Pre-assessment is the first step; differentiation is the second. Here's how teachers can address the needs of their brightest students.
"I'm bored! I learned this a long time ago!" Shawna lamented to her mother when she refused to do her math and spelling homework. Lately, she even resisted going to school. When Shawna's mother called the teacher, Miss Jefferson said that she'd try to find some kind of enrichment for Shawna if she had time, but that Shawna still had to do the homework like everyone else or it wouldn't be fair. Even after a call to the principal, both Shawna and her mother were left feeling frustrated. The principal told her to relax and "let Shawna just be a kid."
Whenever we educators talk about raising achievement, grade-level standards are most frequently the end goal for student learning. But what about students who have already met some, if not all, of those standards and who master material quickly and with depth? Like Shawna, they frequently languish in our classrooms, held down by the low ceiling imposed by narrow assessments; misunderstanding of their needs; teachers' lack of skills in adjusting curriculum and instruction for this population; and, most significant, a failure of will to help them excel.