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Urge our senators to support gifted research

March 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Would you give ten minutes to support gifted education?

Here’s how: E-mail our U.S. senators in support of continued funding for the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act.

Javits Act funding supports research into how gifted students learn, and how we can improve teaching methods.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) have written a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, asking that the 2016 budget continue to fund the Javits Act.

Showing support for Javits funding is crucial, because previous budgets have cut or eliminated it. Although Javits funding was as high as $11 million a year in the early 2000s, it dropped to $7.5 million per year later that decade, and was cut out entirely for the years 2010-2013. In 2014, Congress allocated $5 million to Javits, and in the 2015 budget, thanks to the leadership of Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, gifted research was funded at $10 million.

Don’t let Javits funding get slashed or eliminated again in the next budget.

Your letter to our senators can be short and simple. My suggestion:

  1. Open with the call to action: to sign the Grassley-Casey letter in support of Javits funding.
  2. State your connection to gifted education. For example, that you have a gifted child, or you teach gifted children.
  3. Voice your support for research to ensure that gifted children are well served by our schools.
  4. Restate the call to action.

Send an e-mail to U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

Send an e-mail to U.S. Senator David Perdue

We need to take action on this by March 26, 2015.

Gifted kids are a minority. They need our advocacy.

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Incoming Ga. superintendent seeks student advisers

January 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Here’s a chance for your gifted student to have his or her voice heard, and to advocate for better gifted education in our schools:

[The following is a press release from the Georgia Department of Education]

Superintendent-elect Woods Seeks Student Advisers

MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358, mcardoza@gadoe.org or Meghan Frick, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 656-5594, mfrick@doe.k12.ga.us

INTERESTED STUDENTS: Ron Culver: rculver@doe.k12.ga.us

Link to application

January 5, 2015 — State School Superintendent-elect Richard Woods is accepting applications for the 2015 Student Advisory Council.

The members of the Student Advisory Council meet three times during the school year with the State School Superintendent to discuss how decisions made at the state level are affecting students throughout Georgia. Members are advisers and act as liaisons between the Department of Education and the students of Georgia. Superintendent-elect Woods will be conducting the meetings, which will also feature various DOE personnel providing further information.

“Meeting with students and getting their advice will be a top priority of mine as State School Superintendent,” said Superintendent-elect Woods. “I am committed to making decisions that are in the best interests of our students, and hearing from them directly is how I can ensure that happens.”

All students in grades 7-12 are eligible to apply. Meetings will be held in February, March and early May (dates are subject to change). Applicants should be able to attend all meetings.

To be eligible for the Council, applications must be received by Friday, January 16, 2014.

 

 

 

Categories: Advocacy and policy

AJC reporter broadens his request for parents of gifted kids

April 9, 2014 1 comment

Yesterday, I posted a request from Ty Tagami, a reporter at the AJC. He’s working on a story about gifted education in metro Atlanta schools.

He contacted me last night and asked to expand his request. He wants to hear from anyone who has an opinion about gifted education in metro Atlanta. He is most concerned with how parents feel their school’s gifted program stacks up against its general education program. In light of that, the ideal source for his story would be a parent who has at least one child participating in gifted classes, along with another child who is in the general education program at the same public school.

Also helpful would be parents whose children entered the gifted program relatively late in their school careers, or parents who have kids in the gifted program but are familiar with the general education program by their own in-school observation.

He would also be interested to talk with parents who left the public school system because they were unsatisfied with their child’s education, whether that was in the gifted program or the general program.

You can reach Ty at ttagami at ajc dot com (reconstruct the address to use it).

 

Categories: Advocacy and policy

AJC seeks parents’ input about gifted programs

April 8, 2014 Leave a comment

I received a call today from Ty Tagami, reporter at the AJC. He’s working on a story about the gifted population in metro Atlanta schools. He said he’s heard apocryphally about parents who pull their children out of the public schools prior to middle school if the child has not been admitted to their school district’s gifted program by then.

If this is something you’ve done or plan to do, or if you know someone who has, would you get in touch with Ty to help him out? You can reach him at ttagami at ajc dot com (reconstruct the address to use it).

 

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Parent Day offered by Georgia Association for Gifted Children

March 4, 2014 Leave a comment

gagc-logoThe Georgia Association for Gifted Children will hold a workshop for parents this Sunday, March 9, in Athens.

Drs. Angela and Brian Housand will present the topic, “Raising Gifted Kids in a Digital Age.” Participants can then participate in two breakout sessions: “Failing to Succeed” and “Today’s Technology and Gifted Students.”

The workshop will be from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Foundry Park Inn & Spa. Registration is $20 if you sign up by tomorrow; it’s $25 at the door.

Gifted kids: Different brains, different needs

January 17, 2014 2 comments

I maintain this blog and web site to help make gifted children’s lives better. I can only guess you’re here because you care about that, too.

But who are these “gifted” kids? What does that label mean?

Some think a gifted child is one who has met the official requirements to enroll in special classes at school. Nothing more.

But being gifted means a lot more. It means a child’s brain works differently – it’s wired to absorb, master, and synthesize information more efficiently and effectively than an average person’s.

In an article worth reading (see link below), gifted advocate Suki Wessling says gifted children could more accurately be called “non-neurotypical.” In fact, Wessling argues we might be more successful winning support for our kids if we stopped calling them “gifted” – a word that implies advantage and elitism – and chose another term that would emphasize these children’s neurological differences.

By accentuating the neurological variation, perhaps we could convince educators and policy makers that gifted kids need a different educational approach. They learn differently, and must be taught differently. Gifted programs aren’t just a nice extra, but a necessity. More important, a suitable gifted education can’t consist solely of a couple of hours of enrichment each week. Gifted education has to extend to every classroom.

Whether they’re learning the alphabet or astrophysics, gifted children pick up new ideas with considerably less repetition than average kids. They not only take in new information quickly, but also are adept at integrating new knowledge with what they already know. They ask more questions, and yearn to explore with more depth, unsatisfied by the limited information in the textbook. No wonder they get bored and frustrated when they’re subjected to the slow pace of the general classroom, with constant review both during the school day and in the homework they are assigned.

Some schools try to address the needs of the gifted by grouping them in classes with high achievers. That provides a marginal improvement. But high-achieving students and gifted children are not the same, and their educational needs are not the same.

Put simply, a high achiever is a student who performs well in school, gets good grades, and scores well on standardized tests. Smart kids who work hard are your typical high achievers. Some high achievers are gifted, but not all. Likewise, not all gifted kids are high achievers. Some of them don’t adapt well to the structure of school, and therefore don’t attain academic success. Thomas Edison wouldn’t have been considered a high achiever in school, but I dare you to deny his giftedness.

The National Association for Gifted Children muddied these waters when it changed its definition of gifted individuals to “those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence” [emphasis added]. That’s a disappointing move from our leading advocacy organization. To say that competence is the same as aptitude – that high achievement is the same as giftedness – is to measure the end point without looking at the path taken to get there. And it’s in the path that we see the distinction.

Imagine two middle-school boys, Henry and Gabe, who both play the piano. Henry, who dreams of attending Julliard, practices two hours a day with intense focus. Gabe is a prodigy who sight reads new pieces and practices just one hour a week, his practice sessions a mix of playing the assigned music and venturing off into his own spontaneous compositions. Both play beautifully. Go to their recital, and you might not be able to distinguish one from the other, but there’s no denying they learn differently.

This is not to say Gabe is a better musician, just that he learns and experiences music differently, in an atypical way. High achievers deserve great respect for their work habits, passion, and dedication, and certainly hard work can surpass raw talent. But the gifted child and the non-gifted high achiever do not have the same educational needs. Would you put Gabe and Henry in a piano class together? Of course not. Gabe would be stifled, or Henry would be overwhelmed, or both. Both these young pianists may be high achievers, but we can’t educate both with the same approach.

Likewise, we can’t adequately serve gifted children by lumping them in with high-achieving students. Advanced classes may teach material that’s ahead of the standard curriculum, but the demographics being what they are, the high achievers will tend to outnumber the gifted kids, even in an advanced class. So, these classes are often taught with the pacing, limited scope, and higher level of repetition meant for a non-gifted student. A high achiever class – or even a high achiever magnet program – does not necessarily meet a gifted learner’s needs.

In an ideal world, a gifted child would be afforded the same level of attention given to other “special needs” kids, with an individualized education program (IEP) and supplementary classroom resources. After all, some of our brightest learners are as far off the IQ bell curve as kids diagnosed as developmentally disabled – just in the opposite direction. Furthermore, giftedness doesn’t affect just intellect. It includes a whole slate of social and emotional characteristics that can affect the child’s overall well-being.

But ours is not an ideal world. It’s a world where plenty of people still think the whole concept of giftedness is a ploy by privileged snobs to get special benefits for their coddled kids. (See the comments written in response to a column I wrote in 2013 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

This bias against giftedness makes it harder for all of us to get our kids’ needs met, but those who are hurt the most by these accusations of privilege, ironically, are the gifted kids who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. They are every bit as different from the norm as gifted kids from wealthier families, yet they have little or no access to the kind of enrichment opportunities listed on this website. They have only their local schools to meet their educational needs. That’s why it’s essential that we offer specialized gifted education in school.

The more we advocate for the gifted, the more we get others to understand that these children have legitimate neurological differences that create special learning needs, the more we stand up and insist that those needs be met, the greater our hope that all gifted kids – not just our own – will flourish.

They are our best chance for a better future. These kids, these different thinkers with their atypical brains, are the ones who will solve the world’s big problems.

We need them. And they need us.

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For further reading:

“Divorcing the G-Word: A Parent’s Suggestion for Defining Giftedness,” by Suki Wessling, published in the summer 2013 issue of Gifted Education Press Quarterly (Wessling’s article is on page four)

“The bright child vs. the gifted learner: What’s the difference?” from the Gifted-Ed Guru blog of Psychology Today magazine

“High Achievers and Gifted Learners: Can They Mix?” (PDF), by Rosemary Cathcart, published by the George Parkyn National Centre for Gifted Education


Categories: Advocacy and policy

John Rosemond needs to do his homework on gifted kids

August 26, 2013 2 comments

During the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve avoided using it as a soapbox. But today, I feel compelled to take a stand — and I’m asking you to do the same by writing a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If you saw John Rosemond’s column in this weekend’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, then you already know why I’m so worked up. If you didn’t, the brief synopsis is, a mother complained that her nine-year-old gifted child dawdles with his homework and has mediocre performance in school. Rosemond’s response said that being identified as gifted and talented has probably ruined the kid.

It turns out, the print version of the AJC omitted the most disparaging of Rosemond’s comments. Here’s a more complete excerpt, as can be read online:

“First, the fact that the school has identified your son as “gifted and talented” may be part of the problem. My finding is that a good number of children who’ve been so identified seem to feel that their mere participation in G&T programs entitles them to good grades no matter how much effort they put into their schoolwork. So they do just enough to get by and no more. The further problem is that schools will not, generally speaking, lower the boom on these kids. Teachers continue giving them decent report card grades even though they don’t complete assignments or turn in work, do poorly on tests, and so on. And once a child’s been promoted to G&T status, demotion is virtually out of the question. These kids are smart all right. They’re smart enough to figure out that the only consequence of their lack of effort is that adults get upset.”

It’s bad enough that Rosemond’s advice — which went on beyond this paragraph — ignored the most likely reason for this child’s struggles: he’s bored because he’s not being challenged. But this blanket accusation that gifted children are arrogant and conniving is reprehensible, and Rosemond’s use of the word “finding” to imply it’s based on actual research makes it worse.

This is the second time this summer that Rosemond has belittled gifted children and/or gifted education. (You can see the prior example at http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/10/2952680/john-rosemond-should-child-be.html)

Speaking out against these attacks on the gifted is unlikely to change Rosemond’s mind, but maybe, just maybe, our rebuttals can offer hope and support to parents of gifted children — parents who need to understand the real reasons why gifted children sometimes struggle.

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Contact senators now about gifted education policy

May 17, 2013 Leave a comment

According to a bulletin from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), a bill that would call for greater support of education of gifted children will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in the next few weeks.

The bill, known as the TALENT Act (S.512), requires that states release the data they have collected about gifted students’ achievement, allowing the public to better understand how we are serving gifted students from various socio-economic groups. It also would require  professional development for teachers in identifying and serving gifted students; allow the use of Title I funds to be used for training teachers in gifted education; and provide funding for continued research into the most effective methods of teaching gifted students.

How can you help? Contact our U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, and ask that they sign on as co-sponsors of this legislation.

National education policy has not made gifted education a priority. Let’s make our voices heard!

Categories: Advocacy and policy

How will Georgia’s new teacher evaluations affect your gifted child?

March 15, 2013 9 comments

The state is changing the way it evaluates teachers’ effectiveness, and the changes hold promise for gifted and high-achieving students.

The Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) is currently in pilot studies and is expected to be rolled out statewide for the 2014-15 school year. The system places new emphasis on academic growth for all children, and utilizes tools that can help you advocate for your child.

I’ve been researching TKES since fall, and I will present what I’ve learned in three upcoming lectures:

  • Tuesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. at Westlake High School in southwest Atlanta
  • Thursday, March 21 at 6 p.m. at Independence High School in Alpharetta
  • Saturday, March 30 at 9:15 a.m. at Saturday School at Georgia State University

The March 19 and March 21 lectures will be hosted by Fulton County Supporters of the Gifted. These sessions are free and open to the public. FCSG requests that if you plan to attend, you register at their web site.

The March 30 session is open only to parents with students enrolled in the GSU Saturday School program.

Ask your Congressman to support federal gifted programs

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Parents of gifted kids spend a lot of time trying to advocate just for our individual children, making sure their needs are met. But from time to time, opportunities arise for us to push for programs that would help the entire gifted population.

This is one of those times.

The U.S. Congress has two pieces of legislation under consideration, and the more constituents they hear from who support that legislation, the better the chances they’ll give it their attention.

First is funding for the Javits Gifted and Talented Education Act. Javits provides funds for research into how to better teach gifted students, especially those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.  The program has been around for years, but in recent years has lost its funding. President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget did not include Javits funding, but members of the appropriations committee can still speak up in support of Javits. The only member of Congress from metro Atlanta who is on this committee is U.S. Rep. Tom Graves. If you live in his district, you have the opportunity to contact him in support of funding this program.

Second is support for the TALENT Act, an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would require states to do more for gifted students. This bill was introduced and referred to committee a year ago. (See related post.) The bill needs cosponsors to help it gain momentum. Any member of the Senate or House can cosponsor the bill, regardless of committee assignments. You can show your support by sending an e-mail to Senator Saxby Chambliss and Senator Johnny Isakson. To contact your representative in the U.S. House, you can use the Write Your Representative tool.

 

Categories: Advocacy and policy