Gifted Education

May 24, 2011


ANNOUNCING IGET-Network, LLC  “NEW BOOK”: Running the Long Race in Gifted Education: Narratives and Interviews from Culturally Diverse Gifted Adults, co-edited by Joy M. Scott-Carrol, PhD and Anthony Sparks, PhD.Visit our website at:


RESOURCES (click here)

Source:  Family Liaison Office of the U.S. Department of State

Included in the cross-section of learning styles are children who display an extraordinary intellect or passion for learning that would allow them to qualify for gifted and talented education in the United States. Traditionally, however, international schools have not offered a separate program for formally identifying gifted students. Additionally, special educational opportunities and accommodations are NOT required by law for gifted children as they are for other exceptionalities covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There is not even a common definition of giftedness agreed upon by all schools systems and academic institutions.

Parents should review Education Options for Foreign Service Family Members Chapter 11 – The Gifted and Talented Child (Intellectually Gifted with Learning Differences, The Gifted Preschooler, Tips for Parenting, Washington Area Programs, Other Gifted and Talented Programs, The Gifted and Talented Child Overseas, Development of Family Resource Library Overseas, Publications and Computer Software, Washington Area Associations).

The Family Liaison Office serves Foreign Service families looking for help with Gifted and Talented programs. Additional information is available below. For more assistance, please contact FLO’s Education and Youth Officer.

Many schools respond to the question of gifted and talented education by asserting that they are able to provide an academically rich and challenging environment by virtue of their unique private, international school setting. Many international settings do in fact offer excellent academic programs that are challenging for the brightest students.

For example, many international schools offer a U.S. type curriculum or a blend of U.S. / British / host country courses. These usually provide an easily portable program. Host country schools may provide a wonderful opportunity to learn a language really well and experience a different cultural milieu. However, the coursework may be less easily moved back into the American system, especially for those students who need to move to the highest levels of course offerings. Even English or Canadian schools can present problems with classes such as math instead of the traditional Algebra-Geometry, etc. sequence. The International Baccalaureate Programme found in many international schools is becoming more popular in the United States and may be a good bridge. Advance Placement (AP) classes, also found in many American – international schools, can also be extremely challenging, and offer a student the opportunity to earn college credits upon successful completion of the AP exams. See our webpages Education Options for Foreign Service Children (K – 12) for more information.

Gifted children do have special educational and social/emotional characteristics, and the responsibility for educational planning falls heavily upon the individual family. It is important that families become knowledgeable and are prepared to advocate for their children. The bibliography at the end of this page includes books, journals and web sites that may be helpful for both parents and teachers.

Reentry to US Schools
Schools in the United States offer a wide range of programs for students who are gifted in academic areas, the arts, leadership and sports. It is not easy, however, to navigate the many programs or to decide among private schools and various public school divisions. Also, a child may need to go through a lengthy identification process to qualify for certain gifted services, even if s/he has been identified as gifted elsewhere by a school or by a psychologist in private practice. Other magnet programs, such as language immersion, may have a long waiting list. The waiting list is usually open only to those actually living in the school division so planning ahead is not always possible for those moving back from overseas.

Some school divisions have magnet schools for gifted students; however, the places are competitive and the application process may begin a full year in advance. Some schools admit students only at certain grade levels and those wishing to enter at a different point may have to compete for a very few places created by students who move or withdraw.

The most common model for the delivery of gifted services at the elementary level is the Cluster Class where several identified children are grouped with other students and the teacher differentiates instruction based on each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. One advantage of this model is that students can be placed in a cluster class without being formally identified. (Parents may encounter a reluctance to place a new student ahead of those already in the school, however.) Another advantage is that a teacher trained in differentiation of instruction may be more willing and able to reconcile any gaps or strengths a student brings with her. The Cluster Class is often supported by a Gifted Resource Teacher who may co-teach certain units and assist the cluster teacher in developing curriculum appropriate for gifted learners. This teacher also provides liaison with parents and is a resource to note.

Differentiating Instruction
Differentiation is a set of strategies that allow a classroom teacher to meet the needs of children with varying levels of readiness, learning ability, interest and educational background in the same class at the same time. For a complete explanation of the approach, several items on the reading list are recommended, especially those by Carol Ann Tomlinson.

Briefly, this process requires pre-assessment to identify each child’s instructional level, flexible grouping, variation in content, process and product depending on each child’s learning profile and an assessment plan to determine if the instructional goals have been met.

This approach emphasizes constructivist learning theory rather than the rote memorization historically favored in classrooms. Teachers typically require significant in-service or pre-service training to successfully implement these strategies.

Acceleration Programs*( source: Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA)*

Acceleration is an academic intervention that moves students through an educational program at a rate faster or at an age that is younger than typical. Acceleration helps match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student. It is about creating a better match between a student and the level and pace of instruction.

Acceleration does NOT mean pushing a child. It does not mean forcing a child to learn advanced material or socialize with older children before he or she is ready. Acceleration is a strategy that respects individual differences and acknowledges the fact that some of these differences merit educational flexibility.

High School Programs
High schools have a more flexible system where students self-select courses based on their past academic record and their college/career aspirations. Many schools offer Advanced Placement courses for advanced students or have a cooperative relationship with a local college. More and more schools offer the International Baccalaureate Programme that may be attractive to students coming from IB schools overseas. Special magnet schools are also available at the high school level. Again, the application process is long and restricted to certain grade levels. There are also special mentorship programs, independent studies and apprentice opportunities which should be explored for gifted high school students.

Private Schools
Excellent private schools abound in the Washington and other US metropolitan areas. Selective admission policies result in a fairly homogeneous student body academically. Some parents find that parochial schools, even of other religious persuasions than their own, provide a more rigorous academic and social setting for their children. These are often less costly than the independent private schools.

There are drawbacks to the private school options. Even the highest priced schools do not have the range of courses or special programs that can be found in large public school divisions. Some small schools have an established social order, making it even harder for a new student to find acceptance. Private schools are not immune to students who engage in risky behavior.

Summer Programs
Participation in a special residential summer program for the gifted can be attractive to the Foreign Service family for several reasons. The time spent living and learning with US based students can help provide a cultural foundation for Third Culture Kids that will later ease a reentry. The rigorous academic programs may supplement a less than strong school program and the chance to make friends with other gifted American students can mitigate the sense of isolation frequently experienced by gifted young people. It is also a good option for a teen who is less than thrilled with the family’s home leave plans.

Some programs require special testing such as the SAT in seventh grade or have other academic requirements for admission. All have early application deadlines.
Some of these programs actively recruit internationally. These are usually the more pricey, for-profit experiences. Some are very good, others are not. State universities offer comparable programs with a lower price tag. For example, the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina and the College of William and Mary all offer highly regarded summer programs for gifted students.

Twice Exceptional Students

  • Council for Exceptional Children – Information Center on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
  • Gifted and Learning Disabled: Twice Exceptional Students
  • Research: Diamonds in the Rough

In Conclusion
Parents need to become advocates for their gifted children by ensuring that each child’s particular needs are met throughout his educational career. The personality and interests of each child should be weighed along with the intellectual or artistic potential. Parents should gather information and plan ahead rather than assuming that a “good” school or school division will do all that is required for a smooth educational and social transition for each child. Most importantly, every child has experiences in school that are less than perfect and most flourish in spite of or perhaps because of these misadventures. Parents need to be supportive of the child and of the educational program the child is in by interfacing with schools regularly, and if necessary, by maintaining a persistent but polite stance to resolve issues that come up.

If a bit of supplemental work is done at home or in an extracurricular setting, this enriches the child’s experiences all the more. There are also allowances in place under the DSSR 270 Education Allowance that allow for supplementary instruction for gifted and talented students.
In sum, most all students, especially gifted students, will benefit from the many opportunities implicit in an international lifestyle. And ALL students benefit from pro-active and concerned parents as advocates.


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