As real estate professionals, we are often asked about gifted schools and programming from parents whose purchasing decisions are driven in large part by their children’s academic and social needs. As parents of a gifted child ourselves, we know first-hand the added challenges and rewards of finding a good match for a gifted child and a school or program that is able to meet their specific needs.
egin screening schools with information provided on school, district, and state department of education web sites. The percentage of students performing at grade level is not relevant unless it is abysmal. Instead, compare the percentage of students scoring at the top of state or national exams, the average numerical scores of top scorers, and the growth or progress scores for top students. Ask private schools directly for information not available on their Web sites. Then make phone calls to principals at promising schools or schedule brief meetings. Start with the make-or-break questions below. Be polite—compliment the principal on obvious school strengths—but ask your questions, too. ange to visit schools that you’d like to explore in depth. Ask your questions again on site. Observe: do you see the described activities occurring in the classrooms? Request testing information unavailable elsewhere. Contact teachers and parents of other gifted children and ask the same questions of them by phone or in person. Schools committed to gifted students won’t shy away from answering questions. Listen for inconsistencies: few teachers can meet the learning and social needs of gifted children without support from and coordination by the whole school. Inconsistency means that your child may have a roller coaster experience. Here are the must-ask questions and the answers that you should seek:
1.) Does your school raise learning goals when a child is ready? How? Seek: more time spent working at each child’s readiness level and numerous subjects in which advancement is possible. Avoid: schools that claim that “our gradelevel curriculum is challenging for all students.” There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum.
2.) Does your school monitor individual students’ progress during the year? Seek: assessment of students every six weeks, at a minimum; weekly is ideal. The school must use the results of monitoring to increase difficulty for ready students and to change the instructional approach when progress stalls. Avoid: schools that do year-end assessments only or that do not make changes based on monitoring.
3.) What does your school do to teach critical thinking? Seek: significant time spent on research, creative and critical writing, and projects and exercises designed to teach analytic and conceptual thinking. Gifted children need a hefty toolbox of thinking techniques to ensure success and satisfaction. Avoid: schools that spend most of their instructional time on memorization and routine skills like handwriting.
4.) What percentage of students are gifted? Highly gifted? How are children identified? Seek: a large number of similarly gifted children in your child’s classrooms. Your child will develop better social skills, mutual friendships, and improved teamwork if grouped with intellectual peers.
Avoid: schools with few gifted learners or with small numbers spread out among classrooms.
5.) Ask about other needs that are important to your family. For example, ask how your child will be accommodated if he or she is not self-motivated, has learning disabilities, or possesses strong nonacademic talents and interests. Your family may have other essentials to consider, such as scheduling constraints, financial limits, or strong values about what subjects are taught.
If your child must attend a school that does not fit his or her needs closely, fill the gaps at home by offering activities and learning opportunities that the school does not. Request teachers who enjoy gifted children and who use the strategies listed above. Whatever route you take, being smart from the start about what a school should provide will help you choose wisely and enable your child to make the most of the school years.
From The Collection Magazine
“Choosing The Right School For Your Children”
by Faun & William Hauptman