Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.

The Kirkwood Call

When gifted is lifted

art by Audrey Allison

art by Audrey Allison

Izzy Colon, news-features writer

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In first grade, my parents decided to enroll me in KSD in search of a challenge. I had gone to St. Clement of Rome the year before, but my parents felt the curriculum was a bad fit for me. I began school at Westchester Elementary. During my time at Westchester, I was tested for the gifted program three times. I went through a process of verbal and written tests designed to measure my method of thinking. Although multiple teachers and my MAP scores suggested that I was gifted, I was never accepted. I have never understood why a child who is ambitious, intelligent and willing to learn should be denied the opportunity for an elevated learning system.

My gifted friends coasted through middle school and I began to lose confidence. I no longer thought of myself as particularly smart. I saw students in the gifted program and immediately thought of them as more capable than me. Much like me, Lilly Schlarman, sophomore, said as a gifted student she felt a division between herself and other students.

“It created a strange sense when I met someone smarter than me who wasn’t in the program,” Schlarman said. “‘[I thought], ‘you’re not a gifted kid, how can you be better than me?’”

Schlarman said she regrets thinking this way and that this idea of superiority came from how she was taught to think of herself in relation to other students in the gifted program. I felt this same subliminal message of inferiority from both teachers and other students.  Abigail Dowell, freshman, said there was a strong emphasis placed on how smart she was in the gifted program. She felt a pressure to excel at everything. Schlarman and Dowell both said they felt a need to prove themselves among their gifted peers.

“Stereotypes are made about kids in the program, so that their flaws are looked down upon,” Dowell said. “The definition of a gifted child varies. Creative right-brained kids are forced in the same category as logical kids.”

While the gifted program mainly focuses on elementary and middle school education, the prejudices this program creates continue into high school. Schlarman described feeling that she had to perform perfectly in high school, but struggled because she wasn’t equipped with skills like studying or time management. Although I do wish I had some of the opportunities that came with the program, I’m sure that this negligence of basic learning skills would have greatly disrupted my ability to succeed once high school came around. Cindy Coronado, gifted counselor said gifted students often do not need to study to do well in elementary school so they never build these skills. In a program designed to help gifted students it’s ironic that one of the major areas that these students inherently struggle with is not rooted in the gifted curriculum.

“It’s embedded in research that these kids take off cognitively at an early age,” Coronado said. “They [often] don’t practice the skills needed to take tests and study for tests. They come to high school and all of the sudden they need to learn the skills that other students learned in second grade.”

To have an effective program, changes are necessary. If the teacher believes a student would benefit from the gifted program, they should be given the opportunity to be in it. However, MO Education Guidelines only allow students that have passed the test to be included in the program. Until these guidelines are revisited, many of the downsides of this program could be diminished by creating less divides between students. Elementary teachers should incorporate forms of gifted learning techniques in their classroom to give every student exposure. All students can benefit from using different approaches to learn, not just the students that are deemed smart enough.

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Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.
When gifted is lifted