The Language of Gifted Education

It can sometimes seem like you need to learn an entire new language when you enter the world of gifted education. In many countries, "gifted" education falls under the umbrella of special education which may be disconcerting to some parents. This, however, is simply the recognition that gifted children learn in different ways.

The first term you will probably hear is identification which is simply the process used to determine if a child qualifies for the gifted program in their school. It usually involves a series of tests administered by a certified school psychologist including an IQ test (130 and above is generally considered gifted). The age at which these tests are given is normally determined by the school. Recently, New York City schools made the news when they decided to test students in their kindergarten programs. Additional criteria might include parent or teacher recommendations, achievement tests, and a history of when development milestones were reached.

Once all the data is collected, a team of educators, psychologists, guidance counselors, and school administrators meet to determine the best placement for your child. The team will generate a report containing their findings and recommendations. Remember that you, as the parent, have the right to challenge this report if you disagree with any part of it.

Once your child qualifies for special services, you will be invited to meet with school officials to develop a gifted IEP (individualized education plan). At this meeting, it is important that you or your child's advocate (if present) take detailed notes concerning what is said by everyone present. The GIEP should include your child's present level of performance, standardize test scores, expectations in each subject area and how the school intends to assist your child - enrichment, pull-out, project-based learning, acceleration and/or grade skipping to name just a few. Make sure that everything you agree to is included in the final written IEP. In the U.S., you will also be provided with information concerning parental rights and who to contact if these rights are violated.

This brings us to two more terms you need to know - mediation and due process. When you encounter a disagreement with the school district , you can request a mediator to review your case and recommend a solution. This should always be the first step. All parties can work together and hopefully come to an agreement. If this does not resolve the issue, due process is the next step. A word of caution; due process is a formal hearing and in most cases, the findings are non-binding. Do not proceed to this stage unless you have detailed documentation and know exactly what you hope to gain. An advocate is highly recommended! Unfortunately, you should also be aware that sometimes your child may be the target of retaliation by school officials. The decision is yours and hopefully you won't have to get to this point.