Enrichment Programs for Gifted Kids in the early 1970’s

In my very first post here, I talked about how it felt to be labeled “gifted” as a child. I felt vindication when my second grade teacher called my mom and asked her if I wanted to be a part of the “Enrichment Program” (also called Mentally Gifted Minors -MGM). Once a week, we would leave our classroom about an hour before school was out. We learned some Spanish, learned about Mexico, did some cooking, and a variety of art projects. We did special activities having to do with what we were learning.

In later grades, we got to go on field trips –just us, the kids from the gifted programs. I remember one year, taking a long bus ride to Edwards Air Force Base to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise. 

The activities also changed a bit as we got older. We learned a lot about mythology. I think it helped me to appreciate many of the books and films with mythological themes, on a deeper level.

In my last year of elementary school, the facilitator for our gifted program, started going around and met with us at our schools, rather than have us take busses to one location. This was possible due to budget cuts, thanks to California Prop. 13, but also, many of us complained that we didn’t like missing so much of our regular school day, only to have to make up what we missed. We’d have to do our homework for our regular classes, plus, we often had homework from our gifted program. I don’t care how smart or gifted a person is, one thing seems to be universal: Nobody likes homework!

By junior high, the gifted program was relegated to an elective that you could take. I didn’t take it. I heard they played educational games and Dungeons as Dragons for most of the class period.

In high school, we could take “advanced” classes, though they weren’t the same as the AP classes that my oldest daughter took when she was in High school 2005 – 2009.

Were any of you in gifted programs while in school? What were your experiences?

8 thoughts on “Enrichment Programs for Gifted Kids in the early 1970’s

  1. Betsy Ickes

    My father, who was the Director of Guidance at our high school, would not let the school district put my sister and I in the Advanced program when we started junior high. He said that the kids weren’t being challenged; they just got more homework. He felt our school years would be more productive by being in the standard programs and challenged us outside of school programs.

  2. Jo in OKC

    Gifted programming began in 4th grade (which would have been fall 1979) in my local public school. You tested in 3rd grade. I still remember the individual IQ test taken in the school library.🙂

    In elementary school (4th-5th grades) we were bused to a separate school one day a week. I remember having to do 2 SRA cards to make up for missing language arts. I don’t remember making up math.

    On the bus to the gifted program, we did logic puzzles. Once we were there, we studied calligraphy, did creative writing, produced books (including one patterned after Paul Harvey’s …The Rest of the Story), learned French, and did lots of other creative-type stuff. It was definitely tilted to the humanities side.

    In middle school (6th-8th grades), we took special gifted English classes. In those, we were required to do more projects and presentations than the other classes and we studied different things. In 7th grade I remember studying Greek mythology. In 8th grade, we studied architecture and read Shakespeare (Comedy of Errors). (In math, we could take an advanced math class, but the qualification for that was based on achievement, not IQ)

    Many/most of us took the SAT in 7th grade for the Duke TIP program, but not much ever happened except that we got invited to go to the awards program. I remember one of us went to a summer program.

    In high school, there were a variety of gifted classes. Not every standard class was offered as gifted, but many were. English always was. So, I took 4 years of gifted English, gifted US History, World History, Economics, Government, Algebra II, Geometry, and Physical Science. My other classes ended up being honors. Gifted classes in high school were known for being smaller and having less busy work and worksheets. We had some great teachers, but sometimes it was better to take honors classes (in particular, the honors biology teacher was thought to be better than the gifted biology teacher). The gifted economics class was read the chapter, do the questions, take a test, watch a video. The teacher could operate every piece of A/V equipment the school owned and we used them all — film strips, film, video tapes, video discs, etc.

    My school had no officially designated AP classes, but I took AP exams in English Language & Comp, Calculus, and Computer Science and ended up with college credit.

    My high school weighted remedial classes as 0.8, regular classes as 1.0, and honors or gifted classes as 1.2. So, there was no GPA advantage to being in a gifted class over an honors class, except that many of us felt like that gifted classes were easier than honors classes (especially in English) because there was less tedious work.

    There were around 2 dozen kids in my grade who qualified for the gifted program (I think we graduated around 500 kids), although who was in any particular class was up in the air. We were around each other A LOT, though.

  3. R

    This is a fascinating topic to me, because my daughter just took her GATE test, at my request. She had not scored high enough in math CSTs to be flagged for testing. She said she finished first, it was all pattern questions. So I am curious to see what happened. I remember my own test in like 1977 was an individual test where I was timed to solve a puzzle and did some free associations. My own ALPs program was Advanced Learning Program and we were bussed one day a week to do logic puzzles and creative stuff, as someone else said. I always thought that all kids could have benefitted from a day of creative thinking and logic puzzles. I thought it was fun. I still am in contact with one of my teachers. We also had to do an indepth learning project, which I thought was really valuable. Regular classes in elementary school were very boring and I was never stressed to make anything up.

    Like you, I dropped out in 7th grade because it was an elective. I was more interested in band. In hindsight, that was not such a great idea. One of my teachers didn’t seem to realize that I was intelligent, perhaps it was not on my cum, and I was always talking because I was bored. I had to argue with her about the independent books I had chosen (Man’s Search For Meaning)She wondered if I “could do” the honors in 9th, and I went on to be the valedictorian. I should be over it by now, but I’m still mad at that woman. At least in Algebra, my test scores could show I was intelligent.

    In high school, classes were easy, even the honors, until AP in senior year. Even then, I would do the homework and be totally bored as the teacher seemed to explain the whole thing to the class. It seemed to be effort to me. If they had just taken the time to read it, then maybe we could have gone onto a new topic in class. Reading all this intensity stuff makes me understand that it was more about my intensity and interest in learning things than my own learning or processing speed which made me “gifted.” Because after all this, being gifted means to me simply that: I am interested in learning new things, like all the time.

  4. I lived in CA at the start of school, and was placed in a gifted open classroom. Upon moving to Indiana a few years later, the principal told my mother that they’d test me to “see what damage it did”. Then he humbly had me go to a grade ahead every day during math. (I guess I got to be bored in the other subjects). I hated going to another room. The stigma was awful at that age, so I quickly became dumb and got to stay in my own room other years. In Jr. High and High school I took the accelerated classes available to me (English, math and science) and credit them more for helping me find other bright friends than for teaching me academics. I was lazy and used to getting good grades without effort, which didn’t catch up to me until college.

    1. I was in an open classroom in 3rd grade. It was a 3rd – 5th grade classroom. I loved it. It wasn’t necessarily for gifted kids, though there were a lot of gifted kids in the class. I think I benefited from being the youngest. By the time I got to high school, I was able to be friends with a lot of seniors because we had been in that class together.

      I know what you mean about being lazy when good grades come easy. I was also in a religion that kind of frowned on going to college rather than going straight into the ministry after high school, so I didn’t have a lot of motivation to get better grades, other than personal pride. So I only got “A’s” if I really liked a class, otherwise I was content with B’s and C’s.

      I’m seeing that “lazy” trait in my almost 12-year-old daughter. She doesn’t have to work very hard right now to get good grades –this caught up with her a little bit this year when she landed on the Silver Honor Roll rather than the Gold last semester. Since we know she’s capable of better grades, she knows she’s “in trouble” if the grades slip again.

  5. J

    I went to a Catholic school throughout the 1970’s. I never heard of “gifted” but when i was in 7th or 8th grade they started a program in my school called “More Able Students”. I hated that name, but was glad for something more interesting than the school day. I don’t remember my teachers doing any grouping of students whatsoever–we all did the same lessons at the same time. More Able Students met after school and mostly did creative writing and we had a good reading list, occasionally going to the theatre (opera! blech). I liked the kids in that group. From memory the public schools in my area had “Talented and Gifted” programs.

    At the end of 8th grade I insisted on going to public school. In our high school, AP was available to anyone who was interested and felt capable, and it was expected of honors students. Reading this blog, I didn’t realize all schools didn’t have the AP choices we had in high school. I guess we were lucky to have so many options.

    I hated the name “More Able Students”. But I guess it was better than the nothing that was offered to me during the school day for all those years. No one ever offered to write on my hand, and everyone wanted to cheat off me on tests/quizzes.

  6. Mary T. Matthews

    I was an elementary/jr high student in a small rural Oklahoma town, in the mid 70s to early 80s. I was tested in first grade by school personnel/researchers (?) at the age of six, and scored a 160 on the Binet. My mother was contacted and was given the opportunity to place me a new program for “gifted and talented” children. I remember from first grade through sixth usually having the same classmates. We were a self contained group that went from grade to grade together. I remember a lot of interesting projects (art, music, drama, science, writing). I didn’t care for math, though. Things began to change during jr high/high school as we were allowed to choose our electives and began to drift apart as a group.

    As a side note, I am African-American (mother and father both college educated). So, the experience was also challenging emotionally and socially. I was often the only black student.

  7. Jeff

    I don’t remember a lot about it but I remember for some strange reason I was pulled out of regular school around the third grade for about an hour each week I guess with some other kids . I am not sure how was identified as gifted, I can’t remember if I took a test or not but this continued all through elementary school . I was really good in art, poetry and other creative endeavors . I was always curious how I was chosen to attend this program because I really don’t remember . I’m hoping some people here can shed some light on this

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s