Can Schools Create Gifted Students?

Last week, a reader sent in the following question: Can schools create gifted students?  The short answer is yes. Let’s begin by explaining what giftedness is. Giftedness is defined as a child’s attainment of an IQ test score over 130 (varies from state to state), and/or a high level of natural ability, motivation, and creativity in a given field or area of study. It can refer to a combination of these elements. But back to the question at hand. Can schools develop giftedness in their students.?

How does this work?

We tend to think that intelligence and aptitude are things that you are born with, but it turns out that this is false. The truth is that your IQ and aptitude can increase over time, especially with access to quality instruction. Also, a person’s beliefs about their ability to positively impact their IQ and aptitude can affect their performance.

So, if K-12 schools do a great job of providing students with learning experiences that build their higher order thinking skills, theoretically their IQ and aptitude will both increase over time. That’s the nurture part. However, we also have to factor in the role of nature and genetics in determining our IQ and aptitude.

Let’s assume that a classroom full of students receive the same instruction and the same level of teacher and parental engagement. Over time, their IQ and aptitude levels will increase at varying rates. Some will see slow and incremental growth, while others may see exponential growth throughout the school year. That’s the nature part.

Let’s take Mark Zuckerburg for instance. He is considered a genius and rightly so. He has the genetics, but his parents and K-12 teachers both did an excellent job of nurturing this natural ability. Would he be the genius “captain of industry” that is now without the support and guidance of his K-12 teachers? Maybe, Maybe not.

Schools can also fail gifted students

If schools can create gifted students, they can also fail them as well. For example, students in low-income areas are far less likely to be identified as gifted and talented. Why? Because they are more likely to be taught by subpar teachers with mediocre pedagogical skills.

This means that although they may be genetically predisposed to possess a superior IQ and aptitude, without quality learning experiences and instruction to nurture their natural talents, they may never get a chance to live up their potential. They are like the seedling that never gets a chance to bloom. Even if they develop a high IQ and aptitude on their own, it may be difficult for their subpar instructors to pick up on it.

This means they may never be identified as being gifted and talented in the first place and never get a chance to live up to their academic and creative potential. From there, they may spend the rest of their K-12 career engaging in learning activities that stunt, rather than accelerate their growth.

So, what have we learned? K-12 Schools can create gifted students when their curriculum nurtures the natural intelligence of high achievers. Also, they can fail them by not referring them to gifted and talented programs, where they can live up to their potential.

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