kitchen table math, the sequel: A swindle in gifted ed?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A swindle in gifted ed?

I saw this curious comment on Joanne Jacobs' post about EPGY becoming Stanford Online High School. Joanne says:
Ray Ravaglia, who still runs the program, told my ex-husband that students didn’t need to be gifted to handle the classes. He put “gifted” in the title so that schools wouldn’t be scared of losing too many students.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. So, have gifted students and their parents spent several thousand dollars a piece being swindled by EPGY? Or was this the kind of comment to make parents feel better about how their student was doing?

If the head of a school tells you that he branded the school falsely and promoted it under false pretenses, does that make you want to have anything whatsoever to do with the school?

My kids are too young for EPGY, but I know plenty of parents in the local gifted ed community who have worked very hard promoting EPGY, even inside their own districts, as a way to get gifted kids what they need. I don't really know what to make of this. Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

From what little I've seen of EPGY math, their materials are not particularly suited to very gifted students, but are probably aimed at the slightly above average student. They are better than ALEKS, but not by enough to justify the enormous price.

Thy have always been grossly overpriced for what they provide, so I've not investigated them more closely.

I've thought for a long time that most of the stuff marketed to parents of gifted kids are in it more to extract money from parents than to provide tangible educational benefits to the kids.

There are exceptions, of course, and some students may get enormous benefit from programs that look like they have little value for my family, so I'm not trying to argue that all the programs are boondoggles—just that caveat emptor definitely applies.

Anonymous said...

When does EPGY expect the kids to be in Algebra? If the answer in 7th grade, and Ray Ravaglia thinks lots of non-gifted kids can handle this, then I have no problem with the spin. 7th grade Algebra *IS* advanced for the U.S., even though it appears to be average/typical for Europe and Asia.

Mark Roulo

SteveH said...

My reaction was the same as GSWP; overpriced and not that impressive. This was back when my son qualified for JH CTY in 5th grade (we also signed him up with EPGY) and we really didn't need outside help with that level of material.

This could be different in high school where you have access to material that can't be taught by parents. Then, the question is whether the school allows you to get credit for these courses, and better yet, pay for them. There are still the issues of distance learning. I think you have to ignore the "gifted" references and look at the courses and the cost.

Our high school doesn't offer this choice, and my son's schedule doesn't provide any extra free time for an official course. For us, the question has always been whether there is a need for acceleration or not. We could accelerate our son in lots of things (this is true for most kids), but we don't see it as a race. We are content with allowing him to get ahead in a few areas as long as he isn't completely bored to tears in other areas. He is perfectly happy studying other things on his own.

Jo in OKC said...

Never chose to do EPGY math. It's on the table to consider for the spring if her school can't provide an acceptable math course (she would be taking college-level math).

I've heard good things about their writing courses, but mine did CTY instead.

I wonder what makes him think that you don't need to be gifted? Did some kids do well that didn't have the IQ scores? If so, is the problem in the course or the identification method.

It may be that being around Stanford has distorted the director's definitions of gifted and average/normal?

With both talent search groups and with regular online schools my daughter has had classes that I thought were "sufficient" but not great. To some extent, gifted kids need access to courses at the level that's appropriate, but many times that's not enough. They also need access to a course that covers more than the minimum standards and that challenges them (in more than volume of work).

ChemProf said...

I have similarly heard good things about the writing classes (but not from personal experience -- my current parenting challenges involve the potty). There, though, I think part of the value are the class discussions. If the students are gifted and self-motivated (i.e. did the reading), that alone will raise the level of discussions above what I saw in high school. I wonder, however, if that will change as if it is marketed more widely.

Jo in OKC said...

If you've looked at the online high school, then you realize it's not just a repackaging of all of the old EPGY stuff. The online high school is grades 7-12, so all the elementary EPGY is out of there. The math looks like the EPGY curriculum. I'm not sure on the English. The "core" courses as well as the humanities courses are all new.

As far as things getting watered down because it doesn't say "gifted" anymore -- I would think that's most likely to happen in the AP courses, because those are the classes that others might value to the point of paying for them. But it is easier for instructors to toe the line there and not let the level get pulled down since there's essentially a national curriculum for AP courses.

The sample courses of study are here:

Crimson Wife said...

The Online High School courses are totally different from the computerized EPGY classes that anyone can access through the open enrollment option.

There's an interesting thread about OHS over at the College Confidential forum.

OHS is one of the options we are considering for our children for high school. I don't feel confident homeschooling the kind of academics they'll need to be competitive for Ivy caliber schools plus I don't really want to be juggling teaching 3 kids at once.

ChemProf said...

I was thinking about my own experience with gifted math programs, back in the 80's. I took algebra and algebra II in the summers via CTY, along with some other courses. The math was just normal materials (I don't remember the author of book but it was uninspired at best) but self-paced. The course on Greek Theater was a whole different thing, since the teacher chose the plays knowing we could discuss it, and everyone in the class was middle school aged but interested in the material. So I am not sure how different EPGY now is from my experiences then.

Catherine Johnson said...

I taught writing to gifted middle school kids for CTY years ago.

I taught my regular freshman composition course to a tiny group of kids who I could do a lot of direct, one-on-one teaching, revising, and editing with.

I think we used the Norton Reader, too, which was the same book I used for college.