Mini-school – a realistic academic high-school model for your gifted child?

Alternate programs recruiting academically strong students at different high schools may be an interesting option to explore for gifted students who want to be challenged within their area of interest and ability. One type of program that may be of interest to students in grades 8-10 in Vancouver, BC, is a mini school program. These programs usually admit one class of grade 8 students each year.

But how do you know what mini-school would work for your child?

Before you begin the application process, there are some aspects to consider for your tween/teen:

– Does the focus of the mini-school address a passion for your child? Students have an increased commitment to focus and learning if there is significant attention to the area of study they are already interested in.

– Does the mini-school require social-emotional intelligence at a level that your child demonstrates? This is something to consider, especially for students who are twice exceptional with a diagnosis affecting their behavior and perspective taking.

– Does your child have a strong aversion to writing or some type of language learning disability? Become aware of programs that emphasize verbal and written proficiency.

– Consider your child’s gifted profile. Search for programs that have knowledgeable educators who can personalize the program to accommodate the disparity between their areas of strong development and those that require additional support or compensatory strategies.

– Is the program open to and experienced in accommodating support for gifted students who have a learning disability? Gifted learners with writing output disorder, dyslexia and/or dyscalculia are known to compensate with their high-ability but need support for their learning disability.

– Ask about the application process. Does it consider more than grades? Does it recognize creativity? Is there an interview as part of the application process? Programs that emphasize talent more than performance may be a good choice for gifted students known to underperform.

In Vancouver, BC, there are 18 high-schools which offer challenging and comprehensive programs as alternatives to regular programs. To apply for most VSB programs, students must complete the District Cognitive Skills test on Nov. 21, 2017.

Download the VSB information pamphlet if you want to read more about the program in Vancouver. Please note that all students are required to do a district cognitive skills test on Nov. 21, 2017. Students with a designated Special Need and IEP take test at 9 a.m. at VSB Educational Centre. Please consult the VSB website for exact details.

For intellectually gifted students who have a learning disability, there is the GOLD program in Vancouver, BC. This is an academic program designed to meet the needs of Grade 8 and 9 students. Students may receive support into their Grade 12 year if required. The goal of the program is to help students understand their own strengths and difficulties, while they learn effective strategies and skills to be successful at school.

In Surrey, there is the STEAMX (STEAM ACCELERATED) program of the SAIL Academy. This combines 4 days of face-to-face interdisciplinary instruction with one day of supported online learning, and makes students eligible for university by the third year of this program.

It is important to understand the differences between the various available programs. Most of these programs DO NOT advertise themselves as programs for the gifted. They are targeting high achieving students, not necessarily gifted learners, but may also be a good choice for gifted students with even learning profiles. Investigation of the programs you are interested in should include a clear understanding of the goals of the program, the target students, and the capacity and understanding they possess to support atypical or unique learners. Admission processes are usually designed with attention to discovering student passions, strengths, goals and aspirations and the variety of community activities students undertake that build leadership and community awareness. No matter whether your child will be accepted as a student or not, it can be an interesting and instructive process to participate in, which can prepare your child for future applications.

Does your gifted child have experience of student life at a mini-school or a similar choice program? Please share your experience below or email us! We would love to hear your story!

 

Author: GCABCsecretary

Lena Normén-Younger, PhD, is the secretary of the GCABC board.