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Twenty-Six Years Ago

In 1996, I was just barely out of college and working in my new job. I was unmarried and yet to have any children. Little did I know, during that time there was a debate going on back then that has now come back full circle and is relevant to the parents of highly gifted school age children today.

Just this past week, I learned that twenty-six years ago, the topic of Excellence vs. Equity was creating tensions that permeated American Society and thus American schools. Leading the charge on this fight to promote excellence was none other than Camilla Benbow from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) and champion of acceleration, founder of SMPY in 1971, and namesake of the Study of Exceptional Talent (SET), Dr. Julian C. Stanley.


Together, Benbow and Stanley published a paper in the journal of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, INEQUITY IN EQUITY: How "Equity" Can Lead to Inequity for High-Potential Students. The inequity is defined as,

  • This inequity is the result of an extreme form of egalitarianism within American society and schools, which involves the pitting of equity against excellence rather than promoting both equity and excellence, anti-intellectualism, the "dumbing-down" of the curriculum, equating aptitude and achievement testing with elitism, the attraction to fads by schools, and the insistence of schools to teach all students from the same curriculum at the same level.

The article, debate points, and conclusions are all a fascinating read. More fascinating is that even then, the authors point out that over the past THIRTY Years prior to 1996, "the achievement of waves of American students with high intellectual potential has declined as a result of inequity in educational treatment.," and that, "Educational policies that fail to take into account the vast range of individual differences among students—as do many that are currently in use—are doomed to be ineffective."


This article along with decades of research from Dr. Stanley, Camilla Benbow, and David Lubinski led to the publishing of the most widely used and referenced advocacy tool in 2004, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students and the ten year follow up report, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America's Brightest Students. If you have not yet read these publications and your children are still in public school, please do so now. I also highly recommend looking at the published research posted on both Dr. Camilla Benbow and Dr. David Lubinski's bio pages on the Vanderbilt website.

In the conclusion the article states what most families here already know, "These forces have led to a situation in which the precocious students are not being treated equitably; they simply are not provided with an appropriate education—an education that brings out their potential. This hurts bright students from minority or lower socioeconomic backgrounds the most, because their parents often cannot provide alternative educational experiences to compensate for their neglect by the system.


It pained me to think that with more than fifty years of research and twenty-six years after the publishing of this article, eighteen years after the publishing of A Nation Deceived, and seven years after the follow up report of A Nation Empowered, schools are still the single biggest obstacle for ALL highly gifted students accessing appropriate levels of acceleration.


i will leave you with this...

Just last night during the live Twitter #gtchat: Increasing Equity in Gifted Programs, a New Jersey gifted advocate and leader highlighted NCDPI's Equity and Excellence Strategic Initiative: A Call to Action.

Knowing from both personal experience and from talking to our own BRIGHTLinks community of families, it was frustrating to see another state's gifted leader and advocate touting NCDPI's Department of Advanced Learning and Gifted Education as the pinnacle for other states to aspire. So I responded, "I would love to chat w you abt my experiences in 2 TOP NC LEAs w my HG/PG children. Many #profoundlygifted families are struggling and experiencing school failure." (remember Twitter has character limits).

Her response back to me was basically...

I'm sorry....advocacy is a marathon...

Does she know how long this advocacy marathon has been going on???

I do, and now you do, too.


A quote from A Nation Empowered (2015) by Dr. Nicholas Colangelo founder of Belin-Blank Center,

We have this ambiguity about intellectual talent that’s holding us back,” Dr. Colangelo says. “It’s time— it’s past time—to move on.”




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