Thursday, March 20, 2008


As we do every spring, we are looking at educational alternatives for B & T for next fall. This article just came to me in an email newsletter, and it is making me re-think all the things I thought last week!

When I read that kids with high IQs can actually finish all the curriculum of elementary school in as little as one year, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Granted, I know my children's temperaments are not ones that they would have been willing to sit and learn that intensively, but the fact that research proves they could have ...

Well, there's always more to think about ....

Teaching to the Average in Same-Aged Classrooms By Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D.

Remember how I said that the average IQ difference between people who get our jokes-people most likely to become our friends-is 12 points (on a 100 point scale with a 100 IQ being average)? And remember I told you that the typical same- aged elementary classroom has a 70 to 80 IQ range in it? You probably have been told by others-not me-that this is good for children because it teaches them about the real world. Well, in the real world we choose our friends and our activities by how comfortable we are in that environment and by who else we get to spend time with. Also, although it may be nice to have a mix of abilities in the office, we pretty much want all CPAs or medical doctors to have a certain high ability, no lower than what is required to get the job done, right? That's why we have examinations at the end of such training to guarantee that everyone who earns the title actually can do the job.

Did you know that every job or career actually has its own IQ average and its own proven necessary minimum? Google Linda Gottfredson and Frank Schmidt to get you started. They are among those who have shown that people in the professions or other very complex careers need a minimum IQ of about 120 in order to both learn what they need to learn and perform it well. Like IQs or not, these numbers keep correlating with real life outcomes. Oh, and in case you are assuming that you can change somebody's IQ, there are no replicated studies that show any more than an average 6 point temporary increase in testable IQ with even the most intrusive interventional approach, adoption. So, the way I look at it, we need to start educating and training people for what they can do and for what will give them satisfaction, pride, and the ability to take care of themselves.

Most people think that teachers teach to the average. Well, no, they don't. They can't! If they taught to the average, too many of the slower learners simply wouldn't catch on to most of what was happening in the classroom. Teachers teach to the top of the bottom third once they know their class. This way, they reach the slower learners fairly well and the majority of the kids in the middle get lots of encouragement and opportunity to manage their time, learn study skills, and how to handle a certain amount of intellectual struggle and feel success when they finally "get it." The sad truth, though, is that the brightest students end up spending a lot of time waiting for something new to happen. Depending on a number of other factors, like whether they are male or female and their personality profiles, they learn a lot that ends up not being helpful to real life. They learn that if you are smart, you don't need to study or work hard. They learn that their parents and teachers don't know what they are talking about if they think this assignment matters. They learn that they are smarter than everyone else in the class and are in for a shock when they actually do get out into the real world.

David Lohman says that by 1st grade the typical same-aged mixed-ability classroom already has 12 grade equivalencies of achievement in it. Brighter children absorb more from their environments than lower ability children, so regardless of their preschool environment, brighter kids will know a great deal more than low ability children by the time they reach 1st grade. Environment is an extremely important factor in someone's development, but it does not change whether or not someone is very bright or very slow. A child whose IQ is 120 could finish the typical elementary curriculum in about 4½ years, not six. A child whose IQ is 130 could finish it in less than three years. Above 140 needs only one year, but they are required to stay all six and go at the pace of everyone else their age. What a waste of time and talent. Folks, there has got to be a better way.


shawn said...

OK, Now I know you left one school (which we won't name) because they weren't matching ability with need. (meaning your kids high ability and the lack of(where do we start)) It is interesting to see this study. I sort of thought that the GOOD teachers taught to the higher end of the classroom, and spent all their time with the lower end leaving the middle to fend for themselves. Not all the teachers mind you (Judy for example).. but the good ones. But those teachers are so far and few between, that maybe this writter is right, that they do teach to that low end, still leaving those to fend for themselves. And I do agree that those who are smart, do feel that the teachers and some parents just don't get it. No matter how you look at it, those with just "avgerage" and "high" IQ's still loose out. Especially if they don't have the strong work ethic.
On the other note, think of little Doogie Howser's that could be running around.
hum.. so much more that could be said....

Calandria said...

That's the kind of article that makes me wince, too. I haven't had my children tested and don't know their IQs, but I know that they seldom learn anything in school. Well, I guess they are learning Spanish in Spanish immersion. And now that G has Algebra she finally has some challenging math.

I often ponder what a solution would look like here in the U.S. In most other countries it seems that they sort out the trade school kids, artists, and pre-professionals at a much earlier age than we do--sometimes right after elementary school. I can't imagine implementing something similar here on a large scale because it would become too political. It would not strike many people as the democratic way to go. In fact, I imagine most people would object to their children being classed by IQ, however practical it may seem.

Mama Ava said...

Far be it from me to oppose Dr. Ruf, but if the bell curve assumes that 100 is average, it would not be realistic to assume that the average classroom is filled with kids with IQs of 70 and 80. The truly average class would average 100.

I dispute also that we only work and hang with those in our IQ class. True, people do tend to socialize within their socio-economic range, but my own son has at times exhibited a marked lack of tolerance or patience for people that don't think or do things the way he does. Assuming he becomes a stellar doctor, he still has to work with nurses, lab techs, and even patients, all of whom may be less intelligent than he is, but still equally deserving of grace and kindness and tolerance.

I have had Cameron's IQ tested (by Dr. Ruf) and realize that for him he needs to go faster than the average kid. Even at his current school I don't think that there is much conceptually that he has learned in science and math. But there are details and bits that he has learned to round out his learning, giving more than a quiz show superficiality. He has craved the interaction of a teacher that is passionate about their subject. He has had to test his knowledge within a framework of difficult problems and questions where there are no easy answers. Those things, I think, we have weighed against him moving maybe a bit slower than he could have on his own and found the scales tipping in his favor. An "easy" gifted kid who is self-motivated, driven to learn and develop, etc....maybe it works to have them individualized completely. But according to Ruf, Cameron would finish all of primary school in 1 year. What year would that be? It wouldn't have been all of first grade, or second or third. At each year there are gaps in his learning that are addressed. What we have had the blessing of is the structure of the learning allows for complex challenges in the way he approaches learning that keeps him on his toes and allows for students with differing abilities to access and demonstrate their knowledge appropriately.

I agree with the premise that gifted kids are held back and wait. Lord knows he's done that, which is why we pulled him out. I agree that waiting develops lazy learners. He expends very little effort in relation to his peers and as such may be behind at some point with approaching difficult learning. But I'm uncomfortable with her hinting that the gifted don't need to concern themselves with those who are less mentally capable because they'll be surrounded only by others like them. That isn't how life works, either.

And I agree that IQ as a job discriminator is problematic. All of us knows someone who is very bright but doesn't perform that way for whatever reason. Others that are not inherently so talented do great things by virtue of their passion and their commitment. How unfortunate if my son would be told that he was wasting his intellect if he chose to become a teacher or social worker (as his father was told in college) or told he couldn't be another profession simply because his IQ wasn't up to speed.

Blog Archive