GT Discover!

Have you heard about GT Discover yet?

Mission:  GT Discover builds the capacity of schools, communities, and parents to identify and serve more gifted and talented students, especially those who are historically underrepresented, serving as a repository of resources, learning opportunities, and a collaborative community for stakeholders.

GT Discover is a new website developed by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the IDEALS Institute at Johns Hopkins University and is free resource dedicated to the world of gifted and talented education. It aims to provide high-quality content to help advance the learning of gifted and talented students — a one-stop shop for gifted and talented education information and resources for educators and families.

This website offers tabs for educators, families, policies, research, events, as well as Maryland-centric information and they have also added a special section of Online Learning Resources dedicated to at-home learning for families, students, and educators to help bridge the gap when home learning is required.

Go to https://gtdiscover.org/ to take a look!

 

 

GT AWARDS NIGHT!

By proclamation, February is Gifted and Talented month in Maryland.  Annually, the Maryland  State Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented Education sponsors an awards celebration to honor those who receive awards for their work in the gifted and talented education. It is a great time to recognize those who have done outstanding work in the field and there are many across the state of Maryland!

Winners in Baltimore County included:

  • Jennifer Madrid, teacher at Loch Raven High School
  • Sara McShane, teacher at Hereford Middle School
  • Amey Sanders, resource teacher with the Office of Advanced Academics
  • Two students, one from Western Technical School and one from Dumbarton Middle School

Winning accolades for hard work is a great feeling  — and we’d love for more BCPS administration and teachers to be rewarded for their exemplary work in gifted and talented education!

So what teacher or administrator do you know who is really working hard to make gifted and talented education work? Think about what would happen if you showed the principal or the teacher the application that needs to be filled out (in November) for the awards that are presented in February? What would happen if that teacher or administrator knew that you were intending to nominate them for an award?

Isn’t is possible that the principal or teacher might start thinking about professional development opportunities they could become involved in over the remainder of the school year or over the summer that would up their GT game? Isn’t it likely that would put best practices in GT instructional strategies in the forefront of their minds? Wouldn’t they perhaps wonder how they might show leadership in GT educational services? Wouldn’t it be a great way to show pride in your school and demonstrate that you are in their corner and rooting for them to get the recognition they deserve?

Here are the nomination forms from this year. Take a look at them now so you will know what is being asked of the nominees. Then go advocate for a winner and help that student, teacher, or administrator turn that advocacy into an award!

Outstanding Student Accomplishment: 

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.28.36 AM

Teacher as Leader: 

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Outstanding School Administrator: 

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(Full application can be found at: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/programs/Pages/Gifted-Talented/index.aspx)

State Delegate Cathi Forbes presenting Jennifer Madrid and Amey Sanders citations from the Maryland General Assembly at the GT awards night ceremony on February 11, 2020 at North County High School.

What does the new COMAR mean? Identification

Maryland legislators have recently made changes to COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations) 13A.04.07, the regulation that governs how school systems across the state are to approach gifted and talented education.

One of the major changes to COMAR is how it moves away from the wording in the regulation of “shall consider” to “will”.  This ties in nicely with the Maryland ESSA plan which has designated GT students as an accountability group.  This set of students will now begin receiving closer scrutiny than they have in the past — having stronger regulations in place will likely improve processes around who is identified, how they are identified, what areas they are identified in, and when they are identified for GT programs and services.

Some of the other biggest takeaways regarding identification of GT students in the revised regulation?

  • Schools and districts will have to equitably identify a significant number of students, as early as possible, along with additional identification in grades 3-5 and grades 6-9 for participation in GT programs and services.  At least 10% of students in each local school system will have to be identified for GT programs and services no later than grade 3.
  • Schools will have to screen every child for GT identification purposes (universal screening) using multiple indicators of potentially potential, ability, and achievement from an annually reviewed Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) approved list of assessments and checklists:
  • Professional learning for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel must be provided regarding identification of gifted and talented students.
  • MSDE must approve each school system’s identification process.

Potential positive impacts of these changes include:

      1. Earlier identification of gifted and talented students.
      2. Better identification of typically underrepresented students in GT programs, including Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, non-native English speakers, and students from low socioeconomic situations.
      3. Better objectivity in identification processes.
      4. Better understanding among school personnel about appropriate identification processes and procedures.
      5. A degree of standardization across Maryland regarding identification of GT students.

For comparison purposes, below you will find the COMAR section related to identification (.02) with all the new revisions in bold italics.  Anything in brackets was something in the old version that no longer appears in the new version:

.02 Identification of Gifted and Talented Students.

A. Each local school system shall establish [a] an equitable process for identifying gifted and talented students as they are defined in Education Article, §8-201, Annotated Code of Maryland.

B. The identification pool for gifted and talented students shall encompass all students. (text unchanged)

C. The identification process shall 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.

D. [The identification process shall be used to identify students for participation in the programs and services described in Regulation .03 of this chapter.]  A universal screening process shall be used to identify a significant number of students in every school and at least 10 percent in each local school system, 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.

[E. Each school system shall review the effectiveness of its identification process.]

[F.] E. Each school system shall [consider implementing an identification process that]:

(1) [Documents] Document early evidence of advanced learning behaviors, PreK—2;

(2) [Includes procedures] Develop equitable policies for identification and a process for appeals that are clearly stated in writing, made public, and consistently implemented systemwide; [and]

(3) Review the effectiveness of its identification process; and

[(3)] (4) [Provides] Provide ongoing professional [development] learning for [school staff] teachers, administrators, and other personnel in the identification procedures, characteristics, academic, and social-emotional needs of gifted and talented students.

F. The Department shall:

(1) Review and approve each school system’s identification process to ensure compliance with this regulation; and

(2) Provide a Maryland’s Model of Gifted and Talented Education: Maryland Gifted and Talented Student Identification Requirements document that includes available State-mandated achievement assessments for gifted and talented screening for adoption by school systems without an approved identification process.

For further reading, click here to read the 2019-2020 “Maryland Model of Gifted and Talented Education: Gifted and Talented Definitions and Implementation Guidelines” and a summary of COMAR 13A.04.07.

 

Nurturing gifted Black children

Being a gifted Black student can be hard.

According to the November 21, 2019 Quartz article, “Gifted education in America is finally moving past its legacy of inequality” by Alexandra Ossola, gifted education has been criticized for decades for perpetuating inequality.  Gifted-and-talented programs earned a reputation for segregating white and students of Asian descent, giving them more rigorous schoolwork and smaller classes, while other students of color were left behind or kept out.

This still happens in many places. Black students remain underrepresented in gifted programs and, even in diverse districts, enrollment in gifted programs may not reflect the make-up of the schools — often because the way students are selected for gifted programs hasn’t been equitable. School districts rely on teachers to refer students for gifted programs, but studies show teachers tend to recommend white kids more often than black kids and that potential giftedness in African American students is often overlooked.

In the article, “High-Ability African American Children: Navigating the Two-Edged Sword of Giftedness” by Jessa D. Luckey Goudelock in the June 2019 NAGC publication Parenting for High Potential, the author details four common racial issues that can be encountered by gifted African American students:

  1. Deficit thinking — blaming a lack of student achievement on either the student or their family circumstances instead of looking to make sure the lack of achievement doesn’t actually  stem from academic needs not being met.
  2. Microaggressions — verbal, non-verbal, or environmental slights or insults that, whether intentional or unintentional, are based on a person’s background or characteristics.  For gifted Black students, this often appears in the form of having their academic performance second-guessed which can then result in under-achievement and/or social-emotional issues.
  3. Stereotype threat — when someone fears their performance is being judged based on existing stereotypes.  This fear can manifest in high-stakes testing situations and can lead to underperformance, which could, in turn, lead to not being given opportunities to participate in gifted education programming due to low test scores.
  4. “Acting White” — a form of race-based bullying in which Black students, concerned about being perceived as “acting White” become less likely to take advantage of educational opportunities which can accumulate over time to decrease students’ chances for higher education opportunities.

Goudeluck goes on to identify research that has been done on examining giftedness through a cultural lens.  She points to Dr. Mary Frasier and her associates at the University of Georgia who developed the Traits, Aptitudes, and Behaviors Scale (TABS) identification tool which focuses on ten key traits — communication, motivation, interests, problem-solving abilities, memory, humor, inquiry, insight, reasoning, and imagination/creativity that parents and teachers should look for in identifying giftedness in culturally diverse children.

Another way to identify characteristics of giftedness would be to use researcher Paul Torrance’s signs of “creative positives” which includes

  • the ability to express feelings and emotions
  • the ability to improvise with common materials
  • articulateness in role-playing and storytelling
  • enjoyment of and ability in visual art
  • enjoyment of and ability in creative movement, dance, and dramatics
  • enjoyment of and ability in music and with rhythm
  • expressive speech
  • fluency and flexibility in non-verbal media
  • enjoyment of and skills in small group activities
  • responsiveness to the concrete
  • responsiveness to the kinesthetic
  • expressive body language
  • humor
  • richness of imagery in informal language
  • originality of ideas in problem-solving
  • problem-centeredness
  • emotional responsiveness
  • quickness of warm-up

Additionally, the use of non-verbal tests, the use of local norms (scores being compared to other students in the school or district rather than being compared to students at a state or national level), the use of rating scales (going beyond simple test scores), and the use of portfolios are all methods that could potentially better identify Black students for gifted education services.

For positive change both academically and socially for Black children, it is critically important that parents and educators take the time to understand gifted characteristics, identification procedures, and programming options while also knowing the hurdles that Black children may face along the way.

 

Nominating . . .

Nomination, nomination, nomination!

Did you know that every year, the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education (read more about them here: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/programs/Pages/Gifted-Talented/GTAdvisoryCouncil/index.aspx) in conjunction with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Office of Gifted and Talented Education seeks nominations for awards in the following categories?

  1. State Leadership in Gifted and Talented Education (Educator)
  2. Local and State Leadership in Gifted and Talented Education (Elected Official)
  3. Student Accomplishment in Gifted and Talented Education
  4. Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education- Teacher as Leader (classroom teachers and school-based resource teachers)
  5. Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education- Local School Administrator (School Principals and Assistant Principals)
  6. Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education- Local School System or Local School GT Program Coordinator
  7. Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education- School System Administrator (Superintendents, etc.)
  8. Business/Community Organization, University, or Individual Leader that Supports Gifted and Talented Education (may include parents, volunteers, community members, etc.)

Recognition, recognition, recognition!

Why are these nominations important? When you show school employees that you see and appreciate their efforts — and take the time to demonstrate how much of a measurable impact they’re having on student — it makes people feel really good about what they do! Who doesn’t appreciate heartfelt, sincere, specific recognition?  In fact, recognition is one of the most powerful forms of feedback that can be provided.

Indeed, with the influence that teachers have over our lives, recognizing teacher accomplishments is a necessity. It offers hope for meaningful recognition to the other teachers working to improve student-learning outcomes, helps a school build a growth-centered environment, and keeps educators inspired for dynamic growth and new achievements. It also brings pride and support from the teacher’s students, administration, governing board and general public.

In a nutshell —

    • Each nomination is memorable for the teacher.
    • It boosts the teacher’s morale and validates the perceptions of students, parents and colleagues. 
    • It is valuable for students who will feel great pride and joy when their teacher, or one they know is chosen. 
    • It is significant for the school and faculty.
    • It is good for the community.
    • A healthy society values education and appreciates the educators who work to ensure future generations are well educated.

So, as you gear up for classroom visits during the upcoming American Education Week, be asking yourself, “Who is doing a stand-out job in gifted and talented education”?

Then, identify them, nominate them, and recognize them!

Nominations must be submitted by email no later than 3:00 PM on Monday, December 2, 2019 to Dr. Bruce Riegel, Lead Specialist for Gifted and Talented Education, Maryland State Department of Education at bruce.riegel@maryland.gov.

You may complete the Contact Information Form and the Call for Nominations Form at https://tinyurl.com/mdgt2019 or via this document.

Curriculum compacting

 

In 1990-1991, the University of Connecticut National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented conducted a study on curriculum compacting — a technique for differentiating instruction that allows teachers to modify the curriculum for students who have already mastered the material to be learned.  They were able to form some of the following conclusions:

  • Ninety-five percent of the teachers were able to identify high ability students in their classes and document students’ strengths.

 

  • Eighty percent of the teachers were able to document the curriculum that high ability students had yet to master, list appropriate instructional strategies for students to demonstrate mastery, and document an appropriate mastery standard.

 

  • Approximately 40-50% of traditional classroom material could be eliminated for targeted students in one or more of the following content areas: mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies.

 

  • The most frequently compacted subject was mathematics, followed by language arts. Science and social studies were compacted when students demonstrated very high ability in those areas.

 

  • Replacement strategies did not often reflect the types of advanced content that would be appropriate for high ability students, indicating that additional staff development, as well as help from a specialist in the district, would be beneficial.

 

  • When teachers eliminated as much as 50% of the regular curriculum for gifted students, no differences in the out-of-level post achievement test results between treatment and control groups were found in reading, math computation, social studies, and spelling.

*See

Click to access ED379847.pdf

for the full report.

 

Then, in 2016, a group of researchers set out to answer the question, “How many students already perform one or more years above grade level on their first day of school?” .  They found the following three conclusions:

Conclusion 1: Very large percentages of students are performing above grade level. Five different data sets from five distinct assessment administrations provide consistent evidence that many students perform above grade level. They estimate that 20 – 40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11- 30% scoring at least one grade level above in math.

Conclusion 2: Large percentages of students are performing well above grade level. They estimate that 8-10% of Grade 4 students perform at the Grade 8 level in reading/English/language arts, with 2-5% scoring at similar levels in math. One out of every ten fifth graders is performing at the high school level in reading, and nearly one child in 40 at this age is performing at the high school level in mathematics.

Conclusion 3: These percentages represent staggeringly large numbers of students.  In Wisconsin alone, some 20,000 students per grade level are performing more than a year ahead of grade-level expectations. Overall, somewhere between 278,000 and 330,000 public-school Wisconsin students across grades K-12 are performing more than a full grade above where they are placed in school. In the much larger state of California, across grades K-12 somewhere between 1.4 million and 2 million students are currently performing more than a full grade level above where they are placed in school.  In 2013 alone, more than 400,000 Grade 4 students performed above the level of the lowest quarter of Grade 12 students in reading. Roughly 14.5 million Grade 4 students have scored at this level in reading in the years since 2002. Looking at mathematics scores, in 2015 alone more than a million Grade 4 students would have outscored the same number of Grade 8 students. In other words, in a single recent year, there were more students in the U.S. already working four years above grade level than the entire population of Rhode Island.

* See

Click to access StudentsinvisiblemastheadFINAL.pdf

for the full report

The implications of these studies is huge.  Not only do they suggest that a focus on grade-level proficiency for many students is completely off the mark and that districts and schools should be reporting disaggregated percentages of above-grade-level performers, but that there is an acute need to look at methods of acceleration for many students.

Curriculum compacting is one such tool that can be used to strategically address these student needs.  Curriculum compacting is both a procedure for streamlining grade level curriculum in order to allow time for more challenging and interesting work and also an instructional technique that is designed to make appropriate curricular adjustments across curricular areas and grade levels.  The goal?

  1. To create a challenging learning environment, guaranteeing proficiency in the the basic curriculum while also buying time for enrichment and acceleration opportunities;
  2. To avoid wasting time and risking loss of motivation by teaching material students have already mastered; and
  3. To provide curriculum that is adapted to the learning needs, rates, and interests of the students.

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented outlines 8 steps for curriculum compacting with each step broken down further into sub-steps. Noted gifted research Joseph Renzulli has also researched systemic ways in which to compact curriculum.  What is clear though is that with large class sizes and classrooms filled with students with a very wide range of abilities and interests, curriculum compacting can be very daunting for individual teachers.   This is a key place for district curricular offices and gifted and talented offices to develop policies and procedures around and to provide ample amounts of professional development on. With so many students already operating above grade level, it is crucial that schools serve these students appropriately.

 

Social-Emotional Learning

      What it is and why it matters

What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (or SEL) is the process through which people learn to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain relationships, set and achieve goals, and make responsible decisions.  Through developing self-awareness, self control, and interpersonal skills, students become better able to cope with everyday challenges both academically and socially.

See: Committee for Children: What is SEL?

See: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning: What is SEL?

CASEL’s Five Core Competencies of Social-Emotional Learning

  1. Self-awareness: Know your strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”
  2. Self-management: Effectively manage stress, control impulses, and motivate yourself to set and achieve goals.
  3. Social awareness: Understand the perspectives of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  4. Relationship skills: Communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.
  5. Responsible decision-making: Make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety, and social norms.

From: https://casel.org/what-is-sel/

Why it matters:

Having SEL competencies as a firm foundation can have positive, long-term effects on every student, but for gifted and talented students, their social-emotional development may lag behind their intellectual development.  This is often referred to as “asynchronous development” and because of this, gifted students may need specific support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally as well as in their area of talent.  Qualities like emotion regulation, social skills, willingness to take strategic risks, ability to cope with challenges and handle criticism, confidence, self-perceptions, and motivation may need to be developed so that a child can continue to pursue and develop their talent.

See: NAGC Key Considerations in Identifying and Supporting Gifted and Talented Learners

Of course, there are gifted students who may not struggle socially and who are socially adept, popular, happy, and confident with their friends. Many gifted students will flourish in their school environment. However, some gifted children may differ in terms of their emotional and moral intensity, their sensitivity to expectations and feelings, their perfectionism, and their deep concerns about societal problems. They may not share interests with their classmates and so may become isolated or be labeled unfavorably. The school experience may be one that a student endures, rather than celebrates.

See: Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented: Myths about Giftedness

When a student’s social and emotional development does not match their intellectual development, challenges can come into play.  For example, a gifted child may be able to fully understand abstract concepts (like death, the future, or climate change), but be unable to deal with them emotionally.  The child may be able to participate in adult conversations on issues like current political events in one minute, but in the next minute break down because a sibling took a toy of theirs.  Specific problems may come up depending on the child’s area of giftedness.

From VeryWellFamily:

Problems Resulting From Advanced Verbal and Reasoning Ability

While gifted children are capable of reading, speaking, and even reasoning above grade level, those abilities may not always be used in positive ways. For example:

  • Gifted children can be argumentative and/or manipulative. Parents and other adults need to remember that, although credit should be given for logical and convincing arguments, a child is still a child and requires appropriate discipline, no matter how clever or cute the behavior may look. Children who see that they can manipulate adults can feel very insecure.
  • A gifted child may try to outsmart parents and teachers.
  • Sophisticated vocabulary and advanced senses of humor can cause gifted children to be misunderstood, which can make them feel inferior and rejected. (This is one reason gifted children prefer to be around older children and adults.)

Problems Resulting From Perfectionism and Emotional Sensitivities

It’s wonderful to have high-level skills, but those skills sometimes create unreasonable expectations. Some gifted children become perfectionists, expecting themselves to get 100 percent scores on every test. Giftedness can also lead to an overactive imagination. These issues can cause behavioral issues; for example:

  • Perfectionism can lead to fear of failure, in turn causing a gifted child to avoid failure by refusing even to try something (including doing a homework assignment).
  • Keen observation, imagination, and ability to see beyond the obvious can cause a gifted child to appear shy, holding back in new situations in order to consider all the implications.
  • A gifted child may require full details before answering questions or offering help, making him or her appear socially shy.
  • Intense sensitivity can cause gifted children to take criticism, or even general anger, very personally. Childhood sleights do not roll off their backs.
  • Sensitivity and a well-developed sense of right and wrong can lead to concern over wars, starving children, pollution, violence, and injustice. If they are overloaded with images and discussions of these issues, they can become introverted and withdrawn or even suffer from “existential depression.”

For more reading about behavior, emotions, and social development in gifted children, there are great articles on the Australian raisingchildren.net site and also on the Illinois Association for Gifted Children web page.  And for a mother lode of information on the social and emotional needs of gifted children, make sure to check out the SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) website and their resource page!

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/

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!