Prisoners Of Time

Sometimes, when you read something, you can believe it is just what people need to hear – until you look at the date and you wonder – Haven’t they heard this already?

This happened to me during my Christmas reading, when I chanced upon a report “Prisoners of Time”, first published in the United States in April 1994 as the Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. The Education Commission of the States reprinted it in the Education Reform Reprint Series in October 2005, noting that the series’ aim was

“to confront, once again, education policymakers and the body politic with out-of-print critiques of American education that are as relevant today as they were at the time of their original publication” (p. 1).

May I add, today, in 2011,  nearly six years on, many aspects are still the same around the ‘worlds of education’.

“The problem with our schools is not that they are not what they used to be, but that they are [emphasis added] what they used to be.” In terms of time, our schools are unchanged despite a transformation in the world around them.” (p20)

What particularly caught my eye at the time was the title – “Prisoners of Time” – as it was a great description of what happens to many of our gifted students who get trapped in an annual, age-bound school system.

Second thing I liked, was the coloured illustrations to liven up the report – and really kept me reading it (visual person that I am!!). It seemed to me that it doesn’t take much extra effort to make something stand out, but it can make a huge difference on the impact.

Our gifted kids don’t need a completely new curriculum, but they need a process that can make things different enough to capture their attention and keep them engaged. This doesn’t happen when you make them stay in their age appropriate classes for all lessons, or when you don’t give them the opportunity to really show you what they know, so as not to have to repeat things unnecessarily. Who wouldn’t get bored at school if that happened on a regular basis.

We have access to above-level testing of students, and to pre-test before topics are started. It should be happening with all students, built into a system of planning what will be appropriate for your class each year. And even if testing isn’t appropriate, there are many other ways to find out what will make a difference in these student’s learning. (Go to any Gifted Education website and read about “Differentiation”). Later in the report, recommendations explain …

“And because they progress through each standard at their own pace, students can graduate as early as age 14 – or as late as age 21.” (p39)

Now this might be American, but gifted students worldwide come up against these issues – still! Maybe if we read the articles and acted upon them when they first come out, or at least when they are reprinted for emphasis, we would start to make a change for all our kids, and not just the gifted.

Just a thought about reform … online!