After the Denial: Getting your child in to the gifted program
January 11, 2017
Note if you were looking for the Mindprint Assessment to help qualify for the gifted program please click the link.
If your child didn’t get in to the gifted program, but you think he or she should, don’t give up. You have options.
Get the Facts on your school’s Gifted Program
Re-read your denial letter. It should include a paragraph about the appeal process, with contact information and deadlines. Typically you have 30 days to appeal the decision. Request a copy of the formal, written appeal process immediately. Never rely on a telephone conversation. Then call, write, and email your intent to appeal as quickly as possible. Expect a response back from the school within 30 days which includes an invitation for an in-person meeting. If you don’t get a response, request (if necessary, demand) one.
While waiting for your meeting, learn as much as you can about the school’s gifted program admission criteria. Understand that criteria varies from state to state and, in some cases, district to district. Usually schools base admission to their gifted programs on standardized test scores from group-administered achievement tests like the SSATs, ITBS, or MATs or group ability tests like CogAT, Otis-Lennon, or Ravens Progressive Matrices. Also, they should include teacher observations about your child’s accomplishments in and out of class.
Get a Second Opinion
Find out which standardized tests the school will accept to re-consider 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.). With the exception of Mindprint, the other tests are administered by a psychologist which can be expensive ($2000+) and time-consuming (5-10 hours). It also can take anywhere from weeks to months to get an an appointment with a psychologist and none are likely to be covered by insurance. Since most schools rely on objective test results as they most important factor, having a second set of test results is likely to be critical.
Gather Your Evidence
Create a packet of your evidence. Include your child’s standardized test scores, grades, reference letters, and anything else you believe will highlight your child’s capabilities. Bolster your child’s application by asking teachers or after-school program leaders to write letters documenting their observations of your child’s giftedness.
Preparing for 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 your own team. A consultant, your spouse, or a friend if you choose. The support could help bolster your confidence and indicate how serious you are.
Bring your evidence and 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 remember all your reasons. Be respectful and listen to the school’s position, but make sure your voice is heard fully.
At the end of the meeting, be clear on next steps. Don’t leave the meeting without clarity on their decision making process and when you will find out if your child will be accepted into the gifted program. Hold them to a deadline. Most public schools legally cannot leave you waiting longer than 30-60 days for a decision.
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.
Are You Sure You Want In?
Before you go through all of this, be certain you want the program. Confirm the quality and the time commitment. 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, go for it. Never forget: you know your child best and you are your child’s best advocate.
About the Author:
Dr. Matthews has over 30 years in private practice specializing in children and adolescents in Princeton, NJ. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, with postdoctoral work at Harvard University. Dr. Matthews 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. Dr. Matthews is a part-time consultant for Mindprint Learning.