NDAGC Quarterly Newsletter

January 2022, Issue 5

All Means All

by Ann Duchscher, NDAGC President

Try this – do a quick search of the mission statements of public schools across your state or the country. The purpose of a mission statement is to share an organization’s values and purpose. What does it aim to do? Whom is it doing for? A mission statement is lofty in nature; it is what the organization is aspiring to accomplish. A good mission statement should be moving.

In examining public school mission statements, there are commonalities. One is likely to find language that is inclusive such as all students or all learners. A few examples –

  • Empowering all students to succeed

  • Empowering all students to realize their full potential

  • Engaging all learners to maximize their full potential

  • Educating all students to the highest levels of academic achievement

  • Enabling all students to reach and expand their full potential

A closer look at public school visions, values, and even strategic plans will likely reveal language that shares the school systems’ desire to do their very best to educate each student within its system to their full potential. Or in one case, a mission statement read their maximum full potential. The idea is that schools are in business to take our learners where they are and develop their abilities and character as fully as possible so that they become assets to society and culture – each individual contributing their gifts and talents to the community.

The purpose in bringing these powerful statements to light is just to gently remind us that – all means all. All means all students of every race, gender, social and economic background deserve to learn and be challenged. This means taking them from where they are and moving them forward. All also means all students at every level of academic readiness.

It is complicated, though. There are so many individual differences among students even within a single grade level. There are students who have already mastered the content or much of it, and that which they haven’t mastered they could pick up in a nano-second. There are students ready to learn what is coming next at the grade level because they have solid prerequisite skills in place. Then there are students that are not ready to learn what comes next at the grade level because they are struggling. For example, “today a ‘typical’ American 5th-grade classroom includes students whose instructional needs span at least seven grade levels” (Dixon, 2020).

Recently, Scott Peters, Professor of Assessment and Research Methodology at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, and colleagues conducted a national research study to answer the question: How many students perform above grade level? The answer is a bit stunning. Peters and his research team found anywhere from 20-49% of students were performing ahead of grade level at the start of the school year in reading, and 14-37% above grade level in math (2017). At the very least this is a call to pay close attention to the instructional diversity within the classroom that includes those students performing above grade level. We simply cannot take credit for teaching them something they already mastered before they ever entered the classroom.

A typical data analysis process in schools occurs when educators examine data charts similar to the figure below. This small example happens to be of 6th-grade math students’ performance. It is quite common to zero in on the students in red and stay there further disaggregating the data and layering in support mechanisms for those students who are struggling. Truly, this analysis is critically important to provide students with needed instructional support.

But remember our mission statement. We said all students have the right to learn and maximize their potential. All means all. In this case, 29% of students (more than 1 in 4, and frankly approaching 1 in 3) were performing above the math benchmark in the fall. It is a bit rarer to see the same data-driven focus, analysis, and conversation on this group of students. Just as we examine the students’ needs in the red, we should be drilling in deeper, trying to determine the instructional levels of readiness and needs of those students in the green, too. What plans are put in place to bring them to even higher levels of performance?

And remember, this is fall, September in fact, before much instruction has occurred. If they are coming to us at or above the grade level expectation, then they should have a daily instructional experience that engages and challenges them with new learning so that a summative measurement of their growth would be equitable. Or put another way, if we strive to provide all students with at least one year’s academic growth over the course of an academic year, a student who is above grade level should leave the grade level one year higher than that.

Yes, it is a tall order but it is only equitable. To not plan for these students’ needs is neither fair or equitable. It is inequitable. We did say all students. “If all students are not learning and developing, then school has failed its mission” (Dixon, 2020).

Within the green group would likely be found gifted students or to further define, neurologically atypical students whose cognitive structures are wired to learn the content deeper and faster than would otherwise be typical. It is important to consider, too, that there are very likely gifted students in the red group who are simply not performing in the green group for a variety of reasons. In other words they are underperforming and may even be unidentified gifted students who have latent gifted characteristics that simply are not manifesting. There can be lots of reasons for this - twice exceptionalities, language barriers, impoverished environments, to name a few.

Gifted education programs have an important role in this process of supporting the growth of gifted and academically talented students. Across the country and within our local school systems, there is much work to do to reframe our program models so they reflect and serve our students’ needs. Let us not fail to consider the instructional needs of those students performing or who have the potential to perform beyond the grade level standards. Educators need to spend time analyzing and planning for students in the green group, as well, and commit to planning for their daily academic growth and challenge.


Dixon, D., Peters, S.J., Makel, M.C., Jolly, J.L., Matthews, M.S., Miller, E.M., Rambo-Hernandez, K., Rinn, A.N., Robins,, J.H., & Wilson, H.E. (2020). A call to reframe gifted education as maximizing learning. Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 102 (issue 4), 22-25.

Peters, S.J., Rambo-Hernandez, K., Makel, M.C., Matthews, M.S., & Plucker, J.A. (2017). Should millions of students take a gap year? Large numbers of students start the school year above grade level. Gifted Child Quarterly, 61 (3), 229-238.

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Parent Corner Feature: Pollinator Gardens Provide At-Home Enrichment for Families

Cold winter temperatures may have you and your family looking forward to summer! Pollinator gardens are an enriching experience for the entire family that you can plan now and enjoy when warmer weather arrives.

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), it is important for parents to nurture their child’s strengths by:

  • Taking note of their interests and engaging in conversation.

  • Allowing them to dabble in their interest areas, helping them find answers to their questions and providing opportunities to master new skills. • Exploring community resources, including libraries, community centers, after school programs, museums, ecology and nature centers, art and dance studios, local businesses, and cultural festivals/groups.

NDAGC parent members Jake and Katyana Wiedenman (Fargo) and their children (ages 3, 6, and 8) began preparation for their pollinator garden during the winter of 2021. A pollinator garden is designed with specific nectar and pollen producing plants, and has a goal of attracting pollinating insects. To aid in their design the family used a seed library which was available last spring at their local library. In March and April, they set up a germination station which helped the seeds begin to grow. These seedlings were eventually transferred to their pollination garden. As their garden grew Katyana and Jake found the library became a regular family destination in order to find books about the plants and insects in their garden! They also were able to visit a pollination garden via North Dakota State University (NDSU) for inspiration, and eventually applied to become a certified pollinator garden.

When asked what made the experience memorable for her family, Katyana said, “Our family enjoyed learning more about nature and how to help our pollinators. We all loved watching plants grow from seeds and the pride of having nurtured them together. Our daughter received a butterfly kit and we got to observe and watch a painted lady butterfly go through metamorphosis. We then released it in our pollinator garden. That inspired us to research pollinators, and our son took interest in monarch butterflies. We harvested milkweed pods, so we can plant them next spring for the monarch caterpillars. That was such a fun experience!”

For more information about pollinator gardens visit the following links on NDSU’s website:

Build a Home Pollinator Garden

Visit our Demonstration Pollinator Gardens

If your family has an enrichment experience you would like to share with other NDAGC parents, please let us know and submit your experience here.

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Teacher Corner Feature: The Story Behind the Session: How Did You Think Today? Putting Students and Their Thinking in the Driver’s Seat

What if we eliminated the phrase, “What did you learn today?” and, instead, replaced it with, “How did you think today?” What responses do you think you would get? Would your students know how to respond? How well do you think your students could articulate their thinking?

As someone who has become extremely interested in the curriculum and instruction aspect of gifted and talented education, I decided to pair up with my good friend, Brian Housand, Ph.D. to explore how we could help teachers help their students take their learning deeper, but in a meta-cognitive way.

Wait…Did I just say to take a student’s thinking deeper? How many times have you heard that phrase thrown around when talking about high ability students? That was something else Brian and I set out to do: define what it actually means to take a student’s thinking deeper. How could we re-engineer our teaching to empower our gifted students to focus not only on the content and questions presented but also on how they were thinking?

Our exploration of this topic started with an analysis of the various critical thinking and inquiry-based learning frameworks commonly used in education. These included, but were not limited to, Sandra Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity Icons, Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, Project Zero’s Thinking Routines, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, and Marzano’s Taxonomy. We recognized that although these resources are highly researched and undoubtedly valuable to teachers, the reality is that many teachers may be aware of these resources, but, as is often the case in education, teachers do not have the time nor professional development necessary to cross the wide trench between knowledge and meaningful application.

I knew when I decided to propose a session for NAGC’s conference that I wanted to share something meaningful for teachers. Something that could be implemented the next day. Something that teachers left thinking, “Wow, I am so glad I attended that session!” To do this, Brian started synthesizing and finding patterns within the various frameworks. From this, four themes started to emerge. The frameworks often alluded to four thinking keys: Analyzing, Inferring, Synthesizing, and taking Multiple Perspectives. Once this came to light, I got to work on writing instructional objectives that began with one of the four thinking keys.

It was hard work. There were times when every time I wrote an objective I used the word “Analyze” and never ventured into the other thinking keys. Or, I would look at a math lesson and think, “Can students really use a different perspective here?” But, I soon started to realize that the more objectives I wrote, the easier it became. I started writing objectives with a small framework. 1) Identify the thinking process. 2) Identify the content. 3) Share the expected product (if students are ready).

From there, our session was really starting to come together! Brian and I were able to pull together examples and, what we found to be equally as important, non-examples, of instructional objectives that put a student’s thinking in the driver’s seat. We found instructional activities from various content areas and grade levels and demonstrated how each activity could be taken in an entirely different direction simply by changing the thinking key in the objective. We ended up with 30 different examples and non-examples to share with our NAGC audience.

I cannot even begin to count the hours it took to develop the session. Fridays from 3:30-4:30 regularly turned into “Meet with Brian” on my calendar in the months leading up to NAGC. Revamps and tweaks were happening right up to the very end. But, every time I think back to the experience, I feel grateful. I also feel transformed. I cannot look at a lesson the same anymore. I am constantly questioning, “Does this objective REALLY get at the thinking I want my students engaged in? Could I add in a depth and complexity icon? What about essential vocabulary?” Sometimes I teach a lesson and realize my objective missed the mark. Sometimes I write an objective and teach an entire lesson without even sharing the objective with my students. But you know what? I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m realizing that sometimes it is more about the process than the product. And, ultimately, I’m thinking.

About the Author: Alicia Schroeder-Schock

Alicia Schroeder-Schock is a K-5 gifted and talented teacher in West Fargo Public Schools. She received her Master’s degree from the University of Connecticut in educational psychology with a concentration in giftedness, creativity, and talent development and is currently working on her Doctorate degree with the College of William & Mary in educational leadership with a concentration in gifted administration. Alicia volunteers as a regional representative for NDAGC and has presented in webinars covering topics such as curriculum compacting, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, and Sandra Kaplan’s depth and complexity icons. You can watch her NDAGC presentation How Did You Think Today? Putting Students and Their Thinking in the Driver’s Seat on February 23rd, 2022 or find it in the webinar archives!

Why Gifted Education Matters!

NDAGC is sponsoring a Gifted Education Essay Contest for ND public school students in grades 3-12. This is an opportunity to let everyone know why gifted education matters and for students to share how gifted education has impacted or would impact their lives. Two winning essays from 3rd-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, and 9th-12th grade will receive a gift card to Barnes and Noble and their essays will be featured on the NDAGC website.

Students choose one of the following questions --

1. What Does Gifted Education Mean to Me
For students who are receiving gifted services or have received gifted services in the past.


2. What Would Gifted Education Mean to Me

For students who attend schools where gifted services are not available.

Essays must be submitted as a PDF file or photo along with the signed Consent Form to gifted@NDAGC.org by midnight on March 15, 2022.

Essay Contest Rules:

● The contest is open to students attending North Dakota schools.

● Essays must be the original work of students in 3rd-12th grade.

● Essays must not have been edited by any teacher or parent.

● Essays must be handwritten or typed. Handwriting must be legible.

● Only one essay per student will be accepted.

● Essays should not exceed 800 words.

● Essays must contain the following information at the top of the page: author’s name, grade, school name, school address along with the name, email, phone number, and relationship of the person submitting the essay.

● Essays must be submitted as a PDF file or photo and must be legible.

● Consent Form must be signed by the student and the student’s parent or guardian. (This form may be printed, signed, & returned as a PDF file or signed electronically and returned. See LINKS section below.)

● Essays will be judged based on a rubric (see LINKS section below.)

● Two winners will be selected from each category: 3rd-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade.

● Each winner will receive a gift card to Barnes and Noble and their essays will be featured on the NDAGC website.

● The decisions of the judges are final.

What Does Gifted Education Mean to Me
Essays should respond to most of the following questions:

  • What does gifted education mean to you?
  • How has your life been improved by gifted education?
  • Why is gifted education important?
  • How has your gifted education teacher impacted your life?
  • How would your life be different without gifted education?
  • How has participating in gifted education helped you (or how will it help you) pursue future or career goals?

What Would Gifted Education Mean to Me
Essays should respond to most of the following questions:

  • What would gifted education mean to you?
  • What is your life like without gifted education?
  • How would your life be improved by gifted education?
  • Why is gifted education important?
  • How would a gifted education teacher impact your life?
  • How would your life be different with gifted education?
  • How would participating in gifted education help you pursue future or career goals?

Entries may be submitted by a teacher, parent, or an adult. Essays must include the following information at the top of the essay (This information will be hidden from the judges.):

● Author’s name and grade

● School name

● School address

● Name of the person submitting the essay (Please indicate your relationship to the student.)

● Email and phone number of the person submitting the essay

Submit the following to gifted@NDAGC.org by midnight on March 15, 2022:

● Essay (as a PDF file or photo)

● Signed Consent Form (This form may be printed, signed, & returned as a PDF file or signed electronically and returned.)

Questions about the essay contest? Contact Kim at gifted@NDAGC.org.


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Grant Awarded to Julie Gause of Grand Forks Public Schools

In December 2021, the Grand Forks Foundation for Education awarded the Bjertness Staff Development grant* to Julie Gause (GF Enrichment coordination.) This grant will be used to obtain 42 memberships and distribute them among Grand Forks Public Schools elementary and middle school teachers.

Grand Forks Public School is in the process of transforming its Gifted and Talented programming after their Schoolwide Enrichment Model was cut due to financial hardship. Currently, general education teachers are expected to serve their gifted and talented students in their classrooms. Mrs. Gause is planning, sharing resources, guiding, and coaching the teachers of eleven elementary and three middle schools. Giving teachers the opportunity to learn more about gifted and talented students will expand their ability to serve them.

Thank you GF Foundation for Education for recognizing the need of the GT students, for giving so many teachers the opportunity to serve them better, and for supporting Mrs. Gause in her endeavors.

*The Bjertness Staff Development Endowment was established in 2004 in memory of Echo Bjertness and Ben Bjertness, long-time educators whose wish was to assist teachers in Grand Forks Public Schools in their growth as educators. The income from the endowed fund is used to finance one or more annual grants for the purpose of developing or improving teaching skills. #GFEEGives.

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NDCEL Conference 2021

NDAGC leaders were excited to introduce the newly released ND Best Practices for Gifted Education to administrators and educators from across the state at the NDCEL 2021 Fall Administrator conference in Bismarck held in October.

Ann Duchscher, Alicia Schroeder-Schock, and Julie Jaeger, along with NDDPI Special Education Assistant Director Lea Kugel, introduced the Best Practices as well as follow up sessions to provide additional support and dig deeper into those practices. Planning for gifted programming, recognizing traits and needs of gifted students, and an introduction to strategies to deepen understanding were the topics that followed the initial introduction to the Best Practices.

Throughout the sessions, administrators and educators in attendance asked numerous questions regarding gifted education in their district, gifted education in ND, and resources available to support districts and educators. Information on NDAGC and its resources was shared with all who attended.

Session titles at the fall conference included–

  • NDDPI Introduces ND Best Practices in Gifted Education

  • Gifted Programming: How to Strategically Plan for Your Gifted Students

  • What is Giftedness Anyway? A Look into the Lives of Gifted Children

  • So Every Student Succeeds: Effective Strategies that Deepen Standards

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Math Kangaroo USA

A math competition for students K-12 - the competition will take place on March 17th and it will be online for ND students.

All students are given recognition and gifts for participation.

For more information visit: www.mathkangaroo.org

R-COOL-Health Scrubs Academy

The Scrubs Academy encourages students from across North Dakota to pursue a career in healthcare.

R-COOL-Health Scrubs Academy IJune 20-23, 2022

Open to North Dakota students who will have completed grades 6-8. It is a four-day/three-night camp held on the University of North Dakota campus, Grand Forks, ND.

R-COOL-Health Scrubs Academy IIJuly 19-22, 2022

Open to North Dakota high school students who will have completed grades 9-11 as of June 2022. It is a four-day/three-night camp held on the Minot State University campus, Minot, ND.

For more information, including an application, visit: https://ruralhealth.und.edu/projects/scrubs-program/academy-ii

The deadline for applying is 4 pm (CT) on February 9, 2022.


Kylie Nissen • 701.777.5380 • kylie.nissen@und.edu

NASA GLOBE Cloud Challenge 2022: Clouds in a Changing Climate

15 January to 15 February 2022

Did you know that clouds can both warm and cool our planet? Keeping an eye on clouds helps NASA study our climate. NASA GLOBE needs your help capturing data about clouds where you live! The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program invites you to take part in our upcoming Cloud Challenge: “Clouds in a Changing Climate.”

Find more information at:


FAMILY DAY at the North Dakota Museum of Art

Family Day is a day where children of all ages and adults come together to work on projects that help us understand the Museum exhibit or learn about techniques and materials. It takes place on the last Saturday of the month during the school year, from 10 am to noon, unless otherwise noted. Drop in or stay the entire time. There is no admission, although donations to cover materials are always welcome. FREE parking on the weekends!

Saturday's from 10 am - 12:00 pm

  • January 29, 2022
  • February 26, 2022
  • March 26, 2022
  • April 30, 2022

For more information, visit ndmoa.com or call 701.777.4195

S.T.R.E.A.M. Club (Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Arts, and Math)

Ages 11 to 13

Every Thursday from 4 to 6 PM

$20 per week for members/$25 per week for non-members

Classes will be:

Technology theme: January 13th

Research theme: January 20th

Engineering theme: January 27th

Arts theme: February 3rd

Math theme: February 10th

Please contact us with any questions about our resources at 701.277.9240 or education@redriverzoo.org

Pint-Sized Explorers (ages 4-6 years old)

Have a fun time learning and meeting animals.

Program fees are $20 for Zoo Members/ $25 for non-Zoo Members

This class runs from 3 PM to 5:30 PM.


February 1st: animal’s home.

March 1st: ways animal’s move.

April 5th: recycling.

May 3rd: Pollination

Please contact us with any questions about our resources at 701.277.9240 or education@redriverzoo.org

Fargo Public Library


For more information about the Fargo Public Library program, please call Lori West at 701.476.5977.