Giftedness is More Than a Function of Education

I get it.

The vast majority of people think that gifted children are the smart, advantaged students in an esteemed, sometimes seemingly elitist, special program at school—it’s a universal misperception.

Understanding that misperception is pretty straightforward.

When I was a student teacher in college, the elementary school where I was student teaching had a full-time gifted program.  And it was special.  The classroom had no desks—the gifted students got to all sit in bean bag chairs for their instructional time instead of in desks.  In the regular classrooms, where students sat in desks, the field trips were day trips to local museums and events.  In comparison, the gifted students got to go on overnight field trips. Like many, I also used to wonder why gifted students got so much more than the regular students, simply because they were smarter .  My opinion back then as a student teacher was that any student, gifted or regular, could benefit from learning in a bean bag chair, and could gain educationally from overnight field trips, too.  What made gifted kids so special?

Back then, as a student teacher, it was understood that the identification of a child as being gifted, and her subsequent placement into the gifted program at her school was exclusively a function of the school system—its teachers and its schools. The gifted were the smarter students, and smarter was determined by school performance.   And the smarter, high-achieving kids got to sit in the bean bag chairs.  Giftedness was solely an educational label designated by the school.

Educational giftedness, school-smart: a universal misperception.

Flash forward to today. I have three gifted sons and varied experience teaching and raising gifted children, and I now know that many gifted children are not like the stereotypical, G/T student sitting in those bean bag chairs and going on exciting, overnight field trips.

How is that?

The short answer is that giftedness is so much more than an educational designation administered only by the school system.  Giftedness is brain-wiring from birth.  It has been medically and psychologically shown to be an inborn trait which has strong emotional and social facets, not just educational behaviors. Giftedness is a degree of brain functioning one is born with, and a gifted person’s above-average intellectual ability is only a part of the life of a gifted person.

A gifted person may not only be born with strong reasoning, creative and analytical skills—the brain is not only used for learning and academic endeavors. Our brains are also where our emotional and social abilities, traits and responses emerge, and gifted individuals have more intense emotional and social needs and issues than others.  Physical and sensory traits such as extreme sensitivity to lighting, smells, skin irritants and sounds are also part of a gifted person’s challenges in life.

Simply put, although gifted children are generally recognized as being smarter (the educational side), the intense emotional, social and sensory traits usually go unrecognized and disregarded in schools (the emotional, social and sensory sides).

Historically, schools have done a largely inadequate job of identifying and serving gifted students, and this has fed and perpetuated the damaging universal misperception about gifted children.  In defense of schools and teachers however, the inadequacies in gifted education most often originate from those who hold the educational purse strings and who are far removed from the classroom.  Teachers and schools are left to educate gifted students with the means they are given.

And inevitably, this is what happens in our schools: The educational facet of giftedness is addressed, although insufficiently much of the time, while the emotional, social and sensory traits of giftedness are unknown by most educators unfamiliar with gifted children.  When a gifted child begins to have educational issues at school which can arise from any number of her emotional, social and sensory issues of giftedness, the problems are RARELY attributed to the child’s giftedness.  To the contrary, it is all too common for the gifted child to be labeled as arrogant, lazy, unmotivated or uncaring, and the solution is that she just needs to work harder.  Then too often, the child’s giftedness comes into question.

“Maybe your child isn’t gifted.”

Our schools are miseducating and neglecting our gifted children because they only address the educational side of giftedness, and only as long as the gifted student excels in school. The disregard for and the ignorance of the emotional, social and sensory traits of giftedness by our schools has caused devastating and life-long psychological scars for so many gifted children and their families.

It happens over and over and over.

Read through the hundreds of comments I have received on other posts here on my website—so many are from parents crying out for help and relaying the damage schools have caused their gifted child.

This needs to change.

Somewhere down the line, the identification of giftedness in a child came to be associated exclusively as a function of the school. A school’s purpose is to educate its students so it may be fair to say that the educational needs of gifted children became the only facet of a gifted child that was given any attention in our educational system.  That is really the only side of giftedness many have knowledge of or experience with.  But, giftedness is so much more than a function of education.  There is so much more to a gifted child than her academic performance.

I get it now and I’m trying to be a part of the change that is so desperately needed.

This is something else I didn’t get back then when I was a student teacher.  In that elementary school of approximately 600 students in grades Kindergarten through fourth grade, there would statistically be only about eighteen gifted students (research estimates 2-3% of the population is gifted).  Yet, each grade level had about ten to fifteen gifted students sitting in those bean bag chairs.  That makes at least fifty students in the school who were identified as gifted.  Who are those extra students?

Again, schools have done an inadequate job of administering gifted programs and serving gifted students.

Many in the field of education as well as parents of gifted children know that many gifted programs have set capacities due to funding and support—children who are gifted sometimes don’t get into gifted programs when space is limited, and children who are not gifted also may be accepted into gifted programs when there is extra room.

Even more confusing is the fact that a student can be identified as gifted and placed into the gifted program one year, and then the next year, be tested and taken out of the program.  This would make it seem that giftedness is a transient human state which is quite a ridiculous assumption.  The administration of gifted identification and gifted programming is confusing for parents and hurtful to gifted students.  Can you even imagine your own child being acknowledged as being gifted one school year only to be tested and told the next year that they are not gifted?

And let’s throw one other area of giftedness into this big bowl of educational mismanagement of gifted identification and gifted programs: twice-exceptional or 2E gifted students.  These are the children who are gifted, many with IQ’s above 150, but who also have a learning difference or disability that masks their giftedness.  These gifted students are often overlooked, generally misunderstood and majorly miseducated.

I have had experience with a public school gifted program that serves up a full schedule of honors, AP and accelerated classes for high-achieving students, and the inflexible expectation to be met for all their students is maintaining a high GPA.  The director explained, “we offer traditional academic courses for students who are high achieving and/or students who are identified as gifted and talented in academic areas.  We are not a gifted & talented school.”  To me, this means, like in many schools, gifted students are served as long as they excel, and when they don’t excel, well, they are just out of luck.

When schools focus on just the educational aspect of giftedness and the general expectation for the gifted student is to be high-achieving and receive high scores, then gifted children are seen only in light of what they can achieve academically and not who they truly are.  The high-achievement focus of schools contributes strongly to the perpetuation of the stereotypical gifted child—the mythological straight-A student.

If I were the parent of a regular, non-gifted student, I too would wonder why schools need money to supply the straight-A students with more and better educational opportunities just so they can excel more and achieve more and be rewarded with more.  I get that.

Are schools and the way they administer gifted education contributing to the hurtful myths that plague giftedness?

Maybe if our schools would focus on the whole gifted child—educationally, socially and emotionally—there would not be the animosity that exists towards gifted children and the seemingly elitist programs created just for them.  If gifted programs would focus less on academic achievement and more on educating the whole gifted child, attending to their individual strengths and weaknesses, we could possibly attain a more balanced approach to gifted children and gifted programs.  And maybe we would achieve a more balanced and accurate view of our gifted children, and gifted programs would maybe not seem so elitist.

As long as we feed the association of giftedness with being smarter, we perpetuate the myths. As long as we put high-achievement above giftedness, we are seriously miseducating our gifted students.  As long as we only look for children who excel in school as a criteria for gifted identification, then the better-than reputation will endure, and continue to hurt many of our gifted children who may not or can not excel in school. As long as we skim the cream off the top for placement into our gifted programs, we are tragically overlooking our gifted children who are twice-exceptional, who may be underachievers or those who care more about learning than educational achievement and output.

Giftedness is so much more than an educational function.




This post was published in a shorter, edited version in Education Week. Click here to see “Gifted Education is About the Whole Child.


45 Comments on “Giftedness is More Than a Function of Education

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  4. As I see it, if a student is consistently and easily achieving top grades then – gifted or not – he or she is benefiting from the system as it stands, and will have no problems graduating and going on to a professional career.

    It is the ones who are extraordinarily bright but are NOT thriving within the system and NOT making good grades that are much more urgently in need of intervention. I would argue that it is those students who gifted programs should be targeting, in order to stop them falling into a cycle of frustration, underachievement, and possibly dropping out of school altogether.

    Schools need to distinguish between high achievers, and gifted and creative learners.

    They also need to understand that there are different levels of giftedness, that the most gifted are not necessarily the compliant little people pleasers, and that at the extremes of giftedness, they are at risk if not properly recognised and served.

    Giftedness is more than a function of education, and it is also more than a function of riches and eminence in the workplace – which, of course, becomes less likely if a young person’s schooling has been thoroughly derailed by inappropriate provision and missing support.

    • Yes, I agree with you–the highly gifted who are not thriving are the students who we should be the most concerned about. And thank you for the resource links, too! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. The more we all speak up, the more we further the conversation and hopefully improve the lives of our gifted children!

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  6. Well, at least you have gifted programmes for those gifted children who do excel! I’m from the Netherlands and when I was at school (I finished high school in 2006), there was nothing at all despite the fact that I consistently scores high grades and was bored out of my mind. The result? I got clinically depressed at age 13, which remained undiagnosed for 9 miserable years. And I hate that, because it means I missed out on all the important social en emotional stuff you learn as a teenager. And now I’m getting closer to 30 and still don’t understand how it all works.

    • Emmi, I’m truly sorry that happened to you. It shouldn’t have. Yes, there are many places around the world that do not have any educational accommodations or modifications in place for gifted students. Even in the U. S., every state, every school system implements gifted education differently. One school system I lived in only had a 1-hour-a-week program for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades only. The rest of the time there was nothing. It’s a crap shoot. There is a serious need globally for understanding and attention to gifted children and their distinct educational needs. And the reason I feel it is a crap shoot is because educational systems do not understand real giftedness with its emotional and social issues; it is still too ingrained in too many in education that giftedness IS high-achieving, and that is not always the case. Thanks for sharing your story. As much as my heart breaks for you, it shows the rest of us what can happen when we neglect our gifted children. Your story epitomizes our need for a call to action. Take care, Emmi <3

  7. Thank you for this wonderful article. You cite every reason that led us to homeschool our 8 year old gifted son. We pulled him out of public school after kindergarten after his teacher refused our (3!) requests to have him tested for gifted. Finally, I decided, “There is no way I’m going to fight like this for the next 12 years.” (3 other friends have also pulled their children, all gifted, from the same school and we now form part of a great little homeschool “tribe”.) I use curriculum specifically designed for gifted students, and I have a gifted-education consultant who not only teaches a weekly class to a few kids of our tribe, but is also guiding me in the right direction with my son. My son was formally evaluated for giftedness this past summer and his results further solidified the fact that my husband and I had done the right thing for our son in choosing to homeschool. There is no school in our system which could adequately serve him, and it would be a constant battle if we had kept him in school. By homeschooling, I can cater completely to his learning style, his interests, and the speed he learns. He has a great group of friends, both homeschool and traditional school, and I have an outstanding group of moms for support and encouragement. I am learning more and more every day about the very different ways in which gifted kids operate. It’s on a whole different level in every area and it keeps me on my toes!

    • Okay, I am officially envious! No really, it is truly wonderful to hear that your gifted child is happy and getting just what he needs YaY! It shows all the rest of us it is very possible to craft an optimal educational, social and emotional environment for your gifted child. Thanks for sharing your happy story, Carol!

  8. Thank you for sharing on the HCHS page. My son is a brilliant “outside the box” thinker. I still remember him asking, at the age of nine “If a flying plane shoots a missile aimed straight ahead and also one aimed straight behind, at the same time, with the same force – will the two missiles be traveling at the same speed?” I was astounded by his college-level physics question.

    Although he was identified as special needs at 15 mos old due to developmental delays and was placed in Early Intervention and SE, his dyslexia was not confirmed until 9th grade – and then only after much wrestling over the years with the school district to have him tested. There was much frustration on his part, which resulted in acting out, especially against mom.

    So one would not necessarily think of him as gifted, being in SE – but he has a high IQ, for what that’s worth and for the most part is able to compensate for his dyslexia. From what I have read on the subject, the way his brain is wired, results in dyslexia – but is also why he views the world differently – as in his physics-related question, above. Someone once told me – dyslexia did not become a disability until the invention of the printing press. So true – before then, dyslexics were probably viewed as brilliant thinkers.

    He is in his mid-20s now, a college grad and employed. I have asked him if he would prefer to be non-dyslexic, if it meant losing the gift of how he thinks and sees the world. He said he wouldn’t change a thing. Neither would I.

    Leaving only my first name, to protect his privacy.

    • Maria, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your son’s story. I agree about the dyslexia–schools seem to force “gifts” and “talents” into being labeled as learning disabilities because these gifts can’t be attended to in school. Sad, isn’t it, that children are born with strengths, talents and gifts which are then labeled as disabilities just because they don’t fit inside the box of traditional schools?

      Yet, when parents like you speak out, we all benefit from knowing that we are not alone and it confirms that the educational lives of our gifted children need to improve–drastically! Thank you for sharing your story, Maria! Thank you so much!

  9. Thank you – this is the best description I have read that addresses the problems with gifted education. I have two highly gifted boys that are in gifted programs at their elementary school. In the 5 years that we have been at public school, I have probably had more than 50 parent/teacher/administrator conferences trying to convince them that my boys need something other than what was provided for them. I have outlasted two “gifted coordinators”, three counselors, three principals and a new set of teachers every year. Every year I am starting completely over. Even though the school has my sons records, test results (both those given by the school and private testing that I have had done), we are always starting at “grade level” in the next school year.

    We are in a large urban school district and the number of “gifted” students that are identified in our school district exceeds 15%. It places my kids into an extremely large population that they have very little in common with and so even in their gifted classes, they fall outside the norm.

    My oldest is in 5th grade and this year we are applying to middle schools. For a district of over 250,000 students there are 5 gifted programs for middle schools. Only two of those do we find the schools to be acceptable and only one of those do we consider a reasonably good fit for my son. Every student must “qualify” to enter the program and then each qualified student goes into a lottery. We have less than a 10% chance of being offered a space. No weight is given to actual ability – every “gifted” child that has been identified is considered equal.

    The district has created a tremendous demand for gifted education based on the ridiculously high percentage of its students that it calls gifted, yet they have done nothing to expand or improve the services and programs that they make available to gifted students.

    If we don’t hit the lottery – I am already preparing to homeschool my child for next year and beyond. I am secretly thrilled at the prospect to help him love learning again.

    Thank you again for such a thoughtful and honest article.

    • Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your story. So many people think gifted students have it made so therefore they should not ask for an appropriate education that meets their child’s needs at the level he needs to be taught. Could you imagine if every student had to submit to a lottery just to get a proper education? The existence of that lottery is sadly based on the premise that gifted students don’t need an appropriate and challenging education; it is saying that gifted education is optional and gifted children should be able to sit in a classroom and learn what they already know. Thanks for sharing your experience and adding to this conversation!

  10. I’m a student who was identified as “advanced” early in elementary school, but not as “gifted” until late in elementary school. Eventually, I was forced to transfer to another school so my “needs could be met.” I enjoyed my time at the new elementary school but I was faced with strangers who were either too friendly or not friendly at all. I developed a couple of friendships, but they did not last into middle school. I often found myself missing my old friends and my old life at my former school while I worked on the unfamiliar amounts of homework.
    My social life and skills deteriorated as I grew up, developing less friendships and becoming introverted and naturally cautious around people. My mother was the only one to truly understand my emotional and social needs, but she was unable to cope with my growing instability as my sisters and father began to turn against me and isolate me for my intelligence. I found myself delving into new curiosities such as architecture and books as the outside world seemed to become irrelevant. I pushed myself to become better at everything that I set my mind to, including academics, since they were the only things that I excelled at over my increasingly-popular sisters. I dealt with my increasing stress throughout middle school by disappearing into my own worlds. Of course, this led to increased animosity from people who did not understand my emotional situation.
    Now, I am a student in the International Baccalaureate Program in high school and I find myself pushing my educational boundaries more an more. I am now surrounded by people of my own age that truly understand how my mind functions, and by people of varying severities of “giftedness.” I still have sub-par social skills, with a tendency to be overly-blunt without realizing it, and I am still slightly emotionally unstable, but I have developed new, lasting relationships with people that understand what it really means to be “gifted.” My family may not totally understand what I desperately need from them, but I cope with my creative abilities that my mother inspired me to have by giving me the books to create my own worlds. I am now an aspiring author, cellist, and sketch-artist.
    I completely agree with the message of your article and now that I am older, I understand that all I really wanted when I was little was to be “normal” like my sisters, and like my friends. I didn’t want to be “gifted” because it made me different. But now that I am in high school, my peers accept my differences, and I accept theirs, because what it truly means to be “gifted” is not something that can be measured with standardized tests, as the school system naively believes. Language and thought are things that isolate the differences in a world full of “normals,” but I believe that the differences are the reasons that the “gifted” people exist. We are here to make sure that nothing is “normal.”

    • Thank you, Scarlet, for sharing your story. Most of us here know and understand the isolation, inability of others to understand our emotional and social traits, and the envy, resentment and shunning of gifted people. You are a survivor.

      “Language and thought are things that isolate the differences in a world full of “normals,” but I believe that the differences are the reasons that the “gifted” people exist. We are here to make sure that nothing is “normal.” What a beautiful statement from such a thoughtful and strong young woman!

      Thank you for reminding us that gifted isn’t better, it is different.

  11. “When schools focus on just the educational aspect of giftedness and the general expectation for the gifted student is to be high-achieving and receive high scores…”


    “Maybe if our schools would focus on the whole gifted child—educationally, socially and emotionally…”

    Before I address the above quotes, let me say that this was an excellent article. As to the quotes, while this may have always been the case for gifted students, it should be noted that it is the case now more than ever. And not just for gifted students. NCLB, RttT, and the avalanche of ed reforms overwhelming education today, while put in place with good intentions, perhaps, have skewed the purpose of education from what has historically been. Education has become unbalanced.

    The focus on high expectations, high levels of achievement, and college readiness for all has lead to a school year that has not time for anything except academics, and it doesn’t even have time to do that properly if you’re a student who doesn’t get something the first time it’s taught. During this same time frame, budgets have been slashed. We used to have two full-time gifted teachers. We now have zero. We have a couple of regular ed teachers with the gifted endorsement; I am sure they are doing their best, but, frankly, their just trying to keep their heads above water like everyone else. We used to have a full time tech specialist, a full time media specialist, and a full time reading specialist. We now have one part time tech/media/reading specialist.

    The lack of attention to the social and emotional aspects of people affects all of our students, not just the gifted. But I agree. It does affect the extremes the most. Special education students, both the gifted and the disabled, have an even greater need to have their social/emotional needs addressed. And, yet, we now hear that disabled students are held back by their disabilities but by low expectations (Arne Duncan). I don’t think that it’s a stretch to imagine that he thinks the same thing about gifted students who are not reaching what he thinks their potential should be. Well, say this much for the silver bullet of high expectations: it’s a lot cheaper in the short run.

    • Yes, you are absolutely right. The changes in our entire educational system since NCLB and RttT have been so detrimental to all students, teachers and schools. It is really heartbreaking for all students, and for the teachers who are trying so hard to do what is right for their students. As a former public school teacher, I’ve seen our educational system deteriorate from decisions made by those who are so far removed from the classroom, and it is so disheartening. And while I advocate for gifted students, I want all students to have the education they need. Our society depends on our students’ success. But I guess that is a pretty tall order given the direction our educational system seems to be heading. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and you have my utmost respect for your dedication in the classroom!

  12. This is a great post. Thank you for sharing! I am currently a gifted education teacher in Pennsylvania. I also am raising two kids identified as gifted. Unfortunately, my state now requires that a GIEP document be a strength-based document. This means that there is no place in there for me to recommend or require any support in my students’ weaknesses. Many are high-achieving, but I have a few who are not. It is very frustrating that the law does not allow me to recognize areas where my students can use some additional help and support, and only allows me to focus on their strengths. There has recently been additional mandates that we create our strength-based documents using standards instead of allowing students to explore their interests. I am very glad my state has pretty strong gifted education laws, but there are still a lot of flaws that need to be fixed. Thank you, again, for posting so many of my thoughts.

    • Jes, it is so helpful to hear a gifted education teacher’s point of view! I firmly believe that our schools would be so much better if teachers were allowed to make the decisions, not others who are so far removed from the students and classrooms! Thank you for all that you do for our gifted children!

  13. My sons are gifted, and the oldest one was accepted into one of the top magnet high schools in the nation. After he began struggling to keep up, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Upon receiving counseling and meds, we approached the school about an IEP. We were told they didn’t have to give him one because they were an academic magnet. His grades slipped and he became increasingly overwhelmed. Ultimately, they asked him to leave at the end of his sophomore year and we were not given any options. Now he is a communications technician serving the USAF with a top secret security clearance. You tell me!

    • Mary, my heart goes out to you. Your story gives yet another example of how giftedness is dealt with in school–as a function of academic output. Thankfully, it seems he landed well on his feet, but not without some distress from that magnet school I assume. Thanks for sharing your story, Mary!

  14. Just remember that 100 years ago in the UK women were finally enfranchised; racial segregation was still a legal issue in South Africa and the U.S. in the 1960s.The appointment of female clergy and the recognition of gay marriage is still a divisive issue in many communities. Difference is not the same thing as inequality. When difference can be respected maybe inequality will end.

  15. Entitlement – that’s a tricky one. There is a line between asking for what you need and demanding your needs to be met. The whole issue is subjective and with grey areas – reflecting the nature of giftedness itself. Why are some needs more deserving of help than others? And who deigns to sit in judgement? As far as ‘rights’ go for the 2-3 per cent of the population deemed ‘gifted’ we are still on the early days as far as I can see

    • Helen, I love the distinctions and clarity you have brought to the conversation. There is much gray area–it is not simply either my child or your child, nor is it who is more or less deserving. Thank you, Helen!

  16. What a great article! As the parents of a 2e daughter who was emotionally abused by her school and the district, we fully understand that there are many misconceptions out there about our special kids. In our district, teachers and administrators are not adequately trained in the needs of the gifted and they arrogantly refused to be trained. We sought relief at the local community college for her, but the emotionally damage has been done and the scars will remain for the rest of her life.

    • Yes, Tracie, so many of us have been in your shoes! It breaks my heart for our kids because–it is one thing for a child to have a problem and have sympathy and support for the problem, but it is another to have a problem only to be treated as though the problem does not exist and we are ignorantly whining about a first-world problem. When will they get it? All I can offer is my sympathy and understanding because I too have children with those lifelong emotional scars caused by those who refused to try to understand. Thank you for sharing your story! The more we speak up, the more likely we will finally be heard and understood!

  17. Nail, head. Well done, Celi.

    I’m a gifted adult. I didn’t learn this until I had my son, and was trying to figure out why he was so… different… from other children his age. I was deemed “not gifted” in elementary school – by the school, despite 99th percentile standardized test scores every time we took them – and people I found to be dull and boring at the time were put into the gifted program. I’m learning now that I am 2E, and they were high achievers. I guess people can only recognize that which they know how to look for, right? Especially across 25+ children.

    The thing I did want to note is that while giftedness is rare, and depending on the definition, only found in 2%-5% of the population, but that isn’t evenly distributed. While not all people who are gifted are well off, generally speaking there are more gifted people who are well off than are poor. Therefore, if you’re in an upper middle class (or higher) school, you will find that a larger percentage of the student body is gifted than you would find in a lower class school. Not because the gifted poor don’t exist, obviously, but because in general, you will find the gifted (particularly the identified and properly served gifted!) are more prevalent in the higher socio-economic classes.

    • Yes, Care, you are so right! The identified gifted are not always evenly distributed likely due to socioeconomic reasons, and this is confounded by high-achievers being wrongly identified as gifted, also. Gifted education and gifted identification is definitely poorly implemented in so many ways by schools.

      I’m quite certain the school I student-taught in had a relatively higher percentage of gifted children–whether for socioeconomic reasons or from misidentification, but I naively assumed only gifted children were allowed in. One commentor who was a teacher mentioned that they have a trouble with many parents who keep insisting that their children are gifted, but they really aren’t, and they are likely added to the gifted program enrollment.

      It is a huge problem that will take a lot of unraveling and a huge transformation! Until then, so many of us choose to homeschool 🙂

      Thanks for adding to the conversation, Care! And thanks for all that you do for all gifted children!!

  18. Thank you for sharing your perspective as both a teacher and parent. I have been fighting the public school system for years and have failed. Our district only has funding at the 4th / 5th grade level for a 1.5 hr class once a week. Based on what you said, I think they have grouped the kids in this class as very bright and gifted. My daughter loved the class. Unfortunately, that is where it ends. I have tried suggesting several things to the school to figure out a low cost way to implement alternatives. All were answered with No for various reasons. So now what does a parent do, they find a school 45 min away that meets the needs and spends up to $24k. Imagine what the district could do with that money as a donation. Might not be perfect, but it would be a start. Myself and another parent are going through this process and are frightened. How will we get them there and that is a lot of money, can we do it? But we both know that we have to for our children. I would love to see an initiative where funds are raised for the schools and the schools are properly trained to manage gifted children.

    • Jennifer, my heart goes out to you and your friend for braving an extreme solution to help your gifted children. Yes, your local public school sure could use $24k as a donation, but they are not only missing out on that; another thing they could use from you which you are taking away is your child’s high test scores. Test scores are now so critical for public schools–for funding tied to test scores and for teacher evaluations. Public schools lose when gifted students leave for better, more appropriate educational options. Please let us know how this new school works out! It helps others to see that there are better options than staying with an inflexible, inappropriate educational environment, and that these options can help.

      The best way to advocate for funding and improvements in gifted education is to contact legislators. Get in touch with your state’s gifted association, also, for information on advocacy efforts within your state. Here is a list of each state’s gifted association with contact information: And never hesitate to start your own association or group to advocate for gifted children!

      Good luck to you and your friend, Jennifer!

      • In fact, it isn’t even sure that the school is losing high test scores (ie. gifted is not equal to high achiever).That’s such an important point of your article, Celi. The biggest loss to the school is the loss of the bright and creative minds of the gifted children, and how that can enrich any classroom. Additionally, the schools lose such dedicated parents, usually pretty bright and creative themselvs, often very resourceful. Any school would be lucky to have such motivated parents who are willing to be so involved. It’s a brain drain on many counts…

        • You are right, losing gifted children have schools losing in many ways, and you pointed out some real, significant losses for schools. It is really a complex issue. Although gifted aren’t always high achievers, as there are no absolutes here, poor grades in school can reflect boredom and refusal to complete and turn in repetitive homework or assignments. Performance on standardized tests can be very high despite a gifted child’s lack of motivation to perform in the classroom. (Here in the U.S., educational funding for states’ departments of ed. and school systems is often tied to standardized test scores)

          Thank you for pointing out the additional, very real losses schools endure when they do not address the educational, emotional and social needs of their gifted students. I appreciate your comments and additions to this post because when we all share in this conversation, we all benefit!

  19. In my experience, the children in the gifted programs tend to be the “teacher pleasers.” The kindergarten child who is reading at a 12th grade level, and does not want to sit in a circle learning letter sounds will be labeled a behavior problem. Especially if he disassembles the aquarium pump to find out how it works, or stands up on the school bus to see the little stop sign pop out.

  20. Pingback: Article: “Giftedness is more than a function of Education”, by Celi Trépanier

  21. Thank you for the great article! I think it even sparks the debate over the “gifted” label again, since there so many more concerning issues at play other than just the “gift” of high intelligence. I really wish more people – especially educators, knew more about giftedness. These students do not have it easy. Not at all.

    • You are right, Kim. As parents of gifted children, we understand that our children do not have it easy at all, but it is going to be a long, difficult battle to overcome the misperception that gifted kids are smart, life is easy and don’t need anything. Thanks for adding to the conversation–the more we all speak up, the louder our message will be. Hopefully those that need to hear it will heed it!

  22. Really well-written description of the misunderstandings about gifted children. I also liked your description of the gifted “program” which sounded more like an advanced track for smart kids, since the percentages would suggest that not all of the kids in there were gifted. This “overidentification” leads to false beliefs as well. As a psychologist, I have seen parents distressed that their children identified as “gifted” in elementary school are struggling so much in high school. In many situations, the child’s IQ was clearly in the high average range, but was a high achiever and was placed in a “gifted classroom.” This misrepresentation leads to false expectations and unnecessary pressure on the child and family.

    • Gail, I can’t imagine being a parent of a child who was identified and placed in a gifted program only to find out later that they weren’t really gifted. More and more, it seems gifted programs are meant for the high-achievers, and giftedness is only a consideration if the child has excellent grades. It is frustrating. There is something amiss when a gifted child with a patent-pending, multiple-award-winning invention is not accepted into an entrepreneurial program for gifted kids because her educational output (grades) is not high enough! Thank you, Gail, for your dedication for supporting gifted children!

  23. Well done, Celi! This is a wonderful post. I love how you intertwined your experience in the field of education with what you are experiencing raising three gifted kiddos! Thank you!

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