I have a 4-year-old daughter who will be starting kindergarten next year. I have two school choices that are both within a few miles of our house, and am trying to weigh between them.
Choice 1 is a well-rated public school. I don’t know much about it—the website makes it sound pretty standard.
Choice 2 is a well-rated K-12 charter school that focuses on gifted students. They mix kids into different classrooms based on ability in the subject, and the classrooms are age-mixed. Even kindergarteners switch classes in this school. They don’t expect a given kid to be gifted in all subjects and say that they meet each kid at their own level this way.
Choice 2 is more racially diverse than Choice 1… but the gifted focus takes away a different sort of intellectual diversity that I would expect to see at Choice 1.
Right now, I have the impression that my daughter is very open to learning and is pretty far ahead of her age level on academic skills. I believe she’d test as gifted, but she’s still very much a 4-year-old socially/emotionally. I don’t want put her in a school that squelches her on the learning front or on the social/emotional front. And I see both choices as having that potential, just in different ways.
What are your thoughts about these choices, both as parents and as educators?
What are the questions you would ask the schools if you were judging them?
Here’s a similar question from a past Ask the Grumpies. Here’s one on dual language vs. gifted (this one has some links at the bottom to related questions). (Here’s one on what dual language program to pick.)
Basically our advice was: Visit both!
But it’s Covid-time, so you really *can’t*. Likely they’re not in session and even if they are in session they’re having to deal with new modalities so you won’t be getting a picture of what things are going to be like (hopefully) for the bulk of your DD’s school career.
Ok… so let’s start brainstorming here.
As GT kids, we were not socially integrated until we went to a GT high school. I was completely out-of-synch with my classmates. I’m not sure that it’s ok yet for girls to be incredibly smart. My own DC1 gets along a lot better with kids that are not hir age– zie gets along well with older kids in terms of interests, and gets along well with younger kids because they tend to look up to hir. My DC2 has best friends that are hir age, but they’re all GT and two of them are just incredibly sweet people– as nice as DC1. Social/emotionally you just don’t know which is going to be better until you try it.
I would hope that neither school will squelch academically. If your kid is advanced, I would hope that a good public school would differentiate.
Given that the GT school mixes ages, it is likely that there is going to be plenty of intellectual diversity. They say that not everyone is gifted in all subjects, so that’s how it is going to be handled. I was in a first grade a bit like this for one year (before moving to the midwest) and it was pretty great.
The fact that Choice 2 is more racially diverse is a good signal. In many places, gifted charters are not actually there for gifted students, but to cater to a white clientele who does not want to pay for private school. These tend to be watered down.
End brainstorming. Start thoughts about choices.
One very important thing to keep in mind when choosing between schools is that (with the exception of say Waldorf where they have some potentially harmful general beliefs about things like vaccines, but even then some are probably fine), it is generally not the modality that is important. It is the schools themselves. Some GT schools are fantastic places to learn that attract GT kids and are totally inclusive with dedicated teaching and acceptance of individual differences. Some GT schools use GT as an excuse not to teach since the kids will do fine on their own, or are really just regular schools that are attempting to screen out people with brown skin (as noted above).
Some regular schools in high socioeconomic status areas are the same. Their kids will do fine on the annual exams without their intervention, so they provide zero differentiation for smart kids. Some regular schools are delightful with creative teachers who meet each kid within the classroom and/or allow single subject acceleration.
Sometimes these differences come down to individual teachers and you just get lucky. But sometimes there’s good leadership and communication across teachers so they help each other out and the entire school is good.
End thoughts about choices. Start questions to ask.
- If you feel you’ve made a mistake with either choice, how easy it is to switch?
- How do you feel about the administration and teaching at both schools? Do they seem willing to work with parents?
- (Can’t really do this one): If you’ve visited the schools, do the kids seem happy and not acting up?
- How will the school schedule work with your work-life? Is there a bus? Are there after school programs? What happens if your child misses the bus or wants to do an after school activity?
- How do you feel about the curriculum at both schools?
- What do they do about gifted kids? Is there single subject acceleration (best), differentiation (second best), pull-out (better than nothing)?
- How big are the class sizes in regular non-Covid years? How many teachers per classroom? (It is hard to do differentiation with a big class and no aide.)
- Do you know any parents who have kids in either school who you could talk with? Do you have friends of friends who could direct you to such parents?
- In what way are the schools high rated? Schools with high test scores and low socioeconomic status indicators are generally better schools than those with the same test scores and high socioeconomic status indicators.
- How do they deal with bullying? Do they believe in growth mindsets?
- Suggestions from Grumpy Nation?
Hopefully these will both be great choices and just offer different options.
Grumpy Nation? How would you go about making this decision? What questions would you ask? What advice do you have?