Options — within the current school

These options were grouped together for two reasons — implementation and socialization. Since they are within the current school your child attends, you only need to go to the current school administration to implement. And since your child stays in the same school, socialization concerns are minimized. However, you should not think there might not be any socialization concerns; any time your child does anything non-traditional, perhaps especially in a traditional environment, there can be social repercussions. For instance, just willingly taking an AP class when friends or the "cool kids" are not may open up the possibility of being labeled as "brainiac" or "Doogie Howser" or more disparaging epithets.

Parents should not minimize the socialization concerns that sticking out from the crowd can cause, especially during those extra-sensitive and difficult teen years. It is specifically these issues that cause parents and children to pursue other options — changing to a gifted school or changing to an individual plan — where the child will fit in and find a set of peers with more similar gifts and educational goals.

Options within the current school
• GATE program of enrichment
• AP classes (Advanced Placement), IB (International Baccalaureate), AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination)
• acceleration of a single subject (e.g., your child is in 9th grade but is pulled out to take 11th grade math)
• grade acceleration/grade skipping (e.g., after 6th grade your child enters 8th grade, skipping 7th)
• dual enrollment (e.g., your middle school child takes some classes in the traditional school but also some in another school, such as math in high school or college)

Public schools / GATE (Gifted And Talented Education). Most parents think of GATE as only the pull-out enrichment classes in public elementary school, usually beginning in grade 2, however this is not true. The public school GATE umbrella includes all high-achieving and underachieving elementary and secondary school students who have been identified as gifted and talented. Therefore the GATE umbrella covers all these options — "GATE programs develop unique education opportunities Programs consists of special day classes, part-time groupings, and cluster groupings, and can include independent study, acceleration, postsecondary education, and enrichment."

Private schools. GATE is the acronym usually applied to public school options for gifted and talented, but these same options apply to children in private schools, and are available at all grades and ages.

First Step. The first step is to get your child identified as "gifted and talented." For GATE programs this determination varies not only by state but also by district within each state. Differences include method used for identification, the criteria or standards applied for selection for GATE, the grade level at which students are first identified, and the method for maintaining and transferring GATE records. Therefore, students identified as gifted and talented in one district may not qualify in another; parents are advised to check first with their specific school district.

Testing. For younger children the testing is usually an IQ test such as Stanford-Binet or WISC. For older children aged 11+ testing can be a college-entrance exam offered through a Talent Search. Public school GATE programs may require the tests to be administered by a professional within the school or school system; private schools usually do not, so you may contact any educational consultant who does IQ testing or sign up for any Talent Search with tests for your child's age.
• Resource: Parents' Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education by Palmer Learning Assessment and Consultation at http://www.palmerlearning.com/ and also available on Amazon
• Resource: "A Practical System for Identifying Gifted and Talented Students" by Joseph S. Renzulli, Director NRC/GT (National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented)

Acceleration. Acceleration can be of two very different forms: single subject versus whole grade. Additionally, acceleration can be a single year or multiple years, with multiple years usually referred to as "radical acceleration." Whole grade acceleration involves socialization concerns, as your child will be notably younger than classmates. However, it is well documented that acceleration makes most bright students happy and not socially-stunted. The option considered most often in place of whole grade/radical acceleration is changing schools to a gifted school where your child may be able to find a better peer group fit.
• Resource: "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students" — the Templeton national report on acceleration. Free at IRPA (the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration).
• Resource: "Saving The Smart Kids" — Time Magazine September 27, 2004 article by John Cloud.

Dual-enrollment. Dual enrollment is simply a form of acceleration and specifically refers to a student who takes classes in two different schools during the normal school day. Dual enrollment occurs when the current school does not have teachers that qualify to teach a higher level or do not have resources to devote to the needs of a single student. Dual enrollment is usually a class in high school for middle school students or a class in college (usually a nearby community college) for high school students.

Internet classes. Many schools balk at individualized instruction simply due to cost or manpower. However, it is hoped that as more internet classes are available it may be possible for all schools to embrace the concept of letting learners advance at their own pace via online classes, such as offered through many universities and online high schools. In an ideal world, all students would be able to have individualized instruction in all subjects, and be free from stigma to learn at their own pace and not be labeled as fast or slow. At-school internet classes could take the place of dual-enrollment and acceleration.

Personal stories

From parents who chose these options will be added in as available.
More stories available:
• Comments from a 2004 study — 75 parents who chose public school (includes gifted and non-gifted public school options)