Honors programs at schools are designed to challenge students who show the potential to work at an advanced rate. These students generally score above average on standardized tests and do well with classroom work, often excelling at most subjects. Some schools call honors programs advanced placement, accelerated, or gifted programs. The titles vary by school, but all center around the same idea that certain students can achieve more with advanced challenges and higher level academic work.
There are several factors which can help parents decide whether an honors program is the right choice for their child.
Does Your Child Want to be Challenged?
Just because a student has been identified as having above average academic potential does not necessarily mean they are ready to leave their comfort zone academically. Some students are more comfortable achieving at the regular standards and gain self-esteem benefits from being able to do well in school. Parents may want their child to move forward to an honors program more than their child, so it is important to have a discussion about the possibility before taking any formal steps.
Social learning skills are nearly as important as academic skills, especially during the elementary and middle school years. Some students excel academically but are challenged with social skills. Students who are prepared to be able to make new friends and get along with peers in a new program are going to be more ready for an honors program. It can be difficult for many students to adjust from having a group of friends in one classroom and having to make new, unfamiliar ones in a new school or honors program.
Can Your Child Handle Advanced Work?
Test scores may reveal that your child is at the top percentiles for standardized tests but not all students are ready for the demands of advanced work. Many students will be used to high achievement at regular classroom standards. Honors programs are often an initial shock for advanced students, who will now be required to achieve at a higher level.
Is it the Right Time?
Timing is everything for deciding when to move your child into an honors program. There is no right or wrong choice. Some students will be ready at the elementary level, while others might be better prepared later on, in middle or high school. Advanced students vary socially, emotionally, and academically, so the right choice for one student may not be the best for another. Parents can discuss their child’s readiness on all these levels with their child’s teacher to determine whether an honors program is a good fit.
The Type of Honors Program
There are a number of ways an advanced student can be challenged and not all honors programs are the same. School districts vary on the type of accelerated programs they offer to advanced students. Researching the types of programs available in your child’s district is the first step to deciding whether it is a good fit. Teachers may be able to offer advanced work to students who need a challenge as part of a regular classroom. Other honors programs may require your child to switch schools or move to an honors class. Ultimately, the best programs will challenge your child without adding unnecessary stress.