Poll Shows Student Engagement Drops Over Time

picAccording to a recent Gallup Student Poll, there’s a decline in student engagement as students progress from elementary school to middle school to high school.  The findings from this survey, posted in a blog titled, “The School Cliff: Student Engagement Drops With Each Grade,” include that: “A majority of elementary school students—almost eight in 10—qualify as engaged, the poll found. By middle school, however, that number drops to six in 10 students. And when students enter high school, it drops to four in 10.”

The blog suggests a combination of factors may contribute to this decline in engagement, ranging from “overzealous focus on standardized testing and curricula to our lack of experiential and project-based learning pathways for students.”

Supporting entrepreneurial pursuits is one way the blog suggests schools can encourage students.  According to the blog, students with high entrepreneurial talent are among those whose engagement declined. “Forty-five percent of students surveyed by Gallup say they plan to start their own business someday … yet a mere 5% have spent more than one hour in the last week working, interning, or exposed to real business.”

Do you think the reasons proposed in this article account for disengaged students?  Or do you attribute the findings of this survey to something else?

Check out CTD’s Summer Program offerings, including our new Partnership Courses focusing student entrepreneurship, such as the Starter League: an innovative training ground for programmers and web designers located in Chicago.   

Winter Talent 2013: Trend Watch

Blogs. Apps. Facebook. Wikis. Twitter. More.

CTD’s Winter 2013 issue of the Talent Newsletter is devoted to the topic of technology as a learning tool.  With new technologies constantly changing the education landscape, it is hard to keep pace. Using the New Media Consortium’s K-12 Horizon Report and other sources such as those listed at the end of this post,  parents and teachers can keep an eye on emerging trends in technology and gifted education. Here is an overview of some key technology concepts you may hear in education today:

  • Augmented Reality: By layering virtual reality on top of physical reality and adding interactivity, augmented reality fosters an expanded view of the world and promotes a continually growing understanding of it.
  • Blended learning: A hybrid learning model that combines face-to-face and online learning.
  • Cloud Computing: Learning and collaboration take place anytime, anyplace and from any device when accessing programs and services in the cloud (Internet).
  • Digital Identity: Student create a single, secure digital identity that can be used anyplace a login is required to access a website or service. A digital identity can facilitate curriculum personalization by profiling learners’ interests based on their content consumption.
  • Flipped classrooms: In a flipped classroom, students receive instruction online outside of class and use class time for active learning facilitated by a teacher.
  • Game-based Learning: By integrating games and game mechanics with educational experiences, game-based learning can stimulate advanced problem-solving, creativity, strategic thinking and team-building. It is also valuable as a safe way to learn from mistakes.
  • Mobile Devices & Apps – Schools are adopting a cost-effective BYOD (bring your own device) model that allows students to use their own mobile device to extend learning beyond the school day and enhance learning in the classroom.
  • Personal learning environments (PLE): These online spaces allow students to make  learning connections and organize all forms of media about a topic. A PLE serves as a powerful information warehouse and reflection venue.
  • Tablet Computing: Tablets are replacing laptops and desktops due to their cost, portability and access to apps. Many schools are instituting a one-to-one tablet program, in which each student has access to a tablet.

Additional Reading:

To learn more about technology and gifted education, consult the following resources:

Apps for Gifted Kids.” Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.

“Resources.” Getting Smart. http://gettingsmart.com/about/resources.

“iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses.” International Association for K-12 Online Learning. (See their standards for quality online courses, programs and teaching, respectively.)

Siegle, Del. Using Media & Technology with Gifted Students. Waco, TX: Prufrock, 2005.

Technology Columns in the National Association for Gifted Children’s Gifted Child Quarterly and Teaching for High Potential.

Education in the “Great Inflection”


According to author Thomas L. Friedman, passion and curiosity are gaining as much importance as intelligence in today’s job market.  Pursuing a subject of intrigue may be more important than ever for students today.  We live in a hyperconnected world, where connection takes just the click of a button.  Technological advances affect how we work, learn, and live.

A recent op-ed by Friedman in the New York Times, titled “It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.,” suggests that we are in the midst of a “Great Inflection.”  He observes that in the last decade “The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post-9/11 and the Great Recession.”

The piece discusses hyper-connectivity in terms of the job market: employees now must go beyond demonstrating knowledge by adding extra value to the job in comparison to other alternatives.  Mainly, these “other alternatives” involve working efficiently and creatively with new technology.

According to Friedman, the shift will require individual initiative. “We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.”

What are your thoughts?  What is the impact of P.Q. and C.Q.?  How do we help gifted students pursue P.Q. and C.Q. to complement their I.Q.?

For more information on how students are adapting to the age of technology, review the Winter Issue of CTD’s Talent Newsletter.

The JKC Scholarship – Exceptional Opportunity

by Tammie Stewart

If you are the parent or teacher of an academically gifted child from a family experiencing financial need, I’d like to introduce you to the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program (JKC).

Every year, exceptional scholarships are given to more than 50 high-achieving students who will enter grade 8 in the next school year.  The application process takes time and thought, but for those awarded scholarships the benefits are truly life-changing. The JKC Young Scholars Program is one of the most comprehensive programs I have come across in my years of work in outreach.

Students that earn JKC scholarships gain a personal advocate through high school, college and beyond.  Financial support ensures that recipients have the resources they need to pursue their passions, develop potential and take full advantage of learning opportunities.  Resources can include computers and software, tuition for summer, after school and online programs and more. Each student is assigned a JKC advisor who helps them chart a successful educational path that spans multiple years.

JKC scholars come from every part of the country with backgrounds that reflect the diversity of our nation.  But they all share huge ability and thanks to the program, receive common access to opportunity.

The Center for Talent Development supports JKC enthusiastically, affording me the privilege to help eligible young people apply.  The 2013 call for applications is currently underway with the March 21 deadline approaching quickly, there are no extensions.

So, if you know of a high-achieving student who will enter grade 8 in the fall of 2013 and comes from a family with annual income under $80,000, they may qualify.  Applications are available at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website.  Feel free to contact me directly for guidance and additional information on the scholarship program, eligibility and the application process.

Tammie Stewart is Community Outreach Manager at the Center for Talent Development. For additional counsel on the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, e-mail her at tammie-stewart@northwestern.edu or call 847/491-7127.

Ask Paula! — Winter 2013

OK.Paula“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education.  Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights into IQ and testing in addition to overexcitability in gifted children.

Q:  A first grade boy with 149 WISC/IQ, placed in regular classes gets regular bad conduct reports. He gets B’s or less on most ”in class” assignments when there are instructions to follow, and he seems to under-perform for his teacher (reads at level 1 her) but was at level grade 3.5 in Kindergarten. Does this seem typical? [what might be going on? Possible next steps?]

An IQ of 149 is at the 99+ percentile meaning less than 1% of the population has a higher IQ score. The score indicates a very exceptional level of general intelligence, suggesting that this child learns at a much more rapid rate than his peers. I would suspect that he is under-challenged in school and is under-achieving and acting out as a result. While this kind of reaction is not unusual when a child is not getting the right kind of intellectual and educational “nourishment” at school, it is worrisome and a strong indicator that a change is needed. Think of what adults do in reaction to consistent boredom or frustration. Now consider that a child in school has few acceptable options and strategies in his repertoire to manage and/or vent strong emotions. So, what to do?

The parents need to approach school officials to make sure they are aware of their child’s ability. Since they have an IQ score, I am assuming they have had some independent, private testing done. If that is the case, the results should be shared with school officials including the school psychologist, gifted coordinator, principal and teacher. They might ask for a meeting with all of them together. Another good piece of evidence parents can provide regarding their child’s advanced abilities is examples of the books or other material the boy reads at home (so the educators can see his true reading level), products he has created (e.g. books, stories, etc.) and activities that engage and absorb him. The parents need to help the school administrators and educator learn more about their child’s abilities and interest.

Given the child’s IQ, the parents and educators will need to consider some kind of acceleration–either whole grade (i.e. grade skipping) or subject area acceleration (i.e. moving up grades in math or reading) for this child. The full report of the psychologist who evaluated the child might give some information about his academic strength areas–math, reading. When the parents meet with school officials, they should explore their attitudes and experience with acceleration. (Have they accelerated students before? How successful was it? Are they open to it?). In the meantime, the parents should read up on acceleration to find out more about it. Acceleration is generally viewed negatively by teachers and educators, but the research on it suggests that it is a good, reasonable option for many gifted children if implemented well. I would suggest the parents check out the Iowa Acceleration Scale (available from Great Potential Press), which is a tool to help educators and parents decide if acceleration is a good fit for a particular child. A good resource for parents on acceleration is the book, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, available at http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/. Another resource on different types of gifted programs is the book, Reforming Gifted Education by Karen Rogers, available from Great Potential Press.

If the school is not amenable to significant accommodations for the child via some forms of acceleration, the parents might want to consider their options for a different school placement–maybe not immediately, but soon. Under-achievement is easier to turn around when caught and dealt with early before it becomes entrenched.

Q:  For a child with an emotional overexcitability, what sort of strategies can the teacher use to mitigate his negative (frustration/anger) and physical exertions he may have on other students? What can a teacher also do to help “bring him back” to the classroom, after he has “shutdown” or has become withdrawn/depressed in the classroom?

I think that overexcitability might be helpful in understanding some of the behavior of some gifted children. Still, I am skeptical of how much we can generalize this characteristic given the great variability I have witnessed among gifted children. In thinking about how to address behaviors that are problematic, we have to dig deeper and make sure we know all that is going on. If a child is exhibiting negative behaviors such as displays of anger, acting out in the classroom and withdrawal, it is best to consult a school psychologist and/or social worker to assist in getting to the underlying cause of his behavior. Only then can strategies be identified that will help a teacher assist this child in better managing his emotions and reactions. In other words, I am not sure (and clearly I do not have a lot of information to go on) that what you are seeing in this child should be attributed to emotional overexcitability due to giftedness. I recommend it be investigated more thoroughly by experts. If you are also interested in general information on strategies for meeting the needs of gifted children, one good source that you can search, focusing in on your particular needs, interests and situation, is the Davidson Institute website. They have an extensive article library. It is searchable by topic or by role (parent, educator, etc.). It is available online at http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/browse_by_topic_articles.aspx.
Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!
Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!

Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

On Monday, February 18, Center for Talent Development is hosting a free seminar titled “Parenting Your Twice-Exceptional Child: Developing Talent and Accommodating Needs.” Our guest presenter, Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, will talk about best practices for addressing the needs of twice-exceptional students, which includes identifying and developing talent domains.  Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at The University of Iowa and a licensed psychologist and researcher at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Dr. Foley Nicpon is an expert in the field and has authored a variety of articles on supporting gifted students with co-existing disabilities. Check out a recent article she wrote for the 2e Newsletter in which she discusses common characteristics of gifted children who experience anxiety, including rigid thinking patterns, control issues, a strong need for social justice and perfectionism.

Suggested interventions, include:

1.  Identify “shades of gray.”

2.  Focus on the process instead of the outcome.

3.  Take a logical approach.

4.  Identify what can be controlled.

5.  Take small steps.

6.  Teach positive thinking patterns.

7.  Model being vulnerable.

8.  Use their intelligence.

9.  Discuss motivators.

10.  Work on patience.

We encourage you to join the conversation by sharing your comments and questions here and hope you will join us for the seminar:

Parenting Your Twice-Exceptional Child: Developing Talent and Accommodating Needs

Presenter: Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD

Date & Time:  February 18, 2013 • 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Location:  Northwestern University Evanston Campus

Technological Institute, Room LR5

2145 Sheridan Road

Evanston, IL 60208

For more information about the seminar, visit www.ctd.northwestern.edu/outreach/parentseminar.

Megan Foley Nicpon, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at The University of Iowa and a licensed psychologist and researcher at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students

UntitledHow do educators support high achievement of low-income, high ability students? A new report and upcoming webinar shine a spotlight on this important issue and provide valuable insights.

Paula Olszweski-Kubilius, CTD Director and National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) President, and Jane Clarenbach, Director of Public Education at NAGC recently co-authored a paper titled Unlocking Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students.  This groundbreaking piece presents a summary of the major issues that impede progress and provides programming and practice suggestions.

As the Executive Summary states, “Unlocking Emergent Talent sets the stage for major strides in both understanding and action, by spotlighting strong evidence-based program models that produce performance results for low-income, high-ability learners, recommending educational best practices, and identifying both research and public policy gaps that, if filled, could achieve significant results for the future.”

Learn more by participating in a free webinar, hosted by NAGC, on Wednesday, January 30.

FREE WEBINAR – January 30, 2013, 7-8:00 PM Eastern

Unlocking Emergent Talent:  Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students

Presenters: Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and President, NAGC; Carol Horn, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA

Hear compelling findings from a hot off-the-press white paper that focuses on both a research and practice agenda for the field and the needs of promising learners living in  poverty. The co-authors share findings from the white paper including:

  • How low income and culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students currently fare and are served in our nation’s schools;
  • Key barriers to these students’ educational achievement and talent development;
  • Successful within and outside-of-school program models and effective practices that develop their talents;
  • The unique psychosocial issues that these students face and the cultivation of skills needed to deal with them;
  • Key actions to be taken by teachers, administrators and policy makers to insure the fruition of emergent talent.

Come away with additional insight about success factors and recommended best practices for serving these gifted students.

To participate, log in 30 minutes prior to the event at http://eventcenter.commpartners.com/se/Rd/Mt.aspx?308565.

The Quest For Effective Homework

iStock_000000281321SmallEducators and parents have a wide range of opinions when it comes to the topic of homework. Is it best to have homework? Or no homework? Or another method of learning at home?

Students at one Iowa high school are experiencing a new method for learning at home. Teacher Katie Bunce calls her initiative “quests.” She does not assign homework, but instead allows students to embark on study quests and learn at their own pace.

According to the Des Moines Register “she created a flow chart for each unit the class is studying. Within the unit are several quests that students can work on until they get 100 percent.” This approach allows for personalization of the learning, differentiated by interest and learning needs.

And so far it seems to be working well for her Advanced Placement® students.

More details about these “quests” can be found in the article, Urbandale Students Take Hands-On Role In Learning.

What are the pros and cons of homework?  Should it be maintained in its traditional sense, eliminated, or redefined based on student needs?

Does Google Have All The Answers?


In today’s high-tech world, students increasingly turn to the Internet for research. Google prevails as the leading tool to find answers and in conducting research, according to an article called Why ‘Googling It’ Is Not Enough.

Although easy access to information is valuable, a recent report from the Pew Research Center highlights concerns among educators that students’ digital literacy has not kept pace with their use of technology. Students once perused books, consulted firsthand sources and had to synthesize information found in multiple formats to complete research projects. With answers now a click away, some educators argue that doing research “has shifted from a relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery to a fast-paced, short-term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment.”

Teachers also acknowledge the benefits of search tools like Google with its abundance of information, but some “express concern that easily-distracted students with short attention spans are not developing the skills required to do deep, original research.” In response to this concern, the article outlines three ways to encourage students to go beyond Google:

  1. Promote digital and traditional literacy by teaching students to vet sources.
  2. Encourage students to find face-to-face sources.
  3. Guide them to search deeper—beyond the “top results” in their initial query.

For tips on how to help students increase their digital fluency, read our previous blog post, “Gifted Kids May Be Tech Savvy, But Are They Fluent?” by Susan Corwith, PhD. and Carl Heine, Ph.D.

Rainy Day Activity: Pour Out the Candles

By David Chan


With the holidays approaching, you and your loved ones may find yourselves sharing a holiday meal by candlelight. Instead of extinguishing these candles with your breath, why not use some chemistry to whip up a quick demonstration that is bound to impress and educate?

Density is a physical property of matter that can be quantitatively expressed as the amount of mass per unit of volume. Different substances can have different densities and with gases, a more dense gas can act as if it is “heavier” than other gases. This can be viewed with a demonstration using carbon dioxide or CO2.  In this activity, we will first create some carbon dioxide then we will show that the gas is more dense than other gases found in air (a mixture of several gases) and this property can be used to “pour” CO2 onto a burning candle.

This activity is appropriate for ages 6+ but all students should be supervised since gases will be produced and an open flame will be used.

Materials Needed:

  • Candle
  • Matches
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • 2-3 large containers (Ex. 1 Liter beakers, Mason Jars, 2-Liter bottle-tops cut off)

Instructions for Doing the Activity:

1. Pour about 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1/4 cup of vinegar into one container.


2. Either light the candle(s) or make sure existing candles are still lit.


3. After the bubbling has stopped, pick up the container with the liquid mixture and carefully pour the gas over the candle(s). Try to just pour the invisible gas and not the liquid!

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1.  How were you able to “pour” an invisible gas?

2.  What does the candle need to continue burning?

3.  How does adding carbon dioxide affect this?

4.  Why is carbon dioxide commonly found in fire extinguishers?

Modifications for Younger or Older Students:

Younger students can try lowering a candle (carefully, or have an adult do this) into the container instead of pouring the gas onto the candle.

Older students may wish to extend the activity by trying to pour the CO2 into a separate container first before pouring the gas onto the candle. Additional modifications include having students can set up a ramp or a similar apparatus to pour the gas over a distance down onto the candle.

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Additional Resources and Links:



Density Animated Demo:


Same concept, using dry ice (solid CO2) instead of baking soda/vinegar:


David Chan teaches the online Honors and Advanced Placement® Chemistry course for Center for Talent Development’s Gifted LearningLinks program. He taught math and science for 10 years before becoming the Technology Integration Specialist at Evanston Township High School in Illinois He is also a technology consultant, a Google Certified Teacher and an Apps for Education Certified Trainer. He presents regularly at local, regional and national conferences on a variety of topics ranging from Google Apps to Screencasting.

Visit the Gifted LearningLinks website to find information on Honors and AP online courses for gifted students.

Let’s Talk Talent! — “More than MAP”

UPDATE (1/24/2013):  The article below brought up some interesting discussion on this topic.  There is much conversation nationally about the proliferation of testing. Many educators and parents feel anxious about the content of the tests, the ways test results are (and are not) being used, and the impact frequent testing is having on time for teaching and learning. The article, “Movement to End High-Stakes Testing Steps Up in Seattle” is just one example of the type of conversations occurring around the country.  Testing evokes a lot of questions, but it is important to remember that the question isn’t whether testing is good or bad.  It’s whether or not the tests are valid for the students who take them, and whether we have systems in place to use the results to create better learning environments.  This is particularly true for top-performing students, and for teachers and principals for whom accountability is based on student ‘growth.’  If the tests don’t have enough flexibility to capture the full extent of these students’ abilities, they can’t show evidence of growth for these students even if teachers and school are doing all the right things instructionally.  This is why above-grade-level testing is important for top-performing students.

Let’s Talk Talent! — “More than MAP”

bv Juliet Frate


Center for Talent Development publishes a quarterly newsletter, called Talent, dedicated to current issues in gifted education. We want to extend the conversation and will now be supplementing our newsletter on our Talent Talk blog with ‘’Let’s Talk Talent!’’ posts — like this one!

In our most recent Talent, we talked about the Measures of Academic Progress®, known as the MAP test, in an article titled, “More than MAP: Why Gifted Students Need NUMATS More Than Ever.” Many schools use this computerized adaptive test to gauge student learning in reading, math and science. MAP assessments are given to all students, and they are particularly good at identifying grade-level skill deficits and in providing an indication as to whether a student is achieving beyond grade level.

MAP, however, does not give enough information about the extent of a gifted student’s abilities and how they compare to those of other high achievers. Teachers and parents need more detailed information to truly understand a gifted student’s strengths and weaknesses and foster his/her development.

Above-grade-level assessments and follow-up resources offered through talent searches, like Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS),¹ meet these needs. Reasons why include:

1.  NUMATS provides an accurate norming group (comparison group) for gifted students. Results from tests like MAP are compared to the results of students from all ability levels . . . not just high-ability levels.
2.  NUMATS uses true, above-grade-level tests with questions on advanced content. MAP does not differentiate level of question difficulty beyond a certain point . . . and that point (or ceiling) does not measure the full extent of a gifted student’s abilities.
3.  NUMATS specializes in providing resources and opportunities specifically designed for gifted students and their families.

Check this space soon for more about each of the reasons above. What is your understanding of these assessments? Join the conversation in the comments section below!

¹ NUMATS uses the EXPLORE® test—developed by ACT® and normally given to students in grade 8—to determine the abilities of students in grades 3 through 6. The ACT and the SAT® tests, typically used for college admissions, provide a more accurate picture of the mathematical and verbal reasoning abilities of students in grades 6 through 9. After students test, parents receive comprehensive information about how their student’s scores compare to those of other gifted students. This valuable feedback helps families plan for the future. NUMATS serves students in the Midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Similar Talent Search institutions serve other regions across the country.

Juliet Frate is coordinator for Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search. She has worked as an educator and researcher  for over 30 years. Frate received the Educator of the Year award for her work as a school counselor and International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme Coordinator. She holds a master of education, with a focus on educational psychology, from The University of Mississippi.

Ask Paula! — Fall 2012

“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education.  Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights into helping emotionally intense and sensitive children and recommends resources related to grouping high achieving students in a heterogenous classroom.

Q: Hi Paula, our son who is 6 is very bright. He is also very sensitive. He was crying last night because he feels his best friend from Gr. 1 seems to be hanging out with a different boy and my son feels like he is losing him as his best friend. He feels very sad and hurt and is very expressive of his feelings of loneliness, abandonment and loss. Is being this sensitive a trait of gifted boys? I do not see this in my niece who is also gifted. Also, please advise the best way for me to help him. I let him talk through this and listened. Thanks much! -Faiza

Hello Faiza,

Your story about your son’s sensitivity and emotion is not an uncommon one for gifted children. First, as with any personality characteristic, there is a great deal of variability across individuals, even within a group of gifted children. So, it is also not surprising that your niece and son are different. I have two daughters  and one is much more sensitive and intense in her emotional reactions to things (like her mom) than is the other. Many scholars within the field of gifted education believe that a heightened level of sensitivity and more intense emotional reactions are some of the defining characteristics of giftedness, but in my experience, many, but not all gifted children, exhibit these.

It can be challenging as a parent to deal with intense sensitivity on the part of a child. Our immediate tendency is to minimize their feelings and say, “you are over-reacting.” But as a first step, I think it is always important to acknowledge and accept a child’s feelings and it is wonderful that your child is able to articulate his feelings so well and feels very safe in expressing them to you.

Our role as parents is to be emotional coaches, so to speak, guiding our children in understanding their feelings and reactions and helping them to acquire strategies to regulate them. You could consider consulting with a psychologist about ways in which your might respond to your child’s sensitivity  and strategies you might use to help your child dial down the intensity. The goal would be to use and model these strategies with your child so that he can acquire them and use them independently as he develops and matures.

Some resources on the topic of emotional intensity and sensitivity are available on the the website of the Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG–www.sengifted.org), the website of the National Association for Gifted Children (www.nagc.org–parent resources), and the website of the Davidson Foundation (www.davidsongifted.org). The books, “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children” by Christine Fonseca (Prufrock Press, www.prufrock.com) or “Living with Intensity” by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski (Great Potential Press) might also be helpful to you in terms of offering concrete strategies to use.

I always say to my daughter who is very sensitive that it is her best characteristic, enabling her to be so empathic and caring, and also her most challenging, because it makes her feel different and “not normal”. I can tell you from experience though, that if you work over time with your child to help him or her gain understanding of his feelings, emotions and reactions, his sensitivity will be an asset for him in his life.

Q: Can you suggest any good studies or data showing gains (academically or emotionally) made by clustering TAG students into groups? -Wisconsin Talented and Gifted Coordinator

I can recommend two resources for you regarding research on cluster grouping within classrooms. Right now this is a “hot topic” within gifted education as the trend has been to keep gifted children within heterogeneous classrooms rather than put them in pull-out programs or separate classrooms.  Several models for cluster grouping gifted students together within otherwise heterogeneous classrooms have been proposed by a couple of different authors. One of these is by Marcia Gentry and Rebecca Mann, “Total School Cluster Grouping and Differentiation” published by Creative Learning Press. Another is “The Cluster Grouping Handbook. How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All” by Susan Winebrenner and Dina Brulles, Free Spirit Press. The authors of both of these books explain cluster grouping and cite research studies to support their claims of its effectiveness with meeting the needs of gifted students.

Educators may also be interested in the book “Best Practices in Gifted Education” by Ann Robinson, Bruce Shore and Donna Enersen and published by NAGC. It addresses a variety of gifted education topics, and there is a Flexible Grouping chapter that cites numerous studies as well as provides some good examples and offers best practice recommendations.
Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!

What is the Importance of Teaching Non-Cognitive Skills?

by Kourtney Cockrell, Coordinator of Project EXCITE with the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research recently released a literature review, entitled, Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance.”  While the study does not focus on gifted students, the findings could shed light on why some really bright kids don’t perform as well as expected based on their assessed abilities or why their intellectual talents go unnoticed altogether.  This fascinating read suggests non-cognitive factors such as study skills, motivation, time management, mindsets, and a host of other variables might be more indicative of future academic and career success than intelligence and ability alone. Even more, differences based on race, ethnicity and gender might be greatly reduced by focusing on these non-cognitive factors.

This review emerges at a time when test scores and academic rigor are gaining more and more attention, suggesting that if we can just provide students with challenging coursework and assess them to ensure that they’ve retained this content and knowledge, then students will be more prepared for college and the workforce.  However, success and achievement in school and the professional world rely on much more than just being “smart.” Successful students and professionals have to be persistent or “gritty”, organized, confident, problem-solvers, able to advocate for themselves and much more. Unfortunately, most of these behaviors are not taught in traditional classrooms.

Perhaps the larger question is, can these behaviors be developed and if so, how?

The University of Chicago Review provides an in-depth analysis of five categories of non-cognitive factors and investigates precisely these sorts of questions. The Review explores whether these factors are malleable, how they are affected by the context of the classroom and if/how these factors can be taught in the classroom.

Even more intriguing is how these non-cognitive factors play out when explored through the lens of race, ethnicity, gender and other forms of identity. The Review highlights the complicated and interdependent nature that all of these behaviors have with one another. For example, an African-American student’s confidence, motivation and persistence can be diminished if he/she doesn’t feel a sense of belonging in the classroom or doesn’t feel capable of succeeding; which can be substantially influenced by teacher expectations, family environment and the school/community environment.

Continued research is needed on the topic of non-cognitive behaviors and traits, but the potential outcomes are encouraging. If researchers and educators are able to identify how to measure and cultivate these important skill sets, students benefit and become more prepared for 21st century jobs and opportunities.

To download the University of Chicago Literature Review, visit this link: http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Noncognitive%20Report.pdf

Kourtney Cockrell has spent her professional career working in diversity affairs in the nonprofit sector and in higher education. As the coordinator for Project EXCITE, Cockrell works closely with the Evanston community, her colleagues and staff at CTD and the Evanston Public School Districts to manage outreach programs and activities aimed at closing the achievement gap.

Rainy Day Activity: Heading West with Pecos Bill

by Kaitlyn Crites

Pecos Bill was one of the roughest, toughest cowboys in the entire West! Raised by coyotes who would expect anything less?  Did you know he used a rattlesnake as a lasso? He rode a tornado through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona! Accounts of Pecos Bill are known as tall tales, exaggerated stories passed from one generation to another.

Why should students study tall tales?  These symbolic, insightful tales have survived for centuries, and reflect the cultures, values, mores and beliefs that shaped history.  In addition, they comprise a genre of literature all their own.

One of my favorite tall tales is that of Pecos Bill. There are several books for young people I recommend that cover this legendary figure’s engaging antics and lead to good discussion.  Children PreK through grade 2 will benefit from reading with an adult. Students grades 3 through 5 will also enjoy the books.

Pecos Bill, Colossal Cowboy: The Graphic Novel by Sean Hamann Tulien and Lisa K Weber

Pecos Bill by Steven Kellogg and Laura Robb

Here are a few questions to stimulate discussion with your child post read:

What does exaggeration mean?  Why do people exaggerate when they tell a story?

Do you think that Pecos Bill was really raised by coyotes?  How do you think that story got started?  Do people really believe he traveled on a tornado?

Pecos Bill roamed far and wide (you can pull out a map to track his course.) Why do you think he headed in the direction he did? What was he looking for?

Pecos Bill used a rattlesnake as a lasso. What would you use to make one?

Pecos Bill wore a vest. Why do cowboys wear vests? 

I teach a Saturday Enrichment Program course at the Center for Talent Development titled “Superheroes of the 1800s.” Students learn about the first American adventurers through creative hands-on activities related to geography and language arts. One activity the kids embrace could be easily replicated at home to augment learning about tall tales. We make western vests to get more in tune  with legendary cowboys like Pecos Bill. You and your child will be ready to jump into the saddle after creating this western vest!  And, if someone is searching for a unique Halloween costume this might fit the “Bill”!

Materials Needed:

To have your cowboy or cowgirl create their own western vest, recycle a brown paper bag from your local grocery store, and round up one or more of the following: crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, glitter, construction paper, stencils, foil, stickers, ribbon, pins, buttons, and/or whatever else is lying around the house that will add color and contrast!

Instructions for Doing the Activity:

  1. If there is writing on the brown paper bag, turn it inside out.
  2. On a flat surface, cut from the center of the bag’s open edge to the middle of the bottom with scissors. Cut out a neck hole on bag’s bottom. Cut armholes in bag’s sides. Trim the front edges to complete the vest.
  3. Decorate your vest however you would like using art supplies found at home.  Almost any item works, so get creative!
  4. Cut vertically along the bottom of the vest to fringe the edges.
  5. If you would like to add rosettes, tear two aluminum foil circles (one smaller than the other) to make each.  Put a small circle on top of a larger one. Then, poke ribbon or yarn through layered rosette and into the vest and knot both ends.
  6. Try on your finished product!  Pecos Bill would be proud!

Modifications for Younger or Older Students:
For younger students, parents can assist in cutting the brown paper bag and additional items that will be added to the vest.

For older students, parents can trace circles on the brown paper bag for their child to cut independently

Additional Resource Link:

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/pecos-bill/ offers multiple tall tales of Pecos Bill.  Parents can read these stories and have their child act it out while wearing their vests.  For example, taken from Pecos Bill Rides a Tornado, ‘Well, Bill jest grabbed that there tornado, pushed it to the ground and jumped on its back.’  By using his/her imagination, your child can grab a tornado from mid air, push it all the way to the ground, jump on its back, and ride it like wild old Widowmaker

Kaitlyn Crites teaches for CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program. Visit the Saturday Enrichment Program website for winter courses related to storytelling and adventure. Saturday Enrichment Program is offered at multiple sites throughout Chicagoland.  Other writing and literature courses are available online through the CTD Gifted LearningLinks program.

Born This Smart?


“Do genes make the genius? Or is it really true that practice is what puts people in Carnegie Hall?”

The quote above comes from a recent piece in the Huffington Post where two experts continue the debate around intelligence and the influences of nature and nurture.

Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, a cognitive psychologist specializing in the development of intelligence, creativity, and personality, in his blog entry supports the argument that environment and development have more impact than heredity when it comes to some human characteristics including intelligence.  Children are not “born this way” (with all due respect to Lady Gaga) but rather traits and talents are developed over time, and people differ at the rate at which certain abilities are developed. He writes, you can’t take the heritability estimate of a trait at face value. What’s more, you can’t make inferences about an individual based on heritability calculations.”

Zach Hambrick, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, takes a different approach, acknowledging that while deliberate practice and nurturing has a significant impact, general intelligence is also key. He explains, “Experts are born because people come into the world differing in ways that turn out to matter for real-world achievement. But experts are made because there is no getting around the necessity of a long period of practice and training for reaching a high level of performance.”

The research presented on both sides is fascinating. And, the debate goes on. You can add your vote to this interactive discussion online at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/geniuses-born-or-made_n_1342487.html.

So, what are your thoughts on this age-old question?

Susan Corwith, Ph.D. is an associate director at Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and oversees the Summer Program and Civic Education Project. She holds a Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, an MS in Curriculum and Instruction, and a BS in Secondary Education, all from the University of Wisconsin.

Flipped Classrooms: Maximizing Class Time

by Randee Blair, Associate Director, Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University

A recent hot topic in education has been the flipped classroom debate. With the growth of online options, learning has expanded outside of the school classroom, and this trend only seems to be growing.

What’s flipped is that instead of doing homework, students watch online instructional movies, videos, lectures and visit websites at home, with the opportunity to revisit challenging sections and formulate questions. The teacher then has more time to facilitate discussion, based on these questions and is then able to help students with activities and assigned problems reinforcing the concepts during class time.

Why are flipped classrooms gaining popularity? In a flipped classroom, “Class time is spent focusing on [students’] needs, not on the teacher’s schedule,” says science teacher Brian E. Bennett on SmartBlog on Education. “Students are encouraged to make decisions, question, succeed and fail in a supportive, dynamic learning environment. Choice is rampant in flipped learning, and students are given an opportunity to defend their choices as a partner in learning rather than a subordinate.”

Flipped classrooms allow for flexibility and have become a way for teachers to differentiate their instruction in order to meet individual student needs. Education consultant Jonathan Bergmann is a pioneer of the flipped classroom concept. Bergmann said in an April interview: “The benefits are huge. Kids learn to become independent learners. They figure out how to learn for themselves.”

Others are not yet convinced. A blog entry titled “Flipping’ Classrooms: Does It Make Sense?” quotes teacher John Hrevnack: “[a] concern I have is that the lecture is portrayed as the teacher speaking and the students listening.  This is not the way that most teachers ‘lecture.’  Most teachers use an Interactive Lecture.” Hrevnack describes the “Interactive Lecture” as one in which the teacher prepares questions to spark students’ interest during the lecture and getting them to think critically. Live or personalized online programs may assuage these concerns and offer the advantage of interacting with peers from far off and diverse communities.

“Flipped learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach nor is it appropriate in every situation,” concludes Bennett. Given that e-learning is not going away, how can schools use it to their students’ greatest advantage? “Let’s begin to focus on the philosophical decisions teachers and schools need to make to move education forward in a connected world,” he suggests. “For me, flipping the learning process was the best way to make that shift, and that’s simply what it is — a tool to push teaching and learning forward. I am continually learning and improving on what has worked in the past to become a better teacher.”

Gifted LearningLinks is CTD’s online course program. At this time most courses are taken independently by students. However, more schools are starting to take advantage of the program as a way to differentiate for academically gifted students.

What do you think about flipped classrooms?

Randee Blair is Associate Director at the Center for Talent Development with direct responibsility for online Gifted LearningLinks and the Saturday Enrichment Progam.  She spent 30 years in the Illinois public school system as a teacher and curriculum coordinator for math and gifted education.  She is an esteemed speaker who presents at conferences across the country and author of several professional development books for teachers.

Race to the Finish: Thinking Like an Olympian

In light of the 2012 Summer Olympics, journalists are exploring what goes into becoming a talented athlete.  A recent article called “Michael Phelps’ Mom: ‘Don’t Push’ Kids Into Sports” discusses parenting talented children.  The star athlete’s mom has been there for him from the beginning, but not in a way that some would expect.

In contrast to other parents, Phelps’s mom has never pushed her son into doing anything he wasn’t enjoying — in her son’s case, swimming.  Even when Phelps’s swim coach charted his potential for the years to come, his mom laughed and responded, “If [Michael still] doesn’t enjoy it, this isn’t going to happen!”  Her perspective is that kids need to enjoy what they are doing above all else.

In the end, talent and training drive athletes, artists and academics to perform or score their personal best.  Observing achievement across fields may lead to essential insights. Along with two leading experts in the field of gifted education, CTD director Paula Olszewski-Kubilius co-authored a paper calling for recognition and support like that used to nurture athletic and musical talent be applied to academics: “The science of optimal performance, applied to traditional academic disciplines as well as sports, music, and other domains, can help educators to meet the specific needs of high-ability students in every field.”

In what ways do you think practice and performance in sports and the arts differ or relate to academic talent development?

The Mother of Invention: Questions vs. Answers

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”  –Plutarch, Greek Philosopher (ca. 46 – 127)

Students are often evaluated based on the answers they know rather than the questions they conceive, an issue recently addressed in SmartBlog’s post called “Asking The Right Questions.”  There seems to be a trend towards memorizing answers to predetermined questions.  It is becoming less prevalent for students to be asking their own big questions.  The focus is on the answers.

Now, this makes sense logically.  Of course the answers are most important, right?  They are what we seek in the end.  But what about the means to the end?  Or, to put it simply, what about the questions?

Summer Program 2008

As we approach the month of August, we are also approaching National Inventors Month.  Remember that formulating questions is a key step in the inquiry process, and inventors became such by asking their own big “What if’s?”

The Teacher Report has some activities for this upcoming month, such as researching past and present inventors, creating an “Invention Box,” and more!

What questions does your inquisitive gifted child ask? What are some other activities you can do to celebrate National Inventors Month? For a list our questions and corresponding course descriptions, download the Saturday Enrichment Program catalog.

Food for Thought: What’s Important About Education?

Entry for the 2011 Summer Program T-shirt Contest

A recent article quoted a six year old’s reflections on his experience in a mixed ability classroom:

“They feed me peanuts all day. I like peanuts and I get full, but what I really want is one big juicy hamburger.”

The article discusses the need for differentiation in mixed-ability classrooms. “Despite research suggesting that gifted children perform better academically when instructed together with similar ability peers, support for these programs is at an all-time low,” the article warns. How can parents and educators ensure that gifted students aren’t left with peanuts? Options recommended in the article, appropriately titled New options emerge to enrich gifted students’ education, include computer-based supplemental activities, professional development opportunities for teachers, and additional challenges provided by parents to help serve gifted students.

But what is the essence of that big juicy hamburger? What elements of education are the most important to foster within today’s youth?

This month, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) presented their reflections on this topic in a newsletter article titled “What Is The Purpose of Education?” In it, they addressed how education is an evolutionary phenomenon in that throughout time, education has shifted based on societal needs and changes. Yet leaders in education agree that the value of good teaching and the essence of education haven’t changed. James Harvey, a senior fellow at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, gets to the meat of the matter: “The most significant skill [young people] can develop in the 21st century is the same skill that served them well in prior centuries: a mind equipped to think, the most important work skill of them all.”

Share your methods for motivating and challenging your gifted student(s)!

Looking for supplemental opportunities for fall? Registration for fall courses with CTD’s Gifted LearningLinks and Saturday Enrichment Program is now open.

The Value of Talent Search

By Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius

In my years of working in gifted education, the questions I get most frequently from parents and educators are related to the Talent Search identification model.  What is it?  Why does above grade-level testing really matter?  What do the results tell us? What do we do with the information gained?  What is the ultimate benefit of Talent Search?

I have conducted research, written numerous articles and designed programs based on Talent Search but I really came to appreciate fully the value when my daughters participated in the program.

My younger daughter had an expansive imagination. She was a good student in core academic subjects, but her passion and greatest strengths seemed to be her creativity and artistic ability. When she took the ACT® in middle school, I was shocked to see that she had a high score in mathematics. I wondered how I, a trained professional in gifted education, had missed her exceptional mathematical reasoning ability.

My daughter’s ACT scores opened up my eyes to her abilities, and I now had a much more complete and accurate picture of her academic strengths. Armed with the knowledge of her abilities, I no longer felt shy about advocating for her at her high school. According to my daughter, one of the most valuable aspects of the Talent Search Testing was the opportunity to take a “high stakes test under low-risk conditions.” I am a stronger advocate now because I have witnessed how Talent Search benefited my children and want to see that occur for many more academically gifted children.

Recently, the National Association for Gifted Children (NACG) devoted a full online issue of its quarterly publication Parenting for High Potential to the topic of Talent Search.  Articles include an overview of Talent Search addressing many of the fundamental questions parents and educators have. The parent perspective is also presented and a third article looks at the educator’s view of Talent Search and how schools and Talent Development Centers partner to benefit gifted students.

I believe all parents and teachers, regardless of their familiarity with Talent Search will find value in these articles and am happy to share the resource. The full publication is available at http://nagc.org/php.aspx

CTD Director Paula Olszewski-Kubilius is currently serving a two-year term as president of NAGC.  CTD is one of four regional Talent Search institutions.  Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS) covers the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.  The NAGC publication provides information on the other three regional programs and additional institutions that conduct Talent Search.