Links for Portland Parents of Talented and Gifted Children


TAG STORIES From Portland Families



Here's a positive story.  There are a large number of first graders at my child's school, many of whom are TAG identified (or will be later).  As a result, they are able to combine and then reshuffle all the first graders into six levels for reading.  In addition to that, at least one child goes into a second grade class for reading.  This has two really wonderful aspects.  First, the children are all reading with an entire class close to, or at, their own level.  Second, since they are all in reading class at the same time (most children have a different teacher just for reading), no-one is sitting around doing busy work while other children are on the rug in reading group. 



My son was three when he discovered multiplication. He "invented" it as a quicker way to do addition. We had nothing to do with it as parents, not expecting this level of interest in math so early. In preschool he memorized the times tables up to twelves from a singing tape he heard a few times. He then began inventing equations with question marks in place of one value, for addition and multiplication. He had not yet learned to read, but could manipulate the letters of the alphabet and mathematical symbols, which we had taught him by this time. In kindergarten at a magnet school in Portland ..., I mentioned he knew his times tables up to twelves. The teacher looked at me with the naked incredulity I have since learned to expect when I talk about his math abilities.
    I had requested early placement in the neighborhood school and met with the principal to discuss the request previously, and the same look greeted my naive attempt to explain why I was requesting early entry. The reason given for denying my request outright was that the principal himself would "never put his daughter, twelve years old, in a group that was not her age peers in case she felt out of place." That was the extent of his understanding of giftedness, as an administrator in a Portland elementary school. The remark that met incredulity from the kindergarten teacher was likewise made to the teacher liaison for TAG for the magnet school. I was told at that time, "Half of our kids are TAG--We teach to the top."
    The only time my son has been challenged so far in math has been at a summer Education Soaring class designed to teach algebra to elementary age children. Because he has vision impairment I have not yet attempted acceleration, having been assured by the principal at his current school that putting him up a grade to meet the math ability would be offset by being behind the class in his reading ability. He is now eight and reading beyond grade level by teaching himself when he was ready. The alphabet is simply not as interesting as numbers to him!
    We are still trying to find ways to work creatively with the school to keep him interested, and look for allies everywhere among the teaching staff. Presently he has gained the notice of the computer teacher who is coaching him with an online program while the other children are learning the "type to learn" curriculum he had with his vision specialist last year. We have yet to find a believing reception among the teachers and principal at this school which "teaches to the top" about the significantly differerent way in which a gifted child approaches learning. Fortunately his social skills keep him engaged for the present.
    I have scheduled a meeting with the teacher and principal to discuss differentiated instruction for the classroom, but my hopes are not high that it will go anywhere. I am not in a position to give a lot of energy to this issue right now as I am undergoing chemotherapy, but the best scenario that has come to me so far is finding a college or graduate student who is willing to work with a precocious third grader for enrichment to see if we can challenge the system and have him accelerated a grade before next fall comes.
    This comes from a parent who is completely committed to public education as the best option for our society's children that has the potential for not leaving anyone out due to the vagaries of class and race that are determined by the circumstances of birth. We have developed a society of privilege for the few, despite the promises on which our democracy was founded. We must hold the education system accountable to correct this evil.



This story is only relevant because I've met so many adults for whom it is also true.  If it was true back when, most likely it's even more true now... and worse.
    It's about math education.  Math is one of those topics where if you really know it, you're probably not teaching it in a public school.  At least that's the impression I get from the media.  If people who get math aren't teaching math... then exactly who is?
    Me: A formerly gifted kid, now an adult.  Math and language aptitudes average above top 1%, stronger on the math side. Nevertheless, I failed math twice in High School and was dropped from the math tracks.  This prevented progress in Science and Engineering - topics I love.
    Sad, to be sure, but only interesting beyond my own dinner table if it's part of a pattern.  I have seen that pattern in a great many gifted adults whom I've met within Mensa.
    The story follows this pattern:  When first presented with Algebra in a public school, our spirit soars.  It makes perfect sense!  We could see the logic of the formulas without doing the number crunching. I for one, hated number crunching, as did most kids before the days of pocket calculators.
    We loved learning this stuff wanted more as soon as possible.  Our teachers, following the play book, insisted on five repetitions of each and every baby step showing all logic.  We didn't even know how our brains gave us the answers, but we did know the answers, and since that's what "arithmetic" had been about till then, what's wrong here?
    Being at one of those rebellious stages of childhood, we rebelled at the idea of mindless repetition.  Our teachers didn't think they had to do anything to motivate us beyond giving a failing grade.  Absent a trusted adult to advise us to "just do the blanking repetitive stuff" we failed.  And stopped.
    Despite math aptitudes in the top 2%.  Madness then.  Madness today.


[this story comes from a parent not in PPS who helped pass the Oregon TAg mandate]

[OATAG] Re: What are our rights?
I just had to respond to this thread about 'our rights' as a parent
who's children are grown.
"mjbbeck2003" gave some of the best advice....
 follow your heart when it comes to the well-being of your child.
She also stated that she finally stopped listening to the 'experts'
in the system and did what she felt was best for her son.
I am very concerned when I hear these stories of children who do not
have their academic needs met, but it is even more important to
address the child's emotional and social issues. What teachers do not
seem to get is that a child who is frustrated in their school work is
often going to experience emotional and social stresses as well. This
is why either having meaningful academic work is so important whether
it be given in the classroom or going to another classroom for part
of the day or even grade skipping,
It is not possible to separate the elements of a healthy situation
for a child. Parents need to be very sensitive to how their child is
doing on all levels.
I can tell you horror stories of children who looked like they were
'doing well' in school by virtue of getting good grades, who in
reality were neither challenged or inspired by what they did for 8
hours a day, 180 days a year for 12 years of their developmental
Recently I had the opportunity to have lunch with a few of my fellow
TAG parents to catch up after about 10 years. All of our children are
long since out of school. As each of us shared what happened to our
gifted children it was more sad than happy tales. Of the group only
about half of these highly gifted and wonderful children were working
at all, let along doing anything equal to their potential. About a
third were experiencing serious problems. Drugs, depression, anxiety
disorders and dysfunctional lives were all too common.
All of the children came from loving, caring homes where the parents
were strong advocates for their children. But most had no success
with the schools. Several children never graduated from high school
because they just could not handle the emotional stress of being
bored. Several finished high school but did not go on to college
because they just did not know what they wanted at that stage of
life. Yes, a few went through some hard times and came out in the end
doing ok...for now. And about a third went on to college and did well
enough and got pretty good jobs, married and are as happy as the next
I wish that this story were unique, but if you read the longitudinal
studies of gifted children you will see that this is not an atypical
result. Some will say that it is because there is something about
being gifted that makes it hard to 'turn out happy and healthy.' I am
not one of these people. I truly believe that if our educational
system had done a better job of addressing the whole child, academic,
social, emotional, and career counseling, that most children would
do better in school as well as in life.
True there are a lot of non-gifted children who struggle with similar
issues. But this is no reason to let even one child be neglected.
As these 'old TAG' parents continue to meet, I hope to have some
discussion about what they think either they or the schools could
have done differently for their children. But my suspicion is that it
will come out to be a lot like the literature already tells us is
true about gifted children. They are different in many ways to other
non-gifted children and deserve special attention to those needs, not
because they are 'special' but because it is what all children
deserve....a chance to be happy and well.
Parents take to heart the advice of "mjbbeck2003......follow your
heart when it comes to the well-being of your child."
Susann Kaltwasser