NDAGC Quarterly Newsletter

April 2022, Issue 6

A Letter from the President

Promising Practices to Achieve Equity in Gifted Education: Teaching Thinking Skills to Primary Students

by Ann Duchscher

Inequity in gifted programs has been a decades-long struggle for school systems across the country. Specifically, Black, Latinx, and Native American students are disproportionately underrepresented compared to their representation in the overall student population. Race is not the only factor. Students served through special education and English language learner programs and students who are from low-income households are also underrepresented. As with most issues in education, underrepresentation is both complex and nuanced, and the solution much the same. If there was a single test that could identify students equitably, we would all have used it by now.

As the coordinator of the gifted program for a large school district in North Dakota, our program, Gifted Services, received Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to work on closing the excellence and opportunity gap for students from traditionally underserved populations in gifted education. Our school district’s data shows that underrepresentation — or disproportionality — of certain populations exists within our gifted program. Thus this becomes our inequity problem because we know that giftedness occurs in all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata. And while there does not seem to be sweeping consensus among scholars yet about how to solve it, experts are laying out practices that hold promise.

One of these practices now part of Gifted Services is the teaching of critical thinking skills to primary students or PETS, Primary Education Thinking Skills instruction. PETS is a systematic approach to teaching young students (K-2) the language and processes of critical thinking. Critical thinking skills included in PETS are convergent analysis, divergent synthesis, visual-spatial thinking, and evaluation. The purpose in providing primary students experiences with these thinking skills is diagnostic in nature. First, PETS provides front loading of the vocabulary and processes of critical thinking. Second, the lessons allow both the classroom teacher and Gifted Services teacher to observe and collaborate on all students’ application of the thinking skills. These lessons allow teachers to see their students apply high level thinking skills, especially in students that had not shown such skills before. This is important because the goal is to spot talent and determine which students seem to be applying the skill at high levels even if they are not yet exhibiting academic talent. Currently, PETS lessons are occurring throughout FPS Title I elementary schools and additionally at several non-Title schools.

Teaching thinking skills to all students at a grade level is one new facet to identification, a way to universally consider all students in order to mitigate opportunity gaps and a way to spot latent, or hidden, talent. In other words, we are using teacher-applied inquiry to attack the problem. After all, teachers live in the classroom all day long and often can be hands on, minds on action researchers. Our problem to solve as teacher-researchers is that we find our gifted program has disproportionate outcomes. Minority students by race/ethnicity, cultural linguistic diversity, special education status, and even socio-economic status are underrepresented in gifted programming. The implementation of PETS is a promising practice to see if we can improve outcomes for students.

Is PETS improving our student outcomes? It is a little early to tell but so far, the results appear promising, too. The classroom teachers and Gifted Services teachers report observing students applying critical thinking skills that they might not have otherwise seen. The Gifted Services teachers analyze the students’ application of the skills along with other available data. They continue to work in small groups with students where the thinking skills shift into advanced academic content.

Ultimately, this is the goal: to optimize the identification process by supporting and accelerating students with gifted potential into manifesting their abilities within the regular gifted services program model. While the gifted literature is abundant with practices on what we should and shouldn’t be doing, as of yet there is not a perfect solution. We recognize, though, it is time to respond with a change in practices -- time to put the literature into action, carefully reflect on the results, and make changes again where needed.

Professional Development Opportunity

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April Webinar

NDAGC's First Integration Ignite Session

Join us for a fast paced NDAGC Ignite session hosting 5-6 mini interactive resources or activities that work for our GT students.

NDAGC will host its first Integration Ignite Session on April 26 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Learn about real time curricular integrations or resources that are working for our ND GT Educators.

Watch for the full agenda and registration .... coming soon.

February and March Webinars

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Visit our website or use this link (https://ndagc.org/Webinars) to watch our past webinars.

2022 NDAGC Student Essay Contest - Winners Announced Soon!

We want to thank all of the students who submitted an essay to the 2022 NDAGC Student Essay Contest - What Does Gifted Education Mean to Me. We were thrilled to receive 68 entries and even more thrilled to hear the powerful messages about what gifted education means to these students! The winners will be posted on the NDAGC website along with their essays very soon!

Saying Goodbye to NDAGC’s Jackie O.

NDAGC announces that Jackie Owen will be stepping down as NDAGC’s Valley City Regional Representative and Board Member. In 2018, when I started to recruit individuals to serve on the NDAGC network of regional officers, I had the great fortune of being directed to Jackie Owen. NDAGC was then a very small group of Gifted Education fanatics with little money and resources. I was looking for folks equally enthusiastic about gifted education, but with a high level of patience and sense of humor to work for free. Natalie Wintch, then a member of the Valley City School Board, informed me that Jackie Owens was our gal.

With an abundance of enthusiasm, I sent Jackie a robust email asking if she could create webinars for NDAGC, serve as a Valley City regional rep., and consider partnering with me for possible GT research projects in the state. And she said yes to it all! Jackie helped celebrate NDAGC’s launch as an affiliate of NAGC at the NAGC 65th Annual Convention in Minneapolis. She gave NDAGC so much of her time, the most premium commodity. She created multiple webinars for NDAGC with an emphasis on looking at the needs of twice-exceptional students. Jackie also organized and facilitated some of the panel discussions for these webinars. She started an online gifted education endorsement program through Valley City State University which now functions as the only path to a GT endorsement in ND. She advocates for gifted children with a voice that is both strong and gentle. When I met students from Valley City, I ask if they have heard of Jackie. They ALL enthusiastically said yes and love her. NDAGC is privileged to have worked with Jackie Owen and wishes her the best as she turns her attention to the needs of her family. She is our people.

Yee Han Chu

Immediate Past President

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Gifted Parenting: What I Wish I Knew

By Connie Olson

“You have to go to school because it’s the law,” I explained to my son. That statement, I now realize, was a good sign I was in the midst of parenting a gifted child, a sign I completely missed. At the time, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to tell my kindergartener who was sprawled on the floor snow-angel style refusing to go to school in the third week. That statement is the only thing that got him up and out the door most mornings. Looking back, I am not so sure that most kindergartners would be motivated by “the law” – I wish I knew that at the time! There are so many things I wish I knew. If you are just beginning your gifted parenting journey, I hope the following “I wish I knew” items make the path a bit clearer for you.

I admit, I am a rookie at parenting and even more so at parenting a gifted child. You see, I didn’t know my child is gifted. The classic signs were all there, he turned the pages of books at 4 months, learned to read several words around age 3 or 4, and had mastered the alphabet long before kindergarten. I assumed all children his age were equally capable of those same skills and that our consistent work with him was the sole reason for his quick grasp of concepts. I wish I knew the classic signs and tendencies of giftedness from day one because I may have been a more patient parent and a better advocate for my son.

My son is now in the third grade. When I think back over the previous school years, I believe it was the constant struggle to deal with his behaviors that clouded my ability to see his giftedness. How many times can you sit through another parent-teacher conference hearing… “your son is doing well academically, but he doesn’t finish his work/sit still/keep his supplies organized/etc.”? Every conference left me feeling defeated. I wish I knew that gifted children exhibit traits that are different from their peers, and it is normal, not necessarily a parenting error.

I had hoped the lack of desire to go to school would end after kindergarten, but it didn’t. Over the years I have had many conversations with my son about why he doesn’t want to go to school. No matter how I ask the question, his standard response is always, “school is boring.” As a slightly wiser parent than those kindergarten parenting years, I have come to realize that home is a place where he has free reign to learn what he wants to learn. Who doesn’t want that? But also, occasionally he drops hints about wanting more challenge at school. For example, this year he asked my husband and I to teach him what the parenthesis in algebra mean so he could solve harder problems. I wish I knew long ago that a lack of challenge can cause less than desirable behaviors in gifted children.

This year his gifted and talented teacher sent home an assignment that was challenging. After days of ignoring or refusing to do his homework, I finally framed the thought of working on this assignment as though it were an escape room. Escape rooms are a popular activity where you and a group of people are “locked” in a room and must use all available clues to figure out how to unlock the room to get out within a one-hour timeframe. He had one hour to finish it, literally and figuratively. He finished the assignment easily and happily. I wish I knew earlier that a continued lack of challenge erodes a gifted student’s confidence when faced with work that is hard for them.

Are you further along in the gifted parenting journey than I am? If so, I want to hear what you wished you knew. You can email me at cjadrny@gmail.com. If you are new to this journey, feel free to reach out to NDAGC for more guidance and resources. And, if you are a gifted and talented teacher, I would encourage you to offer the parents of your gifted students’ information about NDAGC’s resources. I wish I knew about the resources this organization offers earlier in my journey!

Connie Olson has honed her writing skills in the marketing and public relations field over the past 17 years. She has two beautifully energetic young children, is married to her husband who “coincidentally” has the same name first name as Superman, and they all live in what may or may not be the smallest home in Fargo, North Dakota. Olson participated in NDAGC’s parenting book study, “Success Strategies for Parenting Gifted Kids,” in Fall 2021.

Advocating for Your Gifted Child: Parent Voices Make the Most Difference

Your 8-year-old daughter comes home from school crying, telling you school is boring and she already knows everything they’re teaching. Your high school sophomore is ready to take coursework in mathematics at the college level, but the option to do so is not available in your district. Your middle schooler, who used to love school as an elementary student and now attends a middle school where gifted services aren’t offered, tells you he hates school and doesn’t see the point of going because he has already learned what is being taught.

We wish these scenarios were rarities, but for gifted students, many times they are the norm. Not all school districts or states are supportive of gifted education. As the parent of a gifted child, that can be very frustrating and heartbreaking. So what can you do? Advocate, advocate, advocate.

In most school districts and states, parent voices are heard more often than those of teachers who advocate. Parents of gifted students need to organize and prepare if their efforts for change are to be successful. According to Roberta Braverman, volunteer advocate in gifted education and multi-term committee member on NAGC’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, there are 6 ways parents can improve their advocacy effectiveness:

  • Learn the current situation for gifted students in your district. This means researching district policies and practices that impact gifted students.

  • Understand how your school district makes decisions. Are there committees? Does the school board at the direction of the superintendent make decisions? Knowing how decisions are made will help you focus your efforts and recommendations.

  • Determine how your district and state compare to other districts and states. Some research will need to be done so you know how other districts of your size in your state are providing for the needs of their gifted students.

  • Know the basic information about gifted education and gifted students. As an advocate, you need to be able to speak with an informed voice about best practices in gifted education. You should also know the number of gifted students as a percentage of total student population, number of gifted students receiving services, amount of funding for gifted services, and gifted education specialist to gifted student ratio.

  • Involve other parents and community advocates. Generally, the more diverse the group of advocates, the better. Consider including parents, psychologists, business leaders and others from your community who can attest to the need for advanced learning opportunities for success in future careers.

  • Raise awareness. As often as you are able, and as often as the opportunity is available, attend meetings, testify, and volunteer to help. By providing a voice backed with researched data and volunteerism, you are more likely to realize success.

With organized advocacy, you can move your district and state to make positive changes for the education of gifted students.


Braverman, R. (December 2021) Making Positive Changes for Gifted Students in Your School District and State National Association for Gifted Children Parenting for High Potential
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Andrea Edstrom Reflects on Her Career with Bismarck Public Schools

This spring NDAGC Treasurer Andrea Edstrom will be retiring from her position as a GT Education teacher with Bismarck Public Schools (BPS). Andrea’s career has spanned 34 years, 32 of which have been in gifted education.

Andrea knew from the start while in college that she wanted to teach gifted students. “I lived the need,” she said while describing her early interest in gifted education. While she was growing up, she recognized the need for her siblings, friends, and herself to be challenged. However, there were not many opportunities for advanced students to learn and grow in her North Dakotan hometown. As Andrea pursued her degree in education at UND, she found it challenging to find coursework specific to Gifted Education. Despite this, her first teaching position was as a teacher of Gifted Education with Dickinson Public Schools. During this time, Andrea was able to pursue her credential in Gifted Education through MSUM, and had opportunities to learn from some of the leaders in the field including Sandra Kaplan.

Two years later, through a move to Bismarck, Andrea found her professional home. During her career with BPS, Andrea has taught in 16 of the district’s schools. Andrea has helped to write programming manuals for Gifted Education in Bismarck, and she has provided numerous Professional Development opportunities and trainings to staff of BPS over the years. She has presented at the state level on several occasions at the NDEA Teacher Convention. In 2021, Andrea was a task force member who assisted DPI with the North Dakota Best Practices for Gifted Education. Andrea has served on the NDAGC Board of Directors, and currently serves as our Treasurer.

In reflecting upon leaving the classroom, Andrea knows she will miss working with her students. “They bring joy to your day,” she remarked. Some of the things she most enjoys about working with gifted learners are the pace, planning for their needs, and the challenge gifted learners provide to her own thinking. Andrea also appreciates her colleagues in Bismarck and will miss her opportunities to interact with them. She is looking forward to having greater opportunities to travel in the future, especially to see family. Due to her expertise and voice of advocacy for the needs of gifted students NDAGC is fortunate to have Andrea’s commitment to continue serving on our board. Congratulations Andrea on your retirement from all of us at NDAGC!

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NDSU Now Offering Dual-Credit Classes

We know students who are in gifted and talented programs tend to acquire information at a rapid pace and often require higher-level courses earlier in their education. For all of you parents of gifted and talented students, we want you to know that NDSU’s Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) offers a selection of courses that can fill that need.

Students in grades 10, 11, and 12 are invited to take any of the courses offered in our new Dual-Credit Program. They may choose to take these classes to challenge themselves in areas of interest, to earn college credit while earning high-school credit, or to form a personal connection with an institution of higher education. Our dual-credit classes are offered fully online and asynchronous, which removes scheduling and travel barriers.

While taking college courses may seem daunting for your student, OTL is here to support you and your child every step of the way. OTL’s support begins before they even decide to take a dual-credit course at NDSU. We offer individualized course counseling to identify dual-credit courses that meet the curriculum needs of both your student’s high school and intended college major. We hope you find relevant classes at NDSU, but because this is your child’s future, we may suggest dual-credit courses at another university if those fit their needs better. Once you have decided to take a dual-credit course through NDSU, we manage your application and registration details. Our support continues with live and recorded learning sessions that walk you through setting up your NDSU accounts and ongoing support if you have questions about things like finding tutoring, accessing resources, or getting a copy of your transcript.

If you would like more information about NDSU’s Dual-Credit Program, visit https://www.ndsu.edu/otl/programs/dual_credit/, email ndsu.dce@ndsu.edu, or call 701-231-7015 or 1-800-726-1724 (toll-free).
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Summary of ND Best Practices for Gifted Education

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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Northern Narratives Jr.

The Fargo Public Library is accepting writing and art entries for its kids-only edition of the library's literature publication. Kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade are welcome to submit entries in any of the categories including short stories, poetry, comics, nonfiction essays, drawing, or photography between March 1 and April 30. Entries will be judged and prizes awarded for 1st and 2nd place in each category.

All submissions will be included in the online literary magazine. Forms and entry instructions are available online or at the children's desk beginning March 1.

Summer Arts Stages

Summer Arts Stages is a two-week program taking place this summer from June 6th-17th. During this time your kids will put together a full musical with the assistance of our staff.

For more information visit


University of North Dakota Summer Camps

2022 Youth Science and Engineering Camp

Grades 5-8


July 19-21


Grades 1-4


July 19-21


2022 Computer Science Summer Camps

Minecraft Morning Camp

  • June 13-17

  • $125

  • Ages 9-14

  • 9 a.m. - 12 p.m., Monday-Friday

Intro Robotics Afternoon Camp

  • June 13-17

  • $125

  • Ages 9-14

  • 1 - 4 p.m., Monday-Friday

Intro to Robotics Morning Camp

  • July 11-15

  • $125

  • Ages 9-14

  • 9 a.m. - 12 p.m., Monday-Friday

Minecraft Afternoon Camp

  • July 11-15

  • $125

  • Ages 9-14

  • 1 p.m. - 4 p.m., Monday-Friday

For more information and registration visit:



Students in grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 are invited to the NDSU College of Engineering. 2022 Camps will be offered July 11-14 and July 18-21. Morning sessions will run from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m., and afternoon sessions will run from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information contact Lauren Singelmann, Outreach Coordinator, at lauren.n.singelmann@ndsu.edu or (701) 231-5798

Concordia Language Village: Language Immersion Programs

From pre-K enrichment, day camps, and sleepaway camps to programs the entire family can enjoy together! Concordia Language Village offers programs in Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Swiss.

For more information visit:


MSUM College for Kids & Teens Classes

Classes will be held on the MSUM campus or online virtually.

Computer Science Camp

8:30 AM - 4:00 PM 6/6-6/10

15 - 18-Year-Olds

Youth Choir Experience

9:00 AM - 3:00 PM 6/27-6/30

8 - 12-Year-Olds

More courses will be added soon so please monitor the website:


North Dakota 4-H Camp

4-H offers 16 different activities for this summer. 4-H membership is not required and scholarships are available.

To see the full list of activities visit:


For more information contact the 4-H office: 701-231-7251. For registration questions, contact Holly Halvorson 701-231-9218

STEM Explorer Camp

For ages 10- 15

Jul 17- July 22, 2022, All day

Location: North Dakota 4-H Camp - Washburn, ND

Activities will include Rube Goldberg machines, drones, robotics, food science and creative nature activities.

Please contact the Center for 4-H office for more information (701) 231-7251.

Registration: https://www.ultracamp.com/clientlogin.aspx?idCamp=775&campCode=rtm