Why Early Assessment Matters for K-8 Children
Academically exceptional children need to be recognized early in their educational journey in order to thrive.
Our school focuses on academically exceptional children as young as four years old, which is long before most schools even consider evaluating whether a child might be cognitively gifted. We do early evaluations because K-8 is a critical time in the learning curve for such gifted children. Academically exceptional children need to be recognized early in their educational journey in order to thrive.
“Almost without exception, experts in the field of education of the intellectually gifted agree that early identification of such talented students is important. There is a great deal of evidence to show that many gifted students who are not identified and whose needs are not met adequately at an early age become frustrated and disillusioned with school, falling into a pattern of low achievement and/or behavioral problems.” (Mills, C. J. (1992) Pediatrics 89 (1), Academically Talented Children: The Case for Early Identification and Nurturance, American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Mills, who served as Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Research and Evaluation Department, goes on to observe: “if educational intervention does not take place at an early age...interest in learning may diminish and important study skills may not develop because the child is never challenged to think and work hard. If left alone, by the middle grades, the pattern of underachievement is a life style that is almost impossible to change.” This is borne out by high school drop-out rates.
A recent report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows that an overwhelming percentage of high school drop outs actually had passing grades, and left because of lack of challenge and engaging curriculum. The Davidson Institute, a hotbed of research, advocacy, and education for profoundly-gifted children located in Reno, Nevada, notes that as many as 40 percent of all gifted students are underachievers and between 10 and 20 percent of all high school dropouts test in the gifted range. (See Rimm, S.B. (1997). Underachievement syndrome: A national epidemic. Colangelo, N., & Davis, G.A. (Eds.). Handbook of Gifted Education. San Francisco: Allyn and Bacon, pp. 416-434.) Earlier work by Joseph Renzulli of the University of Connecticut indicates that many gifted drop outs are from the groups who can least afford to waste intellectual capital: those from low socio-economic status, racial minorities, or with parents who had low levels of education. (Renzulli & Park (2000) Gifted Child Quarterly 44:4, Gifted Dropouts: The Who and the Why 261 et seq.)
Education expert Richard Riley, in the foreword to National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent (1993), observed that "neglect for these students makes it impossible to compete in a global economy demanding their skills." However, the U.S. government has no mandate requiring programs for gifted students. The lack of state funding in California exacerbates the problem. Our state—which has 10% of the United States population—offers less to its academically talented students than nearly any other in the nation. The need for specialized educational programming for California's gifted students was the motivation behind the founding of GATE Academy.