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Top Four Things to Look for in Your Gifted Program

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Top Four Things to Look for in a Gifted ProgramWith the new school year starting, fortunate gifted, talented, and creative (g/t/c) students will be re-entering or starting a program designed to meet their needs.  If the programs involve grouping or pullout options, they will be part time programs. Some program prototypes are full time, including grade acceleration or homogeneously grouped classrooms. Some programs start with the first day of school, some start later in the year or at different grade levels. Regardless, you should expect to find appropriate management, planning, and implementation of the program, however it is designed, to be a worthwhile experience for gifted students. While g/t/c programs can be complex and organic, the following four components should be in place.

  1. The identification procedures should be equitable and comprehensive. The existence of talent and achievement and the potential for such should be sought in a wide range of areas. Teachers should be trained to identify characteristics of giftedness and test data should include, not exclude, students from entering programs.
  2. The program design should provide multiple options for gifted students, according to their individual needs. Options could include curriculum alternatives, grouping options, continuous progress/acceleration, out-of-school and online programs, mentorships, and other options that may be available in the school. Counselors should be available and trained to deal with gifted students, both emotionally and academically.
  3. The staff running the programs should have training in gifted education. This training should include identification, what works with gifted students, awareness of emotional and social concerns, and individualized assessment procedures.
  4. The curriculum should be differentiated for multiple ability levels. Students should be grouped homogeneously for rigorous curriculum at least part of every day. The curriculum should be enriched and accelerated, incorporate complex and creative thinking skills, and include individualized topics of study. Finally, the curriculum should include opportunity for real or authentic application through the creation of products appropriate to professionals in the particular field of study.

These four points hit on a brief but broad overview in the examination of a gifted program. Many other criteria could be added as well, including ways that the program engages in evaluation for program improvement, but this short list provides direction for an initial review. If you do not have these basic points in place, be sure to ask questions for further information, discuss with the appropriate school personnel, and suggest next steps. If you have additional points you think should be in the top four areas, be sure to share with us so that we can all do our best to ensure that our gifted children have what they need to be successful and happy.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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