Gifted differentiation at independent schools

Which, if any, local independent elementary and middle schools provide meaningful differentiation for gifted kids? Particularly kids who have documentation of their global giftedness via formal intelligence testing (and aren’t just relying on parent or teacher reporting). Would love to hear about particular schools and how they differentiate (ex: pull out groups, attending classes for older grades, programs such as Odyssey of the Mind for certain kids, etc.) I’m aware that most schools in our area do not provide much in this way, but I’d love to understand the range of local options. Thank you! 

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Unfortunately there do not seem to be many gifted or gifted-friendly schools in the East Bay, which is surprising, given the population.  Black Pine Circle may be one of the better local options (and runs Odyssey of the Mind I believe). There are however many parent facebook groups that offer more information. Try "Gifted kids in SF bay area." Or, if your children are profoundly gifted, join Davidson and try their private facebook groups. Parents there recommend South Bay schools (Nueva and Tessellations), and also Gate Academy in Marin and Proof in San Francisco. That said, there is a thriving local math community run through UC Berkeley - which includes the Berkeley Math Circles. And some of the local independent schools offer other forms of challenge - we have many strong language immersion schools, and some schools that offer great music training.

From what I’ve read, Nueva school is specifically for gifted kids, prospect Sierra has someone come in to support differentiated learning (primarily maths), East Bay Montessori is Montessori, so the approach itself lends itself to differentiated learning, but they do not follow traditional syllabus so hard to compare scores, and there are a few others in the Berkeley area like Academia, that I’ve seen mentioned. Hope that helps!

A close friend’s child is profoundly gifted. After several years of public school, they ended up changing school to the Nueva School in the peninsula. The commute from north of Berkeley to the school was hard and the financial burden was real, but the child finally felt welcome and understood and was nurtured appropriately. The child graduated college at age 18 and is pursuing his passion as a fairly well adjusted adult. 

I'm afraid there aren't a lot of good options, or at least weren't when we went through this. Our friendly, socially well-adjusted, globally gifted (IQ in the 99.99th percentile) child tried going to Black Pine Circle, but the school wasn't able to differentiate that far. For high school we thought that Presidio Hill School might be a workable choice, but they didn't. In the end, our best option through grade 8 was Hickman Charter Annex, which is a homeschooling charter. They have classes once/week, which are largely about being with other kids, and includes a phenomenal Shakespeare production in the Spring for the older students. For high school, we had to settle for college classes – the public ones (UC, Cal State, and CC) are free to those who are 'enrolled' in a public high school like, for example, homeschool high school charters Valley View Charter Prep and Connecting Waters. There are great resources online for STEM subjects, e.g. Khan Academy.

If your kid is into math, I can highly recommend the Proof School in SF. We live in the East Bay, but another of our kids – also off the charts – has been wonderfully challenged and supported there. And despite being a STEM kid at a STEM school, he has very much gained a passion for literature there, diving into other books by the same authors as were previously assigned!

Wishing you luck in finding the best path for your child. If where you send her doesn't work, bail and try something else!

You didn't say how old your child is, and whether you mean academically gifted, musically gifted, athletically gifted, or etc. I'll assume that you have a kindergartener and you mean academically gifted. In my experience, and I've had 3 kids in a number of local public and private schools K-12, schools generally do not offer gifted programs. But I'd say that all of the local elementary schools, both private and public, do offer some type of differentiation. In public school, it can depend on the teacher and/or the cohort for any given year. But I have noticed that public schools typically do more differentiation than private schools -- they have to, because there is such a wide range of abilities in any given public school classroom. There can be kids who need a lot of help, but there is also no shortage of brilliant kids in the public schools my kids have attended. A good public school teacher will be meeting every kid where they are, often with help from volunteers, student teachers, and aides.

In private school, teachers are much more likely to be teaching to the middle, and not much beyond that. Admittedly, the private school 'middle' has a bigger percentage of students in it, and it's usually at a higher academic level than the 'middle' in public school.  I think this is because nearly all the kids in your average private school are upper-middle class if not outright affluent (private school is expensive!); parents tend to be educated and motivated, and have provided lots of enrichment from Day 1 so their kids start kindergarten well-equipped.  More importantly, there is selective admission. The more academic the school, the higher the screen-out rate. Some private K's we applied to were only admitting kindergarteners who could already read and write. So they end up with a very homogeneous group of kids. In a way, you could say that private schools do not *need* to differentiate. This means you may not be getting the differentiation you are paying the big bucks for. 

If it were me, I'd pick an elementary school that seems like a good fit for your kid and also for the family (don't underestimate the convenience factor for the parents) and then focus on the excellent range of extra-curriculars here in the Bay such as ATDP at UC Berkeley, math circle, chess clubs, and the huge array of music, sports, art, cultural, and language classes that we are so lucky to have access to.  Honestly your child can get a solid education at almost any local K-8, and by the time you have a pre-teen you'll have a pretty good idea of what your child needs and wants, and you will also have a better idea of what's available.  There are some pretty great high schools here. The local public high schools offer very challenging academics for motivated kids as well as breadth in the arts and sports; the Oakland School for the Arts, which is a public school, has a very fine and highly-sought-after program for talented middle and high schoolers. And if you want to go private, and your child is a hard worker, schools like CPS and Head-Royce might be just the thing. Keep your kid happy and healthy in K-8 and by high school it will become obvious.  Good luck!

My kid had a pretty good experience with BUSD in the years they had flexible teachers. They could read more advanced books and would write more than their peers. A number of the teachers ignored "reading under the desk" which enabled them to avoid lessons they already knew. Math was a bit more of a problem when the kid developed their own algorithms, and figured out algebra before their peers. Some teachers also allowed our child to invent their own projects, sometimes individually and sometimes with peers. In terms of enrichment, we went to museums, and took advantage of ATDP, LHS, Berkeley Rep, after-school classes, and art classes offered in various venues. There were also other gifted kids in the BUSD population. If you think about it, in a city with a major research university, there will be children of academics in almost every classroom. We did our best to get them assigned to teachers who would give them space for their own learning. In terms of over-all achievement it worked out fine (ie. test scores, college admittance.) When I look at their cohort, the other gifted students also did well in terms of long-term achievement/learning/finding their passion.