What to look for in a gifted or classical program
Well, now that I am working I am going to have to rely on the writings of other to make posts. Today I offer up a great new comment from a reader who has made suggestions on what to look for in a gifted program but I think many of these are great guidance for assessing any school.
Of course the issue is that you’d need to do a lot of this homework before you even find out if your child has a remote chance of getting placed! And to do everything on this list could make even the most obsessed parent crazy. Finding people to talk to who attend the school is always your best bet since they can give you real insight into a lot of this stuff (and sometimes what you read on paper doesn’t reflect that feel/vibe of the school.)
I’ve put a few of my own notes with ** by them.
Thanks to reader CM for the great advice to parents!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SCHOOL:
A friend went to the school on a normal school day to observe; she didn’t make her decision only by attending their Open House.
Visit a few schools so you have something to compare it against. Ask a lot of questions:
-Is the school a happy, buzzy place?
-Are there parents around doing work in the office or library or lunchroom?
-IS THERE RECESS EVERY DAY, inside in inclement weather and outside otherwise?
-By how many years is the curriculum accelerated? Don’t be surprised but this varies a good deal among gifted regional centers.
-What language do they teach? Native speaker?
-How much homework does the principal and asst. principal think is typical for the primary grades and for the upper levels?
-Ask if they differentiate in their upper level math curriculum, i.e. do they test students for entry into either Algebra 1 or Pre-Algebra in 7th grade? Or must the entire class move on to taking Algebra in 7th grade? The latter approach happens when the school only has one math teacher for the upper levels, and they simply can’t differentiate. It’s obviously bad for a gifted student to be pushed into Algebra in 7th grade if s/he is not ready. So differentiation of the math curriculum is important. (** For neighborhood schools, I am guessing that many do not have their middle school curriculum totally buttoned up yet. This will be one of the next frontiers to conquer for new CPS parents.)
-Does the administration allow parents in the school to do meaningful volunteering? Ask for examples. How many social gatherings does the school offer? Is there a PTA and Athletic Association? Are there subcommittees on the LSC? How many? How often does the LSC meet? -Check out the extracuriculars offered at all grade levels…. don’t assume if they mention tennis that it is available for all grades.
-Is there an after school program?
-You can ask the principal for the School Improvement Plan (SIPAA) to see what the administration and LSC have deterined are the important areas to improve. (** The SIPAA plan is on the cps website if you look up the school. SIPAAs are done every 2 years so the current version may be out of date, especially if there is a new administration.)
-Compare the schools’ plans and budgets. (**CPS budgets can be a nightmare to decipher.)
-Check out the motility rate on each school for the past 5 years — that’s the number of students who have left. It should be on the CPS website or you can send in a FOIA request. Parents are dying to get their kids in these schools, but if one has a much higher rate, it should be a concern. (**For neighborhood schools, mobility can be impacted by specific populations. If a ‘hood is gentrifying quickly, unfortunately there can be high mobility if lower-income families are squeezed out of the local housing.)
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