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Highly Able but Not in Gifted Program

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 6 year old child in the first grade who is very smart for her age. Most people who have met her are amazed at her abilities from infancy stage. She was recommended to skip kindergarten an go to first grade but her psychological testing placed her in the high average category and she was not moved. Her Terra Nova test scores placed her in the 99 percentile and she is far above her peers in most subjects (even those in higher grades than her). Unfortunately my efforts to get her placed in a gifted program of advanced have fallen on deaf ears.

I am worried that she is getting bored (based on behavior displayed in her last class) and is not being challenged enough. If I continue to push the issue I am worried that it will be assumed that we are pushing her too hard (when in actuality she comes home and complains that they are doing baby stuff in her class). What do I do? Which test is more conclusive of her abilities, the psychological evaluation of the standardized scores from the Terra Nova?

A: I can understand your frustrations and concerns. This is indeed a rather tricky situation since your girl is somewhat "on the fence" - and thus, not being able to enjoy learning. You did not indicate the test used for her psychological evaluation, so it is hard to compare what the test was used for. Perhaps, a standardized test such as the WISC or Stanford-Binet would be more appropriate to evaluate readiness for a more advanced program. In a lot of schools, the Terra Nova scores are used for placement in gifted programs.

What I gathered is that probably the psychological testing deemed her of high average, but not to the point of being ready to skip grades. Her achievement test score (Terra Nova) is very high, suggesting that she has mastered her subject at that age. By right, she should be placed in a more advanced program. It is unclear as to the reason the school is not allowing this.

Perhaps, you need to push this matter really hard using her Terra Nova scores. It would be great if she has other test scores to supplement your case (e.g., IQ scores as mentioned). Furthermore, a discussion about her behavior in class with the teacher may help the teacher understand her needs for more challenging work, thus recommending a more advanced program to the school. The school has probably set criteria for admission of students into gifted programs based on the combined results of the Terra Nova and a psychological evaluation. What you need to do here is to voice out exceptions to the rule. Present your daughter's case and request that they investigate this on a single case basis.

I believe if the school knows how serious you are, they would do something about it rather than standing by their standard rules. This may just work. If nothing happens, another school that has an advanced program that she can be admitted in may be an option; or even homeschooling if you are able to or know someone who is doing the same.

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Whatever the school options are, she probably needs to be stimulated a lot and regardless of whether she is in a more advanced program, she needs stimulation at home as well. This is where you play a very big part. Challenge her with activities that she finds stimulating and gradually increase the difficulty level to keep her challenged. However, make sure that she is enjoying the activity; forcing will only lead to much frustration and eventually boredom. You could even try networking with other parents - and once you are out in the open, it is amazing how many parents may be in similar situation. That would be the best support that you can get.

Hope that helps a little at least. All the best to you!


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