Dear Dr. Courtright,
My daughter was recently able to take the ACT as a part of the Duke TIP program. Her results came back, and she was placed in the 99th percentile among the other tested Duke TIP students in reading, 81st percentile in English, and mid 50s for math and science. Following the recommendations from the Duke TIP resources regarding interpreting scores, I met with the school counselor, principal, and English head. All seem to be extremely hesitant about allowing my daughter to move up a grade in English, even with the scores she has. Do you have any suggestions for me about how I can convince them to do this?
They suggest outside activities to satisfy her desire to be pushed in literature and English. Meanwhile, she is bored in class to the point that she no longer takes it seriously and is starting to neglect the work. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks.
It is very difficult to offer guidance in this situation having never met or observed your daughter in the school setting. I am not in a position to agree or disagree with any party involved in the difference of opinion regarding her placement, so please know that I offer the following as an opinion, not a recommendation.
If your daughter’s performance in all subject areas was as strong as that of her reading score, a case might more readily be made for accelerating her course of studies across the board. However, the fact that her reading is not closely matched by her English scores suggests that there is more for her to learn in the areas of language, mechanics, usage, grammar, composition, etc. Even more so, her math and science are even more different from the reading score. One possible reason for this is that she has done as have many gifted children: early on, she “cracked the code” of reading, mastering phonetics and comprehension in such a way that she could advance on her own, developing her reading skills through self-selection of books (and many other sources) that enabled her to read at an advanced level. However, other subjects – notably math and science – are such that students typically have to wait around for the instruction to be delivered to them in the lockstep curriculum by grade level, and they don’t go ahead and learn more on their own. That is why she has such a high reading score, which is great news, but she has much lower scores in other domains. However, while the high reading score is a significant part of the story, it is not the entire story.
My thought, then, is that your daughter still has areas of the curriculum in which she is beyond proficient, but not so much so that she needs to be accelerated or grade skipped, even for the one course in language arts. She can certainly continue to select materials for reading for herself that she finds stimulating and enjoyable on topics of interest to her, and from that continue to advance in her reading ability and performance. However, the middle and high school language arts classes are not solely about reading, but about the full array of communication skills and their development, and given her score in English (although admittedly high and an excellent showing for a seventh grader) it would seem that she still has much from which she could benefit in continuing in her grade level English/Language Arts course, along with her other middle school classes/subjects.
With regard to neglecting the work, I would also submit that if you inquire of your daughter about her perspective of her teacher, her response will indicate that the boredom is more likely to be a function of the personality of the teacher than that of the nature of the work or its inherent level of challenge and rigor. I am not saying it IS the teacher; however, that dynamic is so very often the case for gifted middle and high school students and their perceptions of their classes and instruction. If they respect and like the teacher, they typically like and embrace the work; and vice versa…
I hope that this reply is at least somewhat helpful to you, and I wish your daughter well in her studies.
Gifted Education Specialist
If you are a TIP parent or teacher and have a question for a TIP gifted education research specialist, please contact Richard D. Courtright, PhD, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.