Parents and experts offer these tips for making sure a bright student isn’t shortchanged:
1. Recognize signs of talent. Children who ask lots of questions, read early, understand numbers or show creativity may be gifted – even if they sometimes misbehave in class or are diagnosed with disabilities such as attention deficit disorder. Make sure teachers focus on the potential, rather than getting distracted by challenges.
2. Ask questions. Make sure someone explains your child’s test scores and academic performance in language you can understand. It may help to write questions before you go for a meeting. If the school just seems happy that a child is passing exams, that shouldn’t be enough. Ask what’s being done to help the student keep growing.
3. Find an ally. If you don’t feel comfortable in school for any reason, find someone to support you and your child. That could be a school staffer or someone from a church, neighborhood association or nonprofit group. Ideally it would be someone who can follow the student’s progress for several years.
4. Review class schedules. In middle and high school, check which classes your child has listed for the coming year. Is your child in honors classes? If math is a strong suit, is she or he registered for Math 1 in eighth grade? In high school, look for classes that challenge top students, look good on college applications and perhaps earn free college credits, such as Advanced Placement and classes offered at local colleges.
5. Ask about extras. Students who compete for top colleges and careers almost always get help outside the school day. Ask about clubs, tutoring and summer programs that stretch the minds and talents of top students. Camps that offer high-level math, science and engineering programs may be costly, but many offer financial aid. If that’s not enough, ask your school whether they know of anyone who might sponsor your child.
6. Plan for college. Just graduating from high school isn’t enough for students with strong potential. From the time they start high school, make sure they have a counselor or advocate who understands financial aid and the kind of transcript they’ll need. Ask if the school has programs that provide college visits and other preparation.