Monday, October 29, 2012

Loudoun County Gifted and Talented Students - Parents Group Formed

This past Thursday, an introductory meeting for the new "Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students" (LocoPOGS) was held at the Loudoun Country Day School. The non-profit group was set up by Chris Croll to help provide information and support among families with very academically gifted children.

Child psychologist Patrice Garver spoke to the audience of 50-60 about the benefits of cognitive testing, followed by a panel discussion regarding how IQ information can be used. The panel included Nysmith School for the Gifted Head of School Ken Nysmith, Loudoun Country Day School Headmaster Dr. Randy Hollister, Loudoun School for the Gifted Head of School Deep Sran, Loudoun County Public Schools’ head of gifted and talented programs Julie Kelly, and Compass Classes Home School Enrichment founder Jenny Grove-Bradshaw.

Ms. Garver's comments overviewed her experience with IQ testing in Fairfax County, including use of the popular CogAT test, which according to the LCPS site "...measures learned reasoning and problem-solving skills in three different areas: verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal. Reasoning skills develop gradually throughout a person’s lifetime, and at different rates for different individuals. CogAT does not measure such factors as effort, attention, motivation, and work habits, which contribute to school achievement as well." The test is administered in the 2nd grade, and is a heavily-used indicator for assessing gifted students - but not the only factor; others include interviews and teacher recommendations as available.

A very important facet of success in having your child privately assessed, with services such as Ms. Garver's, includes making sure your "child is comfortable and has a nice rapport with evaluator - this will ensure reliability and validity of results". While the IQ test is an important signal, it's really an "imperfect predictor of future success", according to Deep Sran in his comments. It's important to "still be the parent - America's about choice, so you really need to shop around for the best school choice for your child". That's a very key point - parents need to make significant, ongoing, engaged and fully-informed investments in a gifted child's pathway to academic and personal success.

In our own Loudoun household, we've experienced this - raising gifted children requires full-time planning and involvement, including shopping around Loudoun and Fairfax for the most appropriate advanced learning options, schools, tutors, extra-curricular programs, tests and testing preparation services. The interaction and resources available to similarly-motivated families has to date been quite fragmented in Loudoun - though the TJHSST (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology) parent and student's community from Loudoun is quite strong and helpful. We've found the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted (FCAG) is a very involved, helpful and important local resource - Ms. Croll's new Loudoun group should align well with the success and impact experienced by that group.

Dr. Hollister also explained that in addition to parental involvement, it's very important to also "listen to your child" regarding their needs, understanding and ambition, and Ken Nysmith suggested being sure to "find a school that fosters a true love for learning".

As the most well-known and experienced K-8 school focused on "Gifted and Talented" students in the region, the private Nysmith School in Herndon VA draws students from all over the Northern Virginia region, primarily from Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Children advance in all subjects at their own pace, leading to differentiated learning, peer-level placement and access to subject matter and very small instruction groups typically not available in local private schools, Loudoun County schools or the Fairfax County Gifted Programs. It's a very highly-recommended, successful and highly-sought after resource for advanced and gifted learning from elementary through middle school, right here in the Dulles region. Multiple parent groups support the school community, including a "Dads of Nysmith" interactive professional and social community.

The LocoPOGS group is free and open to any families who may draw some support from participation, and is not specifically affiliated with any particular school. The group’s second meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Loudoun School for the Gifted, 44675 Cape Court in Ashburn, and the next at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at Nysmith School for the Gifted, 13625 Eds Drive in Herndon. For more information, go to Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students’ Meetup page or Facebook page, join and/or contact the resources outlined.

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