Options — Change to a gifted school with accelerated education

If your child is bored and/or bullied in the traditional school, it could be that the educational level and pace of a gifted or highly gifted school will solve the problem. Or perhaps for younger children, even just a change to a less structured age-rigid curriculum, such as in a Montessori school, might be the answer. As the schools embrace giftedness/uniqueness for all their students, your child may no longer stick out for her intellectual gifts or his special needs; parents of children who deliberately under-achieve to fit in often choose this path so their child does not feel social stigma.

As these are all programs, with dozens of children at each age, they also provide a peer group. However, it is recommended that parents encourage their children to maintain outside friendships through common activities and interests, or perhaps even geography such as next-door neighbors.

Every set of options carries with it its own set of problems or obstacles. For this set of options, the main barrier is admission to these programs. Especially for parents whose child is currently in a public school, the admission process may appear daunting. While your child must be accepted at the local public school, this is not the case at the public gifted magnet school. And the private options also have more applicants than spaces. So even if your child is a perfect match, there may not be space available, and your child could be wait-listed, even for years, and perhaps never get in. Thus parents do need to have back-up plans either at the current school or homeschooling.

Change to a school that has accelerated education, but not accelerated socialization
• Gifted/Highly gifted public magnet school — usually requiring a minimum IQ score (see below)
• Gifted/Highly gifted private school — usually requiring minimum IQ score (see below)
• Early College program — requiring minimum college entrance test scores (see Talent Search testing)

The first step is testing. The public magnet and private schools will require an IQ test, usually either the Stanford-Binet or WISC. While gifted programs generally require a minimum score of 120-130, highly gifted (also called profoundly or exceptionally gifted) programs generally require a minimum score of 145. The IQ test scores reflect distribution scores — 67% of all people score in the 85-115 range, and 95% in the 70-130 range. So parents should understand that these are rarefied scores — only 2.2% of children will score 130+ and only 0.1% will score 145+.
• 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: more on IQ tests from Wikipedia, About.com, and Hoagies
• Resource: A google-search on "IQ test" will find some online and local testing options.

Each of these gifted programs has its own criteria for admission, and its own admission time-schedule. Some application deadlines are as early as November, and some as late as May. Some decisions are in the spring, and some in the summer. The resources listed below will help parents to find options in their community, with guidance on applications. However, it is important to note that parents need to have back-up plans as well, should your child not get into the first choice option. Parents are lucky if there are multiple gifted school options in the community; more often, there is one or none. If the traditional (current) school is not working and a change is required for the social and academic well-being of your child, parents should explore both the school options and the individualized options. Families have also been known to move to accommodate the special academic needs of their child.

Public magnet schools. Public gifted schools may be housed within a larger traditional school or may be a stand-alone facility. Some highly-gifted schools require IQ tests only through the current public school professional testers. And parents should note that although they can often request the testing themselves without referral by a teacher, this testing may require a several month leadtime. Furthermore, parents should note that just because it is a public school does not mean it will necessarily have a late application deadline: in Los Angeles the deadline is November 15. Therefore, a public magnet option may require 18 months of leadtime to meet application requirements.
• Resource: parents should check for schools through their local school district; information should be readily available through a googe search.
• Resource: Hoagies List of gifted schools, while incomplete for especially gifted public schools, may be of help.

Davidson Academy. The Davidson Academy (grades 6-12) is not a charter or magnet school but a "third type of public school," a free "university school for profoundly gifted pupils." Requires a score of 99.9% (e.g., IQ of 145); accepts a variety of types of tests. Application deadline (in 2014): April 1. Requires relocation as it is located in Reno, NV and has no boarding options.

Private gifted schools. There are many private school alternatives that cater to many different educational philosophies, such as Montessori, Steiner/Waldorf, and others. The gifted private schools can have a firm IQ score requirement of 120 or 130 or 145, or may allow for different types of measurements of giftedness. What is most important for gifted children is flexibility in the school — finding a school that allows creativity at a learning pace that matches your child's needs. Most private schools have later application guidelines than the public magnet alternatives, and many have financial aid.
• Resource: Hoagies List of gifted and highly gifted schools by state.

Early college programs. It is important to emphasize that the option included here is a program designed for a group of similarly-aged students with administrative support. Parents do have the option of enrolling their child in a college without a program; this option is considered under individual options. Early college encompasses programs that accelerate 1-6 years. There are currently only three early college programs available for children aged 11-15, and these three programs have a rich 30-year history, including three Rhodes scholars:
          • University of Washington Transtional School and Early Entrance Program (commuter program in Seattle)
          • CSU-Los Angeles Early Entrance Program (commuter program in Los Angeles)
          • Mary Baldwin Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (girls residential program in Virginia).
There are two dozen program choices for less radical acceleration, skipping 1-2 years of high school to enter college early. All of these programs require minimum scores on college entrance exams. So how do these kids skip part or all of high school so easily? There are several factors. Most college courses have no real prerequisites — obviously none for social sciences, but even introductory physical sciences do not require anything beyond what an intellectually curious child will have already picked up. What sets college apart is the speed and depth — college calculus may start at the same place as a high school course, but will cover 50-100% more material in a year. And the emphasis in college is on critical thinking — learning and debating ideas rather than facts.
• Resource: "Early Entrance to College: A Guide to Success" by Michelle C. Muratori, Ph.D. (Review by the Davidson Institute.) Available at Amazon.
• Resource: Hoagies Early Entrance College Programs page, with links to programs.
• Resource: Davidson Institute's "Considering the Options: A Guidebook for Investigating Early College Entrance" (Parent version and Student version)

Personal Stories:

Stories submitted by parents: David, Jamie,
More stories available:
• Comments from a 2004 study — 75 parents who chose public school and 62 parents who chose private school options — but note that the comments lump all public (or private) schools together, undifferentiated by the focus on gifted education.
• Hoagie's Early College success stories
• "College at 13: Young, Gifted, and Purposeful" by Solow and Rhodes — stories of 14 PEG graduates. Available at Amazon.
"A place to be celebrated and understood": Parents' point of view of the impact of early college at University of Washington; see more research.
"Early Entrance to College: Students' Stories": 1998 The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education.