News From the State Gifted Associations
Many of the state gifted education associations are dedicated advocates for gifted education. The following reports on some of their successes and hopes. For more information on these organizations or the one in your state, click here to find contact information and links their websites.
Collaboration to Improve Legislative Language in Minnesota
In Minnesota, two advocacy groups are collaborating to effect change in legislation that impacts gifted students. The Minnesota Educators of the Gifted and Talented (MEGT), and the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT), are working closely together to craft language to bring to the legislature. As a local control state, districts have had the option to spend the money allocated for gifted education programming. As a result there is uneven attention to gifted students statewide. One of our goals this year is to change that language and hold districts accountable for spending the $12 million in state funds on effective programming, identification processes, and professional development. MEGT and MCGT are hoping to have legislation introduced that will change the preparation preservice teachers receive by building into the preservice requirements coursework focused on the nature and nurture of gifted students. The language in this legislation also addresses the re-licensure of teachers and administrators, building into their continuing education requirements coursework or workshops focused on gifted students. Collaboration will be the key to our collective success. The current status of the economy leaves little room to petition for additional dollars, but language changes are possible. The Minnesota legislature and the governor have committed resources to gifted students, our efforts this year are focused on refining those efforts.
Bill Keilty, Ed.D.
Legislative Liaison, MEGT
Lack of Accountability, But Desire for Increased Rigor in Texas
Despite two sets of accountability standards in Texas – No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), accountability for gifted education is absent within the prevailing structure in Texas. Although state law requires all school districts to identify and serve gifted students in grades K-12, there is no accountability system in place to ensure that districts meet the letter of the law. There is also no requirement to assess whether teachers are actually receiving the minimum gifted education hours required by the state or if the available continuing education programs in gifted education are of high quality.
The slowing economy is affecting gifted education programs across Texas. While identified gifted children are funded at $200 per child, fewer additional resources are available. Districts appear also to have reduced expenditures for professional development and travel.
New end-of-year testing will help some gifted children. Children in the lower grades will be identified for advanced coursework based on the test and students may take college entrance exams in 11th grade at state expense. Students will also be allowed to take advanced mathematics classes prior to high school and will receive high school credit for those courses.
Dianne Hughes, CAE
Executive Director, TAGT
Gifted Advocates Break Bread with State Legislators in Mississippi
The Mississippi Association for Gifted Children (MAGC) hosted State Legislators at a luncheon on March 25 as a way to ensure that the needs of gifted students in the state are not neglected as the legislature juggles a wide range of difficult issues. Former Advisory Council member and newly elected Lt. Governor Phil Bryant attended, along with 30 members of the legislature from the Education and Appropriations Committees.
Legislative Chair, MAGC
Advocacy Training in California in Response to Tightening Economy
The California Association for the Gifted (CAG) responded to recent reports of state budget shortfalls by training participants at their recent Annual Conference on how’s and why's of contacting legislators. Recognizing that funding for gifted education is at risk, Legislative Chair Martha Flournoy invited CAG’s Sacramento-based advocate to present to assembled members a series of workshops on how to identify the interests of local legislators, how to engage them with local GATE programs, and how to best make the pitch for full funding of GATE in California’s schools. Over 100 participants learned how make appointments with legislators and to prepare 1-page summaries of pressing GATE issues to leave with them. They also got tips on how to get area legislators and their staff to visit local gifted programs to help personalize the needs of gifted students. Flournoy noted that the work of local CAG members is critical. “In a perfect world, we would have one of you on a first-name basis with every legislator” she told them. “You don’t want to meet them only when you want something. Build relationships now.”
Experienced advocates emphasized that legislators have different interests based on their districts and constituents, as well as their personal life experience with education. Attendees were urged to know about their interests before you meet with them; look up their website, read about their efforts in the paper. Relate how funding gifted education helps meet the legislator’s interests, whatever those are.
Executive Director, CAG
Rhode Island Reaching Out
The Rhode Island Advocates for Gifted Education (RIAGE) sent a letter supporting a local gifted program in danger of losing its funding. RIAGE will follow-up with a letter campaign to state officials, all 36 school districts in Rhode Island, and the local media to stress the importance of supporting gifted programs even in difficult economic time.