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July's Corner: 2012

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Declaring Educational Independence 

A few years ago, on the eve of July 4th, amid fireworks and flags, I sat down to write a “Declaration of Educational Independence.” Perhaps I’d read one too many stories about budget cuts to local and national programs, where educational leaders talk about improving schools with new educational strategies, but fail to recognize that the research, foundational work, and classroom practice they speak of so highly is rooted and takes shape in the programs that have been slashed. I may have been tired of refuting persistent myths about gifted and talented students’ needs. I know I was frustrated by the overwhelming number of parent and teacher inquiries about the lack of support for gifted and talented education. I know though, that I was optimistic that the gifted education community would continue to advocate for high-potential students and that somehow our voices would be heard. Access the July 2010 Teacher’s Corner here.

Although there have been improvements for gifted students in communities all over the country, and there are more conversations about the needs of high-ability students in connection with the Common Core State Standards and implementing effective RtI strategies, it is clear that many challenges remain. The most recent State of the Nation in Gifted Education report, illustrates the patchwork quilt of programs, services, and resources, or lack of, for high-ability students across the nation. Here are a few highlights:

·         Gifted children receive the majority of their education in the regular classroom setting where most teachers have little to no specialized training in gifted education.

·         With the de-funding of the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, the federal government invests $0 in K-12 education dollars funds to specifically support this student population. 

·         10 states provided $0 in state funds to support gifted education in 2010-2011, another 4 states spent $1 million or less.

·         Only 5 states require annual professional development for teachers in specialized gifted and talented programs, 26 states do not require it; 12 leave it to the local school district.

In spite of the discouraging circumstances, gifted education professionals know that the curriculum and pedagogy of gifted education has a positive impact on student learning. For example:

·         The use of acceleration results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners.

·         The use of enrichment and curriculum enhancement results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners as well as other students.

·         Gifted education programs and strategies are effective at serving gifted and high-ability students in a variety of educational settings and from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations.

More information can be found in the document, Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education.

While we continue to support the students in our classrooms, it is imperative that we advocate for the benefit of all advanced and high-potential students by sharing with our colleagues and education leaders what we know and how it can make a positive difference.  Here are a few suggestions: 

·         Urge the adoption in your district and state of the NAGC Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards, them as a framework for excellent practice and program evaluation.

·         Recommend your school district adopt guidelines for an academic acceleration policy.

·         Become active in your state’s gifted and talented association to increase your advocacy strength in your state capital and consider joining the NAGC Legislative Action Network.

·         Read about how Gifted Education Works the NAGC website and spread the message far and wide.

As you return to your classrooms this Fall, try to recall the 4th of July as more than a way to celebrate the nation’s independence. Think of it also as a reminder to keep the needs of the students in this independent nation in mind as you attempt and find success in the challenging work you do each and every day. It does make a difference.