Too Much, Too Early, Too Soon?

BREAKING NEWS: 8 year old genius student has been placed in advanced classes due to supposed advanced academic intellect. Next step: Harvard maybe? Or maybe they’re more of a Yale student.

Notice anything off about that? How about that this fictitious student is 8 years old. I remember being in 4th grade when my teacher recommended that I take the AIG test (Academically and Intellectually Gifted test). This test, which I ultimately did pass, granted me entrance to the AIG program. I remember the special feeling I felt being in this program. Promptly after homeroom every morning, other AIG students and myself would take our trapper keeper binders out and head to the trailer for our “specialized” classes. Of course at the time I only had good things to say about this program, how individualized and special it made me feel, preparing me for a high level of thinking so that my “success” could start at an earlier age. Well, as much preparing that one teacher could do for 8 and 9 year old children.

Looking back now, I never considered what it was like as the other students. The ones that watched their classmates leave every morning for their own set of math and reading classes. Sitting at their desks and wondering what it was like as those other students. This program creates a divide amongst students at much too early of an age. These kids are 8 and 9 years old, most likely ushered into this program by their parents. It leaves the question of what will happen to the children who’s parents are not as involved in their academic life as some other students’ parents are? I can say that my parents were a major driving force in my academic life even at such an early age. They always inquired about special programs and academic activities that I could be involved in. However, the same cannot be said for everyone.

The more concerning factor is the early onslaught of segmentation between the soon to be “honors and AP” students and those only in “college prep” classes in high school. These children are being told they are not smart enough to be a part of this program and at such an early age when they are still very vulnerable to the appraisal of others. A school in New York is attempting to eliminate this.

Children should not be made to feel inferior at such a young age. If schools wish to incorporate higher level thinking, they should do so for all of the children. I remember often times we would just speed up the learning material taught in the class that was required for the course and spend the last portion of the class on “higher level” thinking. This created a good balance between what was required to be taught to all students while also embellishing some of the topics with more difficult problems to solve and took an application based approach. I would rather schools raise the standards for all of the children rather than implement programs such as these as such an early age when it would harm children’s self esteem.

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One Response to Too Much, Too Early, Too Soon?

  1. kbuffett says:

    Thank you for writing this post, Meera. Like you, I never really considered the ramifications of the AIG program in public schools from the other side (those who were not in the program) until well into my college career.

    As we discussed in class last week, our AIG experiences instilled in us this huge sense of intelligence and success as opposed to our non-AIG peers. Now that I think about it, very few students in my AP classes in high school were not also in my elementary school’s AIG program (or the AIG programs of other elementary schools in the county). The AP/”general classes” divide was pretty much drawn in the sand as early as third or fourth grade.

    Although I personally enjoyed AIG a lot more than I did my home classrooms in elementary school, the gifted program students were often very much ostracized from my school’s general population. With all of that being said, I totally agree with your post’s closing point. Every student should be held to the same expectations of success, rather than grouping us from the get-go and allowing those who fell in the “other” category subsequently fall between the cracks. If kids are not being told they are smart or good enough in elementary school, that confidence certainly won’t magically appear once they hit high school.

    Like

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