Optimal Match

In his New York Times Editorial, The New Untouchables, October 20, 2009, Thomas Friedman says, “…we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.” I couldn’t agree more that we need to fix our schools as well as our banks.

As a start, I recommend that all students should be seen for their advancement potential. Instead, in our age-based, in-a-box system we tend to categorize and stifle the great majority in what becomes a deficit model. We go at the pace of the slowest learner rather than encouraging individual excellence.

Creativity skills shouldn’t be taught, as they often are, in a pull-out program for a few bright students. Every student should be taught problem-solving and creative-thinking skills. This doesn’t mean smart children should be ignored, but rather the opposite. Students who know the skills about to be taught —be they rote, basic skills (say learning the alphabet in kindergarten) or creative and critical thinking skills — shouldn’t be left to daydream, fiddle and fuss, or even clandestinely read or doodle behind the teacher’s back. Every student should be taken from point A to point B, with point A being defined by the skill level they already possess and point B being as high or advanced a level as they are able to absorb. This is called Optimal Match education.

Unfortunately mediocrity in American education is pervasive. I have spent most of my professional career working with gifted students. The saddest thing is to realize that so many students are assumed to NOT be smart.  Smart should be the bottom line. All students should be given the advantages of Optimal Match instruction where there are no limits to what they can learn and how fast they can learn it.

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