We encourage you to ask questions of your district’s school board members, superintendent, principals, teachers, students and parents about educational policy, practices, and learning experiences of high ability students. Here are some items to include in your queries.
- How is entrance to kindergarten determined? (In most places, it is by age.) If a child is developmentally ready for school before the age date specified, are exceptions made to allow him to start school early?
- How are students grouped for instruction? Research has shown that schools who group students by competency rather than age get better academic performance results– at all levels.
- If a student has mastered the material in a given subject or course, can she move on to something more challenging? Ask for examples of bright students who are currently being accommodated with an accelerated educational program matched to their abilities.
- Can the student be accelerated to an advanced course or take an advanced course online? Is grade acceleration an option? Are any gifted students involved in dual enrollment, i.e. taking some high school courses when they are in middle school?
- Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available at the high schools? What percentage of students graduate from high school with college credit earned from taking these accelerated courses?
- Does the school recognize the special needs of gifted students, offer them appropriate counseling, and advise them of talent development opportunities? Are gifted students encouraged to participate in the talent searches and take advantage of advanced academic experiences offered by the talent search programs?
- Does the school district offer their teachers professional development so that they are informed on the signs of high ability and how gifted students learn?
- Does the school culture value intellectual discovery and achievement? Do the students encourage one another to accomplish more than they would on their own? Is it ok to be smart?
In our work with schools, we have found that if the administration is open-minded and flexible in serving the educational needs of each student, it is likely that they will be able to craft an educational program that will allow even their bright students to learn to the extent of their abilities.
One final thought: “gifted” is a term that covers a wide range of intellectual abilities. Be wary of a school that treats all gifted students the same. Our experience has been that a “one-size-fits-all gifted program” fits few.