The COVID-19 pandemic and schools being closed have made many parents acknowledge that the mainstream educational system wasn’t serving their kids appropriately. I keep hearing from parents that although their kids miss their friends, they are less stressed and don’t want to go back to school in the fall. Some kids are diving into learning and creative projects in a way that parents didn’t expect. Others are frustrated by trying to replicate traditional school at home. Many parents are asking what alternatives are there?
Some students, parents, and teachers are realizing alternative educational options are critical for students who do not fit into the mold of traditional schools. More frequently than you may suspect, brilliant students fare poorly in conventional schools because schools reward conformity and convergent rather than divergent thinking. Talented youth are often nonconformists and independent thinkers. The expectation for them to conform may actually lead to underachievement and/or “behavioral challenges” (as defined by adults in the school system). Within the educational system, there is also the myth that high ability youth will do well regardless of what is happening around them. It is simply not true.
For example, youth who have been identified as talented and gifted (TAG) make up 25% of students who leave high school before graduation. TAG identified youth who experience poverty are even more likely to leave school. These students are frequently “pushed out” of the system, they do not choose to “drop out.” When interviewed by researchers, young people said the main reasons they left school was because they were failing or that they didn’t like it. Youth also said that schoolwork wasn’t challenging, they had poor relationships with their teachers, didn’t feel supported in the classroom, or weren’t interested in the classes available to them. Their reasons for leaving school often have little to do with their academic ability.
There is also the issue of under-identification for the rare talented and gifted programs that exist and over-identification for special education for African Americans, Latin@s, and Indigenous students. Black and Hispanic students are less likely to be…