Navigating a school system to ensure the best education for your child can seem intimidating, but we can help to break your process into clear, effective steps.
1. Identify the Barriers
Talk to your child about what he or she is learning in school and in any gifted programming that the school provides. You may realize that the gifted program meets less than once a month or that your child feels unchallenged in class. There may be cause for concern if your child is assigned to tutor struggling peers or complete busy-work if he or she finished classwork early. If your child completes all of the work in his or her classes but also gets in trouble because of excessive talking or misbehaving, then boredom could be a problem. You are usually the most informed about your own child’s abilities and needs. You can use this knowledge to be their best advocate.
2. Find Your Child’s Allies
Who are your allies within the school? Talk with the gifted programming specialist or director to evaluate your options. This person can also inform you about which teachers are most supportive of gifted and talented students. Parents of other gifted students may have the same concerns or goals as you. Check to see if there is an existing parent group for gifted students. They can provide insight on how to navigate the school’s services and procedures and provide support in advocating for specific changes.
3. Educate Yourself on State Laws and School Regulations
Familiarize yourself with the gifted programming and acceleration options in your child’s school to specify what you want for your child. It is important to go through the correct channels in the school and school district to advocate for changes in your child’s education plan. You can learn about this through consulting the school’s gifted program handbook or by asking the gifted programming specialist. Know the laws concerning gifted education in your state. Knowing your child’s rights will help you to know what kind of services your school is obligated to provide. If you think that your child’s rights are being compromised, read more about your options here.
4. Practice Effective Communication with School Staff
Some people have resistant ideas about giftedness and acceleration, so discussions with them will require more persuasive strategies and regulated wording. Depending on your audience, consider replacing the term “tracking” with “ability grouping,” “bored” with “disengaged,” and even “gifted” with “high ability.” These small changes can communicate your point without raising an emotional or defensive response.
5. Understand the Limitations and Think Creatively
Determine the limits of what your child’s school can offer. At some point, your child’s needs may exceed the capacity of a school or district’s gifted service offerings. If special schooling and homeschooling is not an option, look into independent study, service learning opportunities, and extracurricular activities or competitions. The staff at Duke TIP are available to help you consider your child’s options.
6. Support Your Child’s Case with Evidence
Use your child’s test scores and performance reports in arguments for acceleration or placement. Learn more about tests commonly used to assess ability or screen for potential giftedness here and standardized tests here. Keep a folder with the following information:
- A nationally-normed achievement test result
- A group or individual ability (IQ) test result
- A talent search aptitude test result and any recommendations or collateral materials from the test makers
- Any testing data that shows your child’s progression or regression over time (also known as Value Added Assessments). This shows any evidence of change over time in your child’s engagement or progress
- Correspondence with school staff about accommodating your child’s needs. Communicating via email will help you to keep complete records. Sometimes academic ability is not the greatest concern for school staff, especially when a child is seeking to be in an environment with older students or an independent study. Accurately describe your child’s maturity and ability to handle increased responsibilities.
7. Don’t Forget to Thank People Who Helped You
Thanking those who helped you for their specific actions will not only show your appreciation but will make them more willing to help other students and families in the future.
Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. M. (2004). A Nation Deceived: How schools hold back America’s students. The Templeton National Report on Acceleration Vol. 1 and 2. Iowa City: The University of Iowa, The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.