Faster Is Smarter, Pumping Up Parents

Accelerating the best students  helps them intellectually and socially, says A Nation Deceived, a new report from the University of Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports:

A new University of Iowa report seeks to debunk myths that accelerated learning for gifted students is unfair, expensive for schools and causes students to be social outcasts, gifted-education experts said Monday.

Time recites the standard fears about children pushed too fast, but concedes there's evidence many very smart students are very bored:

For the smartest of these kids, those who quickly overpower schoolwork that flummoxes peers, skipping a grade isn't about showing off. Rather, according to a new report from the University of Iowa, it can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out from sheer tedium. "If the work is not challenging for these high-ability kids, they will become invisible," says the lead author of the report, Iowa education professor Nicholas Colangelo. "We will lose them. We already are."

...In a 2000 study for Gifted Child Quarterly, Joseph Renzulli and Sunghee Park found that 5% of the 3,520 gifted students they followed dropped out after eighth grade. Astonishingly, that's almost as high as the 5.2% of nongifted kids who dropped out. Untold numbers of other highly intelligent kids stay in school but tune out.

I survived by reading surreptitiously in class. For many years, I averaged five to seven books a week. My sister skipped a grade, but the higher level work still was too easy for her.

Getting to 'No'

Middle-class parents need to learn how to say "no" to their children, says a Newsweek story.

This generation of parents has always been driven to give their kids every advantage, from Mommy & Me swim classes all the way to that thick envelope from an elite college. . . . Now, a growing number of psychologists, educators and parents think it's time to stop the madness and start teaching kids about what's really important — values like hard work, delayed gratification, honesty and compassion. In a few communities, parents have begun to take action by banding together to enforce limits and rules so that no one has to feel guilty for denying her 6-year-old a $300 Nokia cell phone with all the latest bells and whistles. "It's almost like parents have lost their parenting skills," says Marsha Moritz, 54, who helped found the Parent Engagement Network, a support group in Boulder, Colo.

The parents need a support group? What wimps!

When my daughter said, "I want" too much, her father would sing, "You can't always get what you want" till she begged him to stop. I just made it clear that nagging, whining and sulking never would be effective strategies. Keep asking and what you get is a mean, crabby mother.

The World Is Catching Up

According to an international study, the rest of the world is catching up to the U.S. in educational attainment. Some 87 percent of Americans 25 to 34 have finished high school, which ranks 10th in the world, reports the Detroit News.

"They're catching up with you in the proportion that finish school (and) the proportion that go to college," said Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which develops the yearly rankings.

"The one area you remain ahead is how much you spend," McGaw told U.S. reporters Monday. "They don't need to catch up with you on quality, because many of them are already ahead."

The U.S. ranks second, behind Canada, in the percentage of adults with a four-year college degree: 38 percent. But other countries are sending more young people to college, narrowing the gap.

The U.S. spends an average of $10,871 per student, more than any other country.

While U.S. teen-agers have average academic skills, they have lofty ambitions, notes USA Today.

...U.S. students' reading performance sits around the middle of a 27-nation pack, just five points higher than average; math performance is five points lower than average...

But when asked what kind of job they expect to hold by the time they're 30, 80.5% of U.S. students said they'd have a white-collar, high-skilled job, far exceeding the average of 62.2%.

America's best students are as good as the best in the world; our worst students drag down average scores.

Dunce Caps Are Chic in France

French nostalgia has made a hit out of a reality show that puts 24 students into a 1950’s-style boarding school that recreates the strict discipline and rote learning of the past. Students who misbehave must copy long passages from Flaubert in longhand, wear a dunce cap or mop the floor, reports the New York Times. All take cod liver oil every morning.

In a nationwide poll released on Friday by the TNS Sofres Group, 80 percent of parents of children from 10 to 16 surveyed said they were worried about their children's academic achievement. Only half that number said they were worried about their relationship with their children. In another poll released this week, almost half of parents of school-age children surveyed said that they would like to reinstate uniforms in public schools.

French schools in 2004 are more rigid than American schools, with a centralized curriculum and ability grouping. And the education ministry is planning to "return schools to traditional learning techniques, including a much greater emphasis on reading of required texts, memorization and recitations, taking dictation and writing structured essays."


Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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