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WANTED: Advocates for Gifted Children! 0

WANTED: Advocates for Gifted Children

By Marcia Wall

As advocates for Gifted Education, we need to find ways to affect change. What will make a difference, and how can we promote what will make a difference? Your advocacy is needed at both the State and Federal levels of government. I’d like to suggest a couple of places to start.

Support of Quality Professional Development Opportunities

The Idaho legislature used to provide the G/T Training Grant Fund which appropriated money to all districts in our state for Gifted Education training. Quality conferences such as Edufest in Boise and Winter Edufest in Coeur d Alene, as well as numerous district workshops were attended by educators, creating a network of support for quality instruction for all students in all classrooms.  Two years ago this money was no longer designated for gifted training. As budgets were stretched, programs and services for high ability students began to be cut back and even discontinued in many districts.  Now the burden of a quality education falls even more heavily on the regular classroom teachers who may have had no previous training in strategies for differentiating instruction. To make matters worse, funds are gone for attending the conferences and workshops they so desperately need for training and support.

We are at a new crossroads of change in education as our schools move to implement the Common Core Standards. Through significant research studies in the field of Gifted Education, our methods and best practices have been demonstrated to have value not only for gifted learners, but also for a broader range of students. Our best practices of concept-based learning, integration of disciplines, and embedding more rigor into our teaching totally supports the concepts promoted in the Common Core Standards for all students. Classroom teachers are in need of training in how to implement strategies that provide quality instruction to all students.

I would encourage gifted advocates to contact state legislators and our leaders in the Idaho Department of Education and impress upon them the urgent need to support quality learning for all students by providing funding for professional development opportunities.

Support at the National level

Our National Association for Gifted Children website at NAGC.org offers some great advocacy tools and information to use in your own advocacy efforts. NAGC is supporting a new legislative proposal in the form of “The TALENT Act” to support high ability learners. The TALENT Act focuses on 4 key areas.

1. Change the accountability and assessment system to focus on individual student performance rather than a cohort of students.

2. Emphasize classroom practice through professional development and require states to include gifted students in their plans for use of federal Title II funds.

3. Focus on underserved populations by requiring states to include gifted students in their planning for Title I funds.

4. Emphasize Research and dissemination of best practices in gifted education to support effective teaching and learning for gifted students.

We need to communicate with our members of Congress to keep them apprised of the need for, and value of gifted education programs and services. Not only do they need to hear your stories, but they also need to understand that the availability of services varies widely between districts within our state. Every member of Congress has a website at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov and each has either an email address or an online email form for constituents to use to share their views. More detail on the TALENT Act can be found at NAGC.org/advocacy and legislation/click legislative update.

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