Smart Children Left Behind: 4 High School Alternatives for Gifted Students

Gifted Student

With the No Child Left Behind Act focusing government attention on ameliorating educational outcomes for struggling students, gifted children are often the ones truly left behind.  Although providing money for at-risk students is a priority, it can leave gifted programs significantly underfunded, according to USA Today.  Without funding for gifted programs, teachers often lack the time to meet smarter students’ needs.  This results in boredom, low academic achievement, frustration, and unhealthy work habits.  The following non-traditional educational alternatives offer gifted children more avenues for thriving and embarking on academic challenges.

Special Schools for Gifted Children

Many public schools lack the infrastructure to meet gifted students’ needs.  Specialized schools for gifted children focus on cultivating each child’s unique talents.  For example, the Baywood Learning Center in Oakland, CA, offers a curriculum tailored to each individual’s learning pace as well as enrichment sessions ranging from Introduction to Nanotechnology to Environmental Justice.  Alternative schools across the country recognize the need for high-quality gifted education, giving students the chance to interact with like-minded peers.

College Coursework

Perhaps your child excels in Mathematics but finds high school English coursework to be a sufficient challenge.  Dual enrollment at a local college or university can be a great way to meet your high school student’s specific academic needs.  According to U.S. News and World Report, school districts often cover the cost of college coursework for high school students considering dual enrollment.  Keep in mind that many bright students are at their peers’ level socially, so ask your child if he or she is comfortable heading to a local higher education institution for to complete college coursework.  Giving your teen the opportunity to set his or her own academic agenda fosters independence.

Online Courses

Supplement your child’s curriculum by enrolling him or her in online college classes.  Students living in areas with limited advanced learning opportunities are excellent candidates for online learning.  At Penn Foster (, students at can complete a high school diploma online while obtaining specialized instruction in healthcare, information technology, or building technology.  Earning an online high school diploma or pursuing online college coursework while in high school is an effective way for gifted students to broaden their academic experiences.  Inquire with your child’s high school administrators about whether the school helps with the costs associated with completing college coursework while still attending high school.


Perhaps your child is at the 10th grade level in Mathematics, college level in Biology, and 8th grade level in reading.  Homeschooling provides you with the opportunity to tailor coursework to your student’s specific learning levels.  According to Duke TIP, the first step is to contact your state’s department of education or homeschool parent association to identify homeschooling requirements and regulations.  Keep in mind that social development is as important as academic development.  Enrolling your child in homeschool co-ops or community groups ensures that he or she makes connections with peers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


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