Parent's Unofficial Guide to Gifted IEPs and Gifted IEP Meetings
By Todd McIntyre and Wayne Mery
Also visit Todd's site AppliedGiftedEd
Parents are the primary determinant regarding the course of their gifted
child’s public education. This guide will help you, as a parent, understand your
options and prepare you to make informed decisions regarding the direction of
that course. To help you continue to make informed decisions, resources are
listed at the end of this document.
This document was prepared by parents for parents - sharing their practical
experiences, recommendations, and knowledge regarding gifted education. This
Unofficial Guide is intended to help parents of gifted students understand
options and consider approaches to developing a Gifted IEP and working with a
school district. It does not replace the need for professional services. If you
have a concern about your child's rights to gifted education, consult with
an attorney who is familiar with special education. If you have a concern over
identification or assessment, seek the advice of a licensed school psychologist.
This document may be freely quoted and copied for personal use in the
development of Gifted IEPs. Usage by non-profit groups is hereby granted,
provided proper citation and attribution to the authors is provided. Commercial
use is prohibited without explicit, written permission of the authors.
Comments and suggestions:
Your comments and suggestions to improve this document would be greatly
appreciated. You may direct them to
If you think your gifted child's experience in public school could be better
matched to their needs, you are correct. If you do not know if your gifted
child's experience could be better, then most likely it could be better. In
either case, you as a parent have to know how to make it better, and act upon
The purpose of this document is to present basic information about the Gifted
IEP and Gifted IEP team meeting in a parent-friendly format. Invest
fifteen to twenty minutes to gain an understanding of the basics of gifted
education in Pennsylvania, and the requirements, procedures, and possibilities
regarding giftedness in a public school setting.
Parents, teachers, and District administrators comprise the Gifted IEP team.
Parents are equals with education professionals as members of their
child's gifted education team. Indeed, though you are not the professional
educator on the GIEP Team, at the end of the Gifted IEP meeting you are the only
member of the educational team asked and required to approve your child's
proposed plan. Knowledge about your role and responsibilities makes you a better
partner with your district, not an adversary. (It may surprise you to learn that
many schools do not correctly or fully understand the basic rights and
responsibilities that apply to children identified as being 'gifted'. As a
result of this, if you
rely solely on your school, those rights and responsibilities may be
There is a considerable amount of public information available to the parent
of a gifted child in Pennsylvania. This source material includes Chapter 16:
Special Education for Gifted Students, the Basic Education Circular for
Gifted Education, and Appeals Panel Decisions from the Office for Dispute
Resolution. Were you to take the time to read all of the public information, you
would discover two concepts apply to gifted children while they are in a public
school. Understanding these two concepts is key to making appropriate decisions
about your gifted child's education. The two concepts are these:
- "Gifted" has a specific meaning. In educational terms, 'Gifted' means
that the child has an educational need in one ore more subject areas.
Giftedness is not a good thing, a nice thing, or related to doing well in a
regular education class. Gifted is not any other type of "thing" in
particular. The term identifies a need. For the purposes of education law in
Pennsylvania the term "gifted" applies to a child who learns differently
enough from most other children to require measures and methods beyond those
used in the normal grade-level taken in the classroom.
Kids who are gifted need something different, that is all.
- A gifted child's educational needs must be identified using a
calculation that is reasonable and met through a plan called the Gifted IEP
designed to provide an education of meaningful benefit to the child.
First the need must be identified. Then the scope and nature of the need must
be determined using objective criteria. After that happens a plan created to
address those specific needs. Simply put, the school must plan to meet the
needs of each gifted child based on each child's individual needs.
An appropriate plan is part of the Free, Appropriate Public Education,
referred to as FAPE, your district provides to its students. "Gifted" is not a
program that the child attends, it is a plan that.
Every child has educational needs that are unique. However, the majority of
the student population's unique needs can be met meaningfully in the “regular
education” environment. This fact is why school districts have a regular
education environment; it meets the needs of the majority of their students.
However, children who are gifted by definition have needs that differ from
the majority. Gifted students have needs that cannot be met meaningfully using
only the regular, unaltered education curriculum. The result is that Gifted IEPs
are, by definition, education plans individualized according to each gifted
State Educational Code and Pennsylvania Department of Education Policy
precludes gifted students from having a 'one-size-fits-all' Gifted IEP. The
Gifted IEP must be based on the student's needs. Chapter 16, the Department of
Education's Basic Education Circular for Gifted, and Appeals Panel Decisions are
consistent on this point: The student’s individual gifted needs must first be
identified using objective criteria and then accommodated in a way which is
meaningful to the student. This ‘requirement to individualize’ remains even when
the student is among a grouped population of gifted students or if the student
participates in a gifted pull-out program.
By extension, meeting the needs of the individual gifted child also precludes
limiting services and accommodations to gifted pull-out programs or other types
of “group oriented gifted programs”. Pullout Programs (e.g. 'Challenge
Programs', GATE Programs) are popular and common. But, by themselves, pull-out
programs are not enough.
This bears repeating:
A part-time gifted pull-out program alone does not, and likely cannot,
meet the educational needs of a gifted student. A Gifted IEP that consists of
a pull-out program does not satisfy the requirements provided for in Chapter
Even with a gifted pull-out program in place, even a program your child likes
very much, the gifted student may spend upwards of 95% of their time a Regular
Education classroom. Pullout programs of an hour or two per week and/or Gifted
Seminar programs are best when used in conjunction with
modifications to the gifted student's regular education programming.
Regular education is where problems develop. And regular education is where a
Gifted IEP should be focused. For example, the pace at which a course is taught
in a regular education classroom may create a problem for a gifted child. The
gifted child may learn faster than the group as a whole. There may be
significant amount of repetition during the instruction. Left unaddressed, these
discrepancies could cause the child to develop a poor attitude towards school.
These problems may not show up quickly. What starts off as a mild problem in
elementary school could become a big one by high school. It is easier to address
problems earlier rather than later.
A Gifted IEP that includes simple modifications to the Regular Educational
program, discussed later, may make a huge improvement your child's daily
experience in the classroom. Remember: situations in a regular education
classroom are addressable through the Gifted IEP.
If your child has highly differentiated needs (e.g. the child is
highly/profoundly gifted or the child has a dual classification such as
LD/Gifted) then it follows that your child must have a highly differentiated
program to meet those needs.
The general observations below are recurring comments from parents’
experiences with Gifted Education, and the Gifted IEP in particular. They likely
apply in whole or part to your situation. They are:
- You were not told that you are an equal partner in the Gifted IEP process,
that it would be a working meeting, and that you should bring your own ideas
to the meeting.
- You did not know that the Team could write accommodations for the regular
classroom into the Gifted IEP.
- You were not told how to ask for present level educational performance
assessment testing and that the team can use that testing result o develop
accommodations to the plan during the Gifted IEP meeting.
- You were told that "The Gifted Program" is 'enrichment only' and that
grade or subject acceleration is not allowed and against District policy
- You were told that your child had to make up Regular Education homework
missed due to Gifted Pullout programming.
- You were told that the District’s "Pullout Program" was the full-fledged
"Gifted Program. "
- You know your child is not being challenged, that they are possibly
developing poor study habits, and/or your child is becoming content with doing
below-ability level work, and you are growing concerned.
- Your child is getting A’s and because of that you were told your child
does not need anything more or require special attention.
- You thought the District would be happy to have an able learner in their
school and that the District would be willing to work with you to develop a
plan. You are a bit mystified by the District's reluctant approach to
accepting and addressing your child's giftedness.
- You might be confused, perhaps even angry, to learn your child had
programming options you did not know about.
- You assumed your district knows, correctly interprets, and implements the
gifted educational law on your child’s behalf. You may be surprised, even
angry, to find out that the District might not be correctly interpreting and
implementing those laws.
- You are surprised the District does not accept your suggestions.
There may be other issues specific to your District, but the situations
listed above are common, recurring comments from parents of gifted students.
As you prepare to participate in your child’s Gifted IEP, a certain amount of
knowledge is necessary prior to sitting down with the Gifted IEP team. This
knowledge includes 1) your role in the process, 2) the parts of the Gifted IEP
itself, and 3) how those parts relate to each other within the plan. You should
also be familiar with, and have copies of, the results of the tests given to
your child to identify them as gifted. Also, you should have current tests and
results from subsequent achievement level testing. You are entitled to copies of
these test results and reports. Generally you can ask the school for a copy of
your child's educational files and you will be given whatever form is needed. It
is a good practice to keep copies of the results in a file you create. This
parent file should include information that is not in your child’s
guidance files. For example, your file may include education and other
psychological test results, which are in the school psychologist’s files.
Lastly, you should have a basic understanding of educational terms and
concepts like 'acceleration' and 'enrichment'. These will be discussed later.
While you are not expected to understand them to the depth that a professional
educator does, nor are you expected to become a 'teacher' during the process, a
basic understanding of the terms will allow you to participate in the planning
Many parents enter the Gifted IEP meeting without a good understanding of
their role in the meeting. They believe they are there simply to approve a plan
that has already been created, the contents of which cannot be modified. They
are mistaken. To be effective, it is important to understand why you are at the
Gifted IEP meeting.
First: Know Your Role
This is a fundamental point: At the end of the Gifted IEP meeting, you, as
the parent, will be asked to approve your child's Gifted IEP. You are the one
who says 'yes' or 'no' to the proposed Gifted IEP.
Therefore, as the parent, you must be prepared to insist that the Gifted IEP
address your gifted child's needs. You will need to help the Gifted IEP team
create a plan that does. The Gifted IEP meeting is a working session centered on
the student. It is more than a presentation by the school district of “their
gifted plan” to you.
As a parent and member of the team, you can identify issues and offer
suggestions for discussion. It is perfectly acceptable to say during the Gifted
Parent's IEP meeting that you believe your child is not being (or likely will
not be) challenged in a particular course or by a particular pull-out program.
You can mention that you believe your child has an educational need that the
proposed Gifted IEP is not addressing. You can ask for that need to be
determined and then addressed in the Gifted IEP. You should insist that the
present level of educational performance be properly determined and that your
child be given ability level work based on that level. If you are concerned
about your child improving their study habits, say so.
Work with the team to develop a plan that seeks to improve a needed skill. If
you believe that your child would benefit from participating in a particular
course in the curriculum, even if that course is not at first offered by the
school or at your child’s grade level, then discuss that. Once those issues are
identified, you then have a conversation with the team.
During the Gifted IEP meeting you can speak in plain language. Parents do not
need to learn educational jargon or Teacher-Speak to participate. In fact, it is
a requirement within Chapter 16 and it is Pennsylvania Department of Education
policy that the Gifted IEP be free of jargon and easily understood.
If during the meeting a teacher or administrator uses a term or makes a
statement that you do not understand, ask for an explanation. Ask for help. You
are not a professional educator. Nor are you expected to be.
Again, understand your role. You will be asked to approve your child's Gifted
IEP. Ask questions until you understand what the proposed plan means to your
child. It is in the educational professionals' interest to make sure you
understand the proposed plan.
At the end of the meeting you will be asked to sign a Notice of Recommended
Assignment (NORA). The NORA is the document you sign
which allows the District to implement the proposed Gifted IEP. In effect, you
are giving permission to the District to begin providing the educational
services. You do not have to approve the NORA and being the Gifted
IEP at the meeting.
In fact, it is a good practice not to sign the NORA at the meeting. Take some
time and think about whether the plan being proposed fits your kid. Ask for a
copy of proposed plan to take home with you.
According to Chapter 16 you get five (5) days to decide if a proposed GIEP is
appropriate for your child if it is presented to you at the end of the meeting.
You have ten (10) days to decide if your District mails a copy of the proposed
Take the time allotted to think about whether the plan 'makes sense'. Read
the Gifted IEP again, and sleep on it - see if the plan 'makes sense' for your
kid. If something is unclear you can seek clarification. If you need to, you can
meet again with the Gifted IEP team or have additional wording put into the
Gifted IEP to clarify its meaning.
Approve the plan only if it does 'make sense'. An option you have is this: If
parts of the plan do not make sense, you may either: a) sign the NORA and write
exceptions on the NORA stating the area(s) which you do not accept or b) reject
the Gifted IEP in total.
To use the Gifted IEP meeting time effectively, you will need to understand
why you are there.
Second: Understand the Purpose of the Gifted IEP
The Gifted IEP is not 'The Program' or even 'A
The Gifted IEP is your child's Plan.
This bears repeating:
The School District’s Gifted Program is not the same
thing as your gifted child's Plan.
Ideally, Gifted IEPs are highly individualized documents. They are developed
by involved parents, in cooperation with teachers and administrators who are
in-serviced (trained) on gifted education issues. The Gifted IEP meeting should
consist of three people at a minimum - the parent, a teacher familiar with the
child, and a person in the district who knows about and can commit resources.
Other people, for example another teacher, may attend.
Properly individualized Gifted IEPs offer a clearly drawn roadmap to both
Gifted Education and Regular Education teachers on how to help the gifted child
benefit meaningfully throughout their week in classes. The Gifted IEP consists
of four main parts that will be discussed in depth in the next section. The four
sections are these:
- Present Levels of Educational Performance
- Short Term Learning Outcomes
- Specially Designed Instruction
Note: For completeness, here is the direct wording from Chapter 16 relating
to the Gifted IEP. Chapter 16 is the section of the Educational Code that
applies directly to Giftedness:
Sect. 16.32(e) The GIEP of each gifted student shall be based on the
GMDT's [Ed note: Gifted Multidisciplinary Team] recommendations and shall
contain the following:
(1) Statement of the student's present levels of educational performance
(2) Statement of annual goals and short-term learning outcomes, which
are responsive to the learning, needs identified in the evaluation report.
(3) Statement of the specially designed instruction and support services
are provided to the student.
(4) Projected dates for initiation and anticipated duration of gifted
(5) Appropriate objective criteria, assessment procedures, and timelines
for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether the goals and learning
outcomes are being an achieved.
(6) The names and positions of GIFTED IEP team participants and the date
of the meeting.
Each section of the Gifted IEP is important in its own right. Taken together,
these sections comprise a document that describes the child's abilities and
needs and offers a plan that recognizes the abilities while meeting the needs.
The Gifted IEP should be written such that it could be handed to a teacher, and,
after the teacher reads it, they would educate the gifted child appropriately.
To accomplish this the Gifted IEP needs to be clearly and completely written.
While composed of parts, the Gifted IEP is not a complicated document.
Third: Parts of the Gifted IEP
There are four (4) parts to the Gifted IEP. They are:
- Present Levels of Educational Performance,
- Short Term Learning Outcomes, and
- Specially Designed Instruction.
In lay terms, the sections ask the following questions:
- Where is the student now?
- Where does the student need to go?
- When do they get there?
- How are they going to get there?
- What do they need to do to get there?
The content of the sections answers those questions.
Section 1 - Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP):
Editor's Note: Todd has given us a great elaboration on
Present Levels of Educational Performance
(PLEPs) - be sure to read it!
Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted Students calls for Present Level of
Educational Performance to be established across all academic areas for the
gifted student. The PLEP is established through appropriate objective
assessment. The student's present level needs to be established on an as needed,
or, at a minimum, on a yearly basis. This rarely happens.
It is common for Gifted IEP teams to rely on the student's outdated
psychological test scores, recent report cards, or older performance test
information when creating the Gifted IEP. That is a mistake.
A report card by itself does not constitute a Present Level of Educational
Performance. Report cards measure how the child did relative to material
already presented. Also, report cards do not reflect the actual
performance capacity of the child. For example, a student might be capable of
working at a level 2-3 grades higher than their current curriculum.
In that situation, the gifted student might get an 'A' in the class, or -
depending on the child - they might get a 'C' in the class. It is possible that
the gifted child might fail that course due to lack of interest.
Regardless of the grade received in that course, that gifted student would
still be working up to three grades below their capability. That student would
not be working at their present level of educational performance. This is
why the student's present level needs to be assessed through objective testing.
To use a medical analogy, when your child goes for a yearly well-check, the
child is weighed and measured each visit. The nurse does not look at the past
several visits and plot the next point where it should be based on the history.
The child is assessed using objective measurements, a scale to measure weight
and a tape measure to determine height.
Similarly, an accurate PLEP requires objective testing to be performed prior
to the plan being developed. Some examples of appropriate testing will be given
later in this document. Subjective observations like those offered by teachers
familiar with your child are useful in preparing a Gifted IEP. However, teacher
observations or curriculum 'strength/weakness' checklists do not establish your
child's true Present Level of Educational Performance (PLEP).
A Note on "Above Grade Level"
The phrase 'above grade level' by itself is meaningless in terms of planning
appropriate gifted educational programming for a student. It has no place in a
If the phrase 'Above Grade Level' is in your child's Gifted IEP you must
insist that the level be defined fully; you must insist that a specific grade
level be determined. That is a requirement in Chapter 16.
The phrase ‘above grade level’ is defined by establishing the child's present
level (their actual above grade learning level) through appropriate testing.
There are any number of achievement tests an evaluator or school psychologist
can administer to establish the true "Present Level" for your child's
Remember: 'Above grade level' is the equivalent of being told that a child is
'taller than 4 feet' before going shopping for clothes. The team must now what
that current educational level is before they can make a plan. That information
should be gathered prior to the meeting so that the team can use it during the
The main point is this: Without good objective data regarding the child’s
abilities, the Gifted IEP team, regardless of the teaching experience of the
people at the table, is just guessing. Do not let that happen. Ask, and insist,
that the appropriate tests be given.
You should not have to provide a list of tests to your District. They are
obligated to know what tests are appropriate. However, if you are asked what
tests you would like your child to be given, your answer should be 'nationally
normed achievement tests. Examples of these types of tests include KeyMath,
Grays Silent Reading, Test of Written Language, among many others. Once you
insist that the achievement testing be done, the school psychologist should make
the recommendations regarding which tests will be given.
Sections 2-3) Goals & Short Term Outcomes:
Goals must be meaningful. Goals must be meaningful to the student to whom
they are applied. Goals must also ‘make sense’ with regard to the overall plan
for your gifted child's education. Goals are determined by the identified needs
and the desired end result. Nice ideas are not goals. Aphorisms and program
mottos are not goals either.
Goals need to be specific to your child, not given to your child because the
child is part of a group. Goals themselves do not need to be specific and
measurable. The Gifted IEP must allow time and provide resources for the student
have the opportunity to reach the plan's goals.
Time and resources needed are planned for in the Short Term Learning
Objectives (STLO) section. While Goals do not need to be measurable, STLO
associated with reaching the Goals must be specific and measurable. Short-term
learning objectives are the 'little' steps taken to reach each goal. Their
completion provides the basis by which the team measures your child's progress
towards each goal.
From a parent's perspective these two sections should "make sense" when taken
together. The Goals and STLO must also make sense to any teacher who teaches
If these two sections do not make sense, for example if the Goals are too
generic or if the Goals and STLOs taken together are too vague, too sketchy, and
too superficial to be meaningful, you must say so.
If a goal or short term learning outcome is unclear or not appropriate,
describe in plain language why you think the proposed goal does not make sense
for your child. Explain why you think the outcome is too vague. Discuss why you
think both the goal and short term learning outcomes being proposed while
appropriate for a group of gifted kids are inappropriate for your specific
gifted child. Ask whether goals need to be added. There can be more than one
goal. Also, think long term (i.e. years).
This part of the meeting would be a good time to talk about your ideas,
hopes, and goals for your child's upcoming year.
A Note on Goals and STLOs:
The Gifted IEP can be thought of as a framework that generally guides the
teachers rather than forcing the teacher to teach to a set of specific actions
that was decided on months earlier.
The Gifted IEP at the start of the year creates the overall goals and then
provides the measurable timeline within that year that certain tasks are to be
accomplished. A goal that is a general allows the teacher to work with the
student to identify an appropriate subject and then develop the specifics of the
short term learning outcomes with the student according to the timeline.
The STLO section includes the ‘little steps’ necessary to accomplish the
Goal. This approach allows the teacher to work with and adapt to the student,
but also ensures that progress is being made towards the Goal.
4) Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)
This section provides a general 'catch-all’ way to match the classroom
experience to your child's particular needs. The SDI Parent's section is where
specific issues or challenges your gifted child faces with their schooling are
The Specially Designed Instruction section is also where programming options
you and your child think should be part of School District's Gifted Program can
be included. If your child is having problems, especially in the Regular
Education environment, the SDI section is the best place to address those
Before discussing the options available to you and the Gifted IEP team in
'Specially Designed Instruction' section, there are three points to consider:
1) There is no "division" between Gifted Education and Regular Education for
The "Challenge Program" or "GATE Program" or "Enrichment Hour" or pull-out is
not, repeat not, the extent of Gifted Education accommodations
available to your child, regardless in which School District you reside and
regardless of who tells you that it is.
The Chapter 16 Code, the Basic Education Circular, Appeals Panel Decisions,
along with common sense and your own experience as a parent, tells you that a
gifted child does not switch on at certain predictable times for a certain
duration and then switch off. Their needs persist.
Therefore, the needs of the gifted student must be addressed in both Gifted
Education settings like Pull-Out programs or Seminar Programs and
in the Regular Education environment. If your District tells you that your child
will only get "This Gifted Pull-Out Program. Period." then your District has
seriously misrepresented your child's rights and their own obligations. You will
need to let them know that you understand their obligations.
If the District takes a hard line stance with you, for example if they refuse
to appropriately plan for your child, then you will have to make a fundamental
decision whether advocating for the needs of your gifted child at Gifted IEP
meetings, and possibly going through a Due Process Hearing, is worth your time
and effort. But know there are people who can help you make an informed
2) Teachers cannot deny the Gifted IEP
The most effective way to have an appropriate plan developed and mplemented
is to involve Regular Education teachers in the Gifted IEP process.
You can request that your child's Regular Education teacher be invited to the
Gifted IEP meeting. A teacher familiar with your child should be there anyway.
The person to ask is the LEA/Team Chairperson. All teachers are required to
abide by the provisions written in the Gifted IEP.
If a teacher refuses to implement the plan, (for example the Gifted IEP calls
for differentiated homework, pre-testing, or alternate class work and it is not
done) then you must immediately reconvene the Gifted IEP team to address the
issue or go to Due Process to have the plan implemented. If a teacher objects to
the Gifted IEP, they can add their written objections to the record.
But the Gifted IEP as proposed by the Gifted IEP team and approved by you
must be implemented.
3) Regular Education teachers can read all sections of the Gifted IEP.
Teachers need to understand what is in the Gifted IEP of a student in their
class. There is no FERPA or any privacy restriction preventing any regular or
gifted education teacher from looking at all sections of a child's Gifted IEP.
There may be District procedures in place to protect the privacy of the
student record. For example, the District may require a Regular Education
teacher to sign a log-sheet before they read the Gifted IEP. The District may
have other privacy practices in place, but the Regular Education teachers can
and should know what is in your gifted child's file.
If you think your child's teacher is not aware of your child's Gifted IEP, or
the fact that your child is identified as gifted, ask the teacher. You may want
to bring your copy of both the Gifted Written Report and the Gifted IEP with you
to a regular Parent/Teacher conference for discussion.
Accommodations / Modifications:
Having read this far, you might be asking yourself:
Okay, so what do I ask for during the Gifted IEP meeting? What sorts of
things can I get for my kid?
You can ask for anything that is reasonably calculated to be of
meaningful benefit to your child to be written into the Gifted
IEP. The good news is that there are no restrictions on what you can ask for.
The only limit is that you ask for things that are 'reasonably calculated' to be
of 'meaningful educational benefit' to your child using the District's
The bad news is you might be breaking new ground within your District. This
is especially true if your District typically used pull-out programs only or
does not regularly include regular education accommodations for gifted.
In that situation you might ask for something that seems 'reasonable' the
District might respond along the lines of: "Well, this is the first time any
parent has ever asked us for anything like this to be done.", or "None of our
other parents have asked for this". You might get the sense that what you are
asking for is a bother for them or a waste of their time.
Whether or not your requested accommodation is a first for the District is
not relevant, and is not a reason for rejecting your request. What is
relevant is whether or not the requested accommodation is appropriate for your
child. That is the benchmark by which accommodations are written into the Gifted
It's always worthwhile to ask that alternatives and accommodations be
considered. Here are examples of accommodations in Specially Designed
Instruction for Regular Education:
Differentiated homework – Differentiated homework allows the child to
do a different set of homework instead of the regularly assigned class homework.
This accommodation can help avoid the punitive aspect of gifted programming of
doing twice the homework.
This accommodation provides an opportunity to keep the child engaged in their
learning and helps them avoid repetitive/rote work. Some examples for this could
include writing 2 longer stories per week rather than 5 short stories, having an
extra set of vocabulary words, but only doing homework on the extra set, doing
'Math Puzzlers' for homework rather than rote work.
Differentiating homework may require the parent to take an active role at
first in recommending resources for the child. You may have to help coordinate
the activities between the Gifted Ed teacher and the Regular Ed teacher
Pre-Testing – Pre-testing is the process of giving a student a test on
the material prior to classroom instruction. Pretesting is used to prevent a
student from sitting through a chapter’s presentation on material that they have
already mastered. This can help keep the gifted student engaged in their
learning. To know when to pretest, it is crucial that the Team know the current
level at which the student performs. This is documented in the first section of
the Gifted IEP, the Present Levels of Educational Performance.
If the child passes the pre-test, and the Team can determine what constitutes
'passing', the student has the opportunity to do an alternate assignment rather
than sit through the teaching presentation. The exact procedure detailing how
this takes place is documented in the Gifted IEP.
The question becomes 'What result demonstrates mastery?" It is an open
question and one where the teachers can provide guidance. Some people believe
the proper level is 90% or above, others believe it should be 'C' or better. If
the student shows near-mastery of the material, the material they missed can be
compacted for study. This enables the student to work on that specific portion
of the curriculum and then go on to the independent work during the remaining
Independent Study Agreements - these can be used to keep the student
learning during times when they might otherwise be sitting and waiting for the
opportunity to learn. The student has a project or series of small projects on
which they can work over the course of a semester when there's time. As the
Gifted IEP is one plan composed of part, the Study Agreements should help the
student achieve a Goal.
Acceleration – Acceleration is a ‘big’ decision. There are social and
emotional considerations to be considered in addition to the academic ones. A
decision involving acceleration highlights the need for the team to have good,
objective present level data about the student’s current and potential
While acceleration is not always a good thing, the research data shows that
more frequently than not, a student working with ability-appropriate material in
the classroom is a good thing. Acceleration can be either in a particular
subject or it can be a whole grade. The student can, if needed, be 'straddled'
If your child needs acceleration to benefit meaningfully from their time in
Public Education, they can be accelerated, regardless of your District's
policies. In some instances, Districts state that they have policies that are
better thought of by parents as preferences.
Your District may have a preference against acceleration, even
a strong preference that they may state in forceful terms to you. If they
do this, do not be dissuaded. Gifted education is based on the student, not the
District. If the student’s needs are such that acceleration is the only means
for them to receive meaningful benefit, then the child must be accelerated.
In short: your District cannot have a strict policy against acceleration.
SDI and addressing your unique needs - The SDI Section is the one place you
can creatively address your gifted child’s issues without having to change an
entire District policy. Gather information from other parents about what has
worked for their children, attend a PAGE conference to learn what teachers are
doing in their classroom, read through Hoagies' Gifted Education Page (www.hoagiesgifted.com)
to help understand what resources are available, ask for ideas for
accommodations on PAGElist, talk to other parents in your District about their
Lastly, when preparing for the Gifted IEP meeting, don't forget to talk with
your child. In the days leading up to the meeting ask about their thoughts. Try
to find out their ideas as best you can, and share them with the Gifted IEP
Team. Do not guarantee your child results. Simply let them know you will go and
During the Meeting:
The other members of the team might balk at any or all of your requests you
make during the Gifted IEP meeting. If they do, try to find out the reason why
they are hesitant. Talk about the accommodations and have somebody on the Team
explain why the accommodation is not being written into the Gifted IEP.
The basic question: "Is this request appropriate for my child?" If the answer
is 'no', then ask for the reason. Write the reason down, have a conversation
about the situation. Once you understand the reasoning, repeat back the whole
scenario to them from the child’s point of view.
Taking this approach can highlight educational issues the gifted child is
facing. It also refocuses the meeting back onto the student rather than a
discussion of District policies. At times, though, this conversation can take on
a 'Through the Looking Glass' aspect.
You: "So, we have the testing results and my Sixth grade child is ready to
do Ninth Grade math, but he/she will be entering Sixth grade and have to do
Sixth grade material because as District Policy you do not believe in
acceleration – and, as a result, my kid will have to do all the regular
assignments in Sixth grade math, despite the fact that they could do that work
a year ago?"
You: "Okay, now I understand your position. Will they be given higher level
enrichment material or can they be pre-tested and given other assignments
during class if they pass the pretest."
Those types of conversations can be frustrating. Should a conversation like
the one above happen, understand that you will have a clear understanding of the
District's Policies and Practices. You have gained important information. Also,
by repeating the scenario back to the Gifted IEP team during the meeting you can
highlight the educational issues involved rather than the policy issues. If this
type of dialogue occurs, there is hope for progress. This discussion may help
the Team rethink the issue. There could be discussion. This discussion could
identify alternate approaches to address the student’s educational issues. In
turn, this discussion could lead to simple modifications to a Gifted IEP such
that it becomes appropriate for the student.
That paragraph contains many hypotheticals. But, in practice, the
conversation and clarification that results from discussion is important. It
will help you as you decide which course your gifted child's education will
Fourth: The Gifted IEP in Action
The Gifted IEP meeting is used to review the effectiveness of the plan, not
The Plan fails the child; the child does not fail the plan.
If your gifted child has problems in class or has had problems adjusting to
the present,perhaps inappropriate, Gifted IEP, then those problems need to be
addressed. First, the problems have to be properly identified. This is
especially true if you are in a situation where, for years, the Gifted IEP did
not address your gifted child’s needs. Once the possibility of failure exists in
any class, you are facing a potential need to change the child's educational
situation. This potential change due to a failure is cause to reconvene the
Gifted IEP team. At the reconvened meeting you discuss the problem, assess the
situation, consider alternatives, and work out a solution that is appropriate
for the child. In effect, you modify the plan.
If you think it is necessary, you can ask the Team to write that ‘problem’
notification into the Gifted IEP itself. Ask to have a statement that addresses
this ‘problem situation’ be added to the Gifted IEP. An example of this type of
notification is this: "In the event there is a potential for failure in a class
or a significant negative change in performance in a subject, or it becomes
likely that a Goal will not be met, the Gifted IEP Team will reconvene in a
timely fashion to address the matter. The Subject teacher of the course involved
will be present at the Gifted IEP meeting to assist in making changes to the
Despite the team's efforts, your child might still fail. If this happens,
reconsider the Present Levels of Educational Performance, consider what
information from testing would be needed, ask questions, and gain additional
information to make the next plan an appropriate plan. If you believe that the
Gifted IEP team does not have the expertise to do this, the Gifted IEP Team can
make use of expertise throughout the Commonwealth in creating your child’s plan.
Do not be afraid to ask that that outside help become involved.
Consider this: The whole point of, the whole reason for, the Gifted IEP is
that your child learns "differently". The gifted child learns differently enough
from most other children to require something other than a standard curriculum
and a standard educational approach. The Gifted IEP is not a series of programs
that the child attends. It is a plan that needs to be
monitored and adapted as the gifted child's need change over time.
Having read, or glanced over, all of this information, you will likely forget
most of it within the first five minutes of your next Gifted IEP meeting. Don't
worry. Should you find yourself blanking out during the meeting or forgetting
what you were going to say, just remember to ask yourself one question:
"Does this statement, and does this plan make sense for my child?"
A notepad with your ideas already jotted down can help. Also, you should take
notes as the meeting progresses. At the end of the meeting plan on taking the
Gifted IEP home with you and thinking the plan over. Ask for a copy of any notes
made on the draft copy used by the District. Do not sign the NORA at the
Once you have the proposed Gifted IEP in hand and gave had a chance to think
it over, the only question to answer is this:
Is this Plan appropriate for my child?
If the plan is appropriate and complete, and worded to your satisfaction,
only then do you approve it.
Remember that, and you will do fine.
Appendix A: A Note About Homework:
Homework is a recurring issue for gifted students and parents of gifted
students. Failing to do homework may cause gifted kids to have lower grades or
even fail courses. The 'Gifted' classification seems at times to generate a
punitive amount of homework. Should the gifted student, by virtue of being
gifted, end up having to do two sets of homework, one set for Regular Education
and another for Gifted Education, they may come to resent being identified as
If homework is causing a problem, whether it is the amount of homework,
timeliness in completing the assignment, or a general attitude ‘problem’,
remember: You can address those problems caused by homework in the 'Specially
Designed Instruction' section of the Gifted IEP.
In most cases, homework is assigned to reinforce what a child has learned in
the classroom. That purpose that might not apply to your gifted child, who 'gets
it' the first time and does not need repetition to remember it.
Rather than doing a rote or repetitious assignment, you can ask at the Gifted
IEP meeting that your child work on a different facet of the material presented
if indicated. The student could apply the lesson learned in the classroom by
doing an alternate assignment or working on a longer-term study project.
During the Gifted IEP meeting you can suggest that alternate assignments be
given when appropriate. Bear in mind that the alternate assignments should take
a similar amount of time as the Regular Education homework. For example, rather
than doing 100 rote-work math problems, your child could do 10 more difficult or
challenging problems, rather than write each word ten times or write simple
sentences using spelling words for homework, your child write a short story or a
poem using the words.
Completing assignments on time is a skill that is developed. If the gifted
student’s inability to perform that skill is causing a problem, address it in
the Plan. If the problem has been allowed to develop over time, the team should
expect that it will be addressed over time.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, homework does not
have to be done to pass a course. Homework requirements are a local
District/Teacher policy or preference decision.
And, don’t forget to ask your child for good ideas. They might surprise you.
Appendix B: Links
These sites offer good general information that won't overwhelm a person just
starting to get familiar with giftedness issues. There are two types of sites,
1) those that deal with PA school-specific issues, and 2) those that address
gifted issues in general.
Pennsylvania Public School-Related Sites regarding Giftedness
- Parent's Guide to Gifted Education -
*A Must Read* Clear language, easy-to-read summary of Gifted
Education in Pennsylvania. This is an official publication by the Pennsylvania
Department of Education. Read, and re-read the Guide. Print a copy. Mark it
up. Believe it.
- The Basic Education Circular regarding Gifted - (The BEC)
This BEC was sent by the PDE to every school District. BECs are written for
an audience of District administrators and teachers. The BEC summarizes and
clarifies the District's obligations to its gifted students.
- Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted Students -
Chapter 16 contains the rules for Gifted Education in Pennsylvania. Chapter
16 is, in the words of the Appeals Panel in one of their decisions - "clearly
- Gifted Guidelines -
*A Must Read* Gifted Guidelines was released in February 2004. It
restates and clarifies PDE positions regarding the providing of Gifted
education services, and is designed “to assist school districts in identifying
mentally gifted students and implementing comprehensive programs to meet their
needs” However, this document is equally valuable to parents, as it contains
background materials, explanation of terms and processes, and provided
checklists and tools that are useful in creating an appropriate plan. The
Guidelines are a must-read for all parents of gifted students in Pennsylvania.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Gifted Ed -
The PDE site regarding Gifted Ed has Pennsylvania requirements along with
sample and explanatory information (for example the Annotated Gifted IEP and
Annotated Gifted Written Report give explanations on the reports and the
sections). It is a terrific source of information on gifted educational
programs and services available through the PDE. Your child may qualify for
these programs. If so, you might need to bring this fact to the attention of
- Office of Dispute Resolution -
This site includes information about both Due Process and Mediation
hearings. They are separate, distinct processes. Also, ODR's site lists
Appeals Panels decisions, which summarize concepts in Gifted Education within
Pennsylvania in layman's terms. The Appeals Decisions are indexed by category
and by number.
- PAGE's Website -
Great layout and summary of Gifted Education issues. Read PAGE's site, use
the links provided, and then join the organization. Check back as PAGE updates
their information periodically.
General Sites regarding Giftedness
Hundreds of sites deal with 'giftedness' in one form or another. These three
happen to be great places to start looking at information.
- Hoagies' Gifted Education Page -
*A Must Visit* This is a terrific source of information on
giftedness, and should be a frequent stop as you gather information and
consider your options. HoagiesGifted has information on testing,
interpretation, parent support lists, and links to other resources.
- "Uniquely Gifted - Resources for Gifted Children with Special Needs” -
Giftedness can be present with learning disabilities and/or other medical
conditions. This site provides an overview of 'Gifted & Special Needs' issues
and links to other resources. Depending on the severity of the LD involved,
your student’s situation can be addressed through either Chapter 14 IEPs that
include accommodations for Giftedness, or through Chapter 15 Service
Agreements in combination with Gifted IEPs. Your child can have all their
needs met, gifted and otherwise. Appropriate and complete assessment is
crucial. Insist that it happen.
- Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) -
In addition to academic issues, gifted children have social and emotional
needs. SENG presents information for parents on the social and emotional needs
of gifted kids both in the classroom and at home.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
printed from Hoagies' Gifted Education Page,
Original URL is www.hoagiesgifted.org/unofficial_guide.htm