Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gifted Children, Summer Slide and Back to School

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Last month I wrote about gifted children and the summer slide, that period over the summer where the acquired knowledge and academic skills of most children takes a big dip, requiring 4-6 weeks of "catch-up each fall." I posited that if other parent frantically enroll their children in learning centers and academic enrichment this summer and I do nothing for mine, perhaps our children would be at equal levels this fall.

Not true.

Anyway, it's a tough theory to test as my boys read practically 24/7. They have a difficult time completing their household chores as it's hard to change the garbage bag with a book in one hand. They stay up too late reading, we naturally do a fair amount of sciencey things, my 11-year-old is dabbling in game-making software. My boys keep busy and manage to learn without cracking a textbook or filling out a worksheet. Perhaps we should call this the Summer Soar.

So maybe it shouldn't surprise me that when I look over years of my children's MAP reports, an NWEA "Measurement of Academic Progress" test that they take in the fall and spring each year at school, their scores shoot up each fall, indicating a high degree of growth over each summer.

Contrasted with their peers whose scores have leveled or not risen and there's an even larger gap between my gifted boys and, well, almost everyone else in their class come fall.

When the boys attended the Gifted Academy, my name for the private school for gifted kids they attended for three years, a pattern emerged of large gains in the summer based on fall test scores, and small ones during the academic year based on spring tests. It was easy to spot trends on the graph that came with the MAP report.

At the public school my boys attended last year, the MAP reports look slightly different. These new reports have a column noting each child's expected academic gains. I don't know what units these gains are listed in, but of the three areas tested--Language Arts, Reading and Math-- one of my boys only made the "expected" gains in one core area. He only progressed 2/5 as much as expected in another and in math, he made no gains at all according to the MAP test (which is especially disconcerting as he was in an accelerated math class last year and earned good grades).

In theory, this means I should be able to meet with the principal and the school's academic advisors and draft a plan to ensure measurable learning and academic growth during the coming year. Right?

No, really, stop laughing. You're making me think that measurable academic progress is only important when it comes to ensuring that children meet the low standards set by No Child Left Behind. And that can't be true. All children in our nation's public schools deserve to learn and grow. Don't they?

More musings on parenting a gifted child.

*This post was originally inspired by a friend who noticed how her daughter morphed into as lively little information sponge over the summer. The mom pondered what will happen to the girl once she returns to school. She had the poor sense to seek my opinion, so I gave her useless assvice, which may actually provide useful (read: entertaining) fodder for a future post.

** While this was sitting in my queue, I learned that this month's Yahoo MotherBoard topic is Back to School, so now I may just be the first one in our group to post. W00t!

***I'm getting chocolate on my keyboard--a sure sign it's time to step away from the computer.


Shari said...

Our daughters are also little sponges all summer. They remember everything they were told at Brookfield Zoo's camp, farm camp, and the library reading program. I worry they will go back to and be bored. They other kids are learnign sight words and they are reading. Sigh...

Meowmie said...

Thinking about it, as a kid I would have given my eye teeth to attend a summer class like the ones yours have. I spent summer devouring books that I could get from the bookmobile, re-reading everything I could lay my hands on, and wishing there were more than 2 children in our little village who were my age and I liked. I am amazed my brain didn't fossilize over January and February LOL!

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Is it remotely possible to consider homeschooling? I don't know your job position or finances, but we're poorer than poor and are making it work. We made the switch for some of the same reasons you are complaining about: meeting the lowest expectations of the nation isn't good enough. Especially for a kid that is gifted.

Good luck this year.

Gina said...

The quickly approaching summer break scares me. I've got plenty ideas on fun adventures that will have them squealing with laughter while exploring and learning about their world. What concerns me is the gap that will widen between my highly-gifted son and other children in his same-age class. They started Kindergarten with a 3 academic year gap which has been narrowed thru the school year, but has the opportunity to diminish over a 12 week break.

Which will likely result in my son being bored and potentially lost the first few weeks in school...maybe more.

Glad we're working with the teachers now to prepare for the fall but it's still worrisome.