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Roles in Gifted Education: A Parent’s Guide

Gifted Parenting and Strategies
This article offers parents in the “gifted world” a wealth of information on the staff and administrators that can help them and their students navigate the gifted experience. Each of these staff members have different roles, responsibilities, and levels of training.

Author: Carpenter, A. & Hayden, S.
Publications: Parenting for High Potential
Publisher: NAGC
Year: 2018

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.

  • Start by finding out your state’s policy on gifted education. Check with your local gifted association, which you can find on NAGC’s Gifted by State web page.2
  • If your district has a gifted education program, identification policies, services, and other information should be available to you. Search your district’s local website for terms such as gifted, gifted and talented, enrichment, talent development, advanced academics, AIG, G/T, or GATE.


The Players

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.

CLASSROOM TEACHER

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.

PARENT TIP

You should contact your child’s classroom teacher if your child:

  • Needs more challenging materials
  • Has already mastered the content
  • Continually says she is “bored”
  • Should be referred to your district’s gifted program (if applicable)


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:

  • Developing and implementing your child’s education plan. (A few states are required to provide formal Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for gifted, but not many.)
  • Meeting with students (based on services)—may be yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily
  • Communicating with the classroom teacher(s)
  • Providing part-time or full-time gifted instruction
  • Developing curriculum and enrichment activities for high-ability students
  • Teaching core subjects for high-ability students
  • Hosting after-school clubs
  • Coaching academic competition teams
  • Evaluating students referred to the gifted program

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.

PARENT TIP

  • Get to know your child’s gifted teacher well
  • Ask a lot of questions and share concerns about your child
  • Use the gifted teacher as a bridge between you and the classroom teacher (if needed)
  • Inquire about available resources
  • Volunteer to help support the gifted program

Building an ALLIANCE with the Classroom Teacher

  • Ally with the teacher privately about your concerns
  • Listen to what the teacher has observed about your child
  • Learn about what the teacher thinks is best
  • Initiate conversation about your child’s strengths and problems
  • Ask about experimental ideas for engaging your child, plus interesting curricular and extracurricular activities
  • Negotiate to find appropriate adult and peer role models
  • Consent to alternatives if initial strategies are not effective
  • Extend possibilities patiently

Adapted from Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It by Sylvia Rimm © 2008.

Sources:
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 COORDINATOR

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.

PARENT TIP

It is important to speak with the gifted coordinator to:

  • Ask questions about the district’s gifted identification policy
  • Resolve a concern if speaking with your child’s school has not been successfull
  • Start a parent advocacy group
  • Appeal a “not eligible” decision

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.

PARENT TIP

You should contact school support staff if:

  • They are responsible for gifted identification at your school
  • You are concerned your child may also have a disability or behavioral disorder
  • You need to request accommodations/504 Plan for your twice-exceptional child
  • You want referrals to mental health and community services for your child


ADMINISTRATOR

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.

PARENT TIP

You should contact your school administration if:

  • You have already tried to work with your child’s teachers and gifted teacher with no success
  • You are concerned about implementation of the gifted program
  • You would like to create a parent advisory board or advocacy group to support the school’s gifted program
  • You feel skipping a grade is appropriate for your child


SUPERINTENDENT

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.


Your Role

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.

Resources

Smutny, J. F. (2015). Communicating effectively with your gifted child’s school. Parenting for High Potential, 4(7), 4–8.

Authors’ Note

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.


  1. National Association for Gifted Children & The Council of State Directors for Programs for the Gifted. (2015). 2014−2015 state of the states in gifted education: Policy and practice data. Retrieved from http://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/key reports/2014-2015 State of the States (final).pdf
  2. National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Gifted by state. Retrieved from http://www.nagc.org/information-publications/ gifted-state. 

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