Posted in Gifted Education

It’s All About Policy, Stupid

So when I woke up one morning from an unsettling dream, 
I found myself changed into a monstrous vermin...
- Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis 

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Kafka’s first sentence from his novella is the perpetual state of who I am as a resource specialist for Advanced Studies. I decided to embrace this reality.

My district’s abnormally high number of “identified” gifted students whose families live the college town brings unique challenges to an educator like me who has to operate within the state’s budgetary crumbs. Despite the legislation Article 9B that explicitly states that gifted services be provided through the local plan, by the time allotted monies from the county commissioners are distributed to the local district, they get spent on other crisis that demand attention. And I get to pick on the leftovers.

Because I felt like my round back was laid against the floor with my feeble arms and legs wringing in the air,  all I could do was to spend each day listening to people and their values behind their opinions whenever possible. There were times I tried to advocate on what students truly needed, but my voice came out as a distant hiss no one cared to listen.

".... Education policy creates the rules and standards by which limited resources are allocated to meet perceived needs" 
- Dr. Jonathan Plucker, Johns Hopkins University           
      

I realized that my entomological existence was the manifestations of the reality of educational policy that has a tendency to focus on the now of the educational crisis where the monies vaporize before they reach the needs of the brightest and the gifted. No matter how much the administrators and the district leaders advocate and support my endeavors, the existing barriers and troubles on advanced studies are deeply connected to federal and the state legislature.

It’s the failure to connect the importance of strong education policy on gifted education that shapes the infrastructure necessary to bring about change at the local level.

Now I get it. For example, North Carolina has a state legislature Article 9B that mandates gifted service, a  lack of support funnels itself into vertigo when it comes to its actual implementation of the services for the students.

There isn’t much I can do to change the state of my being as a vermin. I woke up and there I was, but this is not to say that I am hopeless.

Knowing that it’s really the policy that’s causing the heartache, perhaps that in itself may be the hope that something can be done on my own end. I am not quite sure what kind of ladder I need to climb to effectively bring change to the policy at the state and federal level; however, there are some things I plan to do for the next several months to increase the sphere of my influence as a shareholder.

Here are my notes. I will be:

Attending 2019 Leadership & Advocacy Conference, Alexandria, VA 

Researching how other states are supporting gifted education. (So far, I follow @TXGifted  @NJAGCGifted ) 

Supporting and sharing gifted education policy resources with classroom teachers who are enrolled in the AIG licensure program LAUNCH via Elon University

Joining the district’s AIG Plan Writing Team with other Gifted Specialists to revise the upcoming local plan.

Leading a poster session at NCAGT to share out the underrepresented gifted clubs my colleagues and I founded at our school.

Presenting effective gifted models that work at North Carolina Association for Middle Level Education

References

Gallagher, J. (2015). Political issues in gifted education. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. 38(1). 77-89. doi:// 10.1177/0162353214565546

Plucker, J., Makel, M., Matthews, M., Peters, S. & Rambo-Hernandez, K. (2017). Blazing new trails: Strengthening policy research in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly. 61(3). 210-218.

Vella, A (2014). “Metamorphosis” Retrieved from https://www.salzmanart.com/alexei-vella.html

Posted in Equity & Gifted

Paideia Seminars, Gifted Service for All Children: Part 1

paideia1 copyA couple of weeks ago, I had a pleasure of sharing with our district’s GPAC (Gifted Program Advisory Council) about how the Paideia seminars are implemented as a gifted provision for all children.* It was an opportunity to share with the stakeholders what a continuum of rigorous literacy instruction for all children looks like in middle school.

I can say with certainty that implementing Paideia seminars has been a gradual yet impactful literacy instruction that addresses the needs of all learners regardless of their labels. The beauty of this particular gifted service is that it is an authentic instructional tapestry woven by classroom teachers’ expertise on literacy and their knowledge of students’ learning profiles. 

Through ongoing modeling and co-leading with classroom teachers for the past year and a half, we see that seminar helps us face our own implicit biases buried underneath our practices and create entry points for us to enlarge our gifted pool among all children. The text-based, value-driven and open-ended discussions seminar offers have allowed students to personalize their own learning paths through a goal-setting exercise before and after each seminar.

Here’s our observation on how Paideia seminars’ literacy instruction bridges the opportunity gap in classrooms:

 

  • What all children need is a chair, a nameplate, the text, and their body. Seminar eliminates the need for executive function skills to access contents and concepts. It frees students from the daily hurdles of do’s and don’ts of organizational skills.

 

  • Sitting in a large circle removes “the caste system” of who’s who among children. There’s no need for the predictable seating chart:   unspoken yet palpable walls come down between compliant and non-compliant children, between gifted and non-gifted children, between Whites and Black students. 

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  • The seminar facilitator sits on the same eye level with the students as a way to remove barriers between adult and children. It affirms and honors young people as professionals whose ideas are and thoughts can be expressed through the prism of their personalities and experiences. 

 

  • Students do not raise their hands for a teacher to affirm their spaces but they enter into a dialogic system mirroring the cultural roots of call and response. This ritualistic approach to instruction relinquishes teacher control. Facilitators also do not affirm, deny, or acknowledge one opinion over another but lead the discussions based on what students bring to the table.

 

  • A text for discussions can be a work of art, a map, a chart, or a photograph that has multiple viewpoints. Any artifact that is rich in ideas that are ambiguous invite culturally sustainable discussions where Black and brown students, English Learners, and other students who have different learning styles become collaborators and meaning-makers of ideas, concepts, or content. 

 

  • As the seminar is led for multiple days by students themselves, it brings out those students who would not normally engage in listening and talking. It provides introverts talking space and allows extroverts to lose themselves in listening to others throughout multiple days of seminar discussions.

 

  • Students personalize their learning goals at the beginning and end of the seminar discussion each day to reflect and become better readers, speakers, listeners, and thinkers.

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* Since 2017, Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools’ Gifted Education Department has partnered with the Paideia Institute to add rigor in literacy for gifted services in regular classrooms.

 

References

Adler, M. The paideia proposal: educational manifesto.
Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2012). Think like a seminar. Educational Leadership70(4), 68–72.                                        

Kirkland, D. (2011). Listening to echoes: teaching young black men literacy and the distraction of ELA standards. Language Arts88(5), 373–380.