Gifted School Leavers: Deciding What To Do

On Sunday October 28th, the topic for our Twitter chat, #gtie, was “Gifted School Leavers: Deciding What to Do”. It turned out to be a lively and interesting discussion. After a little detail for background, I have tried to arrange the tweets so that they make sense…I hope I have succeeded! (Transcript)

  • I want to look at two things tonight -firstly the propensity of gifted students to drop out of high school. We have no idea how prevalent it is here in Ireland – here is some indication from the US:

What About Gifted students Who Drop Out? This article suggests that, depending on the definition of gifted used, between 1:50 and 1:200 academically gifted students drop out of school.

Gifted Children At Risk:  This article lists the many social and emotional issues which may put gifted children at risk of psychological damage and underachievement.

It refers to Gifted Students Who Drop Out: The Who and Why, a meta analysis of 16 studies carried out in 2002 by Dr. Esra Kaskaloglu-Almulla: “Study results confirmed that many gifted underachievers were suffering because they were either not provided with a gifted program or did not have enough challenge at school. There was also evidence of poor student-teacher and student-peer relationships, boredom or disinterest in school, parental problems, lack of motivation, organizational and study skills, immaturity, and social, behavioral and emotional problems.”

According to this study, 4.5% of high school dropouts are gifted, even though the definition of gifted used would include only 2.27% of the population. According to the Achievement Trap, this problem is even more pronounced among economically disadvantaged children.

The Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families (PDF) 2008

  • They drop out because they are bored, unmotivated, see no point in going somewhere they feel they are not benefiting from – perhaps?
  • The propensity of gifted students to drop out of high school < I would worry about those in disadvantaged areas
  • And then what happens to them afterwards.
  • Sure. – that wiki page would put the frighteners on you! Wonder has anyone in government seen it?
  • Key is finding ways to engage and motivate students. My Motivating Students page has GT section.
  • “Why should I stay to be bored for another 1 1/2 hrs when I am bored all day” when offered Gifted and Talented (GT) provision after school.
  • Agree, need to engage and motivate during the school day too, not in after school clubs.
  • A psychologist/counsellor friend sees a vastly disproportionate number of previously unidentified gifted adults in crisis later in life.
  • Schools that don’t recognise gifted children clearly aren’t in a position to help them plan their future after school.
  • The thing is, students with special educational needs (SEN) often can’t work independently. So they demand more attention and the gifted get left to own devices. Which is ok if the work is suitable.
  •’s not ok just to be left – they need their fair share of engagement – sounding board
  • Yes, I suppose, what to do when a class has many SEN? I didn’t mean to just leave them for the whole lesson, but to set work and monitor.
  • Sure….so many teachers think gifted kids can teach themselves – or worse, teach other kids!
  • Some of the gifted kids like to help other kids but some of them don’t! Teachers should ask GT kids at first.
  • Teachers should ask GT kids at first -definitely! Make them your “specialist” they can research themselves and present.
  • I  love @ericsimons40 of Team Claco who was asked what would interest him: Meet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL
  • We need to engage and motivate well before school-leaving age if they are going to stay on and reach their potential.
  • Even when there is a challenging school environment, if guidance counsellors are unfamiliar, how can they guide the gifted?
  • We must provide outlets to allow them to follow their passions, connect them with outside experts.. allow for self-directed learning.
  • Mentoring should be a vital component of schools’ gifted provision.
  • Career Education for Gifted Learners
  • Outside experts.. allow for self-directed learning.
  • Outside experts, mentors, work experience are all recommended for the gifted, especially those with multiple areas of strength.
  • So what issues face gifted school leavers?
  • Leaving school without further education?
  • Multipotentiality: A good explanation by Tamara Fisher, @thethinkteacher
  • If you look after children during primary/2nd level then you’re setting them up for 3rd level -a continuum of support is needed.
  • Well there’s a point – some gifted leavers don’t go straight for further education. Why? Why not?
  • Multipotentiality: When High Ability Leads to Too Many Options by @Lisa_Rivero
  • It can be difficult for a gifted student to decide on high school subjects, never mind a career path or university.
  • My Multiple Intelligences/Multipotentiality page.
  • Some gifted leavers don’t go straight for further ed. Why? < Could it be, they’ve had enough of “education”?
  • Back to the “unmotivated” problem again methinks.
  • I think some just want the space to live – they are fed up with perceived/real mediocrity
  • Also, they know a degree these days does not guarantee a good job.
  • I think you can find the answer in Joan Freeman’s book: Gifted Lives: What Happens When Gifted Children Grow Up 
  • Gifted kids can be put/feel under a lot of pressure to fulfill others’ expectations.
  • Are fourth level students evidence of the successful education experience of gifted students?
  • We are back to the need to provide a meaningful school experience. De-motivated kids might not want further education or good employment.
  • Bingo. Kids get tired of waiting around to learn.
  • That is it! Gifted are not all the same.
  • Hence, the even bigger issue when schools don’t recognise any.
  • Some UK schools get it: Cheadle & Marple Sixth Form College A+ programme
  • Multipotentiality: Issues and Considerations for Career Planning
  • How do we help gifted students make decision about life after school – should we be pushing third level?
  • The really gifted can have broad skill base, mine – Maths, Physics, Languages & English and more – what to choose?
  • Sometimes the subject a kid excels at is not the one they might most enjoy at 3rd level. It’s easy to get steered into the “wrong” one.
  • Which would also explain drop out at third level.
  • If a student is academically talented, then 3rd level is surely top of the list of options after school?
  • Not necessarily – the academically talented can be limited by their level of maturity and confusion about the correct path.
  • Exactly – sometimes getting a job and later doing University at night is a more sensible option.
  • “Level of maturity” yes -it’s dangerous to assume they are mature because they are gifted.
  • Some kids know what they want from a very young age: Multipotentiality and Early Emergers
  • How do we talk to gifted leavers without adding pressure to choose?
  • I planned to found a center when I was 9 years old!
  • Not many gifted kids are that certain-especially if strait-jacketed by a narrow education. system.
  • A narrow education system is a great challenge for development of creativity 😉
  • It’s a great challenge for the development of anything!
  • It helps to explain that whatever they choose, they can still change later. Many people change careers several times. It’s not that big a deal.
  • Are gifted kids more impatient to ‘be’ something, somewhere? Does this affect their desire to go to third level?
  • Sometimes they are scared to choose one area in case they permanently close the door on others.
  • Especially with the madness of test-score mania; too many think GT kids’ purpose is to raise school scores.
  • And it looks like we, in Ireland, are heading down the very same path 🙁
  • Some GT kids see it all as nonsense. What’s the point? Many don’t go on to make it on their own, jaded.
  • “Exactly – sometimes getting a job and later doing University at night is a more sensible option.” Gives time to mature.
  • Do we need to do a better job of counseling?  Not all subjects and career paths require one narrow path or skill.
  • If a kid is smart enough, they can see ‘traditional school’ for what it is – Battery Hen Houses.
  • There is no need to rush into 3rd level. Mature students do better often, and are more sure of choices made.
  • It’s not just a problem with assessment, but what we assess. Points off for  disorganization, not showing work, etc.
  • Do we need to do a better job of counseling< Absolutely, but there is no GT teacher training here, so how?
  • My fear for my kids is, will they ever choose university once out of education system? Is it harder with a job, family, etc?
  • It’s harder in the UK  to study with a family/work.
  • This is a very real concern – hence the need for good career guidance for those who make the choice to get a job.
  • Counselors, career counselors, Human Resource professionals, mentors, former student successes?
  • It’s important for all teachers on every grade level to discuss careers: My Career page.
  • Yes, even on 3rd grade field trips we ask the professionals what their backgrounds are.
  • Are GT school leavers mature enough to make a decision between college or job? Should we just push them into whatever course?
  • It depends on the kid and why they want to leave. Exit interviews would be helpful if kids are sincere.
  • Should we just push them into whatever course? < We should never push. They may need help, but they need to decide for themselves.
  • Can we develop the idea of successful GT people helping others? Networking, blogging…
  • This is a very good idea – experienced GTers mentoring younger GTers.
  • It’s a nice idea, but often GT people don’t want to own up.
  • You should give it a try. It does not need a whole army, some would help – I hope.
  • We don’t have GT programmes here, but such kids often gravitate to each other naturally and would help each other.
  • When they can find them!
  • Ah, but they do, without looking and sometimes in the most unexpected places!
  • How should we respond if University doesn’t work out?
  • I keep searching for the answer to this question.
  • Of course, in Ireland I can’t think of any university that has/recognises GT students.
  • Are there choices of the types of university? Small, large, public, private?
  • We have a mix – most are what in the US are called ‘public’ (yearly ‘fees’=€2,500)
  • Should we accept that ‘dropping out’ of college is an option, and just try to move forward?
  • Is there are argument for a GT university?
  • Makes me realise how lucky I am with my own child. Seriously gifted and now at Oxford and loving it! 🙂 Two gifted brothers too!
  • I imagine Oxford is full of ‘bright’ people!
  • Is there are argument for a G&T university? | S’pose that is Oxford!
  • No, just proper standards in the ones we have, not the dumb-it-down-so-everyone-can-do-it model we seem to be developing.
  • Don’t get me started – the government here is planning an ‘anyone-can-do-it’ taster year at 3rd level – more education inflation.
  • Any last thoughts on life after school for gifted students?
  • My last thoughts – what happens in school has a huge impact. We need to do more as a country.
  • I’m not convinced that University is always a better option; some of my classmates are better off for having gone to work.
  • GT leavers can do better-emotionally and spiritually-by working and studying at night.
  • University is not for everyone, GT or otherwise. Not going should not be deemed as failure. There are many ways to skin a cat/succeed in life.

And here are a few more links for those of you who would like to read more on the subject

How to Get Gifted Students Ready for College Life
Early Career Planning is Essential for Gifted Adolescents
Career planning for gifted youth
The Perils of Multipotentiality
Multipotentiality: multiple talents, multiple challenges

by Peter Lydon & Catherine Riordan