Being a parent in the “gifted world” is challenging, especially when you don't have all the information. Whether your child has already been identified and is in a gifted program or you are looking for the school to better meet your child’s needs, it’s essential to know the various staff and administrators that can help you and your child navigate the gifted experience. Each of these staff members has different roles, responsibilities, and levels of training.
Many school staff members do not have training or knowledge of giftedness, gifted children, or gifted education, making your job as an advocate for your child vitally important. In 2014, only one state required pre-service classroom teachers to have training in gifted education. For teachers that serve gifted students, only 17 states require they have a certificate or endorsement in gifted education— and, often, this training does not start until after the teacher is in the position. As a parent, you can serve as a valuable partner to the school if you know who best to work with and how.1
Become More Knowledgeable
Your first step is to find out what the gifted policy is in your area. Since the federal government does not mandate gifted education on a national level, every state, district, and school may have different policies and/or programs for gifted children.
After investigating your state and district policies on gifted education, it's also important to know who you will be interacting with and who to go to with questions or concerns. Every school and gifted program is different, but there are general things you can expect from the staff who are involved with your child's education.
A typical classroom teacher has a classroom of students with different ability levels. It is his job to help every student—of all ability levels—master grade-level standards. The expectation of grade-level mastery may be too low for your gifted child, and the classroom teacher likely does not have any formal training in gifted education. In fact, most teacher preparation programs only include a short lecture on gifted students, if that. In addition, many districts do not provide professional development on gifted education.
If you believe your child’s classroom teacher isn’t meeting your gifted child’s needs, it may not be intentional. The teacher may believe that students’ needs are being met by the gifted program, not realizing it is also the classroom teacher’s job to differentiate for gifted students. In schools that do not offer gifted services or even identify gifted students, teachers may not be aware that
gifted students exist. Many amazing teachers out there give their all to each and every student, but they may have never been exposed to information about gifted education.
You should contact your child’s classroom teacher if your child:
GIFTED OR RESOURCE TEACHER
A gifted teacher’s responsibility is to provide services to children identified for the local program. Gifted programming looks different in each school. A gifted teacher’s responsibilities may include:
You can typically expect the gifted teacher to have more knowledge of gifted education than a regular classroom teacher. However, the level of training is dependent upon state requirements, the district’s professional development offerings, and how long the person has been in this position. It is not uncommon for administrators to recruit teachers to teach gifted students before they are trained.
Building an ALLIANCE with the Classroom Teacher
Adapted from Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It by Sylvia Rimm © 2008.
National Association for Gifted Children. [n.d.] Acceleration. Retrieved from http://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Publication PHP/NAGC TIP SheetAcceleration-FINAL.pdf
Reis, S. M., Renzulli, J. S., & Burns, D. E. (2016). Curriculum compacting: A guide to differentiating curriculum and instruction through enrichment and acceleration (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (2014). The schoolwide enrichment model (3rd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
Gifted coordinators typically work at the district office where they ensure the fidelity of all gifted programs throughout the district. This role may be a full-time position or a small portion of her overall responsibilities,
depending on the size of the district and services offered. The coordinator may be responsible for communicating with the school board, superintendent, and possibly a parent advisory committee. If the coordinator’s role is specifically to run the gifted program, it is likely she has formal training in gifted education.
It is important to speak with the gifted coordinator to:
SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF — SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST OR COUNSELOR
Most schools have a full-time counselor, but they may share a school psychologist with other schools in the district. School psychologists may be responsible for doing individual or group testing for admission to a gifted program. Counselors may be part of the gifted identification committee that reviews each child and determines gifted eligibility. If your child also has a disability, behavioral disorder, or struggles academically, counselors are a good resource.
You should contact school support staff if:
The school administrator—most often the principal or vice principal—is responsible for the safety of all students, meeting state and district requirements, and ensuring the entire school runs efficiently. The administrator may be under immense pressure from the school district to produce satisfactory test scores, especially if the school has had low scores in prior testing years. The administrators of your child’s school must delegate responsibilities to all staff within the building in order to be successful. They may hire a gifted teacher or assign a staff member to gifted identification without knowing how these processes fully work themselves. A typical administrator has very limited training on gifted education unless they were a gifted teacher in the past or have a gifted child of their own.
You should contact your school administration if:
This is the head administrator of the district, accountable to the school board, to which all school administrators and personnel report. Typically, the superintendent will refer all discussions related to a specific child’s placement and/or programming back to the school’s principal.
Superintendents should only be contacted as a last resort, after all avenues have been explored with the professionals listed previously.
Being a parent of a gifted child offers a completely new perspective on education. While many parents can sit back and trust the process, parents of gifted children need to be prepared to be an advocate for their child. Talking to other parents of gifted students at your child’s school, on the playground, at the grocery store, church, or even online, will give you perspective, information on programming you were unaware of, and a support system.
If you are not happy with your child’s current educational experience, start with his teacher. There is nothing better for your children than a great relationship with their classroom teachers. The best way to work with teachers is to focus on what you want the outcome to be, not push the gifted label. Do you want your child challenged in math, to skip a grade, to be able to test out of a unit they already know? Do you want to help start an academic competition team? By working with the staff members at your child’s school, you can help create an environment where gifted children thrive.
Smutny, J. F. (2015). Communicating effectively with your gifted child’s school. Parenting for High Potential, 4(7), 4–8.
Ashley Y. Carpenter is a graduate research assistant at the National Center for Research on Gifted Education and a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut. She is a former gifted middle school teacher and the proud parent of a twice-exceptional child.
Stacy M. Hayden is a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she taught gifted elementary students and worked with the Young Scholars Program in Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia.
Copyright 2018 NAGC. Reprinted with permission of the National Association for Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org. No further reprints are permitted without the consent of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.