My son's an excellent reader and gets great scores on his standardized tests, but the school won't put him in a gifted and talented program. There are two other kids in his class who don't do nearly as well, but are better behaved. What can I do to get my son into the program?


Celi Trépanier, MEd, Author, former public school teacher, homeschool mom and a passionate advocate for gifted children

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First, I would find out what the criteria is for children getting into the program. Public school gifted programs are implemented (identification of children, acceptance into the program and how the program offers gifted education) differently in every state and in every school district depending on laws and funding, so knowing exactly what tests and criteria they use is important, and ask to see your child's scores.

If you still feel your child is gifted (usually with an IQ score of 130 or above) and should be in the gifted program, request further evaluation. Some gifted children are never recommended for testing and/or do poorly on gifted identification tests, and are overlooked and never identified as being gifted. You may also elect to have private testing done by a child psychologist who has experience with gifted children. If you are still not sure if your child is gifted, here are three gifted trait checklists to check out:

A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers

Checklist: Is Your Child Gifted

12 Lists of Characteristics of Gifted Students

There are other gifted characteristics checklists available online, also. See if your child identifies with many of these characteristics listed.

You also mentioned behavior, and in my opinion, a child's behavior should have no bearing on whether or not he is identified as being gifted and allowed into the gifted program. A gifted program is special education for children who learn differently, often at a much faster pace, and have other unique social and emotional needs which need to be addressed. It should never be viewed as enrichment or a reward for high achieving students. Not all gifted children are high achievers, and not all gifted children have good behavior in school.

Lastly, gifted children can excel in one subject, but be average in another. A gifted child with dyslexia may be several grade levels ahead of his classmates in math, but in reading, he has average scores. Again, achievement (grades and test scores) is not always an accurate measure of giftedness nor should it be the single criteria used to determine if a child is to receive specialized gifted education. Often, when a gifted child is not challenged and taught new information in school, their achievement in school starts to drop out of frustration and/or boredom for having to learn information they already know.

All that said, there are instances where gifted education programs use achievement scores and grades as criteria and the program then becomes one for high-achievers not for all gifted children. It will be up to you to do some research and reading, learning more about giftedness in children, and finding out how your school district implements its gifted program. Being knowledgeable and being prepared will help you get your child into a gifted program if he is indeed gifted.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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The ladies are right on target with their answer. Usually the test is but just one component of being selected into a gifted program. I'd recommend that you review the school district's policy on testing and getting selected for gifted students first before requesting a meeting.

I would suspect that the gifted teacher is not the one that would make these decisions. May I suggest that you speak with the gifted supervisor of the district. There you will get a better and clearer answer.

When you meet with her, ask her to let you see the rubric in which made the determination of whether or not he was accepted so that you can specifically see what needs to improve. Also, ask when the next testing is conducted and request that he be tested again. A third question I would ask them is if the criteria for selecting gifted students has changed recently or is the class maxed out and if that is why he was not selected.

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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Celi's answer is very comprehensive and I agree with all of her points. The main factor will be what your local and state policies are around gifted education. I would recommend the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to learn more about your state. NAGC also has affiliates in most states so you can connect with them as well to learn more. If your state department has policies on gifted education you may be able to find those on the State Department website. There are no federal policies on gifted education and states have a range of policies. Funding is also limited for gifted programming in most states which could impact how the program is delivered in your area.

Different students flourish at different times, so while a student may not be in the gifted program as an elementary student they may be a high performing Advanced Placement student and get into a competitive colleges. Colleges do not look at whether or not students were gifted in elementary and middle school. They will be looking at high achievement in the high school years. Students hit their stride at different times in their educational career.

If you would like to learn more about your school's policies you may want to set up a meeting with the gifted education teacher and talk about how the process works. You may also want to talk with the classroom teacher if you would like for your son to receive more challenge in the general education classroom.

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