Have you heard any of these questions or assertions when advocating for your kids? It's easy to get tongue-tied, or just not have the research at the tip of your fingers. Most people are not actually hostile to gifted education - they just have so little exposure to research-based information, and so many gifted myths are prevalent in our society. This list of common Questions & Answers may help.
If inclusion is the best practice for special education students, why isn’t it the best practice for highly capable students?
The research on special education vs HiCap kids comes to different conclusions. The nut of the issue is what makes a good role model. A good role model needs to not be too far ahead. If a student looks at the far-ahead abilities of a HiCap student and says “no matter how hard I try, I can’t do that” then that is not a good role model, that is actually discouraging and can cause kids to stop striving. Whereas for special education kids, a positive typically developing role model is shown to be helpful. There’s lots of research on this.
Furthermore, if that HiCap student is also achieving at a high level with no visible effort, that is a terrible example for helping kids develop a growth mindset. We do not want kids’ supposed role models to be achieving at high levels with no effort - that’s totally against everything grit and growth mindset is teaching. Is that our expectation of what we want all our kids to be able to do? Achieve at a high level without any effort? That’s a potent trigger for mental health issues...
And that lack of grit and growth mindset and not needing to put forth effort, tolerate frustration, study skills, etc. is a HUGE problem long term for the HiCap kids themselves. When they eventually hit something actually hard - likely in high school, sometimes not til college - they have no experience, skills, or coping strategies. It’s a major cause of underachievement in otherwise bright kids, who would rather underachieve than figure out how to try. Some kids pull themselves up by their bootstraps and rise to the challenge - but many do not, and it’s disproportionally those more vulnerable kids that seattle calls FFEJ (Furthest From Educational Justice), who don’t have support networks in place. BTW, plunking more kids in AP classes in high school doesn’t fix it - it just creates the flash point for this identity crisis to happen. Perhaps better in high school than college, admittedly. But the real fix is way back in elementary school, to make sure ALL kids are working at their level and aren’t permitted to just slide through school for years and years without effort.
That’s the real reason for HiCap programs in the first place, and why we have a state law in WA that puts HiCap under basic education. If we want productive citizens who can cope in the real world post graduation, we have to meet them where they are at, even if they are ahead. Otherwise they don’t develop the life skills that are more crucial than any single subject we teach in school - persistence, perseverance, time management, study skills, tolerance for failure, being able to try again.
Isn't having a separate qualification pathway for low-income students tantamount to lowering standards?
What's an example of a district that is service highly capable students well in their neighborhood classroom via differentiation?
Teachers already differentiate for all students' needs. Why is that not good enough for highly capable students?
Why do highly capable students deserve extra field trips, creative thinking, and enrichment activities?
Why are so many school district programs so disproportional in their racial, economic, and cultural representation? And what do we do about it?
Highly Capable programs are racist. Why should we support them?
Or, Highly capable students don’t really exist. It’s a fiction created by rich white families who hot house their kids.
Kids, like all human beings, are diverse and unique. They are not all the same. When a kid shows particular promise in sports, they might be chosen for a select sports team. When a student finishes the second grade piano book, the music teacher gives them the third grade book even if they aren't a third grader yet. And in math and reading and other academic areas, some kids learn faster and with fewer repetitions. That is human variation.
Claiming that highly capable programs are only for affluent white families is extremely problematic. It’s tantamount to saying that you don’t believe that low-income students or students of color could actually be highly capable or high academic achievers. That is a profoundly racist sentiment.
Other Advocacy Resources
Here are some of Austina De Bonte's presentations and papers that contain valuable research points for advocacy.