NDAGC Quarterly Newsletter

April 2021, Issue 2

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Your Voice Matters

An expression I learned in social work school is “the personal is political.” Whether one provides direct practice or makes broader policy changes, every person is important and has a role to play serving the underrepresented and vulnerable. This is certainly true when advocating for gifted children. During these past few months members of the NDAGC, along with other stakeholders, have diligently worked with the ND Department of Public Instruction to help update its Guidelines for GT programming. We completed that draft and have forwarded it to NDDPI. NDAGC also launched a new summer professional development course for teachers and administrators aligned with the Monthly Webinar Series. On the national scale, our parent organization, NAGC, has been working to make GT interventions more equitable. At least initially, NAGC will focus on the needs of gifted Black students with a new NAGC policy for districts in improving diversity and inclusion practices. Recent discussions at the NAGC Advocacy and Leadership Conference suggest we need to keep a watchful eye on the states to make sure they fully implement Higher Education and ESSA Act federal mandates to serve gifted students. Finally, as districts recover from COVID19, some GT programs have discovered a strengthened resolve, while others have revisited the challenge of relevancy. Thank you for helping NDAGC advocate for the needs of gifted students. Every voice matters.


Yee Han Chu PhD MSSW

Chair, NDAGC

New Website Features!

Discussion Board

This is a great way to solicit the advice of your peers, benefit from their expertise, and participate in an ongoing conversation. Please be sure to read the guidelines before participating in any discussion forums.


https://ndagc.org/Discussion-Forum

Recognition Page

NDAGC values our students and teachers involved in Gifted Programming in North Dakota. This page allows us to recognize the work done by those individuals.


https://ndagc.org/Recognition

NDAGC Presents a Two Part Series on Acceleration

Acceleration occurs when students move through traditional curriculum at rates faster than typical. Among the many forms of acceleration are whole grade acceleration sometimes called grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten or college, dual-credit courses such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs and subject-based acceleration.


In April and May, NDAGC will provide a two-part series that examines two types of acceleration -- whole grade and single subject.

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NATIONAL UPDATES

Creating Equity and Access in North Dakota’s Gifted Programming

Black public school students are 54% less likely than their White peers to be identified eligible for gifted education services. Black students are three times more likely to be placed in a gifted program if they have a Black teacher rather than a White one.


Our parent organization, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), published a statement in July 2020 denouncing systematic racism and supporting racial justice. This year, NAGC developed an expanded plan of action to address these issues titled, “Championing equity and supporting social justice for Black Students in gifted education: An expanded vision for NAGC.” A call to action has been made to stop colorblind ideology, policies, and practices to promote equity and inclusion for Black students. Why is this important? Untapped potential is costly.


Correcting issues of racial injustice should not be approached without some planning or at minimum, understanding of terms. We propose using the definitions by April Wells to begin this dialogue:


  • Equity means “all students have access to opportunities for a high-quality education”
  • Justice means “all students can fully access appropriate services because causes of inequity were addressed.”
  • Underrepresentation means “the disproportionate number of students in gifted programs as it relates to a group’s overall representation in the school’s or district’s population.


Great change begins with small steps. NDAGC officers have begun to take a look at the racial make-up of their gifted programs and encourage other districts to do the same. The goal is to identify underrepresented culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse students. What do we expect to find? What do we actually find? Are there inhibiting factors such as implicit bias and privilege suppressing full representation?


What are a few transformative practices you can do in your own district to support equity and access right now:


  • Reexamine your district’s definition of gifted. Is it holistic enough to include both potential and achievement and makes clear that giftedness can be found in all ethnic or socioeconomic groups?
  • Spot talent. Do you provide occasions for all students to show potential in a nonthreatening environment before formal assessment for giftedness? Be mindful that potential may be impacted by language differences, previous learning opportunities, and cultural inputs?
  • Use a strengths-based assessment. Can you view the behaviors of students from diverse backgrounds from a positive lens?
  • Adopt local norms and universal screening. Are the top 15% in each building included in GT Programming?


If you would like to talk to others who similarly share your concern about ensuring an equitable environment in GT Programming, contact NDAGC. We would like to organize a discussion group to start this summer to address this critical need. Contact yhc.ndagc@gmail.com. Remember, advocating for gifted children means advocating for all children.

NAGC Advocacy Summary

NAGC hosted its 2021 Leadership and Advocacy Conference from March 22-24. This conference offers a big picture lens on the state of gifted education to identify critical needs in GT programming and services and necessary interventions to address those needs. Here are three major highlights.


FEDERAL MANDATES

The federal government has placed two SOFT mandates on states to support gifted education according to NAGC President, Jonathan Plucker Ph.D. These are the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Higher Education Act (or Higher Education Opportunity Act-HEOA). Both mandates require states to provide teachers professional development to address the needs of gifted students per their Title II, Supporting Effective Instruction sections.


Is ESSA Working? Not Really.



  • Kaul and Davis (2018) analyzed the Title II, Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction sections of state plans that referenced GT students, identified three different tiers of state plans among the 34/52 approved state ESSA plans they reviewed. Top-tier states explicitly addressed how educators would identify and provide effective instruction to GT students (16 states). Middle-tier states named GT students but addressed their needs by including them within a general response to help all students that essentially does not make obvious how states are supporting their GT students. Bottom-tier states did not name GT students at all (3 states).
  • ND falls within the middle-tier of state plans (15 states) that offers a general mandate of support. A quick peek into the ND ESSA plan shows that while GT students were initially recognized as a unique and separate group in the crafting of the plan, the treatment of GT students in the final ND ESSA plan shows they are treated no differently than any other group of students.
  • Kaul and Davis (2018) describe ND as altering the ESSA prompt by dropping the reference to gifted. 11 other states did the same. ND would benefit from looking at the top-tier ESSA plans as provided by AK, CT, DE, GA, IN, LA, MN, MT, NY, OH, OR, PR, VT, WA, WI, and WY.



Action Steps:


  1. ADVOCATE TO KEEP GT REQUIREMENTS IN FEDERAL MANDATES.
  2. KNOW ND’s ESSA Plan: https://www.nd.gov/dpi/districtsschools/essa.
  3. MONITOR and ENFORCE how ND is IMPLEMENTING THOSE PLANS. LOOK AT OTHER STATES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATED GT INTO THEIR STATE MANDATES.



GT FUNDING

Gifted education needs continued support from the federal government. The 2020 Javits Fraser Grant, the only federally funded grant in GT, boasts the largest Javits funding with $13,000,000 allocated to gifted education research. This is wonderful support, however, when compared to federal funding the US Department of Education has allocated to K12 education research (excluding early childhood and post-secondary programs) at $55,000,000,000, this allotment is very small. In perspective, gifted education research receives $.25 for every $1000 spent in K12 general education research.


Action Steps:


  1. MAKE KNOWN FUNDING DIFFERENTIAL FOR GIFTED EDUCATION RESEARCH
  2. CONSIDER APPLYING FOR A JAVITS GRANT NEXT MARCH 2022



PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

GT professional development, whether by mandate or not, should improve teachers’ abilities to Differentiate and Ability Group for gifted learners.


  • A soon-to-be-published paper by Joyce Van Tassel-Baska and Hubbard notes that the authors RARELY saw differentiation in the classrooms, or at least done well, with the exception of AP courses. While differentiation for GT learners can take place in multiple forms, differentiating by ability grouping (not just interest or learning style) is critical.
  • In one classroom, there may have been up to 11 grade levels given the range of student needs. In essence, without understanding how to differentiate in general and ability group in particular, “We may be asking teachers to do the impossible.”



Action Step:


  1. Support PD for All Teachers (general education and gifted education) to DIFFERENTIATE and ABILITY GROUP for gifted students.



Resources to Have


STATE UPDATES

Summer Professional Development Credit Opportunity: Gifted Education Essentials

“My student already knows the material in this lesson, what do I do?”

“How do I help my high ability learners reach their full potential?”

“What are the best practices for teaching gifted learners?”


These questions are common for educators when considering the needs gifted and talented students in their classrooms. Whether attendees are educators in a general education setting, gifted and talented education specialists, or administrators this professional development course is designed to help answer these and other essential questions. The webinars which are a key component of this course offer a foundation for understanding the educational, psychological, and advocacy needs of these students.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from North Dakota’s leaders and experts in the field of Gifted and Talented education, and content is focused on the following themes:

  • Curriculum
  • Programming
  • Assessment
  • Identification
  • Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted
  • Advocacy

Flexibility and choice will be integrated to allow learners to diversify for individual needs and interests. The goal of this course is for attendees to feel more secure in responding to students’ intellectual maturity, and in providing instruction tailored to the unique learning needs of gifted leaners.


Register today via NDSU Distance and Continuing Education:

https://www.ndsu.edu/dce//k-12/info/18346

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New Gifted and Talented Endorsement

Valley City State University has a new endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education! Dubbed "Pathways to Gifted and Talented Endorsement," the endorsement is available through the STEMED grad program but does not require participants to earn a master's degree. The endorsement features a hybrid approach: it is a blend of graduate professional development courses in Gifted and Talented education through Extended Learning, coupled with graduate level STEMED methods courses. The partnering of gifted education and STEMED may be the first of its kind nationally, as gifted and talented programs are more often housed within special education, elementary education, or educational psychology. The program was a collaborative effort of Dr. Peder Gjovik, Jackie Owen, and Elisa Krumweilde, all of whom felt it makes sense to house the endorsement within STEMED because the instructional methods for each are so similar and many gifted programs utilize STEMED curriculum. The program can be completed in 9-12 months.


Inquiries about the new endorsement should be directed to Elisa Krumweilde elisa.krumweilde@vcsu.edu, who is managing the program.

Best Practices in Gifted Education in the State of North Dakota

In the spring of 2020, a group of gifted educators across the state of North Dakota began working on writing a document for our state that defines and recommends best practices in gifted programming. Last month, the group completed the work and submitted it back to the state for review. The group used the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) program standards as a core resource to help guide the new state document. North Dakota’s document will make recommendations for what research-based best practices in gifted programming should look like so that a school system within our state could use it to help shape how they meet the needs of gifted students within their system. Specific areas addressed in the document include: the gifted learner and development, assessment and identification, curriculum planning and instruction, professional learning, learning environment and services and programming.

ND DPI K12 Coordination Council Annual Report Response

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (ND DPI)’s K12 Coordination Council just released their annual report that introduces their statewide strategic vision that includes 5 themes to guide educational initiatives. These themes include 1) youth preparedness for kindergarten; 2) healthy behaviors; 3) career awareness/readiness; 4) effective personnel; and 5) student-centered learning. These themes form a comprehensive roadmap that is designed to increase the effectiveness in preparing students for life beyond high school. NDAGC wishes to contribute to this conversation by discussing how students who show gifted behaviors can be directed on this roadmap. Two of these themes have a disproportionate impact on gifted students.


Quality Education Personnel:

  • While the focus of year one is not on tracking teachers who teach gifted students, NDAGC wants to ensure that teachers in the field of gifted education are also identified, monitored, and supported for professional training opportunities to ensure quality practice.
  • ND is not mandated by state law to either identify or offer services to students who show gifted behaviors. This does not mean that gifted students are absent in our classrooms. In fact, students in the top 10% of academic performance in each school are functionally gifted students who need instructional support that cannot be met in the general classroom curriculum. The Every Student Support Act (federal mandate) makes clear that ALL students need support. To comply with the ND Century Code 5.1-32-01 that gifted students need to be taught by “qualified” personnel, NDAGC proposes districts consider the following strategic framework goals to ensure strong educational outcomes for all gifted students


Licensing:
While teachers can enter the field either by way of a GT endorsement or by Praxis II, NDAGC would like to see an increase in teachers who enter the field through a GT endorsement. The PRAXIS II is designed to assess primarily content knowledge. According to the “Myths and Realities about the Praxis Series,” more than 90% of the tests in the Praxis Series measure subject area knowledge. Knowledge is the lowest threshold of competency according to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Learning, while higher levels show application, analysis, evaluation, or synthesis of knowledge. A GT endorsement shows teacher readiness to provide higher-order interventions. Jackie Owen, a board member of NDAGC, has assisted Valley City State University in creating a GT endorsement pathway.



Support Professional Development (PD) Learning: Because of these dual entry points into the field, incoming gifted education teachers bring with them varying levels of readiness. NDAGC would like to see gifted education teachers participate regularly in gifted education PD to develop GT instruction competency when they enter the field and advanced level mastery as they mature in the field. NDAGC has created a Professional Development summer course to instruct on essential skills and knowledge to teach in the field.


Diversity, Inclusion, and Access: ND is tasked with increasing the number of schools that provide GT services. A 2019 report on gifted education in the United States by researchers at Purdue and Vanderbilt University, ND received a grade of F for the low number of schools that offer GT services. 70% of students in ND do NOT attend a school that identifies students with gifts and talents. Among those who receive services, most attend Non-Title 1 Schools. These schools were given a grade of A for equity of access by race for AIAN, Black, and Latinx students.

  • NDAGC would like to see gifted services offered in every school and school district to address the needs of their gifted students. Teachers who provide these services will be trained in inclusive identification and instruction. Inclusive behaviors means giving ALL students opportunities to demonstrate readiness for gifted services and sustained support once they receive them. NDAGC includes in their Professional Development Webinars topics that address diversity and inclusion and will provide discussion opportunities this summer that specifically address diversity and inclusion strategies.



Quality Student-Centered Learning:

  • To improve educational outcomes for all students across all school districts in North Dakota, DPI’s quality student-centered learning subcommittee is using the lens of equity to ensure that all students achieve competency-based learning. A 5 year plan is in place to conduct an equity audit. Student-centered or personalized learning for all students will drive competency attainment for all students.
  • Ensuring equity is important, but not at the expense of excellence. NDAGC would like to see equitable practices brought into the classrooms that ensure ALL students have access to RIGOROUS instruction that will support academic growth. NDAGC believes that academic achievement should not be measured by determining if students have attained minimum competencies for their grade level, as many gifted students already achieved these minimum competencies at the start of the school year. For some, advanced learning several grades ahead is the appropriate goal.



Appropriate Gains for GT: Common practice is to target expected learning gains for the year. For gifted students who begin the year well above end-of-the-year grade-level benchmarks, appropriate gains should not have a prescribed ceiling. NDAGC would like appropriate gains for gifted students by making at minimum one year’s growth, which can be measured qualitatively and quantitatively. More than one year of growth is ideal. Anything less is regression.


Equity Strategies that Support Inclusive GT Assessment and Instruction: NDAGC supports the use of a universal screener, local/building norms, multiple assessments, parent involvement, and pre-referral opportunities to observe gifted behaviors.


Personalized Learning for Gifted Students: Some of our GT programs already offer personalized learning through educational plans that offer individualized guidance that suits each gifted student’s needs. These plans are important because “a part-time gifted pull-out program alone does not, and likely cannot, meet the educational needs of a gifted student” (Hoagies Gifted Education Page).

  • NDAGC would like to see personalized learning plans in place for all students receiving gifted services. These plans offer a clearly drawn roadmap to both Gifted Education and Regular Education teachers on how to help the gifted child engage meaningfully in classes. A personalized plan considers where the student is now, where the student needs to go, how the student would get there, and what the student needs for continued growth.

REGIONAL UPDATES

West Central Update

The 2020-21 school year brought changes to Gifted-Talented Education for Bismarck Public Schools. The DPI requirement for school districts to provide a distance learning option for families resulted in re-assigning 3 of the 7.5 GT Specialists to distance learning classrooms. They provide regular classroom (Grades 3, 4, and 5) instruction through Google Meet. The remaining 4.5 FTE GT Specialists have been providing gifted services to students in their assigned schools along with those schools whose GT Specialist was moved to distance learning. This year, instead of having one or two schools, the GT Specialists have been working with three to four schools. This has required some innovative problem solving. With the help of Google Meet, the GT educators have been meeting with students in person, virtually, or a combination of both. Employing the use of virtual meetings was necessary, but the lack of face-to-face instruction has impacted student growth academically and emotionally. The GT Education team has been informed that their 3 colleagues who had been moved to distance learning will be back next year serving as GT Specialists.

Grand Forks Update

The Grand Forks School Board’s Finance Committee tasked Grand Forks Public School District (GFPSD) Administration with identifying up to $3.2 million in budget reductions for the 2021-2022 school year. Based on their 5 Year Budget forecast, GFPSD set a goal of a10% overall budget reduction to be realized over the next two academic years. One of the programs the Grand Forks School Board’s Finance Committee listed for reduction was the Schoolwide Enrichment Program by eliminating all three of their GT specialists. A professional development position will be created to offer training to general education classroom teachers on how to differentiate for GT students. By a 6-3 vote on April 12, 2021, the GT specialist positions, along with other positions, were eliminated. Yee Han Chu was one of many community members who attended the school board meeting. She communicated concern that removing the GT specialists did not align with the intentions of Renzulli and Reis who designed the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, did not align with best practices for who should make critical GT instructional decisions, and did not align with state recognition that GT students have special needs. NDAGC will work with parents to discuss the next steps.

Miscellaneous Updates

Seeking Participants for Research on Gifted Education Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati are seeking gifted students in grades 3-6 to take part in a survey. The survey seeks to understand the gifted education services that were provided for identified gifted elementary learners during virtual or remote instruction that took place during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. If your gifted child attends public school and is currently in grade 3-6, we invite him or her to take this brief survey. Student identification will be kept confidential. Results will be used to provide recommendations to improve teaching practices for virtual, blended, or hybrid instruction.


For more information and to take the survey, follow this link:

GiftedCOVID19-StudentSurvey-NAGC


Or copy and paste the URL below into your internet browser:

https://uceducation.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3PkVlsuaCJFYg50