In the midst of winter shortly after the new year comes a time when Wisconsin parents have the opportunity to explore educational options for their child. Once a year Wisconsin has a period of time of Open Enrollment for public schools.
This year the Wisconsin regular open enrollment period is from February 5 to April 30, 2018. DPI accepts Open Enrollment Applications during this time-period, and only during this time-period (with a few exceptions-see Alternative Application). Applications may be completed online or on paper and given directly to the resident school district. All applications for regular open enrollment must be received by 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2018.
To quote DPI:
“What is Open Enrollment? The inter-district public school open enrollment program allows parents to apply for their children to attend public school in a school district other than the one in which they reside.
Who can apply? Any Wisconsin resident in 4K to grade 12 may apply to attend a nonresident school district under the open enrollment program. However, a child may transfer to a nonresident school district for early childhood education or 4K only if the child’s resident school district offers the same type of program and only if the child is eligible for that program in the resident school district.” (Retrieved from: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment)
Open enrollment applications include brick and mortar schools (school buildings) and virtual (online) public schools. The numbers of students enrolling in virtual schools has increased as parents seek appropriate education for their children, including gifted children. Either type of school provides educational options for gifted children.
Why should parents of gifted children consider open enrollment? The reasons are as varied as gifted children themselves. Some parents wish to have their child attend a school closer to their workplace for the possibility of participating in the child’s schooling. Other parents wish their child to attend a school they perceive as offering more gifted services than their resident school district. Still other parents choose open enrollment because of a specific offering such as high quality academics, or certain fine arts or sports programs, or a positive school culture that works to prevent bullying. There is also the reason of parents wanting to distance their family from a negative school situation where difficulty agreeing on gifted services has made working with the school too challenging. All of these reasons and more may provide benefits for gifted children beyond what the home district offers.
DPI has websites that provide a lot of information about the open enrollment process. If you are considering open enrollment, or if you want to learn more information about this educational option please explore the following websites. Click on the links on each web page to find further information about specific topics. Please note that the online application will not appear on the home web page until February 5, the first day of the open enrollment period.
Open Enrollment Home Page: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment
Application Page: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment/applications
Downloadable Open Enrollment Brochure:
Virtual Charter Schools: https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/charter-schools/virtual-charter-schools
List of Virtual Charter Schools: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/sms/Charter-Schools/pdf/17-18%20VCS%20list%20for%20web.pdf
Alternative Application: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment/applications/alternative
Please note that each school district generally offers their own information and website about open enrollment. It is a good idea to check with your home district to see what information they provide. It is not necessary to inform the local school district that you are exploring open enrollment.
There is a very specific timeline that must be followed in the open enrollment process. While parents must apply by 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2018, the final decision to attend the chosen school (if accepted) does not have to be made by parents until June 29, 2018. The timeline may be found on the downloadable brochure on the Home Page or at the bottom of the Application Page.
If you want to learn more about open enrollment, there are three things you and your gifted child can do to learn about this educational option:
1) go to the DPI websites, then go to your home school district’s open enrollment website and read the information to educate yourselves about this educational option.
2) talk to parents who have chosen open enrollment for their gifted child. By asking questions and listening to parents with experience in this realm, you will learn the pros, cons, and tips you can use to further educate yourself and make decisions.
3) this is very important: attend open enrollment open houses that school districts host (including virtual schools) to meet school staff, observe classes, meet teachers, talk to parents whose children attend the school, and meet and talk with children who attend the school. If a district in which you are interested does not offer an open house then contact the district and make an appointment to visit.
Meeting people, observing, and asking questions of those already attending is one of the best ways to gather information regarding the school and this educational option for your family.
As one whose family chose virtual school open enrollment for our gifted child, I like to offer it as an educational option for gifted children (and other children, too). Finding the right educational environment for a gifted child is a blessing, albeit usually a difficult task. I encourage parents to explore the options of open enrollment to determine if it is worth considering for their child.
Some parents recently brought up the subject of their gifted children, socialization and school. They have been told by school folks that gifted children, especially in elementary school, need to be around age-peers to learn socialization skills so they make friends and get along with people. I asked the parents what they thought about that belief. All the parents disagreed. They all said their children have little in common with their age-peers and need the mental and emotional stimulation that ability-peers provide. The parents said their children interact better with children and adults with whom they can talk on the same level and pursue interests at their level of understanding, rather than the simple tasks of the elementary classroom and interests of age-peers. Even with asynchronous development, these parents said their children need ability-peers more than age-peers, yet, each parent said their child had peers of all ages.
These parents are struggling to make decisions regarding their children’s education. Many see their children as needing grade or subject acceleration but they receive push-back from their school for a variety of reasons, the most common being the myth of the need for socialization exclusively with age-peers. Some of the parents are considering home schooling their child, others are considering open enrollment for a classroom or virtual school in another district, and others are working on a plan to get their child’s needs met within their school district. These are difficult decisions for parents. Every parent wants their child’s needs met, and they become frustrated when those needs continue to go unmet. Some school districts work hard to provide appropriate services for gifted children and they do a good job. It is unfortunate that these appropriate services depend upon where the family lives.
Parents and schools can work together to meet the needs of these children and do so appropriately and effectively. Below are a few articles with information that may be helpful for both parents and school employees. There are many more resources on the Internet on the topic of socialization and gifted children so do your own search to find what applies to your family.
Tips for Parents: Socialization and the Highly Gifted Child
Academic Acceleration: Is It Right for My Child?
Life in the Fast Lane: Effects of Early Grade Acceleration on High School and College Outcomes
Ask the Doctor