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Startup schools for 'gifted' emerge as state cuts public funding

Original post made on Aug 31, 2012

As public schools reduce extra services for gifted children following state funding cuts, a few startup private schools and support networks have emerged locally with a broader definition of "gifted."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 31, 2012, 8:41 AM

Comments (71)

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2012 at 11:47 am

Excellent reporting! I found it interesting that there was only one sentence quoting Superintendent Skelly about the extraordinary number of gifted children in our district. I agree with the expert a couple of paragraphs later, "But private educators who embrace the qualitative definition of giftedness say gifted kids frequently have social, emotional and other needs that go unmet in the mainstream classroom." I believe that improving social and emotional connectedness at our public schools will reap so many benefits for our kids. Isn't this what the P-8 part of Project Safety Net was intended to address? I hope that the schools will pick up the ball on this as it is very important for the well being of all out students. It would behoove the district to pay attention to the experts here!

Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I think it is fabulous to have more school options.
I also think it's not a big loss to scrap the PAUSD "gifted" program, which was meaningless. After our PAUSD student was identified as gifted, I asked the classroom teacher what would be different. She admitted that nothing would be done any differently as a result of the identification.

Posted by Meeting kids' needs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm

"private educators who embrace the qualitative definition of giftedness say gifted kids frequently have social, emotional and other needs that go unmet in the mainstream classroom."

The emphasis is on "mainstream classrooms."

The reason the needs of gifted kids are met in schools like Helios and Nueva is because similar kids, in their case those who are gifted, are not in public schools' mainstream classrooms and they are grouped together. The pace and complexity of the teaching fits their needs.

PAUSD's Grades K-7 one-size-fits-all curriculum stifles students on the far ends of the academic spectrum which causes them to disengage and, when young, act out in frustration.

There is nothing "socially or emotionally" that anyone can do, at home or at school, to overcome what happens to these students who have to sit through classes where there is little to no learning had on a daily basis- either because it is too hard or too easy. For those who can hold on, salvation occurs when they get to our high schools where they select classes that interest them at the pace that is best for them.

Ironically, some social emotional advocates push to get rid of or put limits on AP and challenging classes. These advanced classes are what saves these kids socially and emotionally, engages them, and happen to be far less stressful than classrooms that disengage them because of the slow pace, etc.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Many of the characteristics of these gifted programs and the gifted children are why we chose the Connections project-based program in middle school. It's lottery-based, but the population is somewhat self-selecting. This year, though, there were twice as many students wait-listed as could be accommodated. The district should consider expanding the program at the other two campuses.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm

The folks at Helios, Nueva and Synapse get it in a way that no one I have encountered in PAUSD understands.

Lake Wobegon comments are made by those who don't grok or acknowledge that there is a big difference between being "bright" and being "gifted"..i.e. top 2-3% on the bell curve, but not necessarily socially or emotionally adept.

Dr. Skelly acknowledges there are a lot of gifted kids in PAUSD. That said, if PAUSD really appreciated what being gifted can do to a young child made to spend seven hours a day repeating content they mastered years earlier, then I would hope they would acknowledge the need for and enable differentiation. These kids NEED challenge in early years when everything comes so easily to them, just as much as many other kids need practice, yet there is no requirement to challenge kids above standards (which are actually pretty low compared to other states).

Kids here should not have to wait until high school for a challenge. Everyday Math is slow-paced and repetitive for everyone. This is great for those who benefit from spiraling, but kids who are quick in math are bored out of their minds and turning off of school.

Every year PAUSD class sizes grow and it becomes too hard for even the best of teachers to accommodate everyone. Ohlone and the Connections programs are lottery which hundreds of families don't "win". This is a huge unmet need.

Sadly, at $25k/year, private school is too expensive for many families with children who are disengaged and bored in public school...especially when paying the premium to live in Palo Alto..."where all the children are above average".

Posted by Voice of Experience
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I have limited sympathy with those who feel their gifted offspring "struggle" in regular school. Guess what - they'll do fine. Talk to the teachers about giving them supplemental work; turn them on to Khan Academy; find some after school enrichment. Hey, learning to deal with their "not-as-gifted" peers is a critical skill.

Not sure what you heard about Palo Alto schools, but if it was that they provide meaningfully differentiated instruction for the "truly gifted" - I'm afraid not. Sorry.

Posted by Old Walter Hays Gifted Kid
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2012 at 12:10 am

I was very lucky to have the gifted program when I was at Walter Hays many decades ago. I was 3 years ahead in math and 5 years ahead in what they call "language arts" today. About four students in my class went to another classroom a few times a week for advanced math, plus, I and a few others went off weekly for Honor Chorus rehersals and peformances. What a joy it was to learn to sing 4-part harmony. We even learned to sing movements from a Mozart mass! To this day, many of my happiest and strongest memories of Walter Hays are those advanced math classes and the Honor Chorus.

In recent years, I've worked in a few PAUSD schools using "Everyday Math". Routinely, I see10%+ of the students whipping through an assignment from their books and then being bored out of their minds or doing the "chatty Kathy" routine distracting anyone near them while most of the rest of the class finishes the work... with the 10% or so of kids with special services rarely finishing the work.

Any sixth grader can see what is wrong with that picture! Almost one-fourth of the class is performing significantly out of grade level, day after day. But, each day, every child is told to "do your best work", one size fits all, all graduate, while a fourth of the class is frustrated beyond belief everyday.

What a scandal the gifted kids of Palo Alto are being left behind. So much for " No Child Left Behind".

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

Unfortunately the level of educational funding in California only allows up to target the masses, even in PAUSD. One size fits all is what we can do except for our truly exceptional teachers that manage to teach to 25 individual students vs teaching a class as a whole

Posted by Many of them
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

The tragedy is that in this district, there are enough gifted children to set aside one of the elementary schools for GATE, perhaps. Or to have one classroom per grade level be designated as gifted, if we want to track students within their neighborhood schools. There's no reason why PAUSD can't or won't serve its large population of gifted children. It wouldn't take extra rooms or extra teachers. This would still leave behind many gifted children, but not nearly as many, and by not nearly as much.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm

PAUSD has other specialty programs (mandarin immersion). Has anything ever been suggested for the apparently very large population kids who are gifted? There are plenty of gifted schools in other states so it is not old fashioned.

I am aware that many parents supplement with EPGY, Kahn academy and additional expensive courses. For parents who want to let their kids be kids, after school should not be for more school just because half of the first seven hours were not very useful. Likewise, many parents cannot afford many after school activities or are working and cannot be chauffeur to them. I am amazed at the number of kids who spend time in elementary classrooms reading and/or drawing or passing notes while the rest of the class is finishing their work. Sure it is a life lesson, but every day, year after year? I don't know many adults who would tolerate sitting in daily lectures for material they already know.

Gifted Children Left Behind is an enlightening book that illustrates what happens when kids are left unchallenged for too long.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Here are some links to research on gifted children left behind:

"Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind" link on Amazon: Web Link

The Davidson Institute states in an article called "Does No Child Left Behind Require That No Child Can Get Ahead?:
Web Link

Students cannot learn unless they are being taught something new. Focusing on minimum performance standards to the exclusion of everything else neglects students who learn faster than the minimum standards. Consider that:

--- roughly 1.5 million students need a curriculum more rigorous than the current standard;

--- between 10 and 20 percent of all high school dropouts test in the gifted range;

--- as many as 40 percent of all gifted students are underachievers.

Posted by Voice of Experience
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I'm sure there can be, and is, some differentiated instruction going on in PAUSD to accommodate the 'gifted.' Perhaps you can inquire to find out more. The suggestion of tracking kids by classroom at an early age based on some identification scheme seems pretty bad on several levels.

Of the challenges we face, the plight of the gifted is not one that is high up on my personal list.

Posted by A voice of reality
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Palo Alto parents actually make it impossible to have a GATE program. Too many parents perceive their children as being Gifted to make it practical to have a GATE program. If 90 percent of the parent believe their kids to be gifted, a District can either spend their time arguing with parents or just educated their students at as high of a level as they can (hence the achievement gap in PAUSD....)

Posted by Old Walter Hays Gifted Kid
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Reading everyone's comments above, It occurs to me some of the lower average scores in our schools since the 1960's could be due to the fact the gifted kids scores have been squashed down by the emphasis on prizes-for-all mentaility I've seen in the curriculum, materials and standards over the years. And, as teachers unionized, I saw many start whining about not getting enough pay to give more individualized instructions to any needy students.

One comment above about the horrid rate of high school drop-outs amoung the gifted should be a whopper of concern for us all. What if one of those drop-outs coukd have cured Alzheimers! Our gifted kids matter as ALL kids do!!

I saw creative spelling and creative math come in the 1970's kill the standards I used to know. Self-estime valued at all costs over merit-based grading. (It would shock most PAUSD parents how much written work of their students today is never corrected for simple grammer mistakes because constant correcting might discourage kids!)

I've seen texting kill handwriting... and now cursive, too, and the introduction of simple caluculators kills off basic math skills by high school.

Few elementary teachers in town have the time to give their students the 100 minutes of weekly P.E. the State wants since they spend so much time in class waiting for "all" to finish assignments while usually half the class is fidgeting out of boredom or frustration or just a simple kid need to burn off their normal physical energy. Go ahead someone! Get out a stopwatch for a week and see if your child is getting the State-recommended P.E. needed for their normal growing bodies!!

The best teacher I ever had in Palo Alto had a class full of gifted kids and one very "slow" boy passed along year after year until she recognized he was dyslexic. She tutored him for free after school against union rules because the schools hadn't services then for mental disabilities. Several times a week, she and other teachers mixed up the kids for different subjects so faster and slower kids got the curriculum they needed. That class whipped through so much material so fast she had P.E. sessions almost every day and time for her to read aloud to us adult best sellers for a half hour every day to give us a taste of good modern literature.... and as I found out from her years later: a respite from the hard-charging class.

It's up to our school parents to make sure the schools they are paying dearly for are truly serving all their children. In less than a week, most all the elementary teachers will have finished individually testing their students' reading and writing skills. Why not demand all the advanced and below grade level kids get differentiated language arts curriculum at least in reading? And how about using last year's STAR testing for something this year such as putting our kids in appropriate math groups instead of just filing the results of that multi-day pain-in-the-fanny test in a trash can somewhere in Sacramento?

I await the howling of protests from teachers that they themselves don't want X or Y groups of kids.... That they don't have time for this. But, I say, do this right for all kids and the teachers will have so much free time, they, like my favorite Palo Alto teacher, can read bestsellers everyday in class or do whatever fun extra thing they want to do.

Posted by Gifted teacher
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2012 at 2:02 am

@Old Walter Hays... You blame "whining unionized teachers" for not providing individualized instruction, as evidenced in their not correcting students' written work. May I make just a couple of corrections of yours? It is not "self-estime" but self-esteem, and is grammar, not "grammer." Those are what jumped out at me; there could be more, but I need to get back to my school work.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Feeling Misled,

While it's got its ups and downs, Ohlone-main is actually a good choice for gifted kids with its differentiated instruction. In fact, I think it actually works better for gifted kids than more average kids because it works best for kids who are self-motivated learners. I've seen classes where there's a five/six grade range in math levels.

I don't think just loading extra curriculum on kids, like EPGY and Khan, necessarily does the trick--too much repetition and busy work is pretty deadly dull for kids who don't need it.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

I have 2 kids, one who is probably gifted and the other not so. I am so glad that my slower child not stigmatized early. Children are painfully aware of these things, especially in a community like this one.

It is far easier for me to provide extra stimulation to my gifted child, than to motivate and encourage a child who is tracked from 2nd or 3rd grade into 'not as smart classrooms'.

Posted by Not holding my breath
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

For those of you waiting for more programs for kids at the top end of the learning curve, you'll need to keep waiting. One of the things I've learned is that the current education climate in Palo Alto is geared toward making sure that all of our students are meeting the "proficient" requirements. @Voice Of Experience accurately reflects the current position of the PAUSD.

It's really ironic that PAUSD offers very little differentiation in K-5. As a result, exposure to challenging work must be satisfied by outside activities and programs which cost extra $$$. While we've made sure that the underprivileged can reach basic levels in Palo Alto, we've made it impossible for them to reach the highest levels.

BTW, what ever happened to the school board's study to challenge gifted math students? I thought that was supposed to address this exact issue.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm


I have heard the same thing about Ohlone so it seems that it is possible to do this without alienating or labeling children. It sounds like the Ohlone community understands the importance of integrating the social and emotional and of offering depth in learning, over repetition. They also don't think that learning should not have to cut into free time.

We did not 'win' the lottery and go to the neighborhood school. Now the kids have made friends and don't wish to change. We moved here recently so they have had a lot of change already. The Ohlone lottery at Kinder supposedly is won by just a small portion of those who apply for the lottery. If so, there is still plenty of unmet demand.

Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm

@Gifted teacher:
It's also "evidenced by" not "evidenced in".

Other than pointing out spelling and grammatical errors, you did not disagree with anything said by Old Walter Hays Gifted Kid. So one assumes you have no substantive comments.

Good thing you're getting back to your school work.

Posted by GiftedParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm

In the best case, all children deserve differentiated education - where their specific strengths and weaknesses are nurtured, supported and improved.

Gifted children are a unique challenge - to some, it sounds like complaining about what to do with your ultra-high income. What is actually the problem? Truly gifted children need far more than extra worksheets and earlier, more advanced math and/or reading books. For them facts and skills are easily memorized and acquired.

Although gifted children and high achievers overlap - they are not the same. PA has lots of high achievers - but its population of gifted children is likely to be small. This is hard for parents to accept. As a result, it is impossible to get community support for a gifted program (with separate classes) for a small fraction of students.

Posted by GiftedParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm

We chose Ohlone and were lucky enough to get in the KG lottery for our gifted child.

For those still considering Ohlone - go to the office and confirm that you are still in the lottery pool. Families move, their needs change, etc. My understanding is that they continue to call families down their list to fill spots.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm

@ GiftedParent

Thank you for weighing in. You articulated something that is hard to explain to parents who say Palo Alto has "an extraordinary number of gifted children" and are certain it includes their kids. There are Wechsler tests - WISC, WPPSI-IV and others that can quantify this.

Gifted may not necessarily translate into high achieving when those kids are disengaged. Having your child take a Wechsler via a psychologist is one way to identify their IQ (dirty word to many). Such evaluations often help explain a lot about a child who teachers think is mentally absent from class because they are thinking about things more interesting to them than what is being taught. Because it is not a diagnosis, the results don't yield any accommodations or much benefit to the child.

Posted by GIftedParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm

@feeling misled

Yeah - figuring out how to explain why your gifted child has special needs is a recognized problem. You have be tactful talking to parents and teachers. It is very easy to offend because almost everyone else thinks you are speaking from a place of privilege. For many gifted children, the basics of school, the very items that are most challenging to other children, come effortlessly. Without constant nourishment, they lose interest. Explaining to another parent why you and your child are unsatisfied with school after your child is effortlessly reading, writing, and doing math at multiple grade levels above his age is nearly impossible. To them, your child is "successful" at school - you should be happy. Instead - your child may be bored out of his mind and quickly losing interest in further learning.

There is also a public policy question: should schools teach to the least able, the majority, or the most able?

In our case, we've already determined that we will need to personally augment our child's education. This is a great resource: Web Link

Posted by GiftedParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

One more resource:

Center for Talented Youth (CTY) at Johns Hopkins University:

Web Link

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Another resource is Mensa which has a chapter in the Bay Area. It may seem an odd organizing principle since that of itself isn't what makes people interesting. Since it's only IQ test based you have to sort out the people yourself. But you will find some very nice and interesting people and interest sub-groups by looking a bit. Ostentatious members are probably not interesting. Numbers of people are interested in education or just interesting experiences for gifted kids including schooling, lab and other organized visits, picnics and so on.

With public money so tight optimal may not be possible. Sometimes social goals can't be primary. Missing really talented kids in not-so-rich communities will have a price since their talents may be missed and if they aren't the people will not really be part of the larger community, maybe the US, or identify with it. Is it such a good idea that substantial numbers of Americans won't just grow up with inadequate schooling, but grow up in fear as well?

With public money so tight it's just not possible to spend substantially on expensive theaters, indoor basketball, football and other facilities that actually benefit very few students. Of course HSR sounds like a grand version of that.

OT - Propositions that require taking large amounts from the tax base without allowing trading off priorities are very damaging to California to the point where we may be unlikely to solve state financial problems without a new Constitution. It's an article of faith to many denizens of the Red States that they have to do real damage to California. They don't necessarily know what - especially since California sends net taxes to Washington and they usually don't. This is a bad time to be near broke even if we aren't.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

May I also call attention to PA Online's columnist Jay Thorwaldson's blog and the comments, somewhat relevant:

Web Link

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2012 at 1:18 am

Sincere question to the Ohlone parents - if it is good answer for gifted children, why are the scores low?

At Ohlone, only 39% scored advanced in math in the 2012 STAR results, vs 62% at Palo Verde, 82% at Duveneck, and 86% at Hoover. The scores are lower in Language Arts and Science also.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

@ Mr. Recycle,

We don't attend Ohlone, but can think of a couple of factors that might impact their test scores.

I don't think they spend much time prepping students for the testing, whereas other schools spend a few weeks practicing for these tests (instead of learning something new!). I agree with the Ohlone approach wrt standardized testing which seems to be used more to measure progress toward administrative goals, than benefit students. I have yet to see how the testing is used to benefit students.

Ohlone probably also attracts families with "different" learners (gifted, ADD, dyslexic, or just more artistic and creative than rote learners) and possibly those families whose approach to education that is less about rote learning and test taking.

Hopefully more people with direct experience can weigh in on Ohlone.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I've found the star tests very helpful in understanding where my child is at and helping her improve. We've downloaded sample questions from the website and worked on them together in areas where she didn't do well. All this information is sent to parents with the test results. Especially in math, the things they were testing are VERY relevant, things she needs to understand. It took a few hours at most. She still has plenty of time to play and have fun.

We applied to Ohlone, and didn't get in, but now I think it is for the best. Also, I don't believe there is any test prep at our school - at least our kids have never mentioned it.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I'd add that I'd think the teachers would want a program for these kids. Because the ones that are truly gifted (two in our class of 23 last year) are also quite time-intensive for the teachers. Behavioral issues, social issues, etc. These kids are high energy and intense and sensitive, generally lacking in social skills, and completely unchallenged academically, so very much at loose ends.

Consider the same situation, but in sports. For those of you who go to track meets or swim meets -- you see the 2-3 kids who are head-and-shoulders above everyone else. It's just incredible to watch them. Now think if we made them train at "average" speeds, in lock step with the other kids their age. These intense, determined, incredibly skilled kids would become very demotivated, start clowning around and distracting the other kids, lose their interest, etc. It's so easy to see in that context. Of course we do *not* make them train three levels down -- they train to their level.

What we are doing to these similarly talented kids in school is not only not good for them, it's not good for their classmates or their teachers.

I agree that the parents are a large part of this problem (we all know that every child in Palo Alto is gifted). But the schools could fairly easily handle that problem. I expect it's just a question of cost. The amount that schools spend on special needs kids is HUGE (something like 20% of the budget). I expect on the other end, the kids' needs are equally differentiated and expensive. Supporting this on both the low end and the high end would be unaffordable, essentially robbing the mainstream kids of their education. So the teachers and parents of these kids manage the behavioral issues as best they can, accept that the kids won't learn anything beyond drawing and social skills and how to handle boredom in their six hours/day of school, cross their fingers that they won't develop too many bad habits as a result, and move on. It's sad.

Posted by Voice of Experience
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm

@Parent - using your sports analogy - if the kids are so great, you don't create a separate high school track for them. They train with the team in season, and then have their outside club team when appropriate. The high school coach doesn't come up with special drills for them, or give them "higher level" coaching.

I was one of those "gifted" kids growing up and I know for me, being "mainstreamed" gave me the opportunity to develop coping and social skills and how to deal with the world. The idea of putting those kids in "special ed" because they require some extra attention - well, it just seems like a bad idea on several levels.

Posted by Tracking athletes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2012 at 7:10 am


Parent is saying that forcing an advanced kid to learn at the same pace as others is akin to the track star not being allowed to run faster than anyone else on the team.

Holding that runner back with the pack would make all the other runners feel like they weren't slow - good for self-esteem, not good for winning though. And if all the runners ran closer together, it would be easier for someone to watch and coach them too.

But we don't do that in school sports. While we may not have a separate sports track for the fast runners to run on, we track them into separate teams (junior varsity and varsity), give the varsity team a separate more experienced coach, and have them play (aka tested) in separate games too. If the student isn't advanced, he is benched or kicked off the team.

We let that fast runner run at his own pace on our school teams and we throw parades for him if he beats everyone else in the championships.

Why aren't our schools giving "fast" learners the same opportunities given that schools are, first and foremost, learning institutions?

Posted by differentiation is mythical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

"Tracking athletes" said it very well.

Sadly, it sometimes seems that our "fast" learners are viewed as a difficulty rather than a gift.

There are a few VERY exceptional, extraordinary teachers who are able to truly provide differentiated options within their classrooms. But this is not the usual case, and truly it is a BIG ASK from a standard classroom teacher. The spectrum of students we ask them to teach daily all at the same time is wide.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm

If we had a dedicated class per grade level in every school for GATE, do you have any idea of the ruckus there would be among parents insisting that their little genius be allowed in?

Or the ruckus that would ensue as parents sued because they thought the testing or qualification requirements had erred in disqualifying their own child?

Criticism of standard classrooms would be even more rancorous.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2012 at 10:36 am


Plenty of districts in other states have this, but I agree with your sentiment that a change toward this is a pipe dream around here. Imagine the irony if the ruckus came from parents who have their kids "play up" in sports which is somehow socially acceptable.

Posted by Jean
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2012 at 10:50 am

I'm finding this discussion interesting. I would love for parents whose kids are in JLS Connections to comment about the program. Is it very different from Jordan? Would it be worth separating kids from their Jordan-bound friends to enroll them in the program?

For a very good explanation of why "gifted" kids fail or drop out, read the book, "Outliers," which explains why we need to redefine giftedness to include creativity, not just the ability to learn academics effortlessly. The book also explains why persistence and a desire to succeed are more important for success than "giftedness," or at least should go hand in hand with it.

Finally, Old Palo Alto, the term currently used to define dyslexia is "learning differences," not "mental disabilities." Groundbreaking research from Yale, Harvard, and the University of Washington is showing that many dyslexics are gifted in a variety of areas and score superior or highly superior on the academic portions of IQ tests, but because of phonological, processing and working memory deficits, learning procedure-based things such as reading and math facts can be difficult for them. I don't think we think of mental disabilities when we think of John Chambers, John Lennon, Robin Williams, Anne Rice, or Charles Schwab, not to mention Albert Einstein! I am sure that hidden learning differences, such as dyslexia in gifted youth, is also a contributing factor in their high drop out rate.

Posted by teach every child
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

The term "gifted" is problematic. What is a child who is not selected to these programs to feel? Sorry, you are NOT gifted? God didn't give you any "gifts"? A less loaded way to think about this is given by Carol Dwek who discusses growth mindsets -- ability is not fixed. It grows and develops and changes over time. The idea of giftedness is an antiquated notion that does not incorporate the latest research or understanding of brain science or child development. And it ignores the social emotional cast that such a term places on both the advanced and less advanced kids. Rather we should have differentiated instruction that utilizes flexible opportunities for complex problem-solving in which every child in each subject has the chance to work up or down to selected challenges. That's what they teach in teacher education at Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, and other top ed schools. The parents who want GATE basically want even more rigid and impermeable forms of tracking than we already have here. That is not the answer. Teaching every child is the answer.

Posted by does not work as advertised
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Theoretically "differentiated instruction" is a great idea and, if there are enough students at the same level in a classroom it should work as well as teaching students with similar abilities in separate classrooms.

The problem that ed schools can't seem to get their arms around is that is it impossible for all but the most gifted teachers to multi-task i.e. teach 3 or more different levels of instruction to a class of 25 kids each day, all day.

So you are left with two choices: (i) one size fits all classrooms, or (ii) a teacher dedicated to students with similar abilities.

Great article about this a few years back, out of Stanford:

"Hertberg-Davis worked with Tomlinson on a large study of differentiated instruction. Teachers were provided with extensive professional development and ongoing coaching. Three years later the researchers wanted to know if the program had an impact on student learning. But they were stumped. 'We couldn't answer the question,' Hertberg-Davis told me, 'because no one was actually differentiating.'

Teachers admit to being flummoxed by this approach. In a 2008 national survey commissioned by the Fordham Institute, more than 8 in 10 teachers said differentiated instruction was 'very' or 'somewhat' difficult to implement.

Even ed-school professors are skeptical. A 2010 national random survey of teacher educators asked them the same question and got the same result: more than 8 in 10 said differentiated instruction was very or somewhat difficult to implement."

Web Link

Posted by Formerly Gifted
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I was one of those gifted children, taught to read by my mother and tv and then forced to sit through "See Spot run" for years. Then along came Sputnik and the national freak-out about falling behind the Russians, and they finally divided us into 3 classes of 20 students each: smart, average and dumb. That was not what the teachers told us, of course, and not the language they would have used. But it was seventh grade, and most of us had been together since kindergarten, so it was obvious looking around the room what had happened. (It was not racist tracking, either, since we were all white.)

My response was both guilt and relief. How awful it must have been for those in the bottom third! I know it was, because some of them were my friends. But I was also relieved that we could move along at a faster pace. I just wish it could have happened years earlier. If I'd been challenged more by the pace and level of work and by my classmates, I might have learned better study habits and not just depended on my fine memory. By the time I got to college, it wasn't enough.

Some of the kids consigned to the bottom third based on their performance up until then blossomed in high school. I don't know how the others did. It might have been very interesting if they'd reshuffled us every year.

I know that tracking of students often is based more on race and economic status than on innate abilities. I have heard of teachers being given a class of students they were told were all gifted when they had the usual range of IQs; would anyone be surprised to learn that all the students did better that year?

But why do the brightest have to be held back because we don't want to spend enough on our schools to help all children reach their potential?

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2012 at 10:09 am

When my kids were at Duveneck, there were both classroom aides and parent volunteers. The teacher took that time to work with small groups of kids, differentiating their work while the aide had a group and the parent had a group (the aide and the parent monitored projects set up by the teacher). The groups rotated after about 20 minutes allowing the teacher time with all the kids in a smaller group setting. To the parents, it was obvious that the groups were sometimes organized by ability, particularly math. The groups were not always the same, so the kids didn't pick up on it.

Posted by teach every child
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

Ken Dauber, a candidate for Palo Alto School Board in the November 6 election has some thoughtful positions on this exact issue on his website (copied below). He has obviously thought about this and has some recommendations that seem to go with what people are writing here. Perhaps we need new voices on the School Board to get some reforms for advanced children. At least he has thought about this and has a good position on it:

"When we talk about overall achievement, we're talking about averages. So we can also ask a different, and harder question: Are we meeting every child where they are, and giving them an equal opportunity to succeed? If not, how do we get there?

"Building a growth mentality. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has pointed out that ability is not fixed. Instead, both children and adults can respond to appropriate challenges by improving their mastery of knowledge and skills, no matter what their starting point. The role of teachers in this process is critical. First, teachers continually assess students to determine a range of challlenges that are doable but will stretch their abilities. Second, teachers help students to understand both success and failure as reflecting effort and mastery, rather than underlying intelligence and fixed capabilities -- so students see the connection between effort and progress.

"This strategy has been shown to work for both high-achieving and lower-achieving students. For high-achieving (so-called "gifted") students, delivering appropriate challenges relieves boredom and allows continued growth. For lower-achieving students, differentiated instruction provides a path to growth to sustained higher levels of achievement. As a school board member, I will advocate for investment in teacher professional development and curricular improvements to support differentiated instruction at all levels of the curriculum."

Posted by on APs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Ken Dauber doesn’t seem to be a fan of advanced/AP classes.

Last year, after hearing the district’s report that more and more PAUSD students are taking and succeeding in its AP classes (including minorities), Ken Dauber and his group:

Pushed for the "abandonment of the AP program."

Adding that "APs make sense for disadvantaged school districts in which students need to persuade college admissions officers that the As on their transcripts are equivalent to the As on the transcript of a student from a better school [but] that is not the challenge we face in Palo Alto."

Posted by teach every child
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Your post is incorrect. No one in the thread you cited advocated for abandonment of the AP program (the word "abandon" or "abandonment" is not even in that thread at all). In fact, Ken Dauber specifically stated that he was not arguing that AP tests should not be given or that the program should be stopped. Instead, he was critiquing the narrow definition of success used by the district in its annual report to the Board, when the district used the number of AP classes and tests taken by high school students as its primary measure of achievement. Ken said:

"We Can Do Better had a strong representation at last night's school board meeting -- six members spoke in response to the district's almost exclusive focus on AP exams in reporting on "high school achievement." We pointed out that focusing on AP exams has several problems: it provides no information about overall achievement in the high schools, it narrows rather than broadens the definition of success that our students see, and it raises the unanswered question about what we're giving up in the curriculum by devoting ever greater resources to preparing students to take these tests."

Other members of the group noted that some of the most elite schools in the area and in the country have reduced their reliance on AP courses because they felt that their teachers could design better, richer opportunities for intellectual engagement (which seems to be what "gifted" children need and want) than the AP program -- particularly in the area of US history (I think any parent whose child has taken APUSH knows what I am talking about).

You can disagree with a candidate on the issues but you shouldn't say things about his position that are not true. Ken Dauber has never advocated for eliminating AP classes. But he is right that they are not the only, or best, kind of advanced class.

Posted by Luckily
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by on APs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2012 at 8:33 am

From emails that Ken Dauber had the district make public: Ken Dauber to Melissa Caswell: "Scarsdale's abandonment of the AP program ...I'm confident that our district staff and highly qualified teachers could get this done." Candidate Melissa Caswell points out the problems with Ken Dauber's logic and priorities: "these schools have decided to put heavy duty resources in place to replace AP courses with other rigorous curricular programs. The goal of their efforts is not less workload or rigor, but rather to create more flexibility for teaching, to provide the opportunity go into more depth in certain areas, enable more/better cross curricular endeavors and take away the pressure to "teach to a test"( more of a concern with some subjects than others). To accomplish this, teachers at these schools are given dedicated time, resources and support to write new curriculum . This is an expensive proposition and one that also assumes these schools will invest in new methods of accountability on course rigor and content. You mentioned that Scarsdale, a public school district, has done this as well. This is very impressive. However, Scarsdale is an affluent public school district with much more homogeneity than Palo Alto and enormous amount of district resources. This school district spends over $26,000 per student per year (almost twice PAUSD). At the same time that these efforts are going on, the AP tests themselves are being rewritten to respond to complaints about breadth over depth. As you probably know, the new tests are focusing less on memorized facts and putting more emphasis on written analysis and problem solving in the subject area. I believe that our teachers could write their own rigorous non AP curriculum, IF they had the same kind of additional time and resources to support them in this effort. However, PAUSD does not have the luxury to make this kind of investment without supplanting other important activities. It makes more sense for us to spend additional time and resources on efforts and policies that will help students who need more support and those who are not progressing smoothly through High school. Melissa" Web Link

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

Interesting quote from Melissa Caswell above in AP's post:

"You mentioned that Scarsdale, a public school district, has done this as well. This is very impressive. However, Scarsdale is an affluent public school district with much more homogeneity than Palo Alto and enormous amount of district resources. This school district spends over $26,000 per student per year (almost twice PAUSD)."

Apparently we were indeed fooled into buying into what has long been viewed as an affluent public school district. NY state property taxes are twice as high as CA so it is no surprise they spend more on their schools, but to make excuses such as they are "more affluent"? This excuse leads me to a theory that PAUSD ranks well merely due to outside tutoring, testing and a highly educated gene pool and not quality of the teaching.

Posted by feeling misled about PAUSD
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

Before I am flamed and disregarded I should state that my last hastily made point about 'quality of teaching' is too harsh and I don't know enough to make any sort of comment. But the comment above, from someone far more involved in school decisions, about Scarsdale being so much more 'affluent" than PAUSD really gives me pause. Can someone parse that?

And back to the original point about kids needing differentiation: Interesting to me that the person who first brought up Carol Dweck's work about fixed and growth mindsets is making my original point. Children who are not challenged in their younger years and have to exert very little effort in school tend to develop a fixed mindset. Without having to put in any effort, they fall behind once they finally face an actual challenge. She highlights this point while saying kids should be praised for their effort, not their intelligence. So how does a child learn that their effort is most important when they have not had to make one for years?

Posted by Mom
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Sep 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

I am concerned about the point that a kid who is not challenged as a youngster has a harder time when he/she gets older. Any thoughts on what I should do with my son at Jordan who does not seem to be challenged at all? He seemed to be challenged in elementary school to some extent (wasn't an early reader), but middle school is a complete bust.

Posted by ElemParent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

@Mom (Jordan Mid): There is no shortage of supplementary enrichment materials available either online or in books. Find something that engages your child and help them dig deeply in that area. You should be able do this without spending a whole lot of money.

Posted by teach every child
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Again, it is really important to be honest. I think it is great to show the exchange between Ken and Melissa over this issue, since they have a lot of agreement and a great discussion about the best way to accomplish ends that they both share. They would make a great team on the Board and I hope that they both win as they seem to work well together and agree about a lot and when they disagree it is very friendly and policy-based. That makes sense as they are both smart, educated, and nice people. Stop being misleading and let the issues speak for themselves.

Here is Ken's email to Melissa in full. You cut and pasted it to be misleading. He never said that PAUSD should eliminate APs he said that we could have a better, richer, and more advanced curriculum than we currently do if we follow the path blazed by other elite schools. Melissa responded that though she agreed with Ken about a lot of his points she didn't think that PAUSD had the money to accomplish this goal. Melissa's own child attends Castilleja, where they have done this very thing -- moved away from science APs in favor of their own, more rich curriculum so she is very familiar with the idea and must support it as she is a Casty parent:

Dear Melissa:
Here is an article about Scarsdale's abandonment of the AP program from the NYT:
Web Link
Please note that it is from 2008 and lists a number of independent
schools such as Dalton and Calhoun and Ethical Culture that have also
done so.
Scarsdale spent a relatively small amount -- $40,000 -- engaging a
group of academics from Harvard, Yale, NYU, and other universities, to
assist them in developing the advanced curriculum. If PAUSD wanted to
do so, it could probably obtain that curriculum (perhaps for a fee) or
could partner with Stanford to develop our own. I'm confident that
our district staff and highly qualified teachers could get this done,
given that the trail has already been blazed.
On another note, I'm puzzled about the idea that our teachers can't
develop a rigorous curriculum -- the shift to AP classes has happened
fairly recently, and they must have been teaching something before

Here is the part of Melissa's reply to Ken that you (misleadingly again) omitted:

Hi Michele and Ken,
Thank you for taking the time to come to the board meeting last night and for presenting your thoughts and concerns in your comments.
I agree that it is innapropriate to characterize student achievement solely with AP and SAT scores AND that it is critical that we look to multi-dimensional criteria, including academic progress over time, student resiliency, mental and physical health, purpose, connectedness, etc.

I liked your suggestions on alternative measurements and would like to figure out how we as a district can incorporate these in to our evaluation of student achievement.

Finally on the Brown Act, the internal emails released by the district showed a lot of problems in governance, so much so that the Weekly and Board Member Barbara Klausner both asserted that the governance system is broken. That doesn't sound like all was well to this taxpayer!

Posted by Luckily
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Wow, what a shock to see my post criticizing Dauber was removed. The Weekly does have its favorites!

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


Your post was removed because you posted in this thread under two different names, which is not permitted under our Terms of Use. In addition, your comment was disrespectful of a previous poster, also a violation of our rules. As is obvious from the many critical comments of Ken Dauber that appear in Town Square, the Weekly has no interest in deleting criticism of anyone as long as they are done respectfully and are not intentional distortions of the truth.

Posted by Observing the observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

A relevant article appearing in a recent issue of NY Times:

Web Link

We should definitely be pushing the more capable kids. It would probably surprise us to see how much they can do. I am not suggesting increasing the quantity of drudge work, but to increase the amount of thought they have to put into their work. It will prevent boredom and get them excited about academics. Who knows what they might achieve?

Posted by Rinaldo
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

The problem is universal, as we see in Southern California as well: LAUSD, the second largest District in the country have identified over 62,000 gifted students who are discriminated against in favor of the general population. Public schools cannot deal with thes students who require much more information and coverage to keep up with advanced capacities for knowledge. Yet as anation and "advanced" culture we are desperately needy of advanced thinking abilities to keep up with leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). We are ignoring our best hope for leading edge talent, from doctors to philosophers, physicists to brilliant poets. The cream of our intellect gets to go to the back of the room/bus because of ignorance, jealousy and fear. It is not that difficult to give them a chance, especially now with the opportunities for on-line individualized learning.

As a culture we do nor respect education as much as more determined (and desperate) societies in the Third World. Europe focuses more on education even though they have fewer available jobs. We have never been more desperate as anation to catch up... maybe we will take better care of our most prized minds by focusing on these neglected children.

There is a need to create gifted program charters to accomodate all the talent we have given birth to. "God given" (no one knows exactly how and why) talent such as this goes beyond the wealthy, westside, white and educated circles. Children with such giftedness come in every type, culture and socio economic level.

Let us start programs to capture their fascination with learning and encourage their God given talents to flourish. We believe in a community effort to create Gifted programs in every neighborhood. Way too much talent is lost and wasted from neglect.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Unfortunately, I don't pop in here that much these days, so I just saw Mr. Recycle's question about Ohlone's test scores not being higher.

I think there are a few reasons for this--some good, others not so.

First, Ohlone does not teach to the test and there aren't a lot of tests given at Ohlone. My understanding of high-scoring Hoover is that there are tests every week. Test-taking is a skill--and having that skill will account for what are fairly small score differences (the tests don't have that many questions.)

Second, project-based learning isn't for every kid. I said above that it's better for self-directed kid. Not every kid at Ohlone has that trait--some kids really do need more external structure and would do better with another approach to learning.

I know a number of parents who wanted Ohlone because their child wasn't focused and couldn't stay still. They didn't want too much structure hampering their child. Ironically, in my opinion, those kids are often the ones who need more structure, not less. The repetition that bores the quiet, academically advanced kid to death and makes him or her hate school may be just the ticket for the child who hasn't learned to focus.

I think, at Ohlone, kids tend to be a bit more self-determined--the kid who's not motivated isn't going to have his or her test scores pulled up through repetition.

Also, and this is just a plain old negative. The school has grown by hundreds of kids and now has two different programs. Six hundred kids, construction, but zero expansion of support staff. There's no vice-principal and teaching issues (and there are some--both in MI and in Ohlone-main) are not being dealt with that well.

Which teachers your child has at Ohlone matters a lot--more than, I think, at a more traditional school. I've been lucky this way and I've seen how wonderful Ohlone can be for a child--magical really.

But I know families who have been less fortunate and it's not good.

Even so, I think in this district, it's the best choice for a gifted child--and while I qualified a bit above, I think if I had a gifted kid with some issues, like ADD, I would definitely pick Ohlone. In that kind of case, the differentiated instruction can be critical--teaching at the right level is kind of a make/break thing with those kids. Some of the brightest kids I've known at Ohlone had ADD--and while they could be a handful, when engaged you'd see just wonderful work from them.

As for the general topic of the thread--I've known some families who've sent their kids to private gifted schools. So far, I've been a bit underwhelmed. I think there's a real balancing act between making sure your child gets what he or she needs in terms of academics and making his or her "giftedness" his or her signature trait. Telling kids, even indirectly, that they're geniuses puts a huge load of expectation on the kids and it can be overwhelming and isolating for them. Particularly when they fail to meet expectations--and don't fool yourselves--*everybody* fails at something.

Most prodigies aren't Mozart.

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm

> I think if I had a gifted kid with some issues, like ADD, I would definitely pick Ohlone.

OhlonePar, welcome back.

Now, why would/should your ADD kid be excused from standardized tests? They either can do it, or not. Go ahead and do it (educational model)the way you want to, but the standardized test is what tells all of us that educational success was achieved, or not.

I remember, many years ago, being given a homework problem by my math teacher in 9th grade: line, with two segments, A + B, with A > B; ( A + B)/A = A/B (as I recall). He also provided an ancient picture from the Greek era. His question was: What is the solution, and what is it's significance.

I could not figure out a solution, but I kept estimating (1.6). Then I said it has no significance, in the context of the was purely subjective. He gave me a 'B' for my estimate, and an A+ for my answer. I did all this in the back of my trailer camp, where I lived. My brother was always saying that work was for fools, as he got drunk with his rebel buddies. I didn't believe it, and I worked.

Why are we not celebrating INDIVIDUAL achievers, instead of the group average? The only way to establish who they are is to test them, indivdually, on standardized tests, with challenging questions.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm


Ohlone kids do take standardized tests and, as far as I know, the kids with ADD take them. I don't have an issue with standardized tests, per se, though I think they're limited in what they assess.

What I said is Ohlone doesn't teach to the test. They don't do lots of tests with the intent of making kids better at test taking--that takes time and they have other things they want to teach--including differentiated instruction.

One of my issues with the very strong emphasis on testing these days is that subjects that are *not* tested are given short shrift--history and geography being two big ones.

While Ohlone is a gentle place, I don't think it's ideal for a kid who struggles with the basics. (Though that's true of the district in general.) It's great for creative kids. It's great for self-directed kids and, amusingly, it works well for the kind of gung-ho parent who wants to make sure there's *plenty* of time afterschool to drag their kid around to academic enrichment programs.

(Obligatory MI note--not a good program--unruly kids, inexperienced teachers--I know of one family that does Ohlone main and then does six hours of Mandarin classes a week outside the school--they want Mandarin literacy. But please don't take my word for it--ask people in the program.)

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm


I actually understand your position, I think.

I don't really care how they get there, just that they get there. I also agree that standardized tests should be more expansive...history and geography DO matter! So does physical testing (P.E.: Number of sit-ups, pushups, mile run, etc.).

I, persoanlly, think that the standardized tests should have several levels, to include the high achievers at the top end. For example, the top enders should be able to explain the differene between random results and cause/effect issues, using statistics.

My bottom line is that we need to challenge kids, not coddle them.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm


I think the money tie-in to testing has meant that there's an overall emphasis on testing. Instead of testing reflecting what kids know, the test results become an end in and of themselves.

Standardized tests are, in many ways, easy. You can learn to do them and know what kind of answers the test makers are looking for. I say this as someone who is very, very good at tests.

Tests should be used for assessment and variables should be taken into account. They should not be a type of assessment that outweighs other forms to the degree they currently do. They're just too limited.

In the case of the schools here--even in large schools like Ohlone, you're talking about fewer than 100 kids per grade taking a test. If two kids are having issues, they can pull down a grade's scores.

When you're looking at the score range of the PAUSD schools, it doesn't take much to change a school's averages. A little more emphasis on test-taking, some weak teaching in a couple of grades.

The spread will give you some information, but it's worth digging dipper--particularly when it comes to figuring out how well a given child will do.

So, for example, I know that kids come out of Duveneck scoring well. I also know of kids transferring out of Duveneck because of stress and because of bullying.

I know of kids transferring out of Ohlone because the school wasn't giving them the structure they needed to have a solid grasp on the basics. I also know of families who were immensely relieved when they could transfer their kids *into* Ohlone.

I know families who transferred their kids from Nueva to public schools because they felt their quirky, brilliant children didn't mesh with the other brilliant children at Nueva.

Different schools, different weaknesses. Understand the school and know your kid.

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm

>Different schools, different weaknesses. Understand the school and know your kid.


OK, BUT there still needs to be standards. Those standards need to be progressively tough, like the SAT. The alternative is that we get what we have, a meaningless standard of educational success, and a continuing decline in students who can compete at a world standard.

I am well aware of what is going on in Palo Alto education. Much of the academic success in PA schools is due to the influx of Asian/Indian students and their parents. These students work their butts off, and will be our next generation of scientists and engineers. To say it another way: They will have the high paying jobs and political power.

More power to them!

Posted by lrm
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

High Achiever is NOT the same as creative or gifted....
A 'high achiever' is not 'gifted', necessarily.
Google it.
Getting all 'A's' and figuring out 'what the teacher wants', is a 'bright child', but not necessarily gifted. This is the reason testing and academic performance alone are no longer the sole indicators. However, abstract reasoning, critical and divergent thinking, etc. are aspects of gifted. It is not a watered down, PC definition, either. It is a reality, if you live with a gifted child.
It's painful, counterproductive and bordering on abusive, to force your child to remain in an environment that is not an intellectual/cognitive or even emotinal match, developmentally speaking. Yet, we constantly hear that it is 'unfair' to the other kids, who are underperforming,to provide a developmentally appropriate environment for children who are 'ahead' of the curve.
It's insane. Truly. I've lived it-from public schools in the 'good districts' to charter schools to home schooling. And honestly, home schooling with a hybrid charter school is about the only hope for many parents, myself included.

I honestly feel like I am on another planet, when I read or hear people's perspectives that 'charter schools are elitist' or 'it's not fair to the 'other kids' to have advanced curriculum.'

Schools currently focus 90% of the attention on ensuring 'noone fails'. Meanwhile, many of our children are sitting through the days of the week each day, when they are ready to do math 2 grade levels above.

Yes, teachers cannot possibly be expected to teach so many levels at once. Yet, despite what you may think Stanford, et all are teaching, their training absolutely could be far more oriented towards doing exactly this. It would require a complete over haul in the way teachers [most, not all] think, and in particular in the way school districts run. Such a paradigm shift is not in the best interest of those who are training future cubicle workers, however.

Oh, and Standford's gifted campus classes? If i hear robotics and lego engineering one more time, I'll scream.
My 11 year old thinks it's funny that most of his high school aged friends are 'on their engineering track', b/c they have their entire lives planned out for them by t heir parents. They will work at such and such company, and yes, they will get straight A's. Sure. And they may do well on the SAT's. They will be 'successful' by many definitions. Does this really mean they are 'gifted'? Or just 'high achiever'?

There IS a difference. And it's one that all would do well to learn and understand. It's fabulous for them to success on their chosen path. Wonderful. Does not mean they will be divergent or creative thinkers. Critical thinking? Not necessarily.

Not understanding the difference between achievement and gifted, and assuming they both equal societal 'success', is not in the national interest, to be sure.
But...hey, let's continue along the socialist/social justice path, b/c it seems America can only focus on one thing at a time-it's always mutually exclusive, whatever the latest 'It' topic may be.
Why can we not allow a gifted child to move ahead, while also realizing many children are falling behind? This is not rocket science. It's multi-tasking.

On the same topic: This is done to the exclusion of recognizing gifted learners in minority and lower economic class groups, as well, I might add.....

Posted by lrm
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I will also add: Giftedness had to be labelled a special need, in order to receive funding and attention from school systems and federally. It absolutely is a special need, however. It's not just that a kid can 'flip through material quickly and ace it'. It's that their understanding of the material is far more advanced than most of the children in the class. They are truly ready to delve into more than simply rote learning and memorization, or canned paragraphs and writing.

Why would this be important? Need we ask? Or do we not value critical thinking, creativity and divergent thinking, as core criteria in evolution?

Why oh why are so many in these comments still touting the testing and scores? Yes, they are useful. But they are by no means the sole criteria.

Bertie Kingore,phd., has a great one page article online, highlighting the differences between high achiever, gifted and creative learners. It is well worth a read.
Gifted kids don't necessarily do everything 'correct'. This does not mean they should be forced to trudge through a text book that is intellectually not stimulating.
Development can be asynchronous.
Then again, parents and teachers have a hard enough time understanding these differences, let alone the average person. It is a paradigm shift, though not necessarily a very challenging shift-but one that people seem to be unwilling to make. I find it a very logical differentiation, that is much less 'programmed' in definition than what we are used to. Programs, however, are safe for people. Comfort Zones usually win out, and discussion will continue within the same 'paradigm', as though a big change is being implemented, when it's actually simply a different costume within the same comfort zone. Sure sounds good, though, especially when it comes from a stanford educated so and so...., right? It must be true!!!!

And parents, btw, should not feel they have to cringe and 'apologize' for thinking their children are in some way gifted or in need of different resources.
Every child is a gift; not every child is gifted. And being a math whiz is not the only criteria for identifying gifted.

Posted by Current PALY Student
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Hello all,

I felt compelled to write a bit of a clarification piece. To all of those who argue that PAUSD can provide support to GATE and all other gifted students, I would like to say no. In 6th grade I was labeled as a GATE student. My parents withheld this information from me for, in what is now hindsight, was a very good reason. Being labeled as a GATE student is a big deal for any parents of said children, but it is a much larger and much more potentially devastating bit of information for the student identified as such.

Speaking from experience, which for the record is most definitely first hand, I would like to elucidate the falsity which is GATE programming, and the "support" it provides.

To Parents of GATE Children:
Please do not withhold such important information for selfish reasons, and please for the love of you're child's well being, get them into an educational institution that will support their way of thinking. I guarantee you that you're child has experienced some horrific emotions if they've gone through their middle school years with a label like GATE over their heads.

To GATE Children:
Please tell your parents about this article, and get them to read this response. In my opinion, being a GATE student has ruined a good portion of my high school and middle school education, and for no good reason! You are an exceptional person. And I believe that if there is anyone out there (maybe you!) who has felt the way I've felt (like you know that there is potential within yourself for you to be magnificent, but its locked up and you don't have the key, or any idea where to find it) that it is YOUR responsibility, obligation, and duty to help to change the way that we are "handled" in this school system and elsewhere. I feel that our school systems are being as destructive a force as any in the fight to stay proud of who we are, and what we can do. Make this issue known I implore you.

Thanks all for reading,
GATE Student

Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm

As "does not work as advertised" pointed out in a comment above, real differentiation in teaching is extremely difficult for most teachers. When you combine two grade levels, as Ohlone does, it becomes even trickier because you are working with an even larger spread of ages and abilities. When we chose Ohlone years ago, we liked the school's philosophy, part of which was differentiated teaching. We thought this would allow more advanced students to progress at their own pace. Unfortunately we did not see that happen in the classroom. When one teacher teaches two grade levels it becomes very hard to address all the differing needs, and the more advanced students often end up not being challenged enough. This was some years ago. I hope the differentiation works better for current Ohlone students, but I don't see that the teaching challenge is any less.

Posted by TakingActionForGiftedKids
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I've been fascinated by this conversation that started two years ago. I haven't seen any progress in our community or school district to address the unmet needs identified in this discussion board. I know of several parents at our own school who share similar concerns as those expressed in this discussion. At this point, no one person has stepped forward to take action to bring about changes. While I think we all feel a bit like it might be a waste of time and energy to work with the school district, at a minimum I would love to connect with parents who face similar challenges as we face. Because we aren't required to use our real names in this forum, there's not an easy way to connect with each other. I'm setting up an email box for us to "meet" each other. If you are interested in learning more about fellow Palo Alto parents who have children identified as gifted/having asynchronous development, please email

Posted by My experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Having been a gifted child myself, I can personally attest to the fact that such kids tend to seek out programs on their own. They also tend to throw themselves into their own extracurricular studies, as well as creating their own research projects. This is part of what makes them gifted.

The problem arises when such kids find they have no money for college or graduate school because: parents could not save enough; parents don't qualify for financial aid; colleges prefer foreign students ((UCLA has a 31% foreign population, Berkeley, 29%), and turn down gifted Americans in favor of foreign students for their own financial gain; kids can't qualify for whatever grants remain, especially in undergraduate school.

Until college, gifted kids can do well enough on their own because they seek out education on their own. However, this is the only country in the world outside of Africa that does not pay for college for qualified students. Most European countries also pay for grad school for qualified students.

When will the US, which is in danger of becoming a fourth world power( a country run by off-shore interests) come up to speed in regard to the utter necessity of a higher education?

Posted by Board Priorities
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Aug 24, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Special Education spent over $94,000+ on lawyers in June alone. I would much rather see them spend that money addressing how to teach gifted and disabled (and many students are both at once). Palo Alto Weekly did a FOIA request and it shows the Board of Education and their lawyers spent a lot of time on an organized effort to oppose and lobby against OCR. If the Board of Education has extra time and money why can't they put their energy into this?

Special Education mainstreamed disabled students it created problems that it never addressed. We asked how our child could be in this class if always lost and unable to do their own work. The District said the teachers were trained in differentiated learning, or that a TOSA would visit the class and tell the teacher how to teach. Teachers did get some training, but do not have enough continuing education hours and training to do what they are being asked to do with such a broad range of students. A teacher cannot teach 4 different ways at once. The teacher told us the other kids were expected to help our child. That was very nice of the kids, but it was not really fair to the children whose learning was held back.

Posted by Ana
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm

There is a a great deal of confusion about giftedness. As some have rightly pointed out, a high achiever is different from a gifted student. Knowing first-hand how difficult it is for "gifted" kids to thrive in the current school environment here in the Bay Area, I want to second what "feeling misled about PAUSD" has made in this thread. This table below also helps clarify high-achiever vs giftedness traits. I believe a majority of the GATE identified kids are in the "high-achieving" category.
Web Link

Posted by Some history
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm

The state has not really funded GATE for a while. When my kids went a decade ago, we went to a meeting for GATE parents and were told that the middle school had about $400 to spend for entire school for the whole year. So they were asking us for suggestions about what they could do for the kids with the $400. Given the salaries of teachers and the quantity of gate students, we we did not come up with any good solutions. So first before you decide that putting the GATE funds into the general budget is a travesty, maybe someone should actually document how much money we are talking about. If it is funded now, like it was then, this is not the hill I choose to would die on.

Posted by Vivian
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2016 at 9:06 am

I am excited to hear from the posts, learn a lot about what every get to say. Thanks

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