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Is your child gifted?

For some parents, getting a child into the gifted program is akin to winning a gold medal in the academic Olympics. It’s a label parents and some students crave as much for the prestige as the potential for higher learning.

Educators say parents who clamor to get the inside track on gifted testing should consider whether it’s really right for their child.

“This is not a club you’re getting into. It is services by the school system – and some gifted kids need them and some gifted kids don’t,” said Cynthia Park, director of Advanced Academics for Broward County Public Schools.

Take a look at your child. Is he or she challenged in school? What behaviors do you see?

“Here are some things we typically hear from parents,” said Sue Buslinger-Clifford, instructional supervisor with Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Division of Psychosocial Clinical Support Service. “They say their child is bored and that they finish work quickly, or their child may have learned to read at an early age and is more advanced than the curriculum.”

While there are some like characteristics of gifted children, there are many determining factors that help schools identify them.

Here is a breakdown of how students are admitted into the gifted programs at Broward and Miami-Dade public schools:

What do I do if I think my child is gifted?

Talk to your child’s teacher first to discuss how he or she is doing in class, on standardized tests and at home. The child may be referred for gifted testing at that point.

Can I skip that step and just request that my child be tested?

Anyone can request testing but the school systems look at criteria such as standardized test scores, grades and classroom performance to determine who gets evaluated. Some schools also use a screening test.

How are students chosen for testing if a parent or teacher doesn’t request it?

In Broward public schools, all second-graders are screened using a written test that relies on symbol puzzles as an assessment tool. Because there are no words, the test doesn’t favor any language, culture or even reading ability. At other grade levels, teachers recommend students based on standardized test scores and other criteria, Park said.

In Miami-Dade public schools, there is no mass screening process. Instead, educators look for high-performing students who excel in class, Buslinger-Clifford said. “When the FCAT scores come in, we have people in schools poring over that information,” she said. “We are looking for high achievers, and many times we pull a parent in and suggest an evaluation and many times that parent is surprised.”

Who conducts gifted testing?

Licensed school psychologists.

How long does the process take?

After parents consent to the testing, the evaluation and meeting to determine eligibility must take place within 90 days.

What is the criteria to make the gifted program?

In Florida, an IQ of 130 or higher, plus a demonstrated need for services and the exhibition of certain gifted characteristics.

Are there any exceptions to this criteria?

Florida allows school districts an option to set their own criteria for free- and reduced-price lunch students as well as those with limited English speaking ability, both considered under-represented populations in the gifted program. In Broward, the minimum IQ is 116 and in Miami-Dade, the minimum IQ is 112 for these populations. The IQ scores are factored in with standardized test scores and other criteria to determine eligibility.

Can I get my child privately tested, rather than going through the school?

“If parents don’t think their child will perform to the best of their ability at the school, then they may want to get them privately tested,” Park said. Private testing must be conducted by a licensed psychologist. School testing is free. Private testing can range from $300 to $2,000 or more.

My child didn’t make the gifted program on the first try. Can he or she be retested?

“Is your child happy and challenged in school? If you feel like your child has needs that are not being met, then you should think about getting them retested,” Park said.

Retesting is granted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances, such as if a child is ill on testing day. In any case, a child cannot be retested within a year of the original test.

What’s different about education for a gifted child?

“In the gifted program, teachers are trained to recognize and meet the needs of gifted children,” Park said. “They gear assignments that are appropriate to their level. They promote higher level thinking. They keep the child motivated, happy and challenged.”

Where can I find more information?

For Broward County Public Schools, click here or here.

For Miami-Dade Public Schools, click here.