School May Pose Challenges For Gifted Kids, Too, Study Says

Being gifted can pose its challenges -- at least that's according to a Vanderbilt University study that found that schools sometimes limit their most talented students and, thus, keep them from reaching their maximum potential.

The study suggests that gifted students are limited when they learn faster than their peers and when they don't get the type of individual attention that would push them further. In an effort to provide a solution, study co-author and Vanderbilt University professor David Lubinski recommends schools make sure gifted students are able to skip grades or take classes at local community colleges.

The research, titled “Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators,” followed 300 children with top verbal and mathematic scores from age 13 until they were 38. While researchers found that a vast majority of these children went on to be extremely successful -– many becoming leaders in their fields of choice -- they also found that there were areas where schools could have better accommodated them.

The decades-long study built on a previous 2012 paper by Vanderbilt researchers that used the same cohort of students to determine that mathematically gifted students who skipped grades went further in their field than students who did not skip grades.

"What happens is that [gifted children who aren't challenged] don’t develop optimally," Lubinski told The Huffington Post. "They’re gifted, so its inconspicuous because they’re well above average, but they're just not optimal."

According to Lubinski, schools are sometimes hesitant to allow students to skip grades for fear that it will damage the "social and emotional health of the kid." However, he says that doing so can help students academically.

Lubinski concludes that those with extraordinary talent in mathematical and verbal reasoning ultimately were motivated to achieve at higher levels if course material was presented at the advanced rates at which they learned.

Gifted students from low-income families generally face the most roadblocks to reaching their full potential, Lubinski explained to HuffPost.

“This happens especially a lot in economically challenged homes where parents may not have the resources to get their kids' needs met,” Lubinski said. “Affluent highly educated parents will go to the ends of the earth to make sure their kids get their needs met.”

Harrison Kell, a co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt, told Vanderbilt News that teachers often focus on struggling students, as opposed to gifted students, who may be bored in class or need motivation.

“There’s this idea that gifted students don’t really need any help,” Kell said. “This study shows that’s not the case. These people with very high IQs -- what some have called the ‘scary smart’ -- will do well in regular classrooms, but they still won’t meet their full potential unless they’re given access to accelerated coursework..."

Still, of the students followed in the study, 44 percent went on to attain doctoral degrees, a feat that only 2 percent of the general population has achieved, according to Vanderbilt News.

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