If you have been thinking about looking for the best learning environment for your gifted child, lots of options are available, and making a choice may feel overwhelming. These articles suggest what to consider, what to look for, and what to ask as you gather the information. Even if you haven’t begun the process, or don’t plan to make any changes, the result may be that you have become a better-informed advocate for your child and gifted education in general.
These articles were combined and printed in the November/December, 2008, issue of Outlook, the newsletter of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented.
What Makes a Good Program?
Gifted and talented (GT) services run the gamut from a GT enrichment person who checks in with the classroom teacher once a week to a “school within a school” for high performing students. Both of these very different options (and many others in-between) can and will be used to indicate that a school has a “gifted program.” To help you sort through possible offerings, NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) has developed a chart titled “Gifted Education Programming Standards.” They can serve as benchmarks, criteria, tools, and guidelines for gifted education programs. Those K-12 standards include guidelines for what you should expect to see as both minimum and exemplary standards in the areas of: curriculum and instruction; program administration and management; program design; program evaluation; socio-emotional guidance and counseling; professional development; and student development. A careful reading of this document and how it was developed will provide a foundation for a parent’s understanding of what an effective school should offer. You may download and print it from NAGC Pre-K-Grade 12 Standards.
(excerpted from PHP’s Parenting Forum, by Dr. Robin Schader, in the June, 2004, issue of Parenting for High Potential, a publication of NAGC.)
Criteria for Choosing A Quality Program
Parents often ask whether or not they should choose a private school for their gifted and talented child. There are excellent programs offered in public schools, and excellent programs offered in private schools. There are also programs that are not of the best quality available in both public and private schools. Parents must judge for themselves, and for their child, which program best meets the needs of their child. What is a “match” for one child may not be the right one for another child.
Remember to look into the alternatives – the programs available in one district, for example, may vary widely from school to school. Obtain brochures, if available, visit (more than once, if you can), and talk to teachers and counselors. Talk to parents of children enrolled in the program or school. Talk to the children enrolled in the program or school – they are an overlooked resource. And remember – talk to your child. Find out what makes him or her happy, comfortable, and excited about learning, then look for that in the program you are considering.
Whatever program you choose, you should try to expose your child to both “ability peers” and, for social growth, “age peers.” This helps to provide an exchange of ideas and gives the child a more realistic acceptance of self.
There are many criteria to look for in good gifted programs. The following checklist of questions to ask should help to evaluate the program(s) you are considering:
- Are there alternative programs offered for gifted and talented children in the district or school?
- Are children identified for the program by more than IQ scores and achievement tests? Who does the identification?
- Does the program (or programs) and identification center on the students and their needs?
- Is the program meeting the needs of those enrolled?
- Does the program allow the child to go beyond the regular curriculum?
- Is the variety of opportunities offered enough to meet the needs of those enrolled in the program?
- Does the program develop social skills?
- Does the program provide for horizontal and diagonal (a blend of acceleration and enrichment) movement in the curriculum?
- Are all grade levels included in the program?
- Is there continuity in the program (from elementary to junior to senior high)?
- Are resources from outside the district/school used to enrich the program?
- Is the program financially realistic?
- Does the staff have training in gifted and talented education?
- Is inservice available in gifted and talented education for all district/school teachers?
- Are all teachers allowed to have input into the program? (The sharing of ideas really helps the program become a part of a district/school.)
- Does the program provide the opportunity for parents to contribute actively to the program, as well as opportunities for them to meet to share ideas?
- Is there ongoing evaluation of the program?
(From “You Are Your Child’s Best Advocate,” published by The Minnesota Gifted Awareness Program, 1987, a collaborative project [which included MN Council for the Gifted and Talented and MN Educators of Gifted and Talented] funded by the Northwest Area Foundation.)
What to Look for in a Gifted Program
Readers can find additional information on this topic in the following article, prepared by the Council for Exceptional Children (© 2000-2006 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved):