Be strong, Shelley, and know you are not alone. It may take time, but most of our gifted kids come out doing well–maybe not so well for us, the parents though 😉

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts and sharing a little bit of your story, Shelley!

  22. Let me try and break it down for the people who are not gifted.

    This is an example of situations that would happen to me in school. My 3 teacher would give the class a picture of a flower with grass, trees beautiful sunset and she asked us to write a paragraph on the picture. My description would be “This is a beautiful picture of the sunset”. that’s it. My teacher pulled me aside and said Franca is that all you see because i need more of a description. my grade 3 teacher then started probing for more descriptive words like i.e.: the clear blue sky, the beautiful red flower, the bright green grass & the pink sunset are absolutely beautiful. As a gifted student I thought it was obvious & logical that the picture was beautiful but I didn’t find it necessary and a waste of time to actually write it down. I actually thought it was something you would ask a 2 year old child not a grade 3 student. My point is that I could absolutely expand on topics that I felt needed an explation but in this particular situation I felt the question was kinda stupid it was obvious & logical that the picture was beautiful.

    Hope this example helps the “normal thinkers”

    • Franca,

      Thank you so much for posting this. It really does give a great example of how many gifted children feel in school when asked to complete assignments that are not appropriate for them. I’m sorry this happened to you, but it does show the thinking process of a gifted child who is not performing to expectations.

      Thanks, Franca! This helps all of us!

  23. Spot on! My 8 yr old was classified as gifted however he wasn’t “gifted enough” to get placed in our gifted school next year bc there were 120-130 students and only 50 slots! So now he will go to his current school and be pulled out for 45! Minutes once a week…yep 45! Minutes only once a week for gifted studies! I will be showing this to our principal and fight to get him more of what he needs! Thank you!

    • When I hear that gifted programs don’t have enough slots for all identified gifted kids, I often wonder how society would react if we used this same restrictive method for buying groceries or receiving medical care, yet we do it with our children’s education. “Nope, you won’t get that surgery this year because we have already met our quota for that surgery this year” is not so unlike, “nope, your child won’t be receiving the education he needs because we don’t have room or funds to educate him properly.”

      Thank you for sharing your experience!

      • As a mother of two boys 14 and 11 who has struggled with this exact issue/concern for years now, this article really resonated with me. Our district (in California) has basically decimated any form of GATE education or funding. I’m so frustrated with seeing both of my sons, in different ways, struggle and underperform and consequently feel a lack of confidence and initiative to want to engage or be involved. Both test high and well, but somehow are completely disengaged and disenfranchised. Our solution has been to select a small charter school for middle school for the younger and private school for the older one, where my hope is they can build confidence and tap into their interests. Sad and tough to accept given what we pay in property taxes and the fact that both my husband and I went through public education all the way.

        • I understand completely. I’ve been through the same which is why I do what I do.

          Somehow, this all needs to change. Public education is not really free for any of us, yet our gifted children are not getting the education they need and as parents of gifted children, we are forced to seek alternatives like charter schools, private schools and homeschooling. To me, this is tragic. It is educational neglect.

          I do hope your sons’ new schools will be what the need. Please keep us posted!

  24. Pingback: Gifted Children—About THAT Stereotype | Crushing Tall Poppies

  25. Love this! I have 2 sons that tested as highly gifted. However the school district (one of the largest in Texas) only has a one day a week pull out program. Their solution for my math whiz is to give him extra worksheets. I have seen my 9yr old start to do poorly in school because when he’s done, he is told to put his head down. Seriously? We as a society can do better than this.

    • Put his head down? Oh gee, that just makes me sad. Completing his schoolwork as expected is being “rewarded” with what would seem a punishment. And extra worksheets aren’t much better than having to put your head down! Gifted students are getting left behind! We all need to speak up and advocate more!

      • What I found was that when I did speak up for my son, things ended up worse instead of better for him. Our school system was a joke for truly gifted students. They didn’t care …

        • Lisa,

          Yes, that does happen and it happens way too often. I’ve been there, too. Sometimes, just sometimes, continuing to advocate for your son will “wear down” the naysayers and they will eventually take a real look at your child’s needs. But yeah, I’ve seen educators give little to no regard for a parent’s concerns.

          We have a long road to plow, don’t we?

          Take care, Lisa, and thanks for sharing your experience!

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