When School Doesn’t Fit…Alternative Options

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When School Doesn't Fit...Alternative Options Summer 2011


  • Places to Hide by GEC Editorial Staff
  • Rapid Acceleration: A Good Option for Your Child? by Karen Daniels
  • Educating Outside the Box: Homeschooling Your Gifted Child by Corin Barsily Goodwin & Mika Gustavson
  • Social and Emotional Needs: A Position Paper by California Association for the Gifted
  • There and Not There: Distance Learning by Dan Nelson
  • New Schools for a New Era by Mike Hagan
  • Alternative R oad to Oak G rove School: A Parent’s Journey by Victoria Bortolussi
  • Success and the “2e” Student: Bridges Academy’s Comprehensive Program by Carl Sabatino & Cynthia Novak


  • Student Voices: Grade Skipping: A 7-Year-Old’s-Perspective by Kaley Daniels-Garber
  • Parent talk: When School Just Doesn’t Fit: Alternative Options by James Webb & Janet Gore
  • Administrator talk: How Good Is Your School for Your Gifted Students? Carolyn R. Cooper
  • RtI2 for Gifted Learners: Appropriate Instruction and Intervention for Gifted Students by Beth Littrell
  • Carpe diem: I’m Hiding, But Please, Someone, Come Find Me by Elaine S. Wiener
  • Tech tools for today’s teachers: GIMME FIVE! Resource to Supercharge Your Teaching by Brian C. Housand
  • Web Watch: FREE Online Curriculum! by Carolyn Kottmeyer


  • Well Spoken by Eric Palmer
  • 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids by Christine Fonseca


Those of us who have spent our working careers in public education sometimes become defensive when it is suggested that an alternative form of education might better suit a specific individual. Somehow it seems to imply that we have not done our work well enough; that we are not serving our students adequately. But the very same argument that we in gifted education use to justify special programs for gifted children in the first place, can help us recognize that for some of these gifted children, even our gifted programs don’t fit. This is particularly true of highly and profoundly gifted learners.

When school doesn’t fit, many students attempt to deal with the situation by hiding. They hide in a variety of ways—some of them “in plain sight.” It’s up to us as adults to recognize when a mismatch is taking place between a learner and the school. Our lead article is a joint effort of our editorial board to raise awareness by pointing out some of the ways in which students (and adults too) hide at school and away from school. Thanks to Beth Littrell for taking the lead in drafting the article. The piece is called simply, “Places to Hide.”

One option that has proved successful for some gifted learners is that of rapid acceleration though it has consistently received resistance from educators. Indeed, one of our most respected leaders in gifted education has this to say:

There is little doubt that educators have been largely negative about the practice of acceleration despite abundant research evidence attesting to its validity. It is difficult to understand the hostility of many educators to this acceleration strategy. – James T. Gallagher, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2004)

Karen Daniels, our managing editor, gives her experiences in providing options for her daughter in her article, “Rapid Acceleration: A Good Option for Your Child?” She provides both examples and resources for other parents and educators.

Two authors active in homeschooling gifted learners in California are Corin Goodwin and Mika Gustavson. In their article, “Educating Outside the Box: Homeschooling Your Gifted Child,” they delineate how homeschooling has changed over the years and how it can be beneficial to gifted students. They also give guidelines in how to get started and resources that may be of value to readers.

From there we turn to distance learning as another option for meeting the needs of gifted learners—especially when the need is in a specific or particular area not offered by the local school district. Dan Nelson answers the question, “What is Distance Learning,” as well as the possible concerns regarding the “social component” (or lack thereof) of distance learning. He also describes the high school digital photography class he teaches using a combination of online and in-class methods. Finally, Dan shares the fact that he has enrolled in a distance learning master’s degree program in architecture, a long-held dream of his. The article is, “There and Not There: Distance Learning.”

We also look at some private schools that have shown success in meeting the needs of gifted learners. Mike Hagan, founding director of Garden Street Academy in Santa Barbara, California discusses how he and the staff used the opportunity of starting a new school from scratch to create a new focus for the school. “The focus of the staff was on building systems that supported achievement by centering on the social and emotional development of students….We believed that if we were careful and unrelenting in our attention to maintaining the humanity in the institution of school, we would attract and maintain students and families….” It is now ten years later and he shares the results of their efforts in, “New Schools  for a New Era.” While most of us don’t have the opportunity of starting a new school, we can use their experiences to glean useful strategies that might be successful in any school.

Victoria Bortolussi provides us with a parent’s perspective in making educational choices for her two gifted children. As a public school educator herself, colleagues challenged her because she sent her children to private schools after early experiences in public schools. She describes the process of determining her daughter’s needs and finding the schools that met those needs. In the end, she concluded that while she was working and supporting reform in public schools to make them better places for learners, she couldn’t wait until those reforms were in place since her children’s needs were immediate. Her article is entitled, “Alternative Road to Oak Grove School: A Parent’s Journey.”

Our final feature article focuses on a population of gifted learners that has double challenges—those who are both gifted and learning challenged. The challenges include a variety of diagnoses including auditory and/or visual processing deficits, working memory, dysgraphia, AD/HD, and Asperger Syndrome among others. Bridges Academy is the only school of its kind in the nation and serves students in grades 5–12 in Studio City, California.

“Success and the ‘2e’ Student: Bridges Academy’s Comprehensive Program” by Carl Sabatino and Cynthia Novak discuss the special needs of “twice exceptional (2-e)” learners and how the academy is set up to meet those needs both academically and socially.

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