Promoting childrens\' education

Funding Update for 2016/2017 0

Below is an article written by Dr. Peggy Wenner, Gifted Coordinator at the Idaho State Department of Education. ITAG is elated at the possibilities this funding brings to Idaho gifted students! 

“Ask and it Shall be Given to You”

After years of seeking a line item to fund gifted education in Idaho, the gifted community received a one million dollar line item in Superintendent Ybarra’s budget request, approved by the 2016 legislature.  The Idaho State Department of Education administration is concerned about the number of small, rural school districts without specialized education for gifted students. This measure will go into effect on July 1, with the new state fiscal year as a flow-through item. All districts and charters with a current 3 Year Gifted Plan on file with the State Department of Education Gifted Coordinator, Dr. Peggy Wenner, will be eligible to receive funds specifically for gifted education. Thank you, gifted community, for continuing to ask for these much-needed funds.

This legislation is intended to benefit all districts with 3 Year Plans in place; however, districts have until mid- June to get their plans on file. Districts with no formal gifted program may write their plan to include year one of their plan to investigate district needs for implementing a gifted program.  For this reason, the legislature’s intent language states that the money will be used for professional development and identification of gifted students. Any district, large or small, could use help in identifying students who have not been identified previously. Workshops to help districts develop plans will be conducted this spring, especially in regions where districts have lost gifted programs. Emphasis on general education teachers receiving training in identifying gifted students in their classrooms may be written into 3 Year Plans; also professional development for teachers seeking their endorsements in gifted education would be covered through this line item. Districts may need professional training to update past means of identifying gifted students, such as  twice-exceptional, low-income, English Language Learners, or students gifted in the areas of creativity, the arts, and leadership—areas which are often neglected in Idaho districts.

The SDE will create a formula for dispersing funds with weight given to small rural schools. The exact dollar amount cannot be determined until a final count is made of districts/charters with 3 Year Plans on file and the formula is written.  A minimum amount will be determined per district; in addition, the law specifically states that numbers will be based per identified gifted students in the district.  In the case where a district does not currently have a gifted program, the state may need to determine a percentage for the district to aim to identify. The SDE will determine a formula that is based upon need, based on national norms. The National Association for Gifted Children records that the norms for identification of the gifted population lie between 6% and 10%. District personnel should have their dollar amounts determined by early July, just in time for Edufest registrations.

In my role as Gifted Coordinator for the past four years, I have become increasingly aware of instances where parents have shared that they cannot get their students tested for gifted education.  I receive several phone calls per month about students in elementary school being bored and complaining “I already know this—why do I need to learn it again?” This law should allow districts more dollars to test more students, giving parent input a real look. As the Arts and Humanities Coordinator for the past fifteen years, I am concerned that Idaho gives five areas for identification, yet we seem to identify only academically gifted children, reasoning these students are easier to identify.  We need a concerted effort to understand that research states many visual-spatial gifted learners score in the 120’s, perhaps because IQ tests are geared toward verbal learners. If districts do not know “what to do” with these gifted learners, we need to provide professional development at Edufest and throughout the state. We must   encourage all districts to examine opportunities they provide for all areas of giftedness.

In addition to the line item for gifted education, districts may still make use of the general $11 million line item for professional development, which directly states these funds may be used for GT professional development and identification of gifted students. Some of you may have heard about the new funding source through ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).  A new category of funding is Title IV-A, which directly addresses a “well-rounded” education.  These funds are partly set aside to help address academic enrichment, which definitely could fall under needs for gifted students.  These dollars, unlike the line-item in the state budget, are not a direct flow-through, but need district request as a block grant works.  Please see that someone in your district represents all academic needs and sits on that committee in your district.  I have volunteered to work on this committee at the Department, as well as another important committee for Title II-A, which addresses several areas of youth needs, including at-risk students.  We all know that many gifted students are at-risk.  I have listed below two books I have been reading lately that address problems of under-identification of gifted students and of establishing programs in rural regions. Linda Silverman also has written extensively about IQ levels and visual-spatial gifted learners. I trust some of your districts may purchase these books if you do not currently own them.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the ITAG executive boards, present and past, as well as other key stakeholders, who have continuously kept their pledge to ask for what is reasonable and necessary in educating our brightest young people in Idaho.  As we move forward, let’s guard our small gift, move the field forward, and think about the next “ask” that may result from cultivating our responsibility toward the field of gifted education.

Assouline, Susan, et. al. A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students. Vols. I and II. Belin-Blank Center, College of Education, University of Iowa. 2015.

Ruf, Deborah. 5 levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options (previously published under the title Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind). Great Potential Press, Scottsdale, AZ. 2009.

Stambaugh, Tamra and Susannah Wood. Serving Gifted Students in Rural Settings: a Framework for Bridging Gifted Education and Rural Classrooms. NAGC and Prufrock Press, Waco Texas. 2015.


Leave a Reply