We’re on the cusp of being able to send our older child to public school (free! school!) and are debating what to do. We believe that our kids are HG/PG, and we are fortunate, as we have some potential school choice. In our area there are multiple private and magnet public schools (both of which require testing to attend) geared specifically for gifted kids .
As we comb through schools, public and private, I’ve been looking for a variety of characteristics, but the two most important ones seem to be: a) will our child(ren) have like-minded peers of a similar age?* and b) will the school be able to provide sufficient challenge for our child(ren)?
My question is: is there another characteristic that we should prize more highly? If so, what?
Oh, also, because the public schools are magnets, and require testing to attend, this, ostensibly, means we can live anywhere in the city and reap the benefits of a great school. It seems like a no-brainer to go public (assuming DC1 gets in!), since we don’t have to pay for a great school district, nor do we have to pay for private school. However, the student:teacher ratio is 28:1 in K, going up to…I forget, 30:1 or 31:1 in 3rd or 4th. There are no teacher’s aides. Are these class sizes as ridiculously huge as they sound to me?
*Based both on Miraca Gross’ work and also my kid’s passing comments about the kids at his current preschool who “just scribble.”
#1 says: If you can possibly get your kids in a gifted school, for gods’ sake do it! (One of us is very grumpy about her years in the regular schools. The other one is still scarred from middle school and doesn’t want to talk about it.)
#2 says: Golly, these choices are just so hard. I can’t say what you should do. What we’ve done has always been to play it by ear every year. We figure out what our options are, check out the teachers and the school environment, and are willing to change mid-stream if necessary.
One of the reasons we’ve been so keen on acceleration for DC1 is exactly because ze is kind of a jerk about lesser performing kids (generally innocently, first asking questions about why they can’t read, and such, but it seems like something we have to revisit every year). It does hir a lot of good to not be leaps and bounds in front of everybody else in the same class. In terms of acceleration, the friends the same age thing is over-rated, at least so far for DC1 (and according to A Nation Deceived, as well as our own childhoods– we always got along better with older kids/adults until we went to boarding school)– DC1 gets along great with kids a couple years older.
The sufficient challenge was also really important to us. DC1 is *usually* really well-behaved (update: at the last school function, Easter, all the teachers commented on how much hir behavior had improved. The Spanish teacher noted that her child had gone through the same phase at that age, which is why she hadn’t commented on it earlier), but when ze isn’t sufficiently challenged ze can be a bit of a pill. That’s one reason ze does workbooks on weekends.
In our geographic area there are two options that are geared towards “gifted” or “math and science”… one is a public within a school in the low income town next to ours. We would have to move to attend, but despite being called a gifted magnet, we haven’t really heard anything good about it and suspect it may be a slightly above average little white island in a minority district. We didn’t investigate further though because we decided the private school would be a better option than selling our house. It may be great… but, none of the university parents we know are moving to send their kids there. The other option, also in that town, is a math and science charter. We know much more about this option because a lot of people in our town have tried it out because there isn’t a residency requirement for it. It has enormous class sizes K-4, larger than state law allows for public schools. A K teacher quit mid-year because she was so frazzled, according to one parent who pulled her kids out to attend another private school. I don’t think we know anybody who stayed for elementary. We hear it’s great for high school and know parents whose kids do high school there. Of course, the publics here are also supposed to be great for high school.
Continuing… yes, if you believe the TN STAR experiment results, 28:1 in K is too big of a student teacher ratio. It would be very difficult to do differentiation with a class of that size without an aide or student teacher. Depending on the teacher and the other students, it might even be difficult to keep order in the class.
Is there something you should prize more highly than classmates and challenge? That’s hard to say.
We visited the two schools that were willing to talk with us and talked with every parent we knew about our options, and even a public school teacher we knew socially. We learned a lot from talking and visiting about what was important to us. One thing that was important was the school and the teachers having an understanding of gifted children and an ability to differentiate. Another was having a school environment that was pro-gifted kids rather than anti-gifted kids that was willing to work with us. You can read our saga in our archives.
So, sorry for the [delayed] long non-answer. When you have a special snowflake for a kid, there’s special snowflake answers, which is to say, really no answer at all. Talk, visit, and you’ll figure out what is important to you and your kid. And if things don’t work out, you can always change.
Do any of our readers have better advice for jlp? How did you decide on a school for your kids, if applicable? What do you wish your parents had done for you at that age?