Public or Private: Which Type of School Is Better for a Gifted Child?

The downturn in our economy has directly contributed to cutbacks in resources for schooling and to the rigidity and decline of public education. Public schools are extremely test-focused and overcrowded because of the perceived need for accountability, as demonstrated through high student achievement scores. Encouraging children to find and develop their own ideas and interests is, in most situations, ignored. I find myself talking to more and more parents regarding their concerns about public versus private schools for their gifted child. Advice about school placement for gifted children is tricky because social emotional development has to be addressed alongside the need for intellectual challenges. Gifted children who are quick, intense, and stormy require compassion and realistic limits from teachers as well as time to be themselves.

My answer to this crucial parental concern, public vs. private, is still very complicated. Think about the following ideas as you select a school for your smart and intense son or daughter.

    1.  Usually, if you can afford it, private schools have smaller classes, which is extremely valuable for your gifted child. Class size can make a big difference because it allows children to learn at their own rate and not be confined or pressured to relate to the norm. Also, private schools with smaller classes give children opportunities to develop their own ideas.

    2.  There is no one-size-fits-all school for every gifted child. I say this with the awareness that there are  schools―both public and private―that call themselves “gifted schools” and promise parents that their approach works if the child is able to follow the school rules. In my experience, one in 100 gifted children are compliant enough to behave. Social emotional issues arise when rules are overly important. And, most importantly, gifted children are not so easily compartmentalized or categorized. So be wary of the private or public school that advertises themselves as for gifted kids.

    3.  Gifted children are quite idiosyncratic and unique. So are their parents. A mother and father who spend lots of time nurturing and educating their child will see the school as an addition to every
other activity. Working parents will see the school as a more important source of support.

    4.  Each teacher has his or her own personality and strengths. Look for a private or public school that emphasizes the importance of the teacher’s role. Also, it helps if there are volunteers in the classroom to help the teacher.

    5.  The school administration determines how gifted children are viewed and accommodated. While school and district policies always exist, the head of school or principal can work with parents of gifted kids or ignore them. Try to find administrators that acknowledge that gifted kids are different from high-achieving children.

    6.  Think about your child’s personality. If they can “roll with the punches” and love competition, then public school will most likely work out. If they are sensitive and have a hard time making friends think about private school.

    7.  If  you are unhappy with your child’s school, looking for options is an important step to take.