Ad. Learning Programs & Services

Gifted Services Update January/February 2021


Last month we shared with you that Terry McGuffin was retiring. We are happy to share with you our new teammate is Talbot Boulter. Her first day was January 26. She will be working hard to learn all things Advanced Learning and she looks forward to connecting with you in the future. Welcome to the #ALPSFam, Talbot!

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We love to hear from you! Here is one way you can connect with us at any time. You can ask us a question or leave us a comment at

RECURRING: NAGC's "Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19"

The National Association for Gifted Children is dedicated to supporting professionals and families in the gifted community. Among their Parent TIP Sheets are resources to help families navigate their child's responses to Covid19. Here are two with one already in Spanish. We hope these resources provide some support for you.

Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19 - English

Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19 - Spanish

Managing Grief and Anxiety During Covid19

Advanced Learning Services Gifted SubCommittee Update

The Advanced Learning Services Gifted Subcommittee Action Groups held their first two meetings this month.

  • Monica Simonds is leading a group to explore academic competitions we offer and that are available for consideration. They have curated a list of options for both competitions and contests and are working on prioritizing them based on district goals, equity of opportunity, and student needs.
  • Sara Mooney is leading a group to create a Profile of a GT Graduate using the Texas State Plan, the NAGC Gifted Programming Standards, and the RISD GT Competencies. The work has produced priorities and goals for students who have received gifted services and they have discussed a second wave of work to address the "how" to achieve those goals.
  • Jasmine Patel is leading a group to perform a Strategic Plan and Equity Policy audit. Using guidance from documents such as Access Denied, the group is comparing where we are and what recommendations are for achieving equitable access and opportunity.
  • We hope to launch our new website soon.

The work groups will formally begin in January. If you are interested in participating in one of those areas, please email

FREE-Virtual Cardboard Challenge

The Gifted Education Family Network (GEFN) is excited to share information about a free enrichment opportunity designed for Gifted and Talented students across the state of Texas! Because our mission is focused on excellence and equity in GT education, this event and membership in our organization are completely free, and all of our activities are either free or low cost with scholarships available.

The Virtual Cardboard Challenge is open now for student participation, and a live online event showcasing submissions sent by February 19 will take place on Saturday February 20. Advance registration is required.

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Baylor GT Parent Conference

Baylor’s Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development will host its 2nd annual parent conference on February 20, 2021 (new date!).

This is an event designed to provide parents of gifted and talented students with resources, information, and opportunities to network with other parents and find needed support. REGISTER HERE! Scholarships available.

Responsive Acceleration Pathway (RAP) Update

Please visit this SMORE for more information about the launch of RAP. For current second-grade and third-grade families, some of the information is time sensitive so please visit soon.

Elementary GT Referrals and Testing Update

This year is unique in all aspects and that includes our referral and testing procedures. We know that we have families who are making instructional model decisions based on various reasons and needs. Because we are in an ever-changing health and safety situation, we will be sharing testing processes in phases with updates as new information is available. This intentionality will allow us to communicate with you with the fewest changes possible.

  • In-person Kindergarten testing was completed this month.
  • 6th-grade placement letters for referred and current GT students were uploaded to the Parent Portal.
  • In-person grades 3-5 were tested in January.
  • In-person grades 1-2 will be tested online in February.
  • Referred, 2nd, and 6th virtual students will have the opportunity to be tested throughout April and May. We will communicate the options after spring break. Currently, we plan to offer testing at a central location.
  • Referred, 2nd, and 6th students who return to in-person learning for the final quarter of the school year will have the opportunity to be tested throughout April and May. The campus ALT will communicate the plan after spring break.

Looking Back to Look Ahead

We all know that 2020-2021 has been a unique challenge and it continues to be so. We want to take this time to update everyone on where we are in our implementation of Total School Cluster Grouping and the new elementary GT service model.

First, we moved forward with TSCG and campus administrators utilized the model to make class lists. However, with the different learning models (virtual/F2F) offered this year, campus administrators had to make adjustments to best meet their students' needs. For example, a campus may have had a grade level with a large number of its high achieving cluster students staying virtual meaning the F2F high achieving cluster would be very small. Once class lists are made and families were allowed to change learning models, administrators had to decide how to integrate the returning students into class lists while providing consistency for the current F2F students. Each grade level on each campus presented unique scenarios that changed each quarter. While some campus administrators were able to honor the TSCG model closely, others were not. Our plan for 2021-2022 is to provide guidance for campus administrators both for TSCG and also for TEA requirements for GT grouping as well as have the Advanced Learning Teachers participate in the class assignment process.

We are so proud of the implementation of the new elementary GT service model. We have so many successes such as ALTs involved in grade-level planning, providing Replacement Tasks in math that classroom teachers can access (more subjects to come), having weekly Enrichment Activities for early finishers and those who want to learn on their own, and a new Pullout curriculum that has blown us away.

However, it, too, has had its challenges. Through clustering, our classroom teachers are better able to address the instructional levels of all students. For gifted services, that includes Core+. While change under ideal circumstances can be a challenge, our current reality makes it even more difficult. The ALTs have done a stellar job in managing a complicated and ever-changing (due to quarantining) schedule. The intent for this year was to keep things as close to expectations as possible while adjusting as needed. For example, when classes had to be cancelled due to conflicting events or teacher illness, the intent was to make up the session. When schedules do not allow for that, the teacher is able to provide the "meat" of the lesson through an asynchronous experience and then schedule "conference" times for students who would like reinforcement. If a teacher must choose that option, s/he would ensure the next lesson included spiraling of concepts so students are not missing crucial learning. We are ever hopeful that next year will bring stable classes and health for all!

We recognize the stress of families and teachers during these constantly-changing times and circumstances. We appreciate the patience and flexibility of all involved.

From the desk of ... Jasmine Patel

It is February in the year 2021. A Poet Laureate will perform at the Superbowl. Let that sit a minute….

Amanda Gorman has captivated the nation since she stepped up to the podium on January 21st. She’s become a celebrity, has signed a modeling contract, and is “trending.” She is slated to perform at the Superbowl. Not as a singer….she is a Poet Laureate….so she is an ACADEMIC in the spotlight. She has put “giftedness” in the spotlight, y’all!!

This young woman is verbally gifted, twice-exceptional, and African American. She represents what possibilities look like when we allow our gifted learners to specialize in their areas of strength. She speaks words and phrases that inspire us….plant seeds of hope. What a timely entry…..

Gifted learners are highly sensitive and can experience life events with much more intensity than their peers. They can feel exceptionally isolated....sensing their struggle is uniquely their own. One way Advanced Learning has tried to address this is to push out GT virtual symposium activities each month to the Instructional Growth Team (campus specialists). We tie it to the featured Depth & Complexity icon that is “in the spotlight”...and January’s happened to be Language of the Discipline. We find this can be a neutral arena that highlights a shared understanding. Connections come naturally when the discovery is made. Encouraging students to establish relationships based on these "languages" can help them build bridges and possibly move forward in positive ways.

We posted a lovely TedTalk as a springboard for discussion (with secondary students):

Followed by Reflection Prompts:

  • Think of a time you found a common understanding with someone you disagreed with based on the discovery of a shared language. What was the "language?" Describe that experience.

  • How can a particular "language" filter your reality, as the Poet Ali references? How has that experience affected you?

Now….let’s circle back to Amanda Gorman’s “language”:

In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,

our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

She speaks the “language of being human.” This is significant...especially now. We were collectively inspired by a young gifted Poet Laureate who stole our hearts and reassured us that gifted students DO change the world! :)

Exec. Director of Advanced Learning Services

Elizabeth Swaner, M. Ed.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Dr. Joseph Russell, Ph.D.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Jasmine Patel, M. Ed.