Thursday, June 12, 2008

K Files Council: Gifted children

Topic suggested by reader:
Advice for parents of gifted children considering the public system

"I am afraid there is no way to come off not sounding elitist, and possibly classist or racist, with this question, but I do think it bears asking. My daughter will be one of those entering K reading, counting to 50 (or maybe 100), and having great insight and curiousity into how things work in the world around her. She will be fully prepared for K. One of the things that is attractive about many private schools is that they (purport to) cater to children's individual learning. One great fear about SFUSD and the whole climate of NCLB is that the system is expending many resources (money, time, focus) on those who are lagging. As a member of this community and world, I want every child to have an equal chance to excel. As the parent of my daughter, I want her to be challenged and not be penalized because she is 'ahead' of where others in her class are."


  1. As I understand it, the question is whether or not public school classrooms differentiate instruction for all students or just the low-performing ones.

    I can't speak for all classrooms, but I can say that in my public school Kindergarten, I differentiate for all learners. There are all kinds of strategies for this and oodles of professional development. The best thing to do is to tour schools you're considering, observe, and ask teachers about what they do/have done for such students.

    Ancedotally, I feel like schools serving historically underserved populations tend to have a more academic Kindergarten program. If that impression is true, I couldn't say if it's NCLB pressure, something that reflects the desire of the school's community, or something else entirely.

    (Side note: more academic does not mean less fun/creative/child-centered.)

    I'm not sure why this question would be racist or classist unless one assumes that the only children who enter Kindergarten reading at an advanced level are white and upper class. That certainly hasn't been the case in my experience, and school readiness assessments don't bear out that perception either.

  2. I switched my son to a Charter School with project-based learning because he was bored witless by the mind-numbingly dull rote curriculum starting in 1st grade.
    Sadly, not many teachers are very good at differentiating curriculum UPWARDS. They are good at making it easier, but not more challenging. In 1st grade -- I was actually told: "your son needs to learn to be bored." That is when I lost total faith in that school, or at least that teacher.
    You'll come across a lot of attitudes such as: "we have children with REAL problems that we have to worry about".
    Two of the District's project-based schools are Creative Arts and SF Community.
    Good Luck. I understand what you are going to go through.

  3. As I understand it, the ability to read has little to do with "intellegence" and more to do with that part of the brain/connections being nurtured. Our 4 year old can read, write, and count to 100, too. I have yet to meet a pre-schooler who isn't curious about the world around them, and who are asking 'smart' questins (if someone is listening.)

    What worries me about public schools is the one size fit all curriculum, the need for schools to teach to the kids who have yet to learn basic color, letter and number schemes, and the boredom of it all.

    Love public or not, i don't see how they foster an excitement for learning.

    I'm open to comments.

  4. I have an entering just-turned-five K who is reading at second grade level (according to his preschool teacher). However, his writing skills are shaky, and he is socio-emotionally still on the young side. Luckily, we were told by the public school where we registered (got 0/7) that they would allow my son to read with the first grade class so that he would be challenged and not forced to swim in the slow lane. In this instance, I was happy to learn that public can be as flexible as private, at least at our school (which is one of the "up and coming" public schools.

  5. I understand and feel all the comments so far, but lets not forget that its not the school that is raising our's us. If the school does not excite your child enough then you should, if the school does not push him/her enough then you should. We should be filling the schools gaps and downfalls. That said, my kid is way above the curve, there I said it. :)

  6. Hey, I totally agree that we should also excite and engage our children, but it isn't cool for our kids to be bored the whole time they are at school and spend all their time staring out the window.

  7. Yes, I agree that NCLB has dumbed down curriculum when the intent was to make it more challenging. One reason is because the heavy focus on skills takes away from a focuson content. Another is that the desire to be "rigorous" has made curriculum both developmentally inappropriate and limited in scope.

    I couldn't get my kid into either of the project-based schools. We finally were lucky enough to get an immersion school so that ideally my child will be challenged with developing his second language. However, while registering him at the school the other day I paid an afternoon visit to the the K classes. I was struck by how wrong and unfair it was to expect these little ones to continue to sit for whole group, teacher-directed lessons in the pm(after lunch recess). And the kids who "need it most" were the kids getting sent away from the group for bad behavior or just spacing out. I felt bad for the young teacher as well. She was trying so hard to use all the right strategies, but it was simply the wrong time that she was being made to teach in that way.

    I believe kindergarten should be experiential in the pm and not academic (remember, it used to only be half day for a reason). A small group time with a story and some songs, a chance for movement and art, quality play time where they get the benefits of the self-directed play that is being squeezed out from our culture (check-out the articles about the importance of play on the NPR site and how abilities such as self-regulation are no longer being developed by our children).

    I think we as parents need to push the district to make our children's education developmentally appropriate again. We can't sit back and just trust the professionals because education has become so political (in the wrong way!). We need to educate ourselves as to how children learn and ensure that quality programs that reflect this are in place for all children in our schools. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or spend godzillions of district dollars on a new curriculum to do this. There are plenty of educators who have the answers.

    I hear everyone saying that the pendulum of education is now swinging back towards the center. If you're like me and have a kid entering kinder next year, you might not be so patient with just hearing this and may want to hurry up the process of schools finding their sanity again.

  8. My son is now a 6th grader an AWESOME public middle school. He was identified at gifted at his elementary school - one of the "hidden gems" and did receive differentiated instruction. All schools should be doing this - regardless of whether they are public or private. My son didn't start to read until after starting kindergarten (and he did attend a preschool) but took off with reading, writing and counting do to the expertise of his teacher, and our support. Yes it is imperative that parents be INVOLVED with their children's education no matter if the child attends a public or private school.

    I think many parents believe their children are gifted, and they probably are. Public schools are just as qualified to see that in your child.

  9. It's tough to address this issue without getting accused of boasting that you have smart kids. I'll just put that concern aside and address it anyway.

    My kids were generally engaged happily throughout elementary school -- of course there were moments, but those moments happen anywhere.

    In middle school at Aptos, they moved into honors classes for math, science, social studies and language arts. Those classes are composed entirely of students who have been identified as gifted and talented (SFUSD uses a set of criteria -- different districts do this in different ways) plus, at Aptos, some who have been identified as "high-potential" though not officially GATE-designated.

    Well, that's the kids' first chance in their school years to be tracked just with other high-performing students, just smart kids in the room. I actually don't know if private schools do tracking like that or not; clearly they would achieve the same challenging setting if they do. It's just due to the level of the kids in the room.

    The Aptos honors classes are certainly functioning at a higher academic level than many classes in private schools that didn't select their students based on academic achievement (obviously it's not really possible to select that way when the school is enrolling kindergartners). I can give anecdotal examples for specific schools based on reports from parents whose kids experienced both, but I don't want to sound like I'm singling out schools by name -- it's not a dis in any case; it's just the inherent situation.

    A reporter recently asked me if I didn't think the honors track notion is elitist. Well, you could put it that way; I think it's about meeting the different needs of different kids.

    My rising senior's (and my rising 9th-grader's future) high school offers honors classes in some subjects. There have not been separate honors math classes, but there will be next year, because SOTA's math scores overall are lame, and lack of tracking is singled out as a likely problem.

    Like most high schools, SOTA also offers Advanced Placement classes. Those are the classes my son has had the most problem with, and here's why in my view: AP classes are designed to hit the kids with a huge volume of work, and just to achieve that volume, some of it is going to be easy to disdain as "busywork." My kid has a seriously low tolerance for anything he views as busywork. He excels at assignments that challenge and interest him -- essays that require critical analysis and research, or those hands-on assignments like mock trials, debates, enactments etc., which also require critical analysis, research AND creativity. His commitment to those assignments and his grades (and teacher comments) on them are reliably stellar. But if he views it as busywork -- aaaack. When he gets low grades, that's consistently on work that didn't get done (in which case they're F's, or didn't get done on time -- invariably because he found the work numbing. And those are AP classes, supposedly the most interesting and challenging classes high school has to offer. Those are the classes that are periodically boring my kid. Private schools offer essentially the same AP classes.

    At yesterday's Aptos graduation, the student body president naturally made a speech. This is a boy who went to Nueva K-5 and then transferred to Aptos for 6th, and he disparaged Nueva in his speech, as he also has in private. He told other kids in my hearing (in my car) that Aptos was much more challenging than Nueva. Granted he was comparing Nueva K-5 to a middle school.) Now that he has indicated this publicly to the parents of 300 graduating 8th graders I feel like I can quote him, though, so I'm making an exception and naming the school!

    This kid, by the way, has worked two grades ahead in math -- he took 8th-grade math in 6th at Aptos, took 9th-grade math (honors at Balboa) when he was in 7th at Aptos, and took calc at SF State this year. Aptos willingly works out these arrangements as needed, though of course it would be great if they could arrange for the classes AT Aptos. A number of other students have worked one grade ahead in math, though I think this boy is the only one two grades ahead. My daughter tested into that program but refused it because the high school math class conflicted with Aptos jazz band.

    So I hope that report is helpful to some parents. All of us who are discussing this topic are doing it on the assumption that our kids are intelligent, so I hope I can't really be singled out as boasting.

  10. In response to 10:54 -- both my kids had the same awesome K teacher at Lakeshore -- he later burned out and left teaching (he WAS a high-strung guy, which probably goes hand in hand with his teaching talent but also helped lead to burnout).

    His dream was to have an all-play kindergarten, which he viewed as a better foundation for learning than the "kindergarten is the new first grade" stuff he DID have to teach.

  11. those of you who have been around sfusd for a while, please tell us that the kids have time for self-directed play. my very bright kid learns so much this way. we did not have private as an option, did not get into either project-based school, are going to an immersion program, and i am feeling so sad about my son leaving the interactive, experiential, content-focused world of preschool.

  12. I think of lot of this (your child being excited, stimulated, etc at school ) depends upon the teacher. If your child has a teacher who is excited, who conveys the material in a way that engages kids without overwhelming them and really listens to them, your K experience is going to be great. When we toured schools, we really tried to get a feel for who our daughter's teacher would be. It makes a HUGE difference!

  13. Both my kids are GATE-identified, and both have been learning in a differentiated setting. My older one will be attending a middle school with honors next year, so that will be a new experience for us.

    With the exception of one teacher for one year in K who was a burn-out case and who retired after that year, all the teachers have been stellar at extending the learning for my kids. For example, my older one worked through a middle school language arts program with the handful of other kids who were reading and writing at the same level, but also had the benefit of doing a poetry project with the whole class, and seeing some amazing ideas and imagery flowing from kids who are (she understands) not as literate as she. For major reports she along with that same handful of kids was usually asked to do more, go deeper, write more pages, liven it up with more imagery, or fine-tune the writing, whereas other kids might be focusing on writing a coherent paragraph. It worked.

    We've had so many good field trips, hands-on science experiments, multiple approaches to math learning, and art incorporated into everything, that I haven't felt that my very bright children have been sitting there bored doing rote learning. The end-of-year reports (biography for one and science/animal project for the other) turned out to be well-researched and well-written, even lively, with lovely hand-drawn or hand-painted covers and photos inserted within the text. They were so proud to bring them home, knowing they had done a good job *at their level* (it would be easy for them to do a quick and easy report that "made the grade" but again, the teachers challenged them to work at their level).

    If there were downtime minutes here and there during the school day, my daughter was happy to pull out her latest book and read, and my younger one very happy to play board games or imagination games with his also-very-quick best friend. The best teachers are very good at sensing the mood of the room or the kid, and making space for that. My daughter is the kind of bright kid who also challenges authority and is capable of acting up, and the best teachers were able to sense it and help her channel the energy.

    At least at our school, and especially in the early grades, the pm hours were focused on hands-on projects, often including a mixing of classes that added some energy.

    I agree that it comes down to the teachers. Teaching is an art and its also a lot of work to do well. This is why Prop A was so important, to recruit and retain the best ones and to let them know that their work is valued. We've been lucky with 11 out of 12 good teachers so far (this includes multiple teachers in the team-taught years; we are in an immersion program, which indeed does offer an additional challenge to some of the originally monolingual GATE kids, in a good way). You walk into a room and you can see it and feel it, the happy hum of a classroom working at multiple levels, with the teacher at the helm.

    I should say I'm feeling especially high about our experience right now because we just had a lovely 5th-grade graduation and it brought back all the memories of teachers past and of families working together to improve the school. Hearing the kids themselves give the speeches about their experience brought it home. They know they have been very lucky.

  14. My kids were always absorbed by self-directed play -- both kids would build things with Legos and then act out endless scenarios with them. My daughter did the same thing with a messy set of small plastic dogs (she loved to do this in the shower; lots of fun when you stepped in and stepped on a dog later); she has been known to act out elaborate scenarios with rocks as characters. We were in a market on a Caribbean island when she was 7 and she spent allowance money on objects she said were to create a civilization in our backyard -- well, that wasn't quite realized ultimately, but she worked on it off and on.

    I can't really say if they had time for such self-directed activity in every class every year, though there was lots built in in kindergarten. They did it so much at home that the lack of it didn't strike me if there WAS such a lack in school, put it that way.

  15. My daughter who was in GATE and is now in honors middle school had many opportunties to work on projects/teams in the different grades, so that won't go away.

  16. Our elementary school has done a very good job of differentiating instruction for both our daughter with a learning disability, our GATE-identified daughter.

    It's a lot of work for the teachers, but for the most part teachers are in the profession because they want to help kids learn. They don't want bored kids staring into space -- those kids get disruptive.

    Many teachers give a certain number of open-ended projects that kids can do at their own level. Teachers expect kids who are able to put more length and detail into a project. Or if they are reading a novel, a couple kids might team up and use the novel as a springboard to write a play to act out in front of the class. My daughter's fifth grade teacher always gave a "math problem of the week" to encourage critical thinking -- the few problems I tried, I could only solve with substantial effort.

    My second grader wrote an alliterative story trying to use as many "c" words as possible. Obviously kids who like to write will take this up as a huge challenge, but it also benefits those who might still be struggling with phonics (the teacher assigned different letters to different kids for obvious reasons.)

    Of course there is rote work. But I've yet to hear of a school that doesn't have a certain amount, particularly in math. I feel a certain amount of rote work is beneficial, but others may view it as busywork. Particularly in the lower grades, teachers often give the higher-performing students different language arts packets than the students still mastering phonics. I think in my daughter's second grade the teacher prepares four different homework packets each week!

    In my experience both at Catholic school and public schools, teachers in the early grades schedule PE and the hands-on stuff in the afternoons. Both schools also had just straight up play time in kindergarten.

    Sorry this is rambling. It's just what I can think of off the top of my head.


  17. Hello to all - I wrote the original question to Kate and I really appreciate the thoughtful responses. Agreed, hopefully on this thread no one will be seen as boasting about our bright and shiny children. We're all parents and our children are all above average, right? ;-)

    From this thread I am taking away:
    - look into the project based schools (which would be a nice continuation of the Reggio-based preschool DD is in now);
    - try to understand who the actual K teachers might be at schools while we tour (didn't occur to me but we have only done 1 tour so far);
    - yes, it is possible to stimulate the gifted chid's mind at SFUSD.

    Of course the role of the parent is to support and extend the child's education. Would I be worried about my daughter being challenged if I was not?

    Again thanks for all the advice, I have gotten so much from this blog and the associated community.

  18. a wake up call to the OP: your daughter is not gifted. i know many children entering k who are reading and my son can read adult books, count to 1,000, can add and understand fractions. and he is going to public school where we imagine he will thrive because he is a smart curious kid and we are involved parents. i feel like many on this board suffer from the lake wobegon effect:

    the real and pervasive human tendency to overestimate one’s achievements and capabilities in relation to others.

  19. It depends what you mean by "gifted." That's a word used in different ways by different folks. In the terms used by programs for highly gifted children, the real outliers, most kids mentioned on this blog would not make that cut. Kids mentioned here are mostly reasonably intelligent kids, I'm guessing, who also benefit from advantages such as involved, educated parents and access to lots of stimulating people, activities, and materials. A goodly number of them will ultimately be qualify for the sfusd GATE program and in that sense will be considered "gifted."

    I don't feel the need to tell parents their kids aren't gifted in the first sense. In those cases, we're talking top 1-2%, kids that are way out there. I think most of know we don't have that--or the challenges that would bring, honestly. Parents of those kids will be working closely with the teachers (whether public, private, or special program) to meet the kids' needs and may need to do lots more besides. Something like an IEP would be appropriate.

    However, I believe the original question was directed at issues pertainly to more standardly "gifted" kids, and it was not an invalid question as such. There are maybe 10-20% of kids in each classroom who meet this standard (3-5 out of 20-25 kids is what I've seen). My kids are among these, as identified by the teachers. And their needs should be addressed--and have been in our case.

    There's another, larger percentage of kids who do at par or somewhat above par work whose needs also need to be addressed and not subsumed by teaching that is focused on the kids who are lagging (often because of disadvantaged backgrounds, lack of books in the home, etc.), or speeding ahead. It's the middle to middle high group that may be at most risk of being missed, actually....they don't complain as much or as quickly when they get bored, and they should be challenged. And of course there is much diversity within and between--kids good at language arts but not so quick with math; art geniuses who struggle with reading.

    As said by many, good teachers will be aware of all the groups and will strive to meet their needs and pace. That's one of the gifts of good teaching.

  20. OP here. @2:12, thank you. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word Gifted. What is the right word, Bright? I should have put on thick skin here.

  21. 2:12 here again. Not sure of the right words, or if labels even make sense at this point, other than to point out your child's developmental needs when talking with the teacher. She/he will be doing assessments anyway so your child's reading skills will be "caught."

    And isn't "gifted" a funny way of putting it anyway? All kids have gifts, though not necessarily in the areas of cognition and academic achievement. I don't mean that as a platitude. Part of a teacher's (and parent's) job is to help a kid figure out what the gifts are and to help nurture them, as well as to challenge the child's difficult areas in appropriate ways.

    FWIW, formal GATE identification doesn't happen until the end of third grade. Then, for better or worse, you have a label. It does make a difference in getting into honors programs in middle school.

    I think it's fine to point out that what most people, and the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program too, mean by "gifted" doesn't necessarily approach the incredible giftedness of a tiny percentage of high flyers. And sure, don't we all want our children to be above average and we all look at others to judge ourselves and our kids on a relative scale. Still, I didn't think you needed a scolding, especially from one who aparently has one of those highly "gifted" kids; despite the fuzziness of the term, I think we got the jist of your question, and the responses were interesting and on point for most of us.

  22. question: as the parent of a 4- or 5-year-old, how do you even *know* what your kid's "gifts" are, relative to other kids'?

    i suppose it might be apparent this early if your kid was one of that tiny percentage of true "high fliers" somebody mentioned earlier. otherwise, i am amazed that anyone has enough information to make such an assessment. out of the hundred or so kids we've had contact with -- playgroups, coop childcare at which we worked, preschool, etc. -- i have not witnessed a single kid who possessed talents distinct or extreme enough to warrant an official label (just my opinion, of course). it seemed more like all the kids were good at some things and less good at others...but gifted?

  23. It seems a bit early to be discussing your very young children as "gifted." I know a child who couldn't read until the second grade (and was in special education). By the fifth grade, this child could read and comprehend at a 12th grade level.

    I also think it's important to note that many children who are in gifted programs come from families that have the resources to provide books, homework help, etc. I think we throw the term "gifted" around too lightly; yes, these children who are in honors classes may be smart, bright, intelligent, with a great deal of parent support backing them up, but are they truly gifted?

  24. A relative attended a private K-12 school in Portland. Some of the high school parents were upset when their "lifers" (kids admitted in kindergarten) weren't performing as well as kids admitted after 8th grade. Were they being penalized in some way? Blunt answer from the administration: try as they might, it's almost impossible for admissions to predict how bright/academically inclined a 4 or 5 year old is. It's much easier with 8th graders with a track record of academic success.

  25. As the parent of a 2nd grade boy who is currently in the middle of the pack in public school, I've watched the kids who are way out ahead and have been surprised so far not to have noticed much in the way of boredom. One girl in my son's class will cheerfully write long essays in cursive while some of the others wrestle with getting a beginning, middle and an ending onto their pages. I do think kids need to be tracked at some point but I don't think you need to worry too much about it in the early years.

    I have this notion that if my kids aren't gate-identified by middle school we'll need to move or go private (unless we get a slot at a K-8). I'm not worried about my youngest, but am a little worried about my 2nd grader. We have three more years to go before middle school so I'm not that concerned yet but it's in the back of my mind.

  26. "it's almost impossible for admissions to predict how bright/academically inclined a 4 or 5 year old is."

    I can only speak to my experience.

    My son scored the bottom of the barrel in the K brigance test. His teacher told me it was so bad they had to report this to the district.

    A few years later he was testing advanced in all areas.

    My daughter, 2 years younger than my son, tested high in Kindgergaten. However, after my experiences with my son, K scores do not mean much.

    It's what happens 2-5 which matters. And that is why kids don't get identified GATE until third grade.

  27. Disclaimer for above. My daughter is as gifted as my son. But she is more togther at a younger age than he was. I don't know if this gender related or not. Regardless, I've learned, it takes a few years for all these kids to get it together. Be it reading, math, etc.

  28. Fortunately I teach at a charter school that is totally project based and views all children as gifted. Everyone brings something to a classroom community that should be valued. When you begin to look at the whole child instead of labeling you can really create a rigorous curriculum that values multiple intelligences and an environment where children appreciate each others strengths.

  29. This is a fascinating discussion, and I must say it is very refreshing that no one felt the need to bash Caroline after she shared her experience. What a gift!

    For anonymous who wrote at 8:27 this morning: "As I understand it, the ability to read has little to do with "intellegence" and more to do with that part of the brain/connections being nurtured." What does this mean? What part of the brain is being nurtured and by what?

  30. "FWIW, formal GATE identification doesn't happen until the end of third grade. Then, for better or worse, you have a label. It does make a difference in getting into honors programs in middle school."

    So, what's really the point of being GATE identified. My understanding is that in elementary school there are no separate GATE classes and all children are exposed to differentiated teaching. Does it only matter regarding getting into middle school honors classes? If that's the case, then why identify GATE students as early as 3rd grade? Is there a reason to label students earlier than necessary?

  31. This is a really interesting discussion and taps into a lot of things I have thought about personally throughout my own education. I was identified as "gifted" in 2nd grade- and sure, I'm smart enough, always tested well, went to a good college, etc. yet, I think that moniker also contributed to this idea I had of myself that was really off the mark. It wasn't until I was in my late 20s-30s that I realized I am no scholar, and that an academic life isn't really for me - I'm rambling a little here b/c I can't be articulate about this now, BUT I will post a link to a very interesting and moving article that appeared in the NYT about a year ago that I think many of the folks posting and reading here will relate to - my guess is that we really want what is best for our children as individuals, that, like another posted said earlier, we want to help them find the unique gifts each of them have, regardless of what they are - here goes, hope it works (I don't know how to do that tiny url thingy).

  32. OK that obviously didn't work. I managed to create a tiny url - I think. Here goes again:

  33. In response to the original post: project based or immersion are the best options for a high skilled individual.

  34. That's a very sweet story in the NYT.

    I think I understand what the poster above meant when he or she said, "...the ability to read has little to do with "intelligence" and more to do with that part of the brain/connections being nurtured."

    The more you read to your kid and focus on reading skills, the sooner the reading brain connection will occur. Just like a kid who is around parents who ride bikes often will have early exposure to riding bikes and may ride a two wheeler sooner than someone who doesn't have that exposure. A later bike riding kid, though, may still end up being a better bike rider than the early rider. Similarly, someone who starts reading later than average may turn out to be a more advanced reader than an early bird reader.

    We can all agree that reading abundantly to our kids is great for them for many reasons, at the very least planting a love for books in their lives. But I do know parents who focus quite a bit of attention on reading to their preschool age kids and pushing them to read. I think this comes out of a perception that reading early equals "gifted." Debatable equation, I do believe.

    I agree with others above that Kindergarten is too early to be teaching academic subjects. We are going forward with our plan to enroll our late summer boy in a private program for 5 - 6 year olds that specifically does not teach reading and writing. We may do differently for our daughter when the time comes. Nothing fits all kids.

  35. bigandtinygirl's comments about being labeled "gifted" or "smart" reminded me of a video I saw which discussed the labels we put on our children and how they can lead to a "fixed" vs. "growth" mindset and crimp their desire to take on academic challenges.

    Here is the link

    My son's 3rd grade teacher told me that she felt that he tended not to take on challenges because he didn't want to fail and look dumb. So we have had to think about this when encouraging him, to be sure to try to focus on praising the effort and not just the end result. It takes more attention to do this, we live in such a results oriented world, but hopefully it will instill a love for learning in him.

    The NYTimes article she cited is an interesting read. I loved the author's open minded attitude toward measuring the success of his kids. It is refreshing in the face of what seems like a hyper-crazy college admissions race that high school kids today face.

  36. There IS self-directed play in Kindergarten. SFUSD has a full-day model, which leaves plenty of time for it. I concur with the poster who suggested that afternoons aren't the best time for young students to engage in heavily directed, whole-class activities. And it's important time for all kinds of learning: social-emotional, linguistic, gross motor, academic, etc.

    In re the Brigance: it's been redone recently but in my opinion it's not very useful and not at all predictive. I think it places too much emphasis on fine motor development.

    @kortney: I teach in SFUSD.

  37. Don't assume private schools are better at differentiation. Why do you think so many private school parents spend money on tutors?

    Most private schools do well with bright, above average children, but *not* with those who are actually gifted.

  38. i relate to bigandtiny, i was labeled gifted in elementary and it definitely made me think of myself as super smart--which i am not. my best friend in 5th grade (we are still good friends!) was not placed in the gifted program and it really hurt her to be excluded from this group. she has gone on to be well-known and respected in a field of academics and educators. the only reason i would let my kids be tested for GATE is if the label results in a better education for them, such as access to certain classes, which is apparently not the case until middle school.

    in special education the model is areas of strength and need, and i think this works for all children.

  39. I don't know if my kid is "gifted" but he could read EVERYTHING before he was two. Not because I "forced" him, he just did.

    To the person who replied: "OP, your daughter is not gifted" ... wow, how snotty! And how do you know if she is or isn't? She was worried about her kid being bored in class, not because she is "gifted" but because she already knows much of what they will be drilling the kids in. And the Lake Lake wobegon quote is also off base, and truly dates you.

    To others:
    Kindergarten was dreamy for my kid, lots of play, lots of art, lots of fun. It was in 1st grade, when they started the rote drilling, that things got bad.

  40. Just for the record, my child has had rote drilling in Kindergarten (yes, public) and not a lot of free play. They are on a strict schedule with very little transition time, which I think is hard on the kids. Happily today is the last day of school and we can look forward to a less stressful summer!

    I think the whole idea of gifted is problematic, but certainly all parents want their children to be engaged, happy and challenged - of course the tricky thing is, is that we all have our own visions of what comprises that - educational opportunities (as has been discussed extensively on this blog) range greatly throughout this city, AND most of us have little choice about where our children go to school. So it is complex.

    This morning my daughter was spontaneously and happily practicing the second language she has been learning this year - she clearly loves it - and we are moving her out of her current school into a school with NO language immersion - I found myself thinking, are we making the wrong decision? Really really hard to say. And also really hard to think ahead - to know that most of her life is yet to come and that she is yet to evolve as a learner...

    OK enough rambling.

  41. Reading this thread reminded me of something that struck me as really odd my first year of college. One of my roommates, who had attended public school on the East Coast, would frequently mention that she had been in the Gifted and Talented program in high school. My first thought(I was 18 after all!) was, "Dork." She was certainly bright, but we were at Yale, and she did not stand out as one of the smartest kids there (nor did I, for the record!). I had attended private school and had never heard of gifted and talented programs. My schools did track to some extent as early as fifth grade, but the tracking was done by subject and was not a label applied to the child (or to anything -- some of us had pre-algebra and some of us had sixth grade math). I had other college friends who had gone through GATE programs yet never felt the need to announce it in the same way this roommate did. I'm by no means saying that all GATE kids feel the need to act like she did. My point, if I even have one, is that labeling certain kids with words such as gifted and talented struck me (and still does) as kind of creepy and counter productive. I understand the need to have honors and AP classes for kids who excel in certain subjects, but I do not understand the need to tell certain children they are gifted and talented while telling other children, by their exclusion from this group, that they are not. I'm sure many of these kids have gifts and talents that will serve them well in life but that are not considered in making this academic designation. Ok -- I'm rambling.

  42. Our son just completed his K year in the SFUSD. He is "gifted" if one measures giftedness by reading (easily devouring chapter books at second grade level), counting to 100 and beyond, and achieving the highest levels in Super Mario. Alas, he is labeled "autistic" by medical standards. His school was able to address his uniqueness, and I don't think that it had any impact on his classmates.

    Is anyone looking for some good summer reading? I highly recommend "A Mind at a Time" by Mel Levine. An excellent book for those who want to understand how children learn, emphasizing different learning styles. It helps parents and teachers appreciate the "gifts" in every child. It answers some of the earlier questions in this thread, like why some children read well and why some cannot read at all (they are NOT stupid). Dr. Levine came to SF and presented a full-day workshop a few years ago. Brilliant! He nevers labels a child (no ADD, dyslexia, etc), and the introduction detailing his own humiliating elementary school experience is a tear jerker.

  43. Why do you think so many private school parents spend money on tutors?

    Because they can.

  44. Can the parents who think that too much afternoon time is spent on academic pursuits in K please provide the school start time? Is it possible that schools with late start times schedule more academic work after lunch because a greater portion of their school day is in the afternoon?

    Our children go to a public school that starts at 7:50 AM, with final bell at 1:50 PM. The activities after lunch/recess seem to have minimal academic content, and the children have fun with arts and crafts, self-initiated activities, and group projects. These activities allow lots of talking and movement around the classroom. Students can chose to spend some quiet time reading in the book nook too. Classroom activities in our K classroom seem to be a matter of personal choice in the afternoon compared to the morning, which is more academically oriented.

  45. Gifted, smifted. I went to public school. My performance wasn’t anything to brag about. In our school system, children were put into divisions, based on test scores and IQ. We had 9 divisions: 1 was smartest, 8 was dumbest, and the letter division (A) meant that you were the cream of the crop—accelerated, advanced, basically an a**hole. I wasn’t a stellar student, and I was assigned to the lowest division. Well, the kids in the lowest division were my best friends, and we really knew how to have a good time. We bulled school, smoked cigarettes, and had an all-round good time (mind you, I am describing 4th and 5th grade!). In 5th grade, during the spring parent-teacher conference, the teacher told my mom that she was recommending me for the advanced program. “My child?” Yeah, pretty hard to believe. So in sixth grade, I joined the a**hole division. Surprisingly, school wasn’t hard at all; in fact, I started to wonder what all the fuss was about. I made good grades, Bs and Cs, right in the middle of the pack. In 8th grade, my dad said, “If you get all As for the rest of the year, I’ll buy you a horse,” a promise that he would live to regret. I got my horse right after the 8th grade graduation. I went on to achieve highest honors throughout my high school years, receive a scholarship to a prestigious East Coast college, and earn a Ph.D. in science and technology (in a program with very few women).

    Was I “gifted”? Certainly not in the terms that folks on this string are judging their “gifted” pre-K children. I would have been rejected by every private school in this City; yet I was courted by many private universities. My point is that there is a long road between K and career. It’s a pity that children get judged and labeled so young. It can be very discouraging to be called stupid or lazy. How did I succeed? I eventually learned how to apply myself to compete with the best of them (although I am not discounting the motivation of the horse promise).

    Lighten up. Gifted or not, your child will do fine in school with lots of love and time to bloom, even if they are in a class room with silly “ungifted” kids like me.

  46. hahaha - "a**hole division" - I like the sound of that.

  47. I like to joke that there are two kinds of parents--those who haven't figured out yet that their children aren't perfect and those who have! When I give school tours I'm amused by the people who are sure that their children are "gifted." Of course their children are gifted--ALL children are gifted. They can all do incredible things. But you never know in what way any individual child is going to demonstrate his or her gifts.

    My daughter's second grade class made pinch-pots during art. It was amazing to see how much trouble the "bright" kids in the class were having with it. Then one little girl who was definitely not the most academically advanced in the class made a perfect pinch-pot in about one minute. I made me realize how important it is to stimulate kids and give them chances to excel in many ways.

    My son was a bright and verbal preschooler. I remember bragging to my sister, "I think he'll read by age four." Well, he didn't read until second grade (and he was old for his grade). He was eventually classified as GATE by SFUSD, but mostly, I think, because he's great at standardized tests. He told me in 7th grade that he didn't bother reading the long passages and just went right to the questions because it was usually obvious what the answer was. Now I joke that he's a "straight-B" student, because he doesn't believe in homework but is good at figuring out exactly how much work he needs to do to get B's.

    I guess my point is, you just never know.

  48. I couldn't agree more with the 2 posts above. You never know. We are all gifted, but in different ways.

  49. Has anyone seen video of this talk on creativity and education?

  50. So what do people think about the GATE classification? Is it worth it to potentially label your 3rd grader?

  51. If your kid is in public, they will be sorted as GATE or not in 3rd grade, based on 2nd grade standardized test results. I guess parents can opt out of any enrichment provided for GATE students if they want. At many elementary schools this enrichment is slim to none. Resources are needed for struggling kids, not those already succeeding.

  52. Kids can test into GATE based on second grade test scores, but they have several other opportunities. Some kids qualify in 4th and 5th grade as well.

  53. well, crap, after reading about all these kindergarteners who are reading chapter books and counting to a thousand, i'm feeling even more ambivalent about sending my October daughter to K (we'd considered holding her back, but then got a spot at one of our seven schools, and decided to go for it). She knows how to write a few of her letters, but still can't recognize many of them -- she'll enthusiastically yell out "G" when she sees an "H" for instance. And tends to have ants in her pants. I think she's fine for a soon-to-be five-year-old, but I'm not sure she's fine for the soon-to-be-five-year-old that the SFUSD is wanting to educate in kindergarten ...

  54. 12:32: you know your child best. But just a counterpoint to these stories. My son couldn't read or write when he entered Kindergarten. He was one of the lower performing kids that year.

    He just finished 2nd grade one of the top students in his class. His teacher sent home extra math homework and harder spelling words to challenge him.

    He spent all of 10 minutes a day doing his homework, and aced his tests. I used to hate his kind when I was in school!

    The school librarian pulled me aside to tell me he was a fantastic reader, but she was concerned he only wanted to read non-fiction.

    My daughter finished Kindergarten yesterday. She can read sight words, but isn't fluent. They learn to read in the 1st grade, and I'm confident she, like her brother, will be reading above grade level by this time next year.

    As others said, you just never know.

  55. @12:32-

    I strongly agree with 5:48. You know your child best and need to do what you think is best.

    Still, I've been teaching Kindergarten for several years now and every year I'm pretty convinced that my entire class is gifted. The academic standards the state sets are achievable and you don't have to resort to rote drill and imagination destruction to get there.

    This last year, I had one student who could read a couple of words in August, a couple who knew the alphabet, and several who couldn't write their names yet. Some spoke no English. (I have yet to meet a Kindergartner who never suffers from bouts of ants in the pants.) They all got to grade-level or better without giving up on PE, art, music, and other issues of high-level Kindergarten importance like making silly faces.

    And hey, I've got enough ego to admit that I think I'm a pretty good teacher, but their success isn't really due to that: all kids really can do this work if it's presented in a way that engages them.

    One thing I like to know about my students early in the year is how they like to learn - just standard learning modality stuff. (Mel Levine gets into this some in his work.) I can figure some of this out by observing the child, but talking to parents is a faster route. Modern schooling favors aural intelligence, so if that's not your child's preferred modality I would definitely tell the teacher early on. Maybe not on the first day of school, but within the first couple of weeks.

    In terms of readiness, I would like all of my students to be able to use the bathroom without adult assistance on the first day of school and for the most part to be able to let me know in some way (by asking, using a silent signal if they don't want to say it out loud, etc.) that they need to go. It's also nice if they can recognize their names in print.

  56. My January birthday kid started kindergarten knowing the letters in her name and that was it. She was reading simple words by the end of kindergarten. She just finished second grade, and is totally fluent -- she can read anything you put in front of her.

    I think the social readiness part is more important than the academics. After all, the teachers do teach the kids how to read and write.

  57. 12:32 here. thanks everyone. i would write more (and may write more later) but said incoming kindergartener is climbing all over me at the moment ...

  58. Like Poppy, I am a teacher in SFUSD (and a mom of a 4.5 year old who could but will not be attending K this fall). I want to point out that activities where students "... have fun with arts and crafts, self-initiated activities, and group projects..." can still be academic in nature. Freedom, choice, and play all foster learning and the development of important skills. When these experiences are not recognized as learning than they tend to be minimal in classrooms. NCLB may not agree but other research does. Read Vivian Gussy Paley and I second the Levine recommendation. He also has a wonderful video.

  59. last poster (SFUSD parent) -- can i ask why you're not sending your daughter to K? i'm in a similar quandry as 12:32. and i know everyone says "you know your child best." however, what i'm unclear on -- still -- is what is going to be expected of my child by the school district in K. i completely agree with the last poster that academic learning can take place in self-directed activities/arts & crafts/play etc. but do the kindergarteners in our school district get to do that, or are they required to do a lot of teacher-directed sit-still-on-the-matt type stuff, and if so, for how long at a time (30 minutes?). does it depend on the school and within the school by the teacher? our preschool director makes kindergarten sound like bootcamp for school.

  60. I would argue that public Kindergarten is pretty darn academic. I'm sure all schools are different but my daughter was taught things that I didn't learn until 2nd grade (punctuation for example) - the kids are expected to yes sit quietly on the carpet for long periods of time - they do have free play and time at their tables, but I found the academic aspects pretty rote. Yeah my kid learned a lot, but I was pretty turned off by it - more so than I expected to be.

    Personally if I had to do it again (and my daughter is an August birthday) I probably would have waited a year. But at the same time, my kid has been FINE - she is totally on target and where she should be - it's just not necessarily what I wanted for her this year.

  61. I asked my just-graduated 5th grader, whether she wished we had sent her to school a year earlier. She was an October birthday, socially and academically ready for K, but who was just not consistently dry enough to send to kindergarten. Sounds funny now, but it was a real issue! I didn't want her known for life as the girl who always wet her pants her kindergarten.

    Anyway, she looked at me like I was crazy! Even though several of her friends are the same age as her and a grade ahead, she has been very happy as an older kid in her class. She is academically advanced, and never once complained of boredom etc. Her teachers have consistently challenged her. A couple other girls in her class are bright older girls with October/November birthdays so she's never felt out of place.

    I really think the state needs to change the cut-off date to reflect the academic focus of current public kindergarten. They had tons of fun, and lots of time to play and explore, but it was academic.

  62. Please...NO!!
    Our son who will be 1 week shy of 5 when he starts will be bored silly if they change the cutoff date and we have to delay his K start one year. I really hope they keep things as is.

  63. In my kid's just-graduated 5th grade class, the ages ranged well over a year-and-a-half. Some kids born as early as July were red-shirted, but one of the one of the most advanced kids academically in the group (in the highest reading group, produced volumes of written material, great test scores, etc.) was a Dec 1 baby and therefore THE absolute youngest child possible in the class. My own kid is an August baby who entered at just-5 and did fine.

    I saw some gaps over the years that opened and closed based on developmental age, including motor skills. But there is so much diversity in development pace anyway. Somehow the kids adjusted, as kids tend to do. They graduated as great friends across the age gaps and I think it would be a challenge for anyone to put the kids into line-up based on age.

    If you have clear concerns about your kid not being ready yet, or conversely about holding him/her back too long and engendering lots of boredom, then go with your gut. You know your kid better than anyone. If you are on the fence, just try to realize that your kid will likely be fine either way. It might be a different experience one way or another, and the concerns that arise may be different, as will the successes. But either way, more than likely fine.

    One point, I do think that the growth in red-shirting is partly why there is more emphasis on academic subjects in kindergarten than a generation ago. If half the class is a half-year older than those days--and many school districts have a September cut-off now--then there will be more ability, and more pressure, to get the kids doing what used to be first-grade work, including knowing all the letters and beginning to sound them out. Preschool is taking on the functions of kindergarten-past, especially those "pre-K" years specifically designed for red-shirted kids. It becomes a bit of a self-perpetuating vicious circle, doesn't it.

    Another problem is that many low-income parents cannot afford to pay for quality childcare/preschool, so tend to put their kids into K as soon as they are age-qualified, so the older kids in the class, the red-shirted ones, tend almost universally to be the ones from more advantaged backgrounds. I think it does worsen the achievement gap--younger kids who are less-prepared for K in classes with older kids who are very well-prepared. Not saying that any individual family here should make a decision based on this problem, just noting it. Seems to me the best solution would happen on a wide scale, by offering universal quality preschool to all, starting at age 3.

  64. OP - you do have a valid concern depending on which school your child will attend. Leaving aside the "gifted" discussion - in schools that are under-performing on tests there are often many kids who are not at basic level for many valid reasons and the majority of the teacher's time will be spent with them. Most teachers also teach to the "middle" and if your child has mastered or easily masters material they can get bored. There is discussion on what it means to be bored, but it is also the right of all children to have instruction in public school at their level (both under, at and over performing kids). Your child will still have instruction, but they are pressured to bring those scores up. Work with the teachers to get individual work for your child - and as others said, this really starts happening in first grade - kindergarten is generally fine.

  65. OK, I waited this one out for a while, but... what if a kid *is* actually one of the 1% off the charts, in one or more areas (not even taking into account the complexities of social, emotional, or academic talents/difficulties/differences in other areas)? Even if such stuff can be identified in only some kids by age 4 - what do you do if it seems like that's the case for your kid?

    The differences between public and private here seem, if anything, matters of degree - it's probably easier to support independent learning in smaller classes and so on. I'm not even sure I'm down with the standard classroom setting to begin with. The notion of schools just for "gifted" kids raises other issues, as does homeschooling.

    I guess I'm saying, where to start looking for alternatives?

  66. i think we need to clarify that low testing schools are more academic because the teachers are pressured into getting the kids ready to test well.

    higher scoring schools can be so because their population has more English as a first language, yes? no? Don't hit me...

  67. sigh
    I think whereever you choose there will always be children who need more challenges, and teachers who do and do not rise to the challenges! I'm Canadian, K through University in BC and although our systems has higher academic standards at the end (you graduate with provincial wide exams in each major subject) the standards are lower for K.

    I give you all this boring background because I entered kinder reading in 1974, in a time when reading wasn't even taught until the end of first grade. And I had the worlds worst teacher (later in life she lived across the street from us and threw rocks at all the neigbourhood dogs - doesn't that sound like a gem of a kinder teacher) She told me that I was a liar because five year olds couldn't read, and I spent most of the year with my head on my desk... and yet, and here's my point - despite her I went on to love school. I had other great teachers who were more then happy to provide my first grade self with Grade 8 reading and math, and even with that kinder teacher, I went on have great experiences.
    So no, you don't want your talented/gifted/whatever kid to get bored but RELAX it's one year, and if you hate it, change it. Or find lots of outside projects, or again, relax. Kinder does not have to shape the rest of their school experience.

  68. i think we need to clarify that low testing schools are more academic because the teachers are pressured into getting the kids ready to test well.

    Schools not meeting API/AYP probably are struggling with needing to do more test-prep. But SFUSD doesn't really have that many schools missing their targets (yet).

    SFUSD does have a bunch of schools participating in "Reading First", a federal initiative that's gotten quite a lot of (negative) press lately. Reading First requires absolute fidelity to a state-approved reading curricula. California has two. They're both very scripted and teacher-directed.

    Reading First's goal was 95% of students reading at grade-level by third grade by using these "scientific", "teacher-proof" curricula. It hasn't worked.

    I suspect that a lot of these schools you're referencing are Reading First, since the curricula are aligned to the state standards (they publish special California editions) and extremely rote.

    Punctuation (well, end marks at least) are a K standard for the state of California (assumed under the writing standard about "brief, legible sentences"). That definitely wasn't taught when I was in Kindergarten, so I'd say that K is more academic now(and the standards were largely moved down a grade nearly ten years ago, so this isn't just ancedotal). However, I don't think that K students are incapable of learning this information OR that it requires rote time sitting on the rug doing what the teacher says. Reading First's "science" does, though.

    (Coles' Misreading Reading is a great book on the topic of "science" in reading instruction, by the way.)

    ...Personally, I am not a big fan of sitting still and I don't learn very well from a "sage on the stage". So I don't teach that way.

    In short: K is more academic now, but mastering the content does not require drill and kill instruction. Teacher preference and school philosophy have a huge impact on what happens in a teachers' room.

    higher scoring schools can be so because their population has more English as a first language, yes? no?

    I think this is a common perception inside schools and out. I will say that I used to teach in another Bay Area district at a school whose ELL population was over 80%. The school's test scores had risen every year for years - which we attributed to Guided Reading (not very scripted). However, the gains were becoming smaller and we noticed that CELDT scores did not seem to be improving. So we ramped up our English language instruction - by doing inquiry projects in science and social studies. It worked. That school still has rising test scores by doing LESS drill and kill and more inquiry.

    I think a lot of schools ARE pressured to go with rote instruction, but there are excellent examples of schools that aren't and are getting excellent results.

  69. "I think a lot of schools ARE pressured to go with rote instruction, but there are excellent examples of schools that aren't and are getting excellent results."

    Yes, but few people have the luxury of getting into them - in SF at least.

  70. Yes, but few people have the luxury of getting into them - in SF at least.

    This implies there aren't many schools bucking the drill-and-kill approach. I don't think that's true necessarily.

    For one thing, SFUSD has moved toward purchasing/offering more inquiry-based curricula where available, at least at the elementary level: FOSS for science and the new math program, Everyday Mathematics. For the old math, each K student got twelve workbooks. Everyday Math? Zero.

    Also, there are schools in this district and others that are implementing/beginning to implement/have been using for years different pedagogical models. They are not always high-profile schools and they may not be for everyone, but they exist.

  71. poppy -- if every SFUSD teacher is as committed and passionate as you -- and i don't doubt most are -- we SF families are lucky indeed. you have given us a WEALTH of background info, the type that is hard for parents to get at from the outside. now i understand why some classroom styles appealed to me and why some didn't (speaking as a layperson). so thank you for taking the time. reading what you say, i am not surprised that flynn's and sf community's inquiry- and project-based "programming" (respectively) attracted me.


  72. Creative Arts also has a similar approach.

  73. To the parent who was wondering what to do for the truly gifted (> 1%) - First off, you would probably already know. Anything that seems like they are just 'ahead' can probably be attributable to early exposure or above average intelligence. Truly scary smart will leave you befuddled about what to do because they are probably passing you now in certain areas like music or math. Important things to remember are that their emotional and social development are not necessarily linked to their intellectual development.

    I think the most critical aspect is not the have the child tie up their (or you as parents) identity with their giftedness. The other extreme is that they completely hide their abilities to 'fit in'.

    When I went to MIT on the first day of freshman orientation - the Dean of the school said to all of us " look around - half of you will be in the bottom of the class". The shock was palpable. MIT does a lot to prevent suicide among freshman who have always been the top of their class. Not trying to be dramatic, but just saying it comes with it's own set of issues.

    As far as what I would suggest - like all children, the truly gifted have their own journey - but I would put them in a regular school and look for supplementary academic enrichment at the appropriate level of development (college courses,etc.) Most schools would be flexible about the schedule (mornings at school - some afternoons elsewhere - etc.)

    Again, this is a situation that most of us will not really not face (including me - :)) but for that small number that do - good luck.

  74. I second the idea that all children need time to develop appropriately socially and emotionally. No matter how smart your kindergartener is, he's still five years old. Five-year-olds need to sing the same song every day, learn how to wait to go to the bathroom, and practice writing.

    There was a really bright kid in my son's preschool class who taught himself to read when he was three. Someone asked his mother, What is he going to do in kindergarten? Her reply: He's going to learn how to make friends and hold a pencil.

  75. "When I went to MIT on the first day of freshman orientation - the Dean of the school said to all of us " look around - half of you will be in the bottom of the class". "

    I didn't go to MIT, but I went to a strong engineering college in MA, 40 miles west.

    I did well in high school. College was a shock, as I found myself surrounded with similarly "gifted" people.

    I failed a few courses in my time. I found a way to pull myself together. I graduated with honors (albeit late), and later earned my Masters.

    I'm not the smartest person I know. I've met a lot of people more gifted in all walks of life. I think my strength was the ability to admit even though I failed, it didn't define me. I could, and did, come back and do well.

    That is the lesson I want to teach my kids. It's okay not to be the best. It's okay to stumble. I'll be there to hold you up when you need me.

    When you're ready, you will shine.

  76. Thanks, Kim! I do think the vast majority of teachers in SFUSD are incredible, collaborative, just plain cool educators. One thing I like about this District is that it's been quite easy to arrange to observe in other classes/schools and have others observe me - it helps everyone question their practice and develop as educators.

    Project-based instruction is a good example because I find people either love it or loathe it. It can seem exciting, hands-on and powerful or squishy and messy with only incidental learning. And some schools love it and build the spaces for it while others prefer more teacher-directed instruction.

    Right now I have a thread-jacking question of my own. If you are entering SFUSD and your child is attending KinderCamp, is there anything in particular that you hope you/your child receive from it?

  77. How about nice families.

  78. Coming late to this party :-)...
    I've got a couple of resources for those of you out there with gifted kids. Best website hands-down for
    general gifted info is
    Then if you have one of those 'really out-there' kids (and, yes, it is possible to tell at this age, though not in every case), there's a terrific resource for kids who are in the top 0.1% called the Davidson Young Scholars program (