As we design our selection process and program to support asynchronous scholars, we have been thinking a great deal about how critical it is for these asynchronous kids to be identified as early as possible – not by the Fund, but by their families and schools.
Two recent articles reminded us that the most underserved of asynchronous kids are English language learners and those who come from underprivileged backgrounds. The current focus to narrow the achievement gap takes the approach of bringing the lower end of achievement up. This helps some kids reach their potential to be nearer to the middle of the heap, which is laudable. But kids already at the middle don’t benefit much, and those whose potential is higher – especially much higher – are left out in the cold.
And woe be unto those whose potential is very high, but who are misunderstood to have little potential, because they are English language learners; have learning disabilities despite high IQs; or suffer from low motivation, poor work skills, and corresponding poor performance in school, also despite high IQs. Some of these children may be assumed to be the beneficiaries of No Child Left Behind, because the approach may help bring their test scores closer to the norm. But what is still left behind is their critical need for intellectually challenging material, accelerated pace-of-learning, and assistance learning diligence and persistence.
Identifying children as being asynchronous – many ages at once, with the potential to work above their chronological age – is critical for several reasons. The first is that it brings the child one step closer to having his or her needs met. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has an excellent database of articles on identifying such children. Not only might identification gain access for a child to a GATE program or other learning opportunities better suited to his or her needs, but permits both educators and parents a much better understanding of the child. This makes a critical difference in a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. For some, it’s life-saving.
The challenge is in identifying these children as belonging with other asynchronous scholars. Schools that use IQ scores alone as indicators of potential have larger disparities among minority and non-minority groups, according to a 1993 study on developing America’s talent. But other indicators can be taken into account to assess the whole child, and these factors become more important to include in assessments when the student in question comes from a minority group, an underprivileged background, or is an English language learner. These include how fast the student is learning a second (non-native) language; whether the child is street-smart; how well they get along with older children and adults; creativity and resourcefulness; and more. Both educators and parents should be familiar with the traits of asynchronous, advanced learners. We’ll be keeping them in mind as we begin to reach out to school districts, homeschool groups, communities, and elsewhere to identify children and families who need our assistance.