To Thine Own Self Be True, Except During Testing

A guest post by Rebecca Gray

It’s spring and standardized testing is in full bloom. The poppies of the classroom, gifted students, are often overlooked during this time of assessment. Advocates for GT learners can ensure the diverse breadth of gifted students are accommodated before and during high stakes testing.

Once testing season rolls around, anyone with a learning anomaly faces increased anxiety and scrutiny as administrators, teachers, parents, and legislatures begin the process of accountability to the state. Gifted students may be seen as an asset or as a liability at this time. It all depends on their giftedness. High achieving GT students make schools, administrators, and teachers look good with their commended scores that surpass the norm. A different story emerges, however, when the twice exceptional student enters the picture. The intensities, hyperactivity, inability to sustain attention during a prolonged silent 4 hour test, anxiety and overanalysis of simple, easily answered questions becomes a liability for all stakeholders who stand a chance to gain or lose based on outcomes of high stakes testing.

Gifted students encompass much more than one test can marginalize. Academic giftedness, in its many forms, shares a broad swath across a diverse educational landscape. In many school districts, gifted students receive services based on identification of need just as students on the opposite end of the same bell curve receive accommodations based on their identified learning differences. Accommodations on one end of the bell curve should be well balanced with accommodations on the other end as well.

Proponents and advocates of gifted students expect accommodations to be made for GT students in the self contained GT classroom. The same must be said for standardized testing as well as in the preparation for state mandated assessment. Allowing the accelerated learner to bypass often onerous review exercises, frees up opportunities to explore curriculum geared toward the GT student’s special interest and intellect level. In addition, targeted accommodations may be made to ensure gifted students test in an environment conducive to success.  The test setting can be accommodated and the test proctored by a teacher or administrator well versed in the intensities and exceptionalities of GT students. For a testing administrator, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility to allow the simple testing accommodation of small group testing for identified GT students.

Gifted students cannot turn off intensities and exceptionalities with the flick of a switch. High achieving GT students have the capability to bring high scores to the standardized testing table. Accommodations geared toward the needs of the diversity of gifted learners allow them to achieve favorable outcomes on state mandated assessments. Allowing students a testing experience conducive to success should be a right, not a privilege, for all.


Rebecca Gray is a mom of two gifted girls, an educator, and advocate for gifted learners. She can be reached at rebeccaminergray@gmail.

Searching for Meaning: A Parent Book Review

by Emily VR

When your kids worry about the meaning of life, what do you do?

We all ask ourselves existential questions at some point.  When those questions come from my kids, sometimes I’m prepared.  Sometimes I’m not.

 “But how do we know for sure that the universe and heaven go on forever?  Everything has an end.”

I try to give reassurance.  We talk about science and faith.  Unfortunately, sometimes, religion and science aren’t enough.  Sometimes, the unknowns can cause sadness: real, palpable, sleepless worry.  A hug and kiss don’t always make things better.

 “Why did kids have to die in the earthquake?”

Some questions don’t have answers.

Thinking back on these conversations, I can see the faces of my sons, vulnerable, waiting.  Their eyes are windows.  At some point, between now and the end of adolescence, I know those windows will develop protective shutters – at least temporarily.  Right now, their private thoughts still come out at bedtime, and those windows are wide open.

 “I don’t understand why we are alive.  I mean, what is the point of the world, and of people existing?”

As a parent, how do you reassure your child, while he or she still looks to you for answers?  Can we help our kids build resilience?

A new book offers support, and it’s become one of my favorites:  Searching for Meaning:51MJ2taSDXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope, by James Webb.  Dr. Webb is a psychologist and expert on gifted children, and co-founded the nonprofit SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) following the suicide of a gifted youth.  Psychologists find that bright youths ask difficult questions early in their lives, and often struggle with perfectionism and disillusionment. Searching for Meaning isn’t specifically for parents, but it gives reassurance to anyone who can identify with these worries.

The book begins with the roots of idealism – both nature and nurture – and discusses challenges faced by idealists, internal and external.  Webb provides an overview of gifted characteristics, since those individuals are often at higher risk, and he then delves into difficulties faced by idealists.  Depression is discussed in a frank, compassionate manner.  Throughout the book, Webb provides statistics and definitions in addition to the feelings of experiencing these challenges.

Webb also explores existential concerns through multiple lenses.  Existential theories, religious beliefs, and psychological theories are covered, and references are given for research, allowing curious readers to explore further.  In particular, the Theory of Positive Disintegration, by Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski, gives readers encouragement:  according to Dabrowski, grappling with disillusionment is the first step toward heightened development, though questions may continue throughout the life span.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms are covered with compassion and honesty, and Webb provides healthier alternatives.  Readers can discover methods to find happiness and hope:  cultivating positive relationships, evaluating goals and values, becoming involved with causes, spirituality, humor, life scripting, and bibliotherapy, among others.  I found the solutions respectful, and flexible enough to incorporate spiritual beliefs, though no religion is promoted.  The book embraces the unique needs of each reader:  Webb states, “The examples I’ve presented… are only suggestions; each individual must find what works best for him- or herself.”

The overall text seems best suited for adults and older adolescents, but in my family, I found the chapter on “Healthier Coping Styles” perfect for reading with my older son.  In an attempt to answer one of my 9-year-old’s questions, I pulled down this book.  It became a nightly ritual.

 “Mom, can we read more of that book together?  The one about ways to deal with my stress?”

Webb uses the acronym HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) to describe triggers for negativity and stress, and it’s been helpful in our house.  We’ve increased “hug time” (feeling connected), we make conscious efforts to think positively and plan for the future, and we talk about how it’s okay to think and feel the way we do.  We’ve read and re-read passages, and we discuss how we can use them in our lives.

For my part, I realized that one of Webb’s coping strategies is how I best handle stress:  I work with causes to find solutions.  In this, I see myself in my sons:  at ages 4 and 9, in their own ways, I see them driven to right wrongs, to speak up for truth, and to help those who suffer.  Earlier this year, our church devoted several weeks to a similar theme, titled “Follow Your Heartbreak.” Our pastor explained that to find your passion, you can think about what breaks your heart about the world.  This seems to be how our family was meant to live our lives.

Webb’s book gives idealists both encouragement and motivation, and I believe it can help us lead happier lives.  I can’t protect my sons against all doubt and pain, but I’m glad for a resource in letting them know that it’s okay to question.  I want to show them that there is nothing wrong in asking for help, when they suffer.  That they can find peace, especially in pursuing their drive to never, ever stop trying to make the world better.  That as long as I’m alive, I will be here for them, doing the same.

Just like my children, I’ll be searching for meaning, and for hope.

Dr. Webb’s book can be found through Great Potential Press or online booksellers:

http://www.greatpotentialpress.com/searching-for-meaning