Curiously (pun intended), curiosity is also virtually absent from the field of gifted-and-talented education. A recent survey of required identification methods across all states found that only three considered motivation a part of giftedness. IQ, on the other hand, is required by 45 states, while 39 require standardized tests of achievement.
A recent feature story in Scientific American further punctuates this point. Misleadingly titled “How to Raise a Genius,” the article summarized the results of a 45-year study of children who at age 12 scored in the top 1 percent on the SATs and were subsequently tracked and then supported. At least 95 percent of the participants experienced some type of educational acceleration as a result of their identification, and most participated in enrichment programs such as Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY). The CTY program—which counts Mark Zuckerberg and Lady Gaga as alumni—was initiated to “find the kids with the highest potential for excellence in what we now call STEM,” and to figure out how to support them to increase the chances of them reaching this expected potential.
Much to the researchers’ delight, the results confirmed their expectations. Their “profoundly gifted children” indeed grew up to be an impressive group. The majority completed doctoral degrees from some of the best universities in the world (which require high test scores as a gating mechanism), and many boasted impressive literary and scientific-technical achievements, including patents and published books.
These findings suggest that early advanced test scores are an indication of one’s readiness for more enhanced resources, and this should certainly be supported. But what other conclusions can be drawn from these findings? That if you’re a parent and you want to “raise a genius” but your child isn’t precocious on academic tests at an early age, you’re out of luck? Or worse, that these are the kids, and only these kids, who the country should bank on? One of the lead authors of the study, David Lubinsky, was quoted as saying: “When you look at the issues facing society now—whether it’s health care, climate change, terrorism, energy—these are the kids who have the most potential to solve these problems. These are the kids we'd do well to bet on.”
But is this really true? The researchers selected students based on a single criterion—advanced test scores—and supported these precocious youth throughout their schooling, failing to select for some other variable and thus disregarding all the other children.
The Fullerton Longitudinal Study (FLS), a 30-plus year study of the development of giftedness across various points in time conducted by Adele and Allen Gottfried of California State University, takes a different approach. Instead of relying on teacher nominations—recent research suggests that nominations miss at least 60 percent of gifted students—the researchers started by assessing a group of 1-year-olds, long before any of them had a chance to be officially labeled as gifted. The only criteria for inclusion in the study were that the infants had to be full term, of normal weight, and free of visual and neurological abnormalities.