The questions that keep me up at night

Lately, I’ve been losing a lot of sleep due to questions that keep me up at night. These are questions I have no answers to and wish I did. Let me share:

Question 1: Why is there a higher percentage of gifted people in the prison population than in the general population?

This question has been on my mind since I attended a class on teaching gifted students last spring.  In my class we discussed several definitions of giftedness.  In general, gifted people can be thought of as the top 3-5 percent of the brightest people of a given population. If this is true, the next statistic is even more shocking. It is estimated that 20 percent of the inmate population in jail is gifted (Streznewski, Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, 1999). This fact has left me quite perplexed.

Question 2: Why are students who are on grade level and/or gifted failing to show academic progress?

In my urban school district, our Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) results are showing that our students who are on grade level or above are not showing enough academic growth. I was surprised when I went to a parent meeting at my son’s rural school and found the same thing. It doesn’t make sense that our best students aren’t making academic growth. My district is initiating a new gifted plan to address this issue. In my son’s district they are not addressing this issue at all.

Question 3: Who is failing, the schools or the students?

I have lost hours of sleep over this one. This question was sparked after I attended the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Convention this year. I attended several sessions that repeated over and over that African American students are under-identified as gifted and the number of African American students in our nation’s gifted programs is low.

I also attended a session that examined the rap artist Lil Wayne.  The session focused on how Lil Wayne showed the characteristics of a gifted person. The biographical section told of how he attended a gifted school but ultimately dropped out. Lil Wayne is a successful person but not because of his academic path. Why are our schools failing to help bright African American students be successful through academics? More importantly, how can we change this?

In my school district, we are taking steps to move our brightest students forward. I am proud to be a part of the enrichment team that is making this happen. Why isn’t this happening in all school districts?

How is your school district providing services to your gifted students?