My Son Is A Gifted-Program Reject, And I'm OK With That

by Tobin Walsh for Fatherly
Originally Published: 
gifted program
Imgorthand / iStock

My son was disappointed when my wife broke the news, “Lynden, you didn’t make the gifted program at school.”

He played off his dejection, but I could tell the finality bothered him.

I was relieved.

Sure, there was a part of me that scoffed at the notion of my straight-A-earning, otherwise seemingly capable third-grader not being good enough to be included with the school’s brightest pupils. I may have had a fleeting thought of disdain for the outcome of that evaluation to have taken over a year to reach. After all, it is normal for a parent to be defensive when their kid is shunned.

Those moments of bitterness, though, quickly subsided. The truth is, I don’t like the idea of any gifted program. There are three principles I see at work, in particular, that I disagree with.

The Importance of Testing

The final straw in my son’s process was that his composite score on a multitude of intelligence-measuring tests was too low to proceed. Again, the over-testing of our children in elementary school as a way of determining who can and cannot learn rears its ugly head.

In our district, the gifted program requires, among other evaluations, two sets of tests to be passed with a minimum score:

– The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test or the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test

– Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, or the Stanford-Binet.

I’ll keep it simple: I’m over, over, over any testing that is designed to covertly divide children up. No matter how many Ph.D.s the inventors of these tests have, I refuse to come around to the idea that any exam can (or should) validate intelligence.

Pushy Parents Win

There are two ways that having an insistent, in-home advocate helps children in pursuing the gifted program.

First, I’ve learned that the preponderance of students admitted to the program are testing at the behest of their parents. My son’s assessment was encouraged by his second-grade teacher, which, facts say, is an exception. In most cases, if a parent does not push for admission, students have to rely on a perceptive teacher in order to take the initial steps in the process.

Secondly, if a child wants to be included in gifted, but they haven’t measured up during the aforementioned tests, there is an appellate process. A third-party can be hired to reassess their fit for the program. This system, again, stacks the deck against kids without a strong in-home advocate or the financial resources to pursue such an alternative.

Not only are kids without advocacy less likely to be initially considered, they also have no real options if they navigate through the school-based testing process unsuccessfully.

Exclusion of the Masses in Great, Gifted Program Enrichment

The gifted program at my son’s school does some great enrichment projects. The kids involved do charity work and take meaningful, educational field trips to places that would delight any student.

It seems to me that the program is teaching children values that I share: community involvement, learning through experiences, and camaraderie.

My question is: Why not spread that enrichment to all students?

Is emphasizing the importance of civic-mindedness reserved only for those with a high IQ? I think not.

In fact, gifted programs may very well be missing a great opportunity to bring more kids behind the curtain by carrying these values back to their classroom, for all to see. In doing so, kids in the program can help break down the artificial divide that is created when tests deem them smarter than their classmates.

When I think about the gifted program, I really don’t think about my son’s recent exclusion. I think of one scene that perfectly symbolizes my disdain: About a year ago, I dropped my children off at school on a morning where three shiny charter buses idled in our normal rendezvous.

“What are those buses doing?” I asked with a hint of annoyance.

The gifted kids are going to Epcot today.” My son replied with a crocked grin and shoulder shrug.

“That is great for them,” I blurted out in immediate contempt.

I paused, collected my thoughts, and looked back at my kids, “Guys, go work harder so you’ll have the last laugh.” The other day, when my gifted-reject was momentarily disheartened, I told him the same thing.

If my son follows that advice, in my opinion, he wins.

This post originally appeared on Fatherly.

This article was originally published on