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Old 04-13-2008, 01:54 PM
2 posts, read 18,225 times
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Our 8-year-old may be eligible for the Fairfax County schools GT program, in McLean, where we are now renting a townhouse. We are looking to buy a house and we would prefer to live in Arlington for a variety of reasons, including the commute. But we wonder if the GT program is so valuable that we should stay in Fairfax County. We know that Arlington has a GT program but it does not seem to be nearly as extensive. Comments?
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:49 PM
Location: Atlanta
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I admittedly don't know much about Arlington County's GT program, but can say that we LOVE the program one of our children is in, in Fairfax County. Rarely do you get a situation like in Fairfax Co. where you can opt for your child to attend a full time GT center. Having a child in a full time gifted classroom is a huge difference from a part time pull out program where only some of the kids in the class are gifted-eligible, or they are only with other gifted kids for a few hours a day or a week. I don't mean to sound snobby at all, but having a full time gifted class is just radically different than a regular class with a few gifted kids in it, or a pull-out type program. I have kids in several different settings, in regard to levels of gifted services in Fairfax Co., and so I have seen both first hand. The level and content of conversation and interaction in the full time gifted class is just amazing - not always super high level - but always unique. And these unique types of interactions don't have to stop because the pull out session is ending - it just keeps going. Hope that makes sense, and helps a little. It can be hard to explain until you see it in action, and it's tough to quantify, but it's really an awesome experience. Good luck!
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Old 04-14-2008, 08:35 AM
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Thank you for sharing your perspective. It confirms what I'd suspected and experienced myself -- that classmates can have a big impact. I'd be curious how other children at the school who are not in the GT program view the GT kids -- do they all mix well outside of the classroom, or do the GT kids tend to stick together, either by choice or by default?
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Old 04-14-2008, 03:38 PM
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My son was in the GT program for a year at a Fairfax County school, hated it, and decided to return to the neighborhood school the following year. The academics were GREAT, but some of the social aspects were not. There is a real problem, in my mind, with the whole "gifted and talented" label -- both for those who are in the GT programs and those who are excluded because they just missed the test score cutoff. My son had classmates in the third grade who were already talking about going to Harvard and Yale. Perhaps because our area attracts a large number of highly educated immigrants who are intensely Ivy-League focused -- but it seemed unhealthy to me.
The GT center schools will claim that the "regular" kids and gifted kids are all part of one school, but our experience was that the GT center was a school within a school, and there was little or no interaction with the other kids. There are also tensions between the parents, especially at schools where most of the GT kids are not from the base school community.
When our son returned to his neighborhood school, there is no question that he was far less challenged academically. The schools talk a lot about "differentiated instruction," but its effectiveness depends both on the skill of the teacher and the mix of students in the class, and our experience was that the gifted kids usually got shortchanged in favor of the autism spectrum kids who had lots of socialization issues. And we found that the gifted "pullout" program was a joke. The kids were missing important math or science classes so that they could do collages and other "enrichment" activities.
For our son, it was a tradeoff we were willing to make because he was much happier back at school with his friends, and he challenged himself at home with reading and other projects. You know your child best -- if he does qualify for the Fairfax GT program, you might consider giving it a try for a year before deciding whether to move to Arlington.
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Old 04-15-2008, 06:56 PM
Location: Atlanta
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I too hate those "GT" labeling issues. I think it happens somewhat no matter how hard everyone tries to overcome it. And the kids themselves figure it out pretty quickly.

I will say that we have had a very different experience in my son's GT center school that clairmarie mentions above. I think the GT kids do hang out together a little more because they rotate classes with each other, share teachers, etc., but his school gives them playground time all together as a grade, lunch together as a grade, field trips, assemblies, etc., so I find that he does have friends from all of the classes.

I think clairemarie may be right about there being some tension between parents of kids who attend that school as their neighborhood school, and towards the parents of kids who go there for the GT center. I have heard some nasty comments in that vein repeated second hand, but never experienced it directly. There seems to be a bit of a feeling of "your GT kid is overcrowding my neighborhood school" sort of thing, but it seems pretty minor.

I have seen a difference between the "GT center" school that my son attends (which seems to handle all these issue pretty seamlessly) , and my neighborhood school that my other children attend (which also has a GT class in it, but is not a "GT center"). We found that the kids in the neighborhood school in the GT class were extremely label concious (and the parents even more so - so you can see where the kids get some of it). Many of the GT activities were very different than what was going on in the regular classes, and the kids saw it day in and day out how the GT kids were getting more (more assemblies, cool projects, special activities, etc.), and they were getting less. That was part of the reason we decided to move him to the "GT center" school across town. Because they have a much larger GT program there, and there are more classes in each grade, the differences don't stick out quite so much, and it doesn't seem to be such a strong case of "haves" vs. "have nots".

I'm sure much of this stuff just depends on which school you land in. Even two schools in the same neighborhood can have really different "personalities". Maybe a tour of the potential GT school would help, or a meeting with a teacher or principal. We all just want what is best for each of our kids, and that can be very different for each family, so trust your instincts. You know your child better than anyone else, and you know what your family can handle better than anyone else. Good luck!
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Old 05-02-2008, 10:06 AM
10 posts, read 33,124 times
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Default Fairfax county GT program question

My son just got accepted into the GT center program but we are not sure
if it is right for him. Currently his school has the partial foreign language immersion program which he enjoys a lot. If he goes to the GT program then he will not be able to continue learning that foreign language.

Does the GT program really make a difference at 3rd grade? How are classes taught in GT program? I read in some other forum that children in GT programs have to be more self motivated because a lot of times the lessons are not taught but are more like a discussion group. What type of children benefit more from this kind of learning style?

My son interacts very well with adults, but he does not seem to be interested in making friends his age. He is comfortable at his current school with kids that he knows since 1st grade and they kind of accepted him as he is. Will GT center kids be more like him and therefore easier for him
to make friends?
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Old 05-02-2008, 04:20 PM
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If your son is enjoying his current school, and has a few friends, keep him where he is and then re-evaluate after the end of third grade. You might find that the incessant SOL preparation in 3rd grade bores your son to tears -- you can always move him to the GT center for 4th grade. That was how it worked when my son was in third grade. You might want to verify that his eligibility will continue even if he declines the placement for 3rd grade.
My son was (and still is as a teenager) more comfortable with adults than peers. We found that the other students in the GT center were a mix of super-bright very strange kids and smart, well-rounded ones. In our area, there were a sizable number of non-American students, some of whom were clearly suffering the effects of extreme parental pushing (i.e., they were already studying Mandarin or Spanish on their own and had been playing the piano or violin for several years). Many of the children are relieved to be around peers who don't ostracize them for being smart, but others seemed to feel threatened by no longer being the top dog in the class, and acted out accordingly.
In the end, you know your child best. Don't give in to any pressure you feel from fellow parents to move him to the GT center ("What? You're NOT sending him?") unless his current situation isn't working. In retrospect, I wish we had given more thought to our decision -- at our base school, NO ONE turned down a GT placement.
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Old 05-06-2008, 05:43 AM
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Default GT vs partial language immersion

Quoted by mannym: "My son just got accepted into the GT center program but we are not sure if it is right for him. Currently his school has the partial foreign language immersion program which he enjoys a lot. If he goes to the GT program then he will not be able to continue learning that foreign language."

I have experienced the partial language immersion and pull out GT enhancement. My daughter went through the entire language program and it was a wonderful gift to have the language. It also enhances other learning, and really does help with the math part of your brain, as they said. In high school, she did the IB program and received 2 years of college credit for it, placing out of the language requirement at her university. Other students also accomplished that without the immersion program.

I think it also depends on what you are looking for in high school. TJ has wonderful programs, and is especially fine for high ranking GT students--particularly in science and math. On the other hand, my daughter was more inclined (at the time) towards English, writing and drama. She didn't even want to do the TJ placement test and was in a regular high school with the full IB program. She ended up with a very balanced education, doing well across the board with both science and math, and the writing and creative aspects. She ultimately did extremely well grade point wise (and SAT testing) and was accepted at all her choices for universities, including many prestigious ones both in and out of state. She ultimately decided to attend a very decent university (not the "top") with a full scholarship.

I know of many people who didn't choose the full GT programs, but later went to TJ at the high school level. Consider that even at the elementary level GT program students are inside a regular school--making it both good and bad. I think it is the labeling and mind-set of teachers, parents and students that is the biggest problem.

I would also agree with Claremarie that there is no rush for the move, and you can choose it later.

In my opinion, less is more. You can have enhanced education without big moves, but that might not be what is best for your child and your family. Good luck with your decision!
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Old 05-06-2008, 07:40 AM
10 posts, read 33,124 times
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Thank you both for your feedback. I agree with you that there is no rush for the move. It will probably be better for him to stay in his current school until he finishes elementary school and then we can re-evaluate the situation at that time.
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Old 05-06-2008, 11:07 AM
Location: TX
3,029 posts, read 10,660,119 times
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very good post xtraspecial!

Only you know your child and thier comfort level etc...
the GT centers are for every gifted kid. But for some kids they are wonderful, it may be the first time they discover real friends etc...

My middle child has been in GT programs in PA and VA. PA didn't label define the kids as GT or anything, the school had all of them in one class etc...the other kids refered to them as the more advanced etc...they get the harder teacher. strong math kids would come in for math only etc... VA had the "pull out" and inclusion classrooms settings. both worked well for her. But she didn't like the "pull out GT kids" syndrome inVA.

NOw in TX she "choose" to bomb the GT test here! I was surprised, she said "they want to test me AGAIN...(5th grade)Mom, I new, I don't want to be a geek again, I DON'T want to take the test". I told her take it anyway and we will decide later. teachers pulled her out of class to take a few standardized tests. SHe did very poorly and was smiling when the results came back...she wanted to stay in her "regular" class. FINE she's happy and adjusting well, Middle school offers pre-AP classes and she is looking ofrard to taking those.

Of course her teachers here are baffled as we just got back the state testing results...she got 2 100% and 2 99%!!! (i just laughed)

she will re-test if and when she is ready too.
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