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After the Denial: When your child doesn’t get in to the gifted program

January 11, 2017


giftedstudentDid you learn your child didn’t qualify based on the school’s gifted program test? Does this fly in the face of anything you know about your child? If your child didn’t get in, don’t give up. You have options.

Are You Sure You Want In?

First, be certain you want the program. Do some research. Learn about the quality and the time commitment. Get a sense of the trade-offs for your child. Often kids need to miss other classes. Is it worth it? Keep in mind it might take time, money, and a lot of effort to appeal. If you’re still certain, read on to find out how to get your child into the gifted program.

Get the Facts on the Gifted Program

Re-read your “rejection” letter. It probably includes a note about the appeal process, with contact information and deadlines. Typically you have 30 days. To avoid any confusion, request a copy of the formal, written appeal process. Never rely on a telephone conversation. Then call, write, and email your intent to appeal as quickly as possible. Expect a response from the school within 30 days. The response should include an invitation for an in-person meeting. If it doesn’t, request one.

Learn as much as you can about the school’s gifted program admission criteria. Criteria varies from state to state and, in some cases, district to district. Typically, schools base admission to their gifted programs on standardized test scores from group-administered achievement tests like the SATs, ITBS, SRA, and MATs or group ability tests like CogAT, Otis-Lennon, Hemmon-Nelson, Ravens Progressive Matrices, Matrix Analogies Test. They also might include teacher observations and anecdotes about a child’s particular accomplishments. Consult the National Association for Gifted Children for more information.

Get a Second Opinion

Find out which standardized tests the school will accept to reconsider your child’s application.  Often districts accept individually-administered ability tests (Woodcock Johnson, Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, Naglieri nonverbal ability test, Mindprint Learning, etc.). Be aware that all of these tests, with the exception of Mindprint, are administered by a psychologist which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. None are likely to be covered by insurance. Learn more about psychoeducational evaluations.

Gather Your Evidence

Start lining things up for your appeal.  Put together a packet of everything you have. Include your child’s standardized test scores, grades, reference letters, and anything else you believe will prove your child’s capabilities. Bolster your child’s application by asking teachers for their observations of your child’s giftedness.

Bring all your information to the meeting. Anticipate the school will have multiple people in the meeting, including the gifted program teacher, the principal, a child study team member, school counselor etc.  Bring a consultant, your spouse, or a friend if you choose. The support could help.

Advocate for Your Gifted Child

Most importantly, bring your voice.  In a positive and non-adversarial way, explain why your child deserves admission to the gifted program. You might want to write a “script” so that you don’t forget all your reasons. At the end of the meeting, be clear on next steps. Don’t leave the meeting without clarity on how they will decide and when you will find out. Hold them to a deadline. Most public schools legally cannot leave you waiting longer than 30-60 days for a decision. That said, be patient.

Don’t Give Up

Recognize this is one step in your child’s academic journey. If things don’t go your way, don’t give up. You could hire a student advocate to help you appeal again. Or, you might need to find creative ways to support your child until you can re-apply. If you want to learn more about gifted education, here is a great collection of resources to get you started.

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About the Author:

Dr. Matthews has over 30 years in private practice specializing in children and adolescents in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Matthews received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, with postdoctoral work at Harvard University. She is the author of numerous scientific papers dealing with child development, developmental disabilities, and child abuse and neglect.  She taught at schools such as The New School for Social Research, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey, and Princeton University. She is a part-time consultant for Mindprint Learning.


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