Michael is a 12-year-old Black male in the seventh grade in a remote rural farm community. He recently relocated to this community from a large metropolitan area, where he was a sixth-grader in a culturally diverse elementary school. He is the oldest of three children with parents who have become pillars in the community despite being new there. Identified as gifted in his previous elementary school, Michael took science and math classes in higher grade levels by single-subject acceleration. He had to work much harder in his language arts classes, but he loved his school and was liked by his peers and teachers.
While Michael’s new school is culturally diverse, the school and community norms for students are different. The emphasis is on community fellowship, service, and helping one’s family. Little is said about college; instead, jobs in agriculture and manufacturing are emphasized. Michael has been invited several times to participate in the 4H club. Upon arriving at his new school, despite providing his previous years’ school records, he is placed in the traditional seventh-grade classes. He complains to his parents that his math and sciences courses are a repeat of information from his previous school. Michael is also encountering difficulties in his language arts classes, which require more traditional essay-writing than his last school did.
In a six-week progress report, Michael’s teachers noted that he seems unengaged and withdrawn in class. His parents believe he has become apathetic about school, and they are worried he might lose his love of math and science. In addition, Michael’s language arts homework frequently leads to anger and frustration at home.
Michael’s parents have requested meetings with his teachers, with the school counselor, Brenda, also attending. Prior to the meeting, she evaluates Michael’s cumulative file. Based on his grades, standardized test scores, and teacher comments, she determines that he is extremely bright and very talented in math and science, but has challenges in language arts and social sciences. His teachers’ comments include “Handwriting continues to be a challenge, but he is working very hard,” “Michael is a very hard worker, but writing paragraphs or persuasive essays requires much more effort,” “He is quick at multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions are okay,” “His reading comprehension is fantastic, but writing brings out frustrations,” and “I realized Michael was much more at ease with oral book reports than written. His love of learning really shines through when he gets to talk about what he knows, in all subjects. He even manages to get his peers interested.”
Brenda makes a phone call to the school counselor at Michael’s former middle school and the elementary school he attended. She hears wonderful things about Michael, as well as about his challenges with written work. Many of his former language-arts teachers allowed Michael to demonstrate his mastery of content and skills orally or via multiple choice or computerized testing. The middle school counselor reported that he and Michael’s parents had discussed talking to their school psychologist about more testing for Michael because they were concerned about the increased requirements for writing in middle school. But that conversation did not lead to changes before the end of the school year, when Michael’s family moved.