Gifted Kids

Most parents atsome point in their children’s lives wonder, “Is my child gifted?”Some things are in the eye of the beholder, but the Edmond School District is a bit more objective. In fact, there’s specific criteria that determines if a child will be labeled as gifted in the academic realm.

“The percentage of gifted kids for the (Edmond) district is about 31 percent…which is pretty high. Most districts do not have that many identified. The parents in Edmond have just worked really hard to provide opportunities and experiences to their kids and we just have a higher percentage and a great program,” said Glenda Choate, Educational Services Coordinator for Edmond Public Schools.

So how exactly does a child get in to that 31 percent? Testing is one means the district uses. A district abilities test gives a general idea of what a child’s IQ could be. “We test all of our second, fourth and sixth-graders. It is a group test called the Cognitive Abilities Test. If they get close, then we go back through and mark them as ‘prospects.’ Those names are given to the enrichment teachers at their school and then they talk to the parents and ask if we can test them further individually,” explains Choate.

“The testing is all about using reasoning. Analogies, what goes together, patterns, deductive and inductive reasoning, vocabulary, seeing what other words they can figure out,” says Choate. Students have to hit the 97th percentile in the overall test to qualify for the enrichment program. Another measurement is a multi-criteria matrix – points based on several tests, teacher recommendations, classroom performance, etc. If the points add up, they can qualify for the gifted program.

And Choate emphasizes that giftedness isn’t always as obvious as good grades. “It is not only possible to not make good grades and be gifted, but it’s usually the case. Gifted students tend to get bored. They need to be challenged in some way,” she said. “We also have students who perform highly in class who are not gifted.An abilities test is about how they think, how they process. And they may not do that very well. High achieving kids don’t always qualify as gifted.”

With all 15 of Edmond’s elementary schools participating in the enrichment program, many parents wonder how young children can be before they show signs of giftedness. “Sometimes parents know very early on that their child is gifted, sometimes at age 3 or 4,” said Choate. “Early talkers, understanding more than just counting, making connections at a very early age. But that doesn’t always mean they are overall intellectually gifted. We are real, real careful with using the word gifted with young kids.”

And when it comes to the age-old question of nature vs. nurture, Choate says, “You can improve an IQ a bit. But (giftedness) is really about abilities. Parents in Edmond have such high expectations, they have helped to cultivate it. They have helped develop the potential. I think it’s a combination. We genetically inherit who we are, and our IQ is part of that, but the nurture is a big part of it.”

So if nurture is a factor, how young is too young to start nurturing these gifts and talents? One Edmond preschool aims to nurture giftedness from the moment students come through the doors. Mayittho Acuna, who opened Marymount Preschool in March 2010, starts preparing the children in her care as early as 2 years old. Her goal is “to ensure the child will get into a good private school when they are 5 years old,” said the native Colombian. “It was difficult when I came to America and found mainly day cares where my children could socialize. After my children started elementary school and struggled with language skills, it caused me to want to do something about it.”

So when Acuna opened Marymount, her vision was to provide “the best resources, curriculum and education while focusing on the gifts, talents and abilities of each child.” The school’s Montessori approach places the children together but teaches on different levels. “We teach the children on their own level and set up goals for them individually,” said Acuna.

Yet on the other side of the coin are teachers and parents who don’t think giftedness is something you can test for. “There really is no test for gifted children,” said Sharon Tanner, owner of Primrose School of Edmond and parent of children who were labeled “gifted” during their school years. “There are children who possess the ability to learn and retain large amounts of information who may not test well on a standardized test. Standardized tests are subjective. A gifted child has a natural intelligence which is usually enhanced by a unique ability to remember great detail.”

To show an example, Tanner highlights the paths of two boys at Primrose. “Sam and Gavin are two young boys who attended Primrose and were given the options to skip first grade after they graduated from kindergarten. Sam’s parents allowed him to skip ahead whereas Gavin’s parents decided to have him enter first grade. They are both gifted, but flourish in different ways. Sam tends to conceptualize what he is learning. He will listen to all the facts and decide his answer by deduction. Gavin is outwardly inquisitive. He asks many questions in a rapid manner because he tends to be more impatient about deciding what the end result should be. He and Sam eventually come to the same conclusions but use very different methods. Both possess all the qualities of a gifted student. This is why tests are subjective and cannot truly measure one student’s learning abilities over another.”

When it comes to nurture, she also sees the environment as a key factor in a child’s success. “Any person has the ability to learn, but gifted children learn quickly and retain large amounts of knowledge, said Tanner. “A person can be born with a gifted mind but may never have had a catalyst to expose him/her to a certain array of subjects which would allow that trait to surface.”

So for many parents, being their children’s “catalyst” and giving them a head start can begin at home. “Give your kids a lot of opportunities, a lot of experiences and be equal,” advises Choate. “Don’t just focus on physical agility, but also have them reading, or being read to. Make a math problem out of everything. Help the child think and not with just the obvious answer. The more parents do that, the more students have the opportunity to use those higher thinking skills.”

For more about Marymount Preschool, call 341-8166 or visit 35 E. 15th St. For more about Primrose School of Edmond, call 285-6787 or visit 15000 N. Western. For a list of characteristics commonly found in gifted children, visit our blog at

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