How can I give my daughter solid academic opportunities when we're moving to a state that doesn't have strong gifted and talented programs?

We're moving to Mississippi from North Carolina to live with relatives for awhile. My daughter was doing well in the gifted and talented program at her old school and I'd hoped she could be involved in something similar at her new school. It sounds like Mississippi doesn't have great programs for gifted students in public schools. We don't have the money to enroll her in a private school or to get her a tutor, so what else can I do to give her a better chance at getting into college and succeeding?

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Amy McElroy, Former Attorney, Writer, Editor, parent of a junior high and high school student

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You don't say how old your child is, but I'll share my own experience with a similar relocation when I was nine years old. I moved from a school in Texas, where the students' parents largely worked at NASA, to a rural school in Virginia where resources were slim. In fact, because of my birthday and my advanced schoolwork, I skipped a grade after my first year in Virginia. I would not recommend that as a solution for all children, but it did help in my situation.

The main suggestion I would make is to encourage children in this situation to get involved in anything extra in which they are interested, and hopefully find a mentor at the school who will help push them. I was lucky in that way to find such a person in my fourth grade teacher when I arrived. She teamed me up with the choir teacher immediately when she discovered my love of music. I missed part of some classes to assist with a special education music class once a week. And when the choir teacher was absent at the Christmas program, I had enough self-confidence--based on their prior encouragement--to request that the principal let me direct the choir for the performance.

My point here is that if children show initiative in areas they are interested, good teachers will recognize that and push them to excel and expand their horizons. Individualized programs can be created and tailored to a student's needs, even if there are not structured gifted and talented programs in place. If this does not seem to be happening on its own after awhile, you may want to talk to the teacher and ask if your child could explore certain areas of interest at school on a deeper level. Most teachers will respond favorably to such a request.

One positive way to present this idea is to suggest ways that your child could learn more on a certain topic and then present that knowledge to the class in some form. Therefore, you are not creating more work for the teacher, but instead helping the teacher educate the class while showing the teacher the depth of your child's quest for knowledge. Good luck!

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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Actually I think you will be surprised to find good programs for gifted and talented in Mississippi! You can find all about your state's gifted program on the National Association for Gifted Children website. You will find information about Mississippi Here. You'll find that it is mandated in Mississippi and that there is someone at the Mississippi State Department of Education who is responsible for the program (not all states have this leadership in place). There is also an active affiliate of NAGC in Mississippi that parents can get involved in. The Mississippi Association for Gifted Children. They will be able to give you more specific information about gifted children such as how the program model works and you could connect with other parents through the organization. In addition to the gifted program, all academic enrichment will help foster her creativity and critical thinking. Look into clubs at the school or potentially local after school and summer organizations in your area. The MAGC has a national conference, oftentimes many of these programs are represented there. It is great that you are advocating for your gifted child, I wish you the best of luck in getting settled in Mississippi!

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