My son's "talented and gifted" (TAG) test results have finally come back (actually, they've been sitting undiscovered in his backpack for 2 wks). He indeed qualifies--by a long shot.
I've grumbled and agonized about 1) why it took his school so long to agree with me that he is possibly smart (much less TAG); and 2) whether and how identifying him as TAG will actually make a positive difference for him.
On the first point, the kids at his school that have stereotypical Aspergers symptoms are tested right away. I'm not saying that the kids are actually diagnosed with Aspergers. Rather, at his school, those traits (problems in social interaction, motor clumsiness, encyclopedic of a narrow subject, etc) are equated with TAG more readily than any other signs. The other factor ensuring that a child is tested early is parent request. According to the TAG coordinator, a fair number of kids tested do not qualify.
Like my son, our neighbor was not tested until 4th or 5th grade (at mother's request, not teacher's)--she tested practically off the charts. Who knows how many TAG kids are missed. I imagine kids who are English as a second language and kids of lower economic strata are most harmed by this faulty system. In sum, our teachers do not seem effective at identifying TAG students. This, in itself, is a big mark against the TAG program.
My other issue concerns the benefits of TAG. The TAG handbook notes that TAG students can take more advanced classes. But my son qualified for that anyway, without TAG. TAG students can also skip a grade, but I don't think my son would benefit much from that. He'd be removed from his social circle and also would have a much harder time qualifying for sports teams, as he'd be a year younger than everyone else. He likes playing sports.
I'm sure my anxiety and resistance to TAG has to do with my own experiences in school. I skipped 4th grade, and when I entered middle school (6th grade), my mission was to hide my intellect and socially succeed through mastering "normative femininity." I didn't advertise my gpa to classmates. Through I.Q. testing, I was placed in the "academically talented" class--but I never told my friends what I did in 4th period. That 4th period class included me and maybe 8-9 other kids--I was a cheerleader, most of the rest socialized over playing Dungeons and Dragons. We all got along well, but I wasn't close with them.
I felt a forced choice at my school--one was either "academically talented" OR popular. Interestingly, this was NOT directly enforced by the popular kids. Indeed, the cruel harassment that I recall now came through other academically talented kids. I remember on the 7-hour bus ride transporting the entire district's "academically talented" juniors and seniors to the Shakespeare Festival, a group kept kept jeering me for my letter jacket (I was on a couple teams, not just cheerleading). They were surprisingly aggressive about it.
Another time, my summer cheerleading camp shared a campus with an academically talented program of some sort. My friend and I thought we had befriended two foreign students with strong accents, who kept asking us to tell them all about cheerleading in America. On the last day, in front of a lunch table full of their "intellectually-gifted" friends, these "foreign" students (now minus the accents) told us, "Did you know that the word 'gullible' is not in the dictionary?'" Howls of laughter erupted at the expense of the stupid cheerleaders. Ironically, my 5-member squad produced a medical doctor, a corporate lawyer, a teacher, a professor, and a stay-at-home mom (perhaps not too far off from that lunch table of geniuses).
The popular kids, in contrast, were mostly unaware of the kids in the academically-talented program. They certainly didn't spend time constructing a week-long ruse to humiliate them, much less even look their way on the bus. The anti-intellectual pressure was more quotidian, if less creative: pressure to not use an advanced vocabulary; laughs when one of the guys acted stupid; positive attention from boys when a girl performed what we might call "airheaded femininity" (I like to believe that I never succumbed to that).
As usual, this is a series of reflections with no specific conclusion. I am working to separate my issues from my child's. I don't think he has any issues--except that problem with horrific spelling. But as the TAG handbook tells me, that is not an uncommon trait for TAG kids. Horray!