Even America’s Top Students are Ill-Prepared for College

Elaine Tuttle

Elaine Tuttle

I have had the privilege of working for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program for 7 years and have never been more amazed by the level of brilliance and ingenuity amongst America’s Youth.  In her piece at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, their Executive Director, Elaine Tuttle Hansen, highlights the fact that it is not only America’s low achieving students that are struggling to acquire core skills necessary for success in college, but our top students as well.

She notes that: “What’s changed is that today, college readiness is more often a hot topic for educators and policy makers focused on at-risk students.” This focus, for laudable reasons, on at risk children has largely left gifted and advanced students out in the cold. This is especially problematic for bright children in disadvantaged homes.

“…the focus on low­-achieving students in public schools has disproportionately left more smart minority and low-income kids behind, creating a well-documented ‘excellence gap.'”

Elaine highlights programs, like CTY, help to engage and promote gifted youngsters  thus giving them a leg up when it comes to college life.

“Take David, a college student I heard from recently, who loved the summer program he took at the Center for Talented Youth a few years ago. But it wasn’t enough to save him from being so bored in school that he “coasted” through elementary, middle, and high school and his first two years of college. ‘By the time I found academic work that challenged me, … I realized my work ethic and study skills were atrocious, in large part, I believe, because I had never been forced to use them,’ he said. ‘I would like to know the person I would have become had I been engaged as a young learner.'”

Unfortunately, gifted summer programs (even those with generous outreach and scholarship programs) remain out of reach for many underprivileged children. To read Elaine’s argument, see her article in the Higher Ed Chronicle as well as her interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More”.

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