Thursday, June 30, 2011

National Parenting Gifted Children Week


National Parenting Gifted Children Week is July 17 – 23 this year. It is sponsored by the nonprofit organization, Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG). This blog will be participating in SENG’s NPGC Week 2011 Blog Tour with a post on July 17th! I will be sharing my personal story of why I advocate. This event began in 2007 in conjunction with the National Special Events Registry. It is a celebration of everything associated with gifted parenting and supporting gifted children and adults.

The 2011 Summit Conference held annually by SENG will take place July 15th - 17th in Seattle, Washington. Keynote speakers include Dr. James T. Webb, Dr. Nancy Robinson, Jeremy Lewis, and Phil Gordon. Sessions will be held for parents, educators, and mental health professionals as well as teens and children.

Unique in its perspective, SENG was created in 1981 to support the emotional needs of gifted children. Today, it has expanded its focus to include adults. SENG has a broad-based approach that encompasses the emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and physical aspects of growing up gifted. Their mission is to support the gifted community both nationally (U.S.) and around the world by helping gifted, talented, and creative individuals to reach their full potential and to lead meaningful lives.

SENG has a wide range of programs and resources available for parents. You can explore their website here. Their stated Vision is, “SENG envisions a world where gifted, talented and creative individuals are supported to build gratifying, meaningful lives and contribute to the well-being of others. To this end, SENG reaches out to diverse communities that share our mission across the nation and the globe.”

You are invited to return on July 17th to read my contribution to the blog tour and then continue throughout the week to read many other highly anticipated posts by fellow bloggers! See you then.

The Underrepresentation of Diverse Populations in Gifted Programs

It’s 2011 and we’re still discussing the fact that minority and economically disadvantaged populations continue to be underrepresented in gifted programs in our nation’s schools.

If you read current articles on the subject, you might think this is a new problem. However, a little research reveals that this topic has been around for decades … Gallagher & Kinney, 1974; Bacca & Chin, 1982; Frasier, 1987; Hunsaker, 1994; Kingore, 2001; Bridgeland & Diiulio, 2007; Feng & Van Tassel-Baska, 2008 … to name a few!

So, why hasn’t any progress been made to include these children in greater numbers? Statistics for these groups skew the numbers of the total population at every turn – twice as likely to drop out of high school; 44 % who are identified in first grade no longer qualify for services by 5th grade; the achievement gap grows twice as fast as that of their white counterparts throughout high school; poor students are less likely to attend ivy-leagues and fewer even graduate from any college.

Perhaps the most decisive reason is the way in which children are identified for gifted services. You may be surprised to learn that there are significant differences in the identification process in the U.S. and in other countries. Also, there are many influences in the process that need to be removed.

In a majority of states, IQ scores are still considered the single most important determining factor followed by a series of tests usually administered by school psychologists. Teacher and parent referrals are considered but to a lesser degree. Too often, student behavior is weighted in the process and can have a disproportionately negative impact on minority or lower income students. It has been noted that when teacher awareness of gifted traits increased, more teachers referred these students for evaluations.

In other countries, much greater importance is placed upon parent nomination. Parents are actually respected for their opinions. Community, peer and self-nomination are also acceptable.

Changing the way gifted children are identified can change the make up of programs. This year, a school district in New Haven, California decided to make such a change in their identification process. Now, the GATE population more closely reflects the overall make up of the district as a whole. The district identifies students by using 2 different criteria – academic achievement and also a checklist system to see where student strengths may exist in areas such as creativity and leadership in addition to being gifted and talented.

Bright, high-ability students exist in all socio-economic levels, cultures, and ethnic races. It is imperative that they be identified and receive gifted services if the U.S. is to continue to be an innovative and creative leader in the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Balancing Act

Gifted parenting can seem like a balancing act. Oftentimes, parents of gifted children are described as pushy, demanding, arrogant … or all of the above by school personnel. Many educators do not believe parents are qualified to know if their child is gifted. In fact, it has been found that parents are correct 84% of the time when referring their child for testing (Silverman, 2009).

As parents, you want your child to develop into a productive member of society; well-adjusted and reasonably happy. You also want them to reach their full potential. The primary place you expect this to happen is at school. When you encounter obstacles there, it is easy to become frustrated and angry. Unfortunately, parents often respond in inappropriate ways.

When adults model bad behavior, a gifted child is often quick to follow. Throw in asynchronous development, and sparks can fly! No one benefits in this scenario. This can become a powder-keg if stakeholders are unable to find a way to work together. It is in the best interest of your child to try to work things out.

In the final analysis, your child has needs that are required by law (in most places) to be met. Their school on the other hand rarely has enough resources to meet all their needs. So, what is the answer? Do parents advocate, give up or compromise? For some, the last two options are the same. Compromise equals defeat. It does not have to be this way.

If the issue is a matter of attitude toward gifted education, parents may have to consider an educational path outside the public school system. If it is a matter of funding and your only option is a public school, then compromise must be considered.

This doesn’t mean you move to the lowest common denominator. Instead, look for ways to achieve the best possible education with the resources available. Parents can research low-cost or no-cost options and present them to school administrators or school boards. They can also form advocacy groups who can provide the school with tools to enhance gifted programming such as grant writers, mentors, opportunities for job shadowing, fundraising, free seminars for teachers, and classes on utilizing online resources and social media tools. The possibilities are endless.

The most important thing is to not give up and to find resources to support your position and to help your child. Working together with your child’s school may be the most difficult part of parenting, but it has the potential to be the most rewarding!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Implementing Gifted Education Programming



Yes, I know this is a blog for gifted parenting. So, why am I writing about educational programming? Isn’t that the area of expertise of educators and school administrators? Well, believe it or not, parents are often asked to become involved when it deals with gifted education. You see, most of the experts in general education have never taken a university level course in gifted education. Until recently, few existed!

When my children were younger, our school board directed the establishment of an exploratory committee to review the district’s gifted education program. Years later, the committee was re-established for another review.

It may seem like a daunting task for a parent; especially in the company of educators, administrators, school board members, and consultants. It is, in fact, an excellent way for parents to get involved with their child’s education and hopefully begin to build positive relationships with school personnel.

Where does one begin to develop a gifted education program? If you live in the U.S. or a country with a standards-based curriculum, you need look no further than the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). With incredible foresight and expertise, they developed gifted programming standards that align with the national standards. (A link will be provided at the end of this post.) One of the stated uses for these standards is to “assess, evaluate, and improve local plans and programming”. The perfect place to start!



Originally written in 1998, the Gifted Program Standards was a project undertaken by the NAGC in cooperation with the CEC (Council for Exceptional Children). In 2007, a workgroup began to revise the standards by tweaking the focus to emphasize “programming” instead of a fixed “program”. This approach was meant to encompass the full range of options needed for a gifted child to reach their full potential.

Today, the NAGC provides free access to the standards on their website for anyone to use. The new standards are evidenced-based … a buzzword in the education world … and promote student outcomes. Diversity and an understanding that gifted, general, and special education must all share the stage are hallmarks of this new initiative.

A concern voiced by many in the gifted community is how gifted students are assessed. In its introduction to the 2010 Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards, the NAGC recommends the use of “off-level measures” for students performing well above grade level, performance or product based assessment by having students demonstrate their knowledge or create a product representative of their knowledge, and tests that focus on critical thinking skills.

Parents of gifted children who have researched educational options will quickly see that these standards are comprehensive in their scope, yet broad enough to account for the many different profiles of gifted learners.

Briefly, the standards cover six programming areas:

Learning and Development

Assessment

Curriculum Planning and Instruction

Learning Environments

Programming

Professional Development


Hopefully, this has sparked your curiosity to consider utilizing this incredible resource. It is important to consider that although these standards were created in the U.S., they certainly constitute a viable option for gifted programming in any country and they are provided free for your use. Go take a look!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This is Our Moment Retrospective!



As part of the blog tour celebrating New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week 2011, I would like to welcome you to Gifted Parenting Support; a blog for parents of newly identified gifted and high ability students. Thanks to Mary St. George, I now count among my friends many people from New Zealand who share my passion for gifted children and their education.

It has been a year since I wrote a post entitled, “This is Our Moment”, meant to be a call to arms for the gifted community. And what a year it has been! Advocates from around the world have been connecting via social media outlets.

Twitter’s #gtchat group continues to grow with Deborah Mersino at the helm. Her company, Ingeniosus, includes a website and powerful blog. On July 25th, Deborah will be hosting Ingeniosus Social Media Symposium in Denver. She is also booked to speak at state advocacy conventions throughout the U.S. through November.

Roya Klingner’s global gifted conferences in Second Life allow anyone interested in gifted education the opportunity to hear first class speakers such as Dr. George Betts from the U.S. who developed the Autonomous Learning Model, Mary St. George from New Zealand who is an online gifted lead teacher, Dr. Deborah Ruf from the U.S. who is the developer of TalentIgniter, Mr. Tim Dracup from England who is a Founder Member of GT Voice and consultant to the gifted community, Margaret Keane from Ireland who started Giftedkids.ie, and of course, Roya herself! Roya is the Head and Founder of Bavarian Center for Gifted and Talented Children. Roya (and husband, Klaus) developed this world in Second Life.

Many excellent blogs have come to fruition advocating for gifted children. Please refer to the blog roll on this page. It is constantly being updated. These blogs serve as inspiration and provide information to parents concerning the latest news in gifted advocacy.

The gifted community has shown perseverance amidst the economic downturn which continues in many countries. Support of gifted children has proven to be a way of actually improving the situation as nation’s transition to a knowledge-based economy.

From my original post …

In terms of supporting our gifted children - this is OUR moment; this is OUR time! Funding really isn't the issue; SUPPORT is the issue. Realizing the magnitude of the consequences for not supporting gifted children is what needs to be understood by the world's leaders. Mindsets need to be changed and attitudes toward the gifted need to be adjusted.

It is incumbent upon this generation ... parents... to support the next generation ... our children. It is not a matter of 'if', but of 'when'. The time is now! Nations who do not come to the realization that supporting their gifted youth is a matter of great opportunity will fall behind those who had the foresight to do so.”

These words continue to be just as true today! Parents, now more than ever, must step up to the plate and become advocates for gifted children. The world is counting on YOU!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making the Connection: Evidence-Based Policy Decisions and Implementing Best Practices

Change is not an easy thing. In the past, it could take generations to change the way a simple task was performed. In the 21st century, change is driven by social networking through social media outlets. Our inter-connectedness has become the vehicle that brings together the key-players at the global level. And, so it is with education reform and for the purpose of this blog … gifted education reform.

A very distinct difference at work today is a leveling of the playing field. No longer can parental concerns be dismissed because a parent may not have a background in education. In fact, parents should be recognized as a powerful advocacy group no longer separated by geography or culture. Parents of gifted children share many of the same concerns no matter where they live or the nature of their child’s abilities.

The time has come for members of the gifted community – parents, teachers, researchers, and advocacy groups – to come together and engage in practical and meaningful dialog on how to promote the needs of gifted children both in school and society in general.

After decades of research in gifted education, the same issues seem to be discussed with little forward movement in applying best practices in the classroom. This situation is not unique to education. Many fields of research, such as medicine, suffer from a ‘disconnect’ between researchers and practitioners. To address the situation, translational research can be used as a means of providing a ‘two-way street’ of communication so that researchers provide teachers with tools and teachers provide feedback to researchers on what works best in the shortest amount of time. Collaboration and data sharing are critical to its success. Simple concept; albeit late to the party!

So, how will these new connections be forged? Who will provide the impetus to bring all the parties to the table? Consider the benefactor; the one who too often seems to be lost in the shuffle of adult egos and career advancement … the gifted child. Who best advocates for this child? Answer: the parent. Now is the time for parents to take action!

The most effective way to open the conversation between academics and classroom teachers is through professional development. But here’s the rub … today, most professional development provided to teachers has nothing to do with gifted education. Enter ‘parents as informed advocates’. Parents need to form groups or committees to petition local school boards and administrators to provide sessions on gifted education.

There are many bonuses that can come when educators are educated about issues facing gifted students and their needs … a change of attitude, understanding, and acceptance. An improved relationship between general and gifted education can also occur.

To summarize, the best way to connect evidence-based policy decision-making with implementing best practices in the classroom based on newly acquired knowledge is for schools to provide professional development for teachers. To date, an under-utilized resource for making this happen is the parent.

In upcoming posts, I will discuss some successful curriculum models that did make it from research to classroom. These researched-base models can be implemented in a variety of school settings and will serve as a guide for readers who may want to investigate further.