Q: My child is in a school that isn't meeting his/her needs. There doesn't appear to be any focus on supporting challenge education for gifted children. What can I do?
Parents often come to OATAG with issues with about getting their child the support s/he needs in school. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. Generally, you have a few options:
1. Try to work with your existing teachers/principal to get the support/education s/he needs. If you go this route, I recommend you follow these steps: http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10862
2. Try transferring to another school or district, or moving. The process is somewhat complex and there can be deadlines and waiting lists, and even if you do that the district may still turn you down. The solution to that is physically moving to a new location with a district that has a reputation for supporting TAG students. I know some parents who have done that and are very happy with that decision.
3. Try online school. This is popular with a lot of students these days. It frequently allows them to study at their own pace with peers of their own level. You have to be careful here: don't believe all the online hype or every news article you read. There are pros and cons to all online schools; some are really good and others are really bad. Reach out and read actual parent reviews or better yet talk to some parents and hear their experience to help you find one that is best for your situation.
4. Try homeschooling if you have the time and resources to do that. The Oregon Home Education Network has a ton of resources for that. http://www.ohen.org/
5. See if a University or your local Community College will admit him/her. Some will allow young students admission based on test scores and ability levels. Here are some resources to get you thinking about that option: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/early_college.htm
6. Try a combination of these things. For example: your student is basically homeschooled, but accesses high school for science, the local Community College for math, takes an online English course, attends the local community orchestra or concert choir in the evenings for music, is part of a robotics team in the afternoon, and takes swimming at the Y for PE. This is the most work on your part, but will ultimately result in an amazing education experience for your child, if you have the time and resources to pull it off.
7. Form a group of parents, file a complaint and/or sue your district. This is the last and worse case scenarios, and, to be honest, it rarely works and usually serves to be a frustration to parents and a general waste of money and time. However, since it is an option it should be mentioned here since some folks do this when they get irritated enough. In many cases just organizing like-minded parents and going to the superintendent or school board is enough. If not, a formal complaint, call to ODE, or a lawsuit may make you feel better... although they rarely result in the positive outcomes parents seek. Be prepared for a long haul.... in some cases this process has taken years to complete.
Hopefully this will give you some options. I'm sure it wasn't the answer you were seeking. Unfortunately, the law is complaint-driven and there is no funding for TAG in Oregon, so most districts have little incentive to do much with TAG kids. It took OATAG years to change the wording of a single law to try to force districts to comply, and then they found a way around that. It took more years to get a single (read one) specialist for TAG at ODE.
The good news is that you have the amazing opportunity to rear a students with amazing gifts and potential. Just be flexible, keep an ear to the ground, access opportunities as they present themselves, and be ready for a roller coaster ride!
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