Friday, September 16, 2016

Advocating for your child’s placement in Gifted and Talented programs

By Dr. LaShonda M. Jackson-Dean

Being the parent of two extremely talented sons, I have discovered, advocating for proper education is a never-ending journey. Many of our African-American children experience the marginalizing effect of the lack of talent recognition during their school years. We, as parents have to not only recognize our children’s gifted and talented ability but also, when it is not being recognized within the education system. Parental engagement and support of their children’s education encourages better scholastic performance. We have all heard the African proverb, “It takes a village, to raise a child.” This has never been truer than in today’s time. Our children’s potential for excellence increases with continued love and support. Teaching our children to be well-rounded individuals, involves excellence inside and outside the classroom. The responsibility of the academic excellence of our children includes the active support of the parents, school administration, and the community.

The underrepresentation of African-American children in Gifted and Talented programs has become a topic of concern. The majority of Gifted and Talented programs are highly populated with non-minority participants. Increasing the emergence of African-American children into these programs is essential to them being academically prepared for college. Identifying gifted African-American children within the public education system has been a debatable issue for several years. To date, programs of such include Advanced Placement and Honors Placement in courses of Math, English, and History. These courses can lead to receiving college credit while in High School. With all of the potential at stake, knowing the actions parents should take to ensure proper placement of their children in Gifted and Talented programs is vital.

Knowing who to contact at your child’s school is the beginning of the quest for knowledge for better education. I recommend scheduling a conference with the education and guidance counselor to discuss the available options for the district. The district should provide an environment for conferences between parents and school administration. The conference will provide the opportunity for gaining insight into your child’s educational progress. It will also lend way to becoming more knowledgeable of the district’s program availability. Both, the parents and the administration should be interactively involved. Take time to listen and be heard.

Prior to the conference, request a copy of child’s educational records to prepare for the meeting. Research the records for proven academic results. Determine the subjects where your child identifies as GT. Search outside the school system for additional information on the subjects to bring to the conference. At the conference, listen attentively to the counselor’s program description; inquire about the requirements and placement tests. It is important to take notes as the requirements are described. Ask questions concerning the placement tests and the preparation for them. While in the conference, observe the demeanor and attitude of the participants. Ensuring the support of the administration will be available to encourage your child throughout the program is of absolute necessity.  The educational atmosphere must be nurturing and comfortable in order to cultivate an environment for learning. This is an important element of your child’s education. The administration should welcome your input and interest in your child’s education. They input and interest should be at a level where you, the parent are comfortable with the process of the program.

After learning about the program services, use your child’s education records as a justification for testing and placement. This information will provide the parent with the ammunition to determine the true skill level of their child on a more personal basis. The parent will be more cognizant to whether their child is truly gifted or in need of a more challenging curriculum. Higher learning opposed to advanced placement may be key in challenging those students. If the parent determines their child is truly gifted, continue the process of getting the child tested and placed. Communicate with the administration the expectations you have for your child regarding the program and align them with goals of the program. There must be commitment to the program from your child and the administrators of the program. Your child must know the administrator is there to assist with their success. Knowing there are custodians available to ask questions will provide an even greater success rate. Your child has to know the parent is committed to them and the program, as well. Provide your contact information to the administration to demonstrate your availability and support for the growth and learning of your child. Ensure your child is prepared for the testing. Attend available functions and meetings regarding the program.

Research every opportunity to enhance your child’s knowledge, whether it is through books, online courses, or tutoring. As a parent, you have to be vigilant and vocal in ensuring your child receives the proper education to assist in releasing the greatest within.

Correspondence to Dr. Dean can be forwarded to

Visit her online at


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