Social Science

Educating Gifted Children 3-24-18

Source: Economist: 24 Mar 18 "Talent Shows"         

IQ and accomplishmentOld idea; intelligence as a child often equated to a troubled adulthood. This is not borne out by recent research which indicates that of the top one-half of one percent scorers on childhood IQ tests, a full 30% go on to achieve doctorates (compared to 1% of the population overall). On the chart, note the higher the SAT score, the more likely the student is to go on to get a PhD, write a paper and file a patent. Work by Chetty at Stanford shows that there is also a socioeconomic component to future intellectual success - children of wealthier parents are more likely to file patents or get PhDs that poorer studentswith the same level of intelligence. Chetty calls these poorer children who fall through the cracks later in life "Lost Einsteins". If women, minorities, and children from low-income families were to invent at the same rate as white men from high-income (top 20%) families, the rate of innovation in America would quadruple. Important to be on the same page regarding "intelligence", best defined as "the ability to think abstractly and use reason to plan and solve problems". Today, there is a shift away from using the label "intelligence" ad instead talk about "high ability". And to extend the description of intelligence to include spatial ability.

Some policy recommendations: first, childhood ability testing must be universal and not voluntary. 2015 paper from Card and Giuliano shows that when a Florida school district shifted to universal screening, admissions to gifted programs increased by 180% amongst poor children (130% increwse for Hispanic kids and 80% for black kids). Next, test for more than just IQ - test also for spatial ability. Finally, Project Bright Idea, developed at Duke University, saw 10,000 typical nursery and primary-school pupils taught using methods often reserved for brainier kids—fostering high expectations, complex problem-solving and cultivating meta-cognition (or “thinking about thinking”). Nearly every one of them went on to do much better on tests than similar peers.

In rebuttal, there are researchers that argue that intelligence is not the best predictor of future success. Angela Duckworth in her book "Grit" (2016) believes that task-motivation or persistence is the best predictor of future success and it can be taught. Anders Ericson of FSU believes in the power of deliberate practice over a long period (the 10,000 Hour Rule). Others like Carol Dweck of Stanford thinks the mindset of the child is important - either a "growth mindset" or a "fixed mindset". While this approach is now popular in education, there is little evidence to back it up.

Source: Chetty on Lost Einsteins

Source: Card and Giuliano on universal screening

Source: Duke's Project Bright Idea