Sunday, May 30, 2010

Funding Gifted Education

"Obama Strips All Gifted and Talented and Advanced Education Funding". This headline from the article by Dick Kantenberger of the Houston Examiner.com spread like wildfire on Twitter this week. The 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad' president has "totally stripped the only funding for gifted and talented education." Really?

The fact of the matter is that the federal government in the U.S. has never funded gifted education. The Javits Act, which is the first item mentioned in this article, was incorporated by Public Law 107 - 110 in 2001 (NCLB) and received only sporadic and scanty funding from the Bush Administration. Furthermore, Javits was strictly competitive grant money; not general funding of gifted education. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) proposed to replace NCLB, does provide funding for college prep courses, dual enrollment, early college high schools, and AP classes. (See here ) The district in which I work has already benefited from a state grant that funds these same initiatives with great success.

In the U.S., funding of gifted education has always been left to the states. If anything, the ESEA is an improvement over NCLB. Programs that include gifted children will now receive federal money.

That being said, where do gifted advocates turn to find funding for gifted education? First and foremost, I would expect nothing less than creative solutions from the gifted community. This is not a new problem. It is a challenge and who better to meet it than the gifted? It is also not a 'local' issue or a 'U.S.' only issue; it is a global issue that should be met globally.

My Twitter colleague, Gifted Phoenix, has proposed an International Federation of G & T Parent' organizations. I enthusiastically applaud his proposal and plan to support his efforts. It is time for gifted advocates (both parents and professionals) to stand together and resolve to raise awareness of the importance of funding gifted educational programs.

History has shown that governments are often unable or unwilling to fund their best and brightest due to economic circumstances and political agendas. The very nature of government elections periodically changes the political landscape of any funding makes it an unreliable source of funding. The alternative is to seek private funding from those with a vested interest in the outcome - universities, corporations, and non-profit foundations.

My final point is that like Gifted Phoenix and the members of #gtchat on Twitter, I believe the time is now to work together on finding the best possible solutions to fund global gifted initiatives. And remember - it is about "gifted children" whose potential must be realized in this generation to ensure a bright future for all children!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating a Global Gifted Community

Last week our local parents' group decided to reach out to gifted parents outside our local community, but still within our county. It's a bit of a radical concept for this area. However, it just seemed like this right thing to do. There is strength in numbers and we suspect that there are many untapped resources in our county.

This got me to thinking. Our group is an affiliate of the state advocacy group. Our state group is associated with a national (U.S.) group. Europe has the European Council for High Ability and the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (3 U.S. groups are affiliates). Pacific rim countries will be meeting for an international conference soon.

So, what about people from all over the world getting together to discuss gifted children and their education? Well, a nascent group already exists on Twitter that meets via #gtchat on Fridays at noon and 7PM (EDT) to do just that. The moderator, Deborah Mersino (Colorado), has her own website @ www.ingeniosus.net as well as a Facebook page. This Twitter group is sprinkled with extraordinary parents, professionals, and teachers from around the world; each offering their unique perspective on gifted children. We all share the same frustrations with schools who don't meet gifted children's needs; classmates and teachers who don't understand them; and societies who do not value them.

The reason we need to consider ourselves part of a global community is simple. We can learn from each other and together make the world a better place for our children who, in turn, can make the world a better place for us all!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Redefining Giftedness - Another Perspective

The world of gifted education was all abuzz this week about the need to redefine "giftedness". The weekly gtchat on Twitter was tweeting about it. The National Association for Gifted Children in the U.S. rolled out a rare 'position paper' on the subject. This was on the heels of an article by Jim Delisle in Education Week, "What Gifted Learners Can Learn From Sarah Palin" (3/30/2010) which in essence made the case that only the top 1% - 3% of the population is truly gifted. His position, in part, stemmed from the belief that detractors of gifted education - believers that 'all are gifted' - were given the upper hand in the debate when the definition of giftedness was diluted to include 'less' than profoundly gifted individuals. It was also a week in which I began to research approaches to gifted education around the world for a presentation. Even discussing this topic produced strong emotions in parents and educators.

So, why the uproar and why the dissent? There's a reason for so many definitions of what is gifted and we must consider the motivation of those writing the definitions. Understanding "why" these divergent definitions evolved and "why" many want to keep the status quo on current gifted thinking will bring us all closer to an understanding of being gifted.

I think the question being raised is not defining gifted, but rather, "Is a child gifted enough?" Right or wrong, it is the quantifiable measures (IQ, test scores, grades) that will determine if a child is labeled 'gifted' and not the subjective traits observed by the examiner. In a world of dwindling economic resources, do we advocate for the top 1% to 3% ... the top 10%? If you are the parent of a profoundly gifted child, your answer is easy. But, what if your child is among the remaining 7 out of 10?

If the push to narrowly define giftedness cuts out 70% of those now identified as gifted, can the gifted 'community' withstand the resulting schism? For psychologists and educators who don't have children who would be affected by the change to the definition, the debate is academic. For parents; not so much.

In truth, I think a more explicit definition is needed. We certainly need to silence the 'all children are gifted' [not specifying academically gifted] mantra because it simply isn't true when it comes to intelligence and talent. Consensus building is a much more viable option. I am finding that approaches to gifted education (and thus, giftedness) vary widely across the globe; much more than I ever anticipated. Once we can all agree on the terminology, a global approach to advocacy could be key to improving educational programs worldwide.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New to Gifted Parenting? Educate Yourself!

Few people know when they become parents for the first time that they are also entering the world of gifted parenting. Even though they may have been labeled gifted themselves, they soon come to the realization that "they aren't in Kansas anymore".

The first inklings of giftedness can be observed very early as developmental milestones are reached well in advance of what the parenting guides tell you. Or, you may not even realize that your child is gifted until a teacher approaches you with a request to evaluate. Either way, the news should be welcomed with a desire to learn everyting you can to become your child's advocate and supporter.

Today, resources abound on the Internet, in bookstores, and hopefully from your local school district. Avail yourself of all these resources, but then trust your intuition. You know your child best. Work at keeping the lines of communication open throughout the many phases of their development between you and your child. National groups such as the National Association for Gifted Children, the Council for Exceptional Children, Davidson Institute for Talent Development (for profoundly gifted) all provide a wealth of information on their websites.

Networking with other parents is a good way to learn about gifted education in your school system. The types of programs offered can greatly impact your child's education and vary widely from school to school. You will soon realize that as the parent of a gifted child, you will become their chief advocate. If parents in your school have organized into a formal group, it would be advisable to join it. There is strength in numbers.

In the U.S., there are several different approaches to gifted education. I will explain just a few of the options. Schools can use a "pull out" program where students leave the regular classroom to go to a resource room with a teacher who focuses primarily on gifted education. This model is generally used in elementary schools. It may mean that your child spends an entire day, a few hours, or a specified length of time in the resource room for enrichment and/or acceleration. Another option that many schools rely solely on is the practice of inclusion. This is becomming more prevalent due to budgetary restraints. Students receive differentiated instruction within the regular classroom either from the regular education teacher or a gifted educator. A relatively new program called RTI (Response to Intervention) which is used across the spectrum to assist struggling students is beginning to be used as an intervention method for gifted students. A simple adaptation to the overall program allows schools to add a gifted category to the interventions offered. Once your child enters middle school and high school, most parents see a stark difference in what a school district offers as gifted education. Based on the myth that gifted students always rise to the top and don't need any special help, secondary schools begin to tell parents that AP and IB classes constitute the district's gifted education. However, by this time in your child's life you know that this is simply not true.

Trying to find the best opportunities for your child is often a heart-wrenching process. Hard choices must be made. Do you stay where you are and accept what is offered, stay and try to improve the situation within your local school, move to another school district, look for an accessible charter school that offers gifted education, or homeschool your child? You must decide what is right for your child and your family.

There is one final alternative that I would like to offer if you must stay in a less than ideal setting. Do not rely on the school as your child's sole source of education. Take an active role in teaching your child or find others who can teach them in their areas of interest.

Parenting in itself can be a long and winding road. Gifted parenting adds many challenges along the way. In the end, you will find that it was all worth it!