5 Reasons Gifted Students Decide to Leave School
Gifted students love going to school right? They fully embrace the chance to develop their special gifts and explore the many opportunities to pursue their special interests. They can show their leadership traits and express their individuality and creativity.
Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Gifted students may be very successful in their school environment and get a jump on secondary education or early enrollment in college. However, for some reason or other, and this may be a shock to parents of gifted children, gifted students may become disenchanted, go the other way and eventually drop out of school altogether. It happens. But why and what are some of the more notable reasons that have been discovered through research?
Dislike of School
There are several reasons why gifted students drop out of school. Traditional schools don’t always have the philosophy, understanding, school leadership, trained teachers, or adequate resources to help gifted children accelerate.
The result of this less-than-ideal environment can turn off gifted students. Some research shows that students, male students in particular, drop out of school because they did not like the school, were taking a job outside school and couldn’t keep up their grades, and were failing.
Research also shows that gifted female students left school because of similar reasons – they didn’t like school, were failing, or became pregnant.
When the gifted students dropped out, for whatever reason, they did not plan to return at any time. The research showed that they left school with a high self-image but felt the school wasn’t serving their needs.
The dislike of school can be more encompassing of other factors like a lack of interest in school subjects, lack of friends, cultural or racial inequalities, lack of stimulating media or teaching techniques, or even lack of parental support.
Parents of the students involved in the study also played a role in whether the gifted students dropped out of school. Many parents were not involved in their child’s decision to leave school. They offered advice but rarely sought professional counseling for their child.
Many drop-outs were of lower socio-economic status or were minorities, especially Hispanics and Native Americans. Many of the parents had lower levels of education themselves, did not graduate from high school, or had not gone onto college.
Research studies have shown that gifted students who had fathers who did not finish high school were three times more likely to drop out of school. However, the opposite is true of the mother’s education level. Gifted students were less likely to drop out if their mothers dropped out or failed to complete high school. This research concludes that the education level (and presumably interest level) of the father is more important in determining whether a gifted student will drop out or stay in school.
Gifted children benefit from parental advice. Parents can help their children be more successful if they discuss giftedness with their children and explain how they might be different from their peers.
Parents can discuss what their children should expect from the schools including a change in educational direction from class-oriented learning to individual-oriented education where they will (or should) get more personalized instruction. The learning demands for high school may be more challenging for gifted students who found it relatively easy to learn in elementary and middle school classes.
Parents should also be monitoring the coursework and teaching techniques offered by the school. It is very possible that teachers are not trained to educate gifted students, or the school does not have gifted education programs.
There are many resources for parents of gifted children to get them started on how to go about preparing their children and guiding them through the process of managing their children’s educational and social development.
The Need for Gifted Education Programs
Some gifted students dislike the subjects being taught, like mathematics, where they feel under-challenged and get bored easily. They often comment on getting the same kind of work over and over again and felt they were learning “nothing new.”
School programs can also be cumbersome or irrelevant to gifted students. This can lead them to think there is no need for them to go to school at all.
Students in families that moved or traveled a lot found that they could not transfer credits from previous schools and had to repeat courses they had already taken.
Some students felt there was a big change from elementary school to high school. They no longer felt “special” and were disappointed that there was no programming to address their own particular needs and interests.
There is a lot for school systems and teachers to understand about gifted students. They need to study gifted students from diverse backgrounds to include underrepresented students in gifted education programs. This is discussed more below.
Schools need to provide for twice-gifted children, gifted females, highly gifted, and gifted and talented children who are on the autistic spectrum. They need to prepare programs for students who are culturally or linguistically diverse.
Schools that have not studied giftedness from these perspectives and teachers who are not prepared for these challenges will only increase the chances of gifted students deciding to leave school.
The Gifted students who dropped out felt that they did not have close friends at school. They saw peers as being interested more in socializing than in pursuing academics. While peers are OK with standard course structures, gifted students are not, and they tend to drift away from relationships.
Finding peers who accept gifted students is often a problem. When friends are found, gifted students identify with them. Research studies even suggest that gifted students leave school when a friend is expelled, or when they have a break-up with a friend. The sometimes fail on purpose just to emphasize with a friend.
Gifted students who stay in school usually come from middle or upper-class families that can support them. Those of lower economic class sometimes have to get jobs which in turn add stress and puts pressure on time for homework and course projects.
There are gifted students who experience a loss at home – possibly the death of a relative. The profound emotional reaction can lead to a total disinterest in school. This can lead to leaving school unless school officials reach out with concern to the student for his family situation.
Limited Teacher Training
Teachers need to understand the many facets of gifted children including academic, personal, social, emotional and physical. Many teachers have no training or are limited to a day or two. This is simply not enough.
Teachers should be certified for training the gifted and talented. If not trained properly, students will dislike their classroom experience and as shown above school dislike is a leading cause of school drop-out.
Proper training includes knowledge on learning behaviors of the underrepresented students and understanding of cultural differences.
It includes training on children with multiple exceptionalities. To create the best environment for the gifted student to want to stay in school, the training should show the teacher how to create a positive peer culture of inclusiveness.
It takes a village to support gifted children and keep them interested in school. Parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors and other professionals with experience in the field of giftedness all need to contribute.
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