Introducing the AGATE Blog
We’re thrilled to introduce the AGATE blog. The idea was inspired by you, our members, because we are continually impressed by the depth and variety of your interests and ideas. We invite all AGATE members in good standing to consider submitting a post about a topic of interest. Your blog need not represent the perspective of all members. Over time, we hope our blog will represent the range of views among AGATE members.
If you are interested in submitting a blog post, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for our blog guidelines.
Our Inaugural Blog Post, June 16, 2021
“Building Up Gifted and Talented Programs Enables More Children to Achieve Their Full Potential”
by Barbara Cohen
Barbara Cohen has been a member of AGATE since 2005. She has previously served the organization as vice president and as membership chairperson. She is a New York State certified teacher of English Language Arts and works as Executive Director of Animal Cancer Foundation, a not-for-profit organization funding comparative oncology research.
Navigating the thinking in gifted education is challenging, and advocating for a gifted and talented child can be isolating.
AGATE leaders and members have served over the years to defeat that isolation by serving as guides to others as they think about school programs and resources, working to form a community of learners around best practices in gifted education and advocating for this population. I hope this blog will grow as a positive platform to build community, encourage caregivers to advocate for their children, and help to combat the isolation that is often felt in the gifted population.
What is “Gifted and Talented”?
Organizations such as the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) define gifted children as those that function well above chronological age in some areas and may be operating well below age in other developmental areas, a phenomenon known as asynchronous development. They use the term neurodiverse to describe aspects of the gifted population and include within their definition students who are both gifted as well as those who are both gifted and learning disabled, or twice exceptional (2e). Many are academically successful, but just as many are exceptional in a particular talent area of the curriculum and can struggle in other developmental areas, an asynchronistic characteristic.
What does the research say about gifted children in school?
Gifted children exist in equal numbers in every culture, race, ethnicity and socio-economic class and at every school level, even though they may not be properly identified nor provided services at all grade levels. Although New York State requires school districts to report on gifted programs, it does not require districts to fund these programs. The result is that school districts often reduce or eliminate gifted programs in situations in which the local school budget faces deficits. Just as often these programs bear the largest percentage of those reductions.
What happens when gifted children are not properly identified or challenged in school?
Prominent gifted educator and advocate Jim Delisle is fond of saying, “Gifted children are not just gifted from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.” He means that the needs of gifted children should be met consistently in schools, not only by short pull-out programming at limited grade levels, but by multiple, robust identification tools, creative and flexible programming, and professional development for educators.
Dr. Linda Silverman, author of Gifted 101 and a psychologist with more than 30 years of work studying the gifted population, has shown that many gifted children struggle in schools both academically and in social-emotional development. Some studies show the rate of depression and suicide in this group at 30% above the national average. These numbers may reflect the lack of academic programming that fosters their unique development, and an absence of guidance counselors trained to recognize the needs of this cohort and to place them with at least a few other like-minded peers in classroom settings.
In a “blue-sky” examination of mission, vision and equitable access to opportunity currently being undertaken by the Port Washington School District, I hope for an:
- expansion of gifted and talented programming that encompasses robust identification practices beginning early and being repeated at appropriate junctures
- improvement of, and flexibility in, programming for gifted children to meet their needs
- inclusion of diverse, traditionally underserved gifted populations
- encouragement of gifted educator certification for teachers and administrators
- efforts to integrate all of this knowledge across the curriculum where it will benefit and enrich more of our student population.