I’m bored . . .

Now that summer is close, are you getting ready to hear this refrain?

Here are some resources to get you through!

Reading:

On this site you can: find out what kind of “reading superhero” you are (A jokester? An empath? An investigator?) and then find books directed to that type of reading personality, “read around the world” by clicking on a map of the world and finding books with characters from that country, search for books by category and reading level simultaneously, see author interviews, write your own reviews, and even create a family book list to be shared.

Allows you to combine lots of different factors and then suggests books which most closely match your needs. You can open up to 4 sliders and move the slider to set your choices. (Happy or sad? Funny or serious? Long or short? Expected or unpredictable?)

Enter a book you really liked and the site will analyze their database of real readers’ favorite books and provide suggestions for what to read next.

Check out their award pages and see a huge number books that have won awards, from Caldecott’s, Newbery’s, to Printz’s to find books suitable for elementary through young adult.

You should have a great list of books to put on reserve now!

Resources from BCPS One:

For those of you in Baltimore County, don’t forget about the resources on BCPS One (https://bcpsone.bcps.org/) over the summer! One favorite is Net Trekker.  Log in to BCPS One, click on digital resources, and then on the Net Trekker icon (either for grades K-5 or 6-12). From there, you can search any content you want, at any grade level you want, refine the search in a multitude of ways, and find a wealth of resources from math, to social studies, to science, and more.

Quizzes:

Sheppard Software (http://sheppardsoftware.com/) is a site we stumbled upon when our children were in elementary school.  It has free quizzes on a wide variety of subject matters, but the world geography quizzes were a favorite in our family. If you have children in middle or high school who love trivia, another fun site is Protobowl (protobowl.com).  It is a real-time multiplayer quiz bowl application that can include dozens of people or can be used in single-player mode, either online or offline, with over 90,000 questions.

Board Games:

Board Game Geek (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgame) is a board game database — a catalog of data and information on traditional board games. It is a great site to browse a huge number of games, see how they rate, read how they play, and refine by player age.

Maker Spaces:

Do a quick internet search for maker spaces in your area.  Check out this Baltimore Magazine article for a lot of different places in the area that can help channel the inner artisan in us all: https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/2018/10/16/maker-spaces-nurture-your-inner-artisan

100 Resources for Gifted Kids (from the Arts to the Sciences and Everything in Between):

The title says it all! Check out the list of online resources here: https://www.notsoformulaic.com/resources-gifted-kids/

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From data walls to data dashboards – how do we know how GT kids are doing?

Visualizing data by hand. Photo credit: Beth Samek, School Happiness Coordinator at Schoolrunner. From: https://marketbrief.edweek.org/the-startup-blog/can-special-education-make-education-better-for-all-children/

Data walls are old school. They have been used in schools  as a means to find patterns, set learning goals, and map the growth and achievement of  students to better understand both collective and individual student progress.

 

 

Data walls use materials, like sticky notes and masking tape, to visualize individual students’ achievement over time on a physical wall. According to the state of Victoria in Australia, this simple visual approach allows educators to integrate and analyze sources of data such as diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments and then find patterns and set learning goals.  Finding the patterns comes from thinking in these areas:

  1. Generalizations — “in general, we notice . . .”
  2. Exceptions — “exceptions to this were . . .”
  3. Contradictions — “on the one hand . . . but on the other hand”
  4. Surprises — “things we were expecting to see, but did (or didn’t) see . . .”
  5. Puzzles — “things we don’t quite understand and may need follow up on . . .”

The ultimate goal is to find why these patterns might be evident and to keep asking “why” until root causes are discovered that can then be targeted with instruction and identifying professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Data can be effective in improving student achievement, and accountability demanded by stakeholders requires that schools and districts measure effectiveness among student populations.  Data can be used to identify specific learning gaps, understanding what the data is saying can lead to changing instruction or curriculum, and parents expect to receive data from schools that shows evidence of student progress.  But are schools really analyzing data pertinent to gifted and talented students? Is this happening at a federal, state, district, or school level?

There is truly a paucity of data on GT kids.  According to a 2016 article by Erin McIntyre in Education Dive, “Identifying gifted and talented students with equity proves difficult”, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) estimates that between 6-10% of students (which equates to 3 to 5 million in K-12) are gifted and could use additional supports in the classroom. However, no U.S. federal agency or organization collects these student statistics. There are no federal guidelines in place that mandate or regulate the equitable identification or progress of gifted students or guide how gifted programs are executed.

The only  federal report that lists any gifted data comes from the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) report; as new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations come into play, it is possible the amount of data relevant to GT education will be increasing in the coming years. (Note: to see more about accessing the CDRC and finding information about gifted and talented students either in an individual school or within a school district, take a look at our blog post, “Using Local Norms in GT Identification”.)

Minus federal data on gifted and talented, it seems reasonable to turn to state data.  But this data too is lacking.  As reported by the U.S. News and World Report in 2015,  35 states tracked GT students while 15 states did not.  But even those states that do some sort of data collection don’t necessarily require any sort of intervention when GT students are shown to be falling behind.

“States vary widely in the level of accountability to which they hold gifted programs. As of a 2014 survey, only about half of states collected data on identified gifted learners, and the depth and detail of that data varies. While at least 18 states “required districts to submit gifted program plans” to the state, at least 19 states “did not monitor or audit [district] gifted programs as of 2014.” — from “State and Federal Policy: Gifted and Talented Youth”, by Julie Woods and the Education Commission of the States, November, 2016.

The NACG acknowledges that, “[b]ecause the federal government does not provide guidance or have requirements for gifted services, students encounter a range of services from state to state and even district to district.” As a result, the “NAGC and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted (CSDPG) conduct a biennial survey of how states regulate and support programs for advanced students  called State of the States in Gifted Education.”  The most recent survey the NAGC has published is from 2014-2015.

Specific to the state of Maryland, local education agencies (LEAs) have historically reported data via the “Bridge to Excellence” reports, which MSDE will reportedly be making available to the public in the near future.  The Bridge to Excellence (BTE) Master Plans have, in years past, included some GT data but have not contained any for approximately the last three years.   However, given that in Maryland’s state ESSA plan gifted and talented students are now a specific accountability group, this should lead to newly published state reports that allow for new data insight into Maryland’s GT students. Specific accountability data, including GT data, will be reported by LEAs via the Maryland Report Card and LEAs will also be required to submit a Consolidated Strategic Plan which analyzes the accountability measures. (Note: in the spring of 2019, schools will still be operating under old regulations, so data collection as it relates to GT will not happen until the 2019/20 school year.)

From proposed COMAR 13A.01.06

.05 Monitoring and Reporting

A. Each local school system shall:

(1) Address implementation of the policy on equity through its Local ESSA Consolidated Plan/Master Plan.

(2) Beginning September 1, 2019, each local board of education shall include its equity plan as an integrated component of its Local ESSA Consolidated Plan/Master Plan.

(3) Beginning September 1, 2020, and every three years thereafter, in its Local ESSA Consolidated Plan/Master Plan, each local board of education shall submit to the State Superintendent an analysis of the results of the accountability measures related to data collected on achieving goals and objectives of the local equity plan.

Because ESSA will require new accountability reporting from Maryland LEAs, this may also lead to new transparency at the district level in regards to GT student performance.  Already in Baltimore County Public Schools, newly published academic data dashboards on the BCPS website show some data relevant to Advanced Academic/GT students. The interactive dashboard outlines BCPS’ progress towards achieving the academic goals that are set forth in the Blueprint 2.0 strategic plan in addition to MAP and PARCC assessment data.

To see data related to GT, go to https://www.bcps.org/system/data/academics/ and click on “special services” in each of the academic categories. Note that since BCPS does not currently code students as GT until 6th grade, elementary data will not show Advanced Academics information under “special services”.

It is exciting to finally see some data on GT students, but until reporting under ESSA gets more fleshed out and data transparency becomes the rule rather than the exception, the push for GT data must continue.  At each of the levels — from the school, to the district, to the state, to the nation — there should be a clear picture to these questions:

  • What do we know about GT and twice-exceptional students based on data?
  • Given what we know, what generalizations, exceptions, contradictions, surprises, and puzzles do we see?
  • What does our analysis suggest we do to improve achievement, change curriculum, instruction, acceleration and enrichment options, and further develop professional learning opportunities for teachers?

GT Funding

How does your state fund GT?

You might be surprised . . .

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), in their 2014-2015 State of the States in Gifted Education report, asked state education agencies (SEA’s) to provide responses in ten key areas in order to better understand the degree of support individual states are giving to provide gifted and talented education to the students in their state.

One question the NAGC asked was whether the state mandated identification and/or services for gifted and talented education.  Of the 40 states that answered the question, 32 of them responded that there was some form of legal mandate related to gifted and talented education.  Another question the NAGC asked was if the state allocated any funds to gifted and talented education.  What they found was that, “(o)f the 32 states with mandates related to gifted and talented education, 4 states fully funded the mandate at the state level, 20 partially funded the mandate, and eight did not fund the mandate.”  (from the 2014-2015 State of the States in Gifted Education Policy and Practice Data Summary report, p. 10.)

What this means is that there are states who, while they do have some sort of mandate related to providing gifted and talented education, allocate no funding to do such — and Maryland is just such a state.

This leaves SEA’s gifted and talented offices scrambling to find money to implement programs to serve gifted and talented students and underscores the critical importance of having a federal funding source for programs that support these students.  Luckily, the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program does just that, and, in fact, is the only dedicated source of federal support for gifted and talented children.  These are competitive grants, so multiple states are submitting grants and hoping that their plan is the one that is chosen.

Maryland has only received two Javits grants in recent years.  From 2003-2008, MSDE used a Javits Grant to implement “Operation Evidence: Potential and Promise in Primary Students”, a project to refine Primary Talent Development (PTD) Early Learning Program and to document its effects on the identification of gifted and talented students from underrepresented populations. Then again, in 2017, MSDE was awarded another Javits Grant for the “Gateway to Gifted and Talented Education: Technical Assistance for the Identification of Underserved Gifted Learners”, designed to 1) create an online platform “Gateway to GT Education” with a repository of resources, and 2) research and develop an equitable state policy and supporting guidelines for the identification of gifted and talented students. It is anticipated that the grant will go for 5 years, but only if the Javits program continues to have funds appropriated to it.

Which leads to the final point.  The Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program has to be funded every year.  It is currently funded at $12 million but, in the past, it has had all funding stripped from it.  There is no guarantee, so every year, it’s necessary to remind legislators of the importance of these federal dollars.. The Maryland Coalition for Gifted and Talented Education (MCGATE), which is the state NAGC affiliate, works every year on this and spent some time last week on Capitol Hill lobbying Maryland legislators to support the Javits program and to encourage increasing funding to $32 million.

It always helps if more voices join in, so please consider getting in touch with your representatives and let them know you support the Javits program — the money you advocate for could be the money that helps serve your student! And, consider joining MCGATE (or your own state gifted association); they do great work and are almost always looking for new members to be part of their advocacy team!

 

 

GT stars!

By governor’s proclamation, February is gifted and talented education month in Maryland and on February 5th, 2019, at North County High School in Glen Burnie, the annual awards night for excellence in gifted and talented education, put on by the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education, occurred.

And here in Baltimore County there were five bright stars in GT education that were recognized at the awards ceremony.

  1. Macie Hakim – student category; Towson High School
  2. Mary McMullen – teacher category; Winand Elementary
  3. Jen Meehan – teacher category; Office of Advanced Academics
  4. Jim Pettitt – teacher category; Office of Advanced Academics
  5. Verletta White – local school system administrator; BCPS interim school superintendent

To receive an award in the student category, a student must perform at remarkably high levels when compared to peers, be a current recipient of local, state, or national award or competition winner in the area(s) of the student’s giftedness, and participate in a gifted and talented program or other advanced level opportunity in their area(s) of giftedness.

For the teacher category, the candidate must work directly with gifted and talented students or with teachers of gifted and talented students, they must pursue ongoing professional development in the field of GT education, and they must demonstrate peer leadership in the field.

To be honored in the school system administrator category, leadership on expanding and improving programs and services must be demonstrated, resources must be allocated to expand and improve programs and services, and expanding and initiatives in improving parent, community, and/or business partnerships that directly support gifted and talented education must be taken.

Congratulation and kudos to all the Baltimore County winners! And, if you know of a star in GT education, let that light shine by nominating for the 2020 awards!!

2019 full list of winners for excellence in GT education

2019 GT nomination form

 

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.

 

Sincerely,

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

 

 

Using local norms in GT identification

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Image by: joethegoatfarmer.com/

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.” https://www.nagc.org/blog/diversify-gifted-education-dont-stop-there

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/blog/every-american-school-has-talented-students-its-time-start-acting-we-believe

“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).” https://www.nagc.org/blog/washington-suburbs-praiseworthy-plan-narrow-excellence-gap

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/about-nagc/media/press-releases/there-gifted-gap

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/blog/creating-change

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/build-understanding-provide-solutions-inspire-action

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/blog/giftedness-valued-recognized-nurtured

“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.” https://www.nagc.org/blog/close-gap-washington%E2%80%99s-gifted-children-deserve-better

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: https://ocrdata.ed.gov

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.

Micro-credentialing!

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.