Sunday, November 14, 2010

expert advice: from's Parenting & Education Examiner Rhonda Cratty

I have been asked to write a post on the pros and cons of sending your children to accelerated schools. Not easy to answer because there are no sure-fired recipes, no guidelines, and no education that fits all highly gifted children. Each child needs instruction at their level.

There are many resources available, professionals who give individual intelligence and achievement tests; you, as well as your child’s teacher, will have an opportunity to express observations. It is with this data your child’s educational needs will be discovered.

Most educators in regular classrooms are able to individualize their curriculum within their classrooms. Not with more work, but deeper level questions using best practices.

Many parents entertain the idea of early admission or skipping grades, yet worry about the emotional impact. Again once you have found out your child’s educational needs, it depends on the child, largely on the emotional maturity of him/her. Remember he/she might be the smallest, last to get driver’s license, etc…This is a decision to make with your child’s school.

Nevertheless, there are situations where a child with exceptional ability runs into a “ceiling.” This might be the time to look into an accelerated school sometimes called a GT school. These schools are designed to research and implement best practices of acceleration and enrichment to increase the academic performance. They are atmospheres in which all students receive a challenging education. Students must be identified to be admitted into programs, usually schools have limited enrollment.

It is difficult to attempt to evaluate the impact of a particular school environment on a child I have not worked with, however there are many environments to explore, such as a resource room, or ability grouping, or a particular instructional method such as creative problem solving, the range and diversity that is available to your child and the results of each is striking. Merely placing children in a particular setting, or providing them with a particular set of activities, does not necessarily lead to success. Changing the learning environment without changing the depth of lessons seems nonproductive. Further, lessons need a base in scope and sequence, and standards, not fluff that simply entertains.

A well-constructed acceleratedprogram brings gifted students together and provides them with an intellectually stimulating and important set of ideas, together with giving them practice to use their own ability to problem-find and problem-solve, with a solid scope and sequence seems to yield very positive measurable results, bringing about significant student learning gains in core areas of curriculum content.

You, as parents, are not alone. Turn to your child’s school, teachers, and principal to discover your child’s educational needs and where to find the services offered to students who are gifted or talented, or who, because of their abilities, have the potential for an extraordinary level of achievement; in doing so you will be helping your little one reach their personal best.