Proposed revisions to COMAR

COMAR 13A.04.07

is the Maryland regulation that governs gifted and talented education across the state of Maryland.  It currently is being considered for some proposed revisions.  Comments on the draft were due to Susan Spinnato, Director of Instructional Programs, at MSDE by January 22, 2019.  For context, here you can find the current version of COMAR 13A.04.07 and here you can find the proposed revisions.

Our advocacy group, the Baltimore County Public Schools Citizens Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education, strongly supports the direction of the proposed revisions.  Here is our response.

To: Susan C. Spinnato, Director of Instructional Programs, Maryland State Department of Education

From: Baltimore County Public Schools Citizens Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education

Date: January 21, 2019

Comments on the Draft Regulations for COMAR 13.A.04.07

The Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Citizens Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education (GT CAC) is a parent and community group that advocates for and supports gifted and talented educational efforts in the county’s public schools. We partner with BCPS to facilitate positive change in the delivery of GT services and in the achievement of students who receive these services through the Office of Advanced Academics.  We appreciate the opportunity to review and make comments on the proposed regulations as well as the time and effort that have gone into these proposed regulation changes.

We echo the sentiments of Dennis Jutras, co-chair of the Maryland Gifted and Talented Advisory Council, who presented comments to the MSDE board on December 4th, 2018, stating how thrilled they were to see “the inclusion of universal screening (.02C), sustained identification beyond the targeted universal screening grade (.02D), state accountability of district plans for identification (.02F), the supplying of a vetted list of approved programs and services by the state (.03A) and the subtle yet powerful shift throughout the regulation from ‘shall consider’ to ‘shall’, as each of these changes reflect a staunch commitment to the accountability and reliability on behalf of a state for its students.”

We also speak from the experience of having just gone through an extended effort on the revision to Baltimore County policy and rule on gifted and talented identification, programs, and services (Policy and Rule 6401) and recognize how important the guiding COMAR regulations are for accountability and reliability at the local school district level.  The BCPS GT CAC is committed to ensuring that the needs of the diverse gifted and talented learners in Baltimore County, as well as throughout the rest of the state, are met consistently, universally, and through the entire span of a school career by a well-framed state regulation.

With that in mind, here are our comments and proposed revisions (in red font/underlined text):

  1. Section .02C: The identification process will use universal screening and multiple indicators of potential, aptitude, ability, and achievement from an annually reviewed Maryland State Department of Education approved list of assessments and checklists. All universal screening and assessment results shall be documented in writing and kept as student educational records.

The proposed language regarding the identification process changes from using multiple indicators of “potential, aptitude, and achievement” to “potential, ability, and achievement”.  Potential is measurable by IQ tests, achievement is measurable by standardized tests in different content areas, and ability is measurable by off-level achievement tests, such as when the ACT or SAT tests are used with 7th graders or by the STB and SCAT assessments that talent searches tend to use.  By removing aptitude as a category, this would reduce the candidate pool and the list of usable tools.  How would ability be measured? Is that not synonymous with potential? We recommend retaining aptitude as one of the indicators for the identification process.

Adding the last proposed sentence would help ensure accountability and compliance at the local school level.

  1. Section .02D: A universal screening process shall be used to identify at least 10 percent of students in each school as early as possible but no later than Grade 3. Additional identification shall occur at the 3-5 and 6-9 grade bands for participation in the programs and services described in Regulation .03 of this chapter.

We strongly support the underlying precept of this section; there are gifted learners in every school district and in every school and it is imperative that students of color, students of poverty, students who are native speakers of a language other than English, and students who are twice-exceptional who have been under-identified and underserved for far too long, become recognized and supported. We do wonder what is meant by “no later than Grade 3”.  Does this mean the beginning of Grade 3 or by the end of Grade 3?  We also strongly support the additional identification bands to help ensure no child is left unidentified.

We are divided as to whether or not the 10 percent of identified students should be done at the school level or at the district level and we see and understand arguments on both sides of this issue.

We also understand that should the paradigm shift to the use of local norms, this will be a heavy lift for LEA’s and will require a lot of education and communication throughout the state and within school communities and with stakeholders.  Such a large-scale change will need to be appropriately supported by the state.

  1. Section .02E (2): Develop equitable policies for identification and a process for appeals including deadlines for all parties and appeal decision criteria that are clearly stated in writing, made public, and consistently implemented systemwide.

Requiring deadlines and appeal decision criteria provides support for parents that is currently lacking.  Appeals deadlines are often in place for parents, but not necessarily for local school districts, who may not have a requirement to respond to an appeal within a particular time frame.  This can string out appeals processes for months and possibly even years, all to the detriment of the child.

  1. Section .02E (3): Annually review the effectiveness of its identification process to ensure alignment with current evidence-based practices.

This allows for both MSDE and local school districts to review identification processes annually and to continually update systems given new research and also implement the latest best practices.

  1. Section .03C (1): Provide a continuum of appropriately differentiated curriculum and evidence-based academic programs and services with adequate instructional time in grades PreK-12 during the regular school day for identified gifted and talented students.

It is not unusual to hear from parents that their child is not receiving adequate instructional time.  The math acceleration program in Baltimore County (“Head and Shoulders”) provides advanced math learners instructional time with a teacher just once per week for around 60 minutes.  Devices delivering personalized learning to students who have finished work early can mean students have less instructional time with teachers.

This also begs the question as to what happens to the PreK-2 child who has not yet been identified until potentially grade 3 (02.D). As per item .02E (1), the PreK-2 child may have had evidence of their advanced learning behaviors documented but may not have yet been formally identified. We hear regularly from the parents of Pre-K-2 students who believe that their child’s academic needs are not being met.

  1. Section .06 A&B: [Local] Beginning September 1, 2019, local school systems shall [in accordance with Education Article, §5-401(c), Annotated Code of Maryland, report in their Bridge to Excellence Master Plans] report their identification process, continuum of programs and services, and data-informed goals, targets, strategies, [objectives,] and [strategies regarding the performance of gifted and talented students along with] timelines [for implementation and methods for measuring progress] regarding the performance of gifted and talented students in their consolidated local Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.  B.  Beginning September 1, 2019, the Maryland State Department of Education shall: (1) Facilitate a peer-review of local school systems’ gifted and talented identification, programs, and services every 3 years; and (2) Submit an annual report on the status and progress of gifted and talented students in Maryland to the State Board of Education.

We are very pleased to see the stronger language regarding monitoring and reporting requirements.  We do know that previous iterations of reports (as in the Bridge to Excellence plans) have historically not been a great source of data.  It is unclear to us what exactly would be reported via the ESSA plan and how transparent that would be to stakeholders.  We believe there needs to be some structure to the report so that issues are clear.  What stakeholders want to know are things like how healthy the GT program is in a particular school district, how does it look on a disaggregated basis at a school-by-school level, and how much growth are GT kids really experiencing?  Where is a particular GT program excelling and where does it need improvement?

Thank you very much for the opportunity to share with you our thoughts on the proposed revision to COMAR 13A.04.07.  Overall, we find the revision to be a really good thing, but even stronger with our proposed changes.



The Baltimore County Public Schools Citizens Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education




Using local norms in GT identification

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Note: In writing this post, I relied heavily on information presented in the book “Excellence Gaps in Education: Expanding Opportunities for Talented Students” by Jonathan Plucker and Scott Peters (Harvard Education Press, 2016).  All page numbers referenced below can be attributed to this excellent resource.  I highly recommend reading this book if you haven’t already!

“National norms” vs “local norms” in GT identification

When students are being identified for inclusion in a GT program, it is common for some kind of standardized academic, ability, or achievement test to be used.  National norms take these standardized test results and compare and rank test takers in relation to one another using national standards. Then the raw scores of students from across the United States are used to establish national norms. In the case of gifted and talented students, identification criteria often uses norm-referenced cut scores — for example, students who score at 130 or higher on a given test, or score above the 95th percentile, may then be identified as being appropriate candidates for a GT program.

With local norms, however, students are compared against other students from their local educational setting, as opposed to a nationally-normed group, using some sort of assessment that is universally given to an entire grade level. With the usage of local norms, the standardization and validation of test scores is conducted within a local population and these community-based norm yielded scores are then used to represent the student scores of a school district and/or individual school.

The problem with using national norms

Gifted researchers are beginning to understand that using national norms for gifted identification is problematic because it makes the excellence gap — the disparity in the percent of students who reach advanced levels of academic performance based on income level, race, or ethnicity — worse.

Decisions made that are based on national norms tend to over-identify students in high-performing schools and under-identify those from low-performing schools. Additionally, students from black, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income families receive lower scores on nearly all tests of academic achievement, meaning cut scores based on a nationally-normed test will result in an under-representation of these students.  This can turn into a ugly cycle. Students who do receive educational interventions  through GT programming are presumed to make academic gains as a result; that is, the advanced students continue to advance.  Meanwhile, the under-represented students are not receiving educational interventions through GT programming because they missed getting identified and therefore do not get the resultant increased academic achievement that would be expected. This only serves to widen the excellence gap. (See page 60 in “Excellence Gaps in Education”.)

The “gap”, once it appears in elementary school then continues as students move through middle school, high school, college and beyond.  This leads to generations of black, Native American, Hispanic, and low-income students whose academic talents have not been developed. They have a greater likelihood of attending schools where access to educational opportunities and opportunities to learn may not have been developed to the degree that can be found at high-performing schools, which tend to have larger high-income and dominant-culture populations. Lower-performing schools tend to have fewer GT-identified students, meaning fewer talent development programs or access to high-level classes and GT programming and services. Fewer educational opportunities mean fewer chances to develop talent. (See pages 51, 60, and 93.)

Why using local norms could help

Teachers and administrators are going into their classrooms and schools trying to figure out which of their students are the most advanced in the class, the most talented in the school, the most likely to be under-challenged.  These questions are answered by local comparisons, not national comparisons. If the criteria for identification are set at the 95th percentile of a national norm, some schools will have no gifted students while others may have a majority population of students that have been identified as gifted. But, if local norms are used, then the same percentage of students would be identified in every school, irrespective of the level of content mastery.  For example,  one school’s eighth grade GT math class might have kids working on Algebra II or trigonometry while in another school the 8th grade GT math class could be working on pre-algebra or Algebra I.  In this manner, students who are the most under-challenged or not being well-served in their current educational setting would receive additional academic services and this would be happening in every school — not just the high-performing ones. (See pages 93-95.)

Want to do some more reading about the use of local norms?

The National Association for Gifted Children has a number of blog posts that discuss this:

“One such place is Montgomery County, Maryland, a large district in the Washington, D.C., area that’s made strides in diversifying the students served by its gifted education programs. By expanding the number of seats, universally screening every third grader, using more holistic identification criteria, and selecting students based on how they perform compared to kids at their school instead of the entire district (using “local norms”), administrators increased the proportion of black and Hispanic elementary-school participants from 23 percent in 2016 to 31 percent today . . . First, instead of creating a centralized gifted program in separate buildings or a single locale, base services in each school and use a combination of local and national norms to identify the high-potential students within each building. This gets around curricular and pedagogical worries by allowing educators to tailor their efforts to the top students in each school. Parents would be less concerned about who gets selected to go to the special school because rigorous academic services are provided right in the home school.”

“But such screening identifies advanced performers, not all students with advanced potential. That second number is much higher than the first, and probably a heck of a lot higher than people realize. Using local norms helps in this regard—and I’m about the fullest-throated proponent of local norms you’ll find—but it still doesn’t close opportunity gaps. The opportunity gap I’m most worried about is access to high-quality advanced learning with frontloading to ensure students are ready to capitalize on those opportunities. That’s the gap that vexes us, and that’s also where the authors’ third recommendation comes into play.”

“Ability grouping? “Not in our district, people don’t believe in it.” Universal screening? “Too expensive.” Use of local norms? “Politically tricky. Pass.” Teacher and administrator training? “Preparation programs will never do it, and we don’t have the bandwidth at the district level.” And the kicker, which is so common that I’ve become numb to it: “This is an important topic, but my urban/rural district doesn’t have any bright kids” (a comment I’ve heard from principals, superintendents, and even a state school chief).”

“To reverse these trends, the authors call for universal screening and other solutions to make for a more equitable identification, such as using local norms and multiple criteria, to identify talent. The study also notes the importance of a diverse teaching corps to support these efforts.”

“Now we need to focus on moving a new bill that will increase equity and access through universal screening, evaluation using multiple criteria, and eligibility for services based on local norms. Additionally, the bill recognizes the importance of professional development and accountability.”

“High-achieving children in poverty and from minority groups are 250 percent less likely to be identified for, and served in, gifted and talented programs in schools.

SOLUTION:  Equitable Identification

All children deserve fair identification strategies. Screening all children, using multiple measures, and benchmarking against local norms increases fairness and the diversity of children identifies and served in gifted programs while keeping standards high.”

“The second marker is a bill awaiting signature by Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State. Senate Bill 6362 requires that school districts establish state of the art identification methods that promote equity of access for all students, particularly those who live in poverty or are English Language Learners. The bill calls for the use of multiple objective criteria; criteria benchmarked on local norms; screening and assessment in native languages or non-verbal screening and assessments, and clear guidance and best practices from the state Office of Public Instruction.”

“The new bill – SB 6508 and HB 2927, Equity in Highly Capable Identification – will require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to confirm that each school district has policies and procedures in place to identify highly capable children and that these screening practices be nondiscriminatory and prioritize equitable identification of students from low-income families.

The legislation will require universal screening of all students at distinct times in their educational journeys. Districts must use multiple criteria that include multiple pathways for students to qualify for HCP and should base decisions against local norms for that district. Testing must occur during the school day and in the student’s home school, meaning no student will ever be missed because he or she could not travel to a test site on a weekend.”

Want to better understand disparities in your district?

The U.S. Department of Education has conducted the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) to collect data on key education and civil rights issues in America’s public schools since 1968. It collects a variety of information including student enrollment and educational programs and services, much of which is disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability. The most recent data (for the 2015/16 school year) was just released in April of 2018 and can be accessed here:

You can go to the site and look up the most recent data available for your school or district, look at detailed data tables, access data analysis tools, and view special reports for schools and districts.

If you are curious about an individual school, go to the school and district search option, search the school name, and then click on the “pathways to college and career readiness” on the left sidebar. 

That will allow you to see a breakdown of the school’s overall enrollment and also show you how many students are enrolled in GT (and how proportionally they are represented).












After that, click “gifted/talented enrollment” on the right sidebar.

That will give even more detailed information that compares that particular school’s data to the district’s data.

Once you’ve looked at one school, just repeat the process for any other school you are interested in to see how they compare.


Ever heard of micro-credentialing?

Micro-credentialing is the process of earning a micro-credential, something similar to a mini-degree or certification in a specific topic area. It is a relative newcomer in the field of educational professional development and the hope is that it will help make professional development more focused, practical, personalized, engaging, and relevant to teachers.

Earning a micro-credential usually requires completing a certain number of activities, assessments, or projects related to the topic and then, once the requirements have been completed, work is submitted in order to earn the credential. Digital certificates, or badges, are often given to provide official evidence of skill attainment. These digital badges may carry attached metadata that illustrates what the micro-credentialing work consisted of and can then be attached to things like emails, resumes, or Linked In pages.

Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD? — Education Week, March 2016

But what does micro-credentialing have to do with gifted and talented students?

In Baltimore County, Maryland, we’re about to see!  Baltimore County Public Schools has recently partnered with the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to begin using their “Giftedness Knows No Boundaries” micro-credentialing program.  The NAGC campaign is designed to promote equity and excellence and provide key information about the nature and needs of gifted children and is the first formal certification in the country focused on educating academically advanced but underserved students.

One of the micro-credentialing options that will be available to BCPS initially is the “See Me” class, which focuses on the ability to recognize indicators of potential giftedness in students, particularly those in traditionally underrepresented populations.  Research shows that children who live in poverty and children who come from ethnic and language minority groups are 250% less likely to be identified for or receive gifted services in school, even when they achieve at the same level as their more well-off, non-minority peers.

The second micro-credentialing option will be “Understand Me”, which will focus on the asynchronous development that occurs with many gifted children and the accompanying need to have specialized social and emotional supports. Educators will develop the knowledge and skill to provide such social-emotional supports through this class.

It is anticipated that each of the micro-credentialing courses will take from 12-15 hours to complete and BCPS teachers will also be able to earn a continuing professional development (CPD) credit for each micro-credential course they take. Additionally, NAGC will grant an “Attaboy” digital badge for every micro-credential completer.

Future micro-credentialing options, “Teach Me” (evidence-based instructional practices using accountability systems that monitor progress) and “Challenge Me” (providing the appropriate level of challenge and stimulating learning and development through acceleration) are possibilities in the future.

In Tenn., a ‘Micro-Credential’ to Help Teachers Identify Students’ Hidden Giftedness — Education Week, April 2018

Micro-credentialing is an exciting development. We know that many teachers go into classrooms with very little background knowledge on gifted and talented students as many teacher preparation programs do not provide or require any specialized courses on the gifted population despite that getting targeted professional development that corresponds to the gifted population is required by Maryland law:

Education Article, § 5– 401(d), and §§ 8-201 – 203,
Annotated Code of Maryland
.04. Professional Development
A.Teachers and other personnel assigned specifically to work with students who have been identified as gifted and talented shall engage in professional development aligned with the competencies specified by the Gifted and Talented Education Specialist certification §13A.12.03.12.
B.Teachers who wish to pursue leadership roles in gifted and talented education shall be encouraged to obtain Gifted and Talented Education Specialist certification as defined in §13A.12.03.12.

Happily, professional development and its necessity in supporting educators in building their capacity to help students succeed has been recognized in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). New provisions aimed at helping educators grow are evidenced by the expansion of allowable use of Title II funds for professional development purposes.Title II (Part A) funds can be used by state and local educational agencies to support professional development needs in:

(J) providing training to support the identification of students who are gifted and talented, including high-ability students who have not been formally identified for gifted education services, and implementing instructional practices that support the education of such students, such as—

‘‘(i) early entrance to kindergarten;

‘‘(ii) enrichment, acceleration, and curriculum compacting activities; and

‘(iii) dual or concurrent enrollment programs in secondary school and post-secondary education; — ESSA Section 2103 (b)(3)(J)

How school districts are utilizing Title II monies to fund specific, practical, and targeted professional development to support gifted education is something to watch for.  Developing  these competencies among teachers in Baltimore County, and anywhere else in the country, is a step in the right direction and is to be applauded and encouraged.

Which way do we go? The importance of evaluation.

In our last post, “Curriculum matters” we looked at the two main approaches that have developed over time for GT curriculum: acceleration and enrichment.

But what does “curriculum” actually mean, anyway?


If you look at a dictionary, “curriculum” is often defined as the courses that are offered by a school, even though schools actually rarely use it in such a general sense.

More typically , “curriculum” refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn.  It often starts with the learning standards or learning objectives that students are expected to meet which then flows into the units and lessons that teachers teach, the assignments and projects given to students, the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course, and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning.

Before schools think about GT curriculum though, the school system should actually first think broadly about the gifted program.  According to researcher Carolyn Callahan, gifted programs should have goals and objectives that can be clearly specified, operationalized, and translated into measurable outcomes. They should lead to a clear answer to the question:

If students are successful in this program, what will they know, understand, and be able to do that they would not have known, understood, or been able to do had they not been in the program?

Once gifted program objectives are established, then it is time to design curriculum for GT students that are reflective of these goals.  Indicators of a successful GT curriculum include evidence of high levels of abstractness, greater levels of depth and complexity, more rapid pacing, multi-faceted and open-ended problems, mastery of content that requires a transfer of learning and greater leaps of insight, and the use of more advanced and sophisticated resources.  All of this should be matched to a student’s developmental level and culture-based learning needs while also tying into the program’s specified goals and objectives.

See “Lessons Learned from Evaluating Programs for the Gifted”, Carolyn Callahan, 2010

For examples of excellence in GT curricula, take a look at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) which presents curriculum awards in an effort to encourage and showcase exemplary curricula for gifted and talented young people.   The rubric the NAGC uses aligns with established guidelines that were set forth in the article “Bridging the Gap: A Tool and Technique to Analyze and Evaluate Gifted Education Curricular Units” originally published in 2002, and recently updated in 2017.

Finally, there is curriculum evaluation, an essential phase of curriculum development.  It is through evaluation that determinations about whether a curriculum is fulfilling its purpose and whether students are actually learning can be made. Evaluation is the method for determining the worth and effectiveness of a curriculum, the results of which stakeholders — parents, teachers, the community, administrators, and curriculum writers — are all deeply interested in.

This evaluative piece is especially important in Maryland, which will begin looking at gifted and talented students as an accountability group under ESSA beginning in the 2018/19 school year.  Questions to consider include: What indicators are being employed to document the effectiveness of the curriculum with the gifted population?  How is this being measured?  Are districts thinking “big picture” about what the goals and objectives are for their GT students, how the curriculum meets those goals, and how this is being evaluated?  Are they publicizing these goals and objectives and the evaluative measures that are used to determine to what degree these objectives are being met? 

Stakeholders want information about how GT students are performing, and soon Maryland schools will need to be reporting on this.

Curriculum matters

In general, the gifted field spends a lot of time on the identification of students.

But, what good is identification if nothing happens programmatically? Regardless of identification strategies, grouping models, grade level, or content area, it is the classroom dynamics of teaching and learning that is supremely important.  Curriculum matters.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the 1980s that curriculum considerations and research on appropriate curriculum for gifted children began receiving attention.  Two main approaches developed: acceleration and enrichment.


With the acceleration model, a student moves through the traditional curriculum at a faster pace.  Ideally, pre-assessments would be utilized to identify where students are more advanced and that data would be used to plan for different levels of learning.  Accommodations would be put into place in relation to the level and advancement of the student, appropriate resources would be available, and necessary modifications of assignments would be made.

There are multiple forms of acceleration that can be utilized by schools, including early entrance to school, single-subject acceleration (where a student studies advanced content in only one subject), grade skipping, curriculum compacting, dual-enrollment in high school, and Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.


In alternative to the accelerative approach is enrichment, or, taking learning beyond the traditional content.  Many gifted education curriculum models ascribe to an enriched view of curriculum development, and consider principles like creativity, motivation, and independence as important to the development of high ability. These enrichment views also tend to see process skills, like critical thinking and creative problem solving, as central to learning. Also highly valued in these models is evidence of student work through high-quality products and performances. Below you’ll find some examples of ways in which curriculum can be enriched.

Enrichment examples:

1.  Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) can be utilized as a tool to increase the cognitive complexity and rigor in the classroom.  The depth-of-knowledge levels identify four ways in which students can interact with content:

DOK-1: Recall and reproduce data, definitions, details, facts, information, and procedures. (knowledge acquisition)

DOK-2: Use academic concepts and cognitive skills to answer questions, address problems, accomplish tasks, and analyze texts and topics. (knowledge application)

DOK-3: Think strategically and reasonably about how and why concepts, ideas, operations, and procedures can be used to attain and explain answers, conclusions, decisions, outcomes, reasons, and results. (knowledge analysis)

DOK-4: Think extensively about what else can be done, how else can learning be used, and how could the student personally use what they have learned in different academic and real world contexts. (knowledge augmentation)

2. Performance tasks go beyond multiple choice questions by having students synthesize information from across multiple sources and then apply it in new and transformative ways. Activities from things like Odyssey of the Mind (, Future Problem Solving (, and Destination Imagination ( often utilize performance tasks in their programming. From an Odyssey of the Mind problem in 2013-14, students were told:

For this problem, teams will design, build, and drive a vehicle that will travel a course where a student driver attempts to complete tasks in order to pass a drivers test.  The vehicle will travel using one propulsion system and then travel in reverse using a different propulsion system.  The vehicle will encounter a directional signal.  The team will create a theme for the presentation that incorporates the vehicle, a drivers test, a student, and a talking GPS. 

In performance tasks, the skill or content area to be assessed must be identified, the prompt should include a setting and role, goal or challenge, product and purpose, the criteria for success must be determined, and revisions, based on experience, will need to be made.

3. Integrating creativity into the curriculum can also build and extend academic learning while providing opportunities for students to use and demonstrate their creative thinking and behavior.  A creative person may use critical and divergent thinking and exhibit high levels of concentration and imagination as well as curiosity and persistence. Creative intelligence is involved whenever skills are used to create, invent, discover, imagine, suppose, or hypothesize — and can be utilized in a variety of ways in the classroom.

Dr. E. Paul Torrance developed a list “Creative Positives” which can serve as building blocks to support learning experiences and to develop classroom activities that foster:

  • fluency, or the ability to generate a quantity of relevant ideas in response to a stimulus;
  • flexibility, or the ability to examine a problem in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives;
  • originality, or the ability to come to a unique conclusion or combine ideas to make a new, original idea; and,
  • elaboration, the ability to take an original idea and add to it or analyze it in relation to other ideas or information.

Wrapping up the school year!

The 2017/18 school year is wrapping up and we at the GTCAC are truly gratified that some of the goals we have been hard at work on have finally been realized this year.  

1. Policy 6401 and Rule 6401, which govern GT and advanced academics in Baltimore County Public Schools, were revised and approved. The GTCAC has been working with BCPS on this over the past several years and believe this revision to be a major improvement over the previous policy.

Some of the things we really pushed for?

The policy more closely follows Maryland Annotated Code  and the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), which all school districts are obligated to comply with. It continues to keep “gifted and talented” in the title, making clear that gifted and talented identification and programming are part of the educational offerings in Baltimore County. It improves accountability measures by specifically requiring the superintendent to consistently implement, periodically evaluate, and revise identification procedures while also monitoring and evaluating the administration and instructional delivery of advanced academic services in all BCPS schools. The superintendent will also be required to annually provide the Board with disaggregated data for advanced academics students which will include student achievement, attendance, suspension rate, graduation rate and standardized test scores, providing much more transparency.

The rule defines twice-exceptional (2e) students and makes clear that a student’s educational disability will not prevent participation in advanced academics programs and services.  Students who are participating in advanced academics who also have an individualized education program (IEP) or a section 504 plan will receive the program modifications, accommodations and/or services required by the IEP or 504 plan.   The rule also clearly delineates the principal’s role in communicating to stakeholders about the nature, content and expectations of advanced academics programs and services as well as their obligation to consistently monitor and implement advanced academic programming and identify and refer students for advanced academics.  They must also analyze program implementation and report disaggregated data on student participation in advanced academics.

2. Two new e-learning positions were added this school year at the urging of the GTCAC.  These positions will support GT students who receive home and hospital services as well as provide options for students in some high schools that may not have enough interested students to offer an entire AP or GT course. There are also requests in the FY 2019 budget to add more positions.

3. After GTCAC advocacy on this issue for more than a decade, BCPS has approved a CogAT pilot to start in the fall of 2018.  We anticipate that this objective cognitive assessment will better identify underrepresented populations for GT courses and improve the racial and socioeconomic diversity of students participating in advanced academics.

4. The proposed 2018/19 school budget includes three new full-time positions for the Advanced Academic GT office — a recommendation the GTCAC made to Superintendent White in our December meeting with her. This office has not had an increase in staffing in a decade and has also been understaffed in comparison to surrounding counties.  Increasing staff improves the ability of the Advanced Academic office to better develop and implement advanced academic programs across the district.

5. Extra duty assignment pay has been negotiated and approved for the 2018/19 school year, Advanced Academic GT facilitators within each school will begin receiving compensation for this extra work which, in turn, will create a better chain of accountability from the school house to the Office of Advanced Academics. This was a direct ask made of Superintendent White at the GTCAC December meeting that was then negotiated with TABCO.

In addition to these accomplishments, the GTCAC continues to host monthly meetingspresent comments to the Board of Education, and advocate regularly on issues of importance to gifted and talented education.

However . . . one of our goals we are still working on is to increase participation and involvement in the GTCAC — we’d love to increase our numbers and better reflect the diversity of our county. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month and our next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 6th at 7 PM at the BCPS Greenwood Campus in Building E, Room 114.  After you’ve come to only four of our meetings, you automatically become a GTCAC member! PClear GTCAC logo screenshotlease consider attending a meeting and see what we are all about.  Have more questions? Email us anytime at!



Do you know this student?

He performs above grade level in both reading and math and describes being bored at school. He understands concepts yet can’t pass timed tests or do certain kinds of math problems. His handwriting is illegible and his work area is sloppy. He actively participates in class discussions and demonstrates exceptional understanding of the concept but his writing is below grade level and is typified by is short sentences, a small vocabulary, spelling mistakes and no elaboration of ideas. He is frustrated with school and failing grades are becoming a concern.

How about this one?

As a preschooler, she was late to verbalize and required speech therapy.  Testing by early-intervention professionals revealed she had sizable skill discrepancies in various areas. Her teachers in elementary school view her as an average student but who don’t see how how hard she works to get average grades. Basic skills are hard for her to learn, despite having exceptional skills in problem-solving and critical thinking. She is quiet and compliant at school but anxious and prone to meltdowns at home.

They are both twice-exceptional, or 2e, students.

These students have a learning disability as well as gifted potential. They have the capability for high performance, but also struggle with aspects of learning.

“Twice-exceptional students are difficult to identify for a number of reasons. The student’s strengths can mask their weaknesses and the weaknesses can mask the strengths, creating a unique learner profile that is atypical of either a gifted student or a student with disabilities.”  — Beverly Trail in “Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children through Frustration to Success

A 2e designation can cover a very broad range of learning profiles, including recognized learning disabilities or differences like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and various auditory processing disorders, as well as mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. These are all possible secondary exceptionalities for 2e children, alongside their primary exceptionality of giftedness.

School can be a very difficult experience for 2e kids.  Stereotypical ideas about students with learning disabilities and giftedness can impede identification and programming for both their disability and their giftedness. Students can use their giftedness to hide their learning problems making both their disability and potentiality hard to see.  They can underachieve for years until failing grades force a recognition of learning issues.  Behavioral issues can flare up, resulting in frustration from having to deal with both exceptionalities.

Parenting a 2e child can also be very difficult. Many parents experience feelings of confusion, frustration, and doubt about their kids’ abilities.  Parents can often accurately identify their child’s strengths, but negative issues, such as inappropriate behavior or underachievement, may cause parents to question their own judgment and second-guess themselves particularly when dealing with educators and mental health professionals regarding issues of identification, diagnosis and appropriate intervention. It is not unusual for parents to run into teachers and other school administrators who don’t understand how a child can have such divergent learning capabilities.

The good news for parents is that under the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts are required to provide educational services for children with learning disorders. In its 2007 Dear Colleague letter, the U.S. Department of Education made it clear that such support includes access to gifted and advanced classes. As a result, districts may no longer legally say that a child has to choose between special education services and gifted or honors classes.

However, school districts don’t always realize this. Your district may claim that if your child is passing classes and not exhibiting major behavioral problems, the education being provided is “appropriate”, thereby meeting the “free and appropriate” education standard.  Having a 2e child means having to educate yourself and being prepared to advocate strongly in order to ensure that your child’s strengths are served alongside your child’s challenges.

2e resources to check out:

2E Twice-Exceptional Newsletter — “our mission is to promote understanding of twice-exceptional children and what they need to reach their potential. An important part of that mission is to enhance communication and understanding among parents, educators, and medical/mental health professionals.”

TECA — “Twice Exceptional Children’s Advocacy’s (TECA) mission is to help parents understand what twice exceptionality is and help them identify whether their children are 2e. They assist parents in finding and advocating for the education and resources their children require.”

SENG: Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted — “Every gifted person has unique needs and traits. SENG works to create a world where giftedness is better understood and gifted needs can be met. With continuing education courses, online webinars, and an articles library, SENG aims to provide education to professionals, individuals, and families who are affected by giftedness. Through our SENG Model Parent Groups, annual conference, mental health professionals listing, and more, SENG fosters a community where gifted individuals and their families can find belonging.”

Wrightslaw — “Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities. You will find thousands of articles, cases, and resources about dozens of topics.”