A View from the Common Core Classroom

An exciting documentary, 2e: Twice Exceptional by filmmaker Tom Ropelewski, is slated to premier February 28 at the Richmond International Film Festival in Richmond, Virginia. Focusing upon the 2011 graduating class of Bridges Academy, this film offers a vision of hope for these 2e students as they transition into the next stage of their lives. I applaud Mr. Ropelweski for bringing much needed attention to the twice-exceptional population of students who face serious emotional, social, and developmental challenges even as they have great artistic, academic, and visionary potential. These are the students who will likely shape the future course of our nation and this world.

As I watched the trailer for the film, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the injustices 2e students endure daily in many of our public schools. I know my students face challenges similar to the students featured in the film: anxiety, hyper-focus/inattention, social skills deficits, learning differences. My students battle these every day even as IDEA and Common Core together now require differentiation to meet the needs of all.

viewclass2You see, I teach in a school where over 70% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Sadly, in this environment, giftedness is gauged less by IQ and more by how easily a student meets the Common Core standards in math, English, history, and/or Science and scores above the benchmarks on the high-stakes tests such as the PLAN and the ACT. I witness daily how many 2e students fall through the cracks because teachers are inconsistently trained to recognize behaviors associated with giftedness or disability (let alone twice exceptionality), and public education is driven more by proficiency than by excellence.

At my school, students who meet these “criteria” for giftedness are placed into Advanced Program classes where class sizes are at maximum capacity (or more) and where the curriculum is taught in two trimesters as opposed to the three trimesters given throughout the rest of our district.

Needless to say, the overcrowded conditions and shortened instructional time wreak havoc upon most of our 2e learners. For many of these students, the classroom is a nightmare—a highly fearful, threatening place where bullies thrive and gifts whither; where anxiety predominates over curiosity; and, where there’s never enough time to make an assignment “perfect,” so they turn in nothing.

I become so frustrated as I witness the needs of my most gifted students being sacrificed for the requirements of the state and Common Core. Like the students at Bridges Academy, these students need support to manage the deficits that threaten the full development of their potential; however, unlike Bridges’ students, who receive the individual support and differentiation needed to develop their gifts, my students are trapped in a public school system that largely neglects their potential and leaves them to drown in their deficits.

Our 2e students are our best and brightest hope for a dark, uncertain future. They are our inventors, engineers, and artists who will bring forth true social, economic, and global change; yet their most pressing needs are the ones that remain unidentified, misunderstood, or simply disregarded in the push to meet the requirements of Common Core.

Author: R Banks

Visit The Bright Not Broken: Lorna Wing Institute Of America for more upcoming writings by author and co-founder Rebecca Banks

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