2 nationally recognized speakers, Dr. Jonathan Plucker and Dr. Diane Heacox, presented pre-conference, breakout sessions and keynote addresses;
287 educator and parent attendees;
97 school districts in Wisconsin were represented;
19 teen conference attendees; creative writers and musically gifted students spent a day writing songs with professionals among a supportive group of peers;
$3165 was raised for student scholarships through our silent auction and book sales.
2015 Fall WATG conference goal: exceed each of the above measures for next year.
3 outstanding individuals recognized by WATG for their support of gifted students in our state;
8 educators recognized for completion of the new state licensure for gifted education coordinators.
But what about the other numbers? During WATG’s Raise Your Voice for Gifted Kids event this past March, advocates met to ask legislators for the following 3 changes:
1. Support the addition of gifted and talented students as a required category on school report cards.
Although appropriate education is mandated, and each district must name a coordinator, currently no data are reported on these students. There are approximately
870,000 K-12 students in Wisconsin's public schools; using the results of this 2014 NAGC survey, we can estimate that Wisconsin should have around
68,000 students identified as gifted and talented. But we don't know if we are reaching this number because the data are not being reported by the state. And while we have estimates, and we know that we have an excellence gap that needs to be addressed, we don't know how we're doing across the state when it comes to identifying and serving historically underrepresented populations.
2. Increase the annual appropriation for the Gifted and Talented Students Education Program to $500,000 in the 2015-2017 budget.
Currently the only Wisconsin state support for educating advanced learners is a
$237,200 grant program. With neighboring states providing significantly greater funding for gifted education –Minnesota - $11 million, Iowa - $35 million - the disparity in gifted education funding makes it difficult for our state to be competitive.
3. If funds are increased, change the statute so that individual school districts can compete for these funds.
As of FY 2013, these grants ($30,000 max) were only available for direct student services through non-profit groups , Milwaukee Public Schools, CESAs and UW-System campuses. Other schools and districts are not eligible to apply.
So what can we do? The educators I know are doing the best they can with the resources they have. At the end of the day, we all would like more students to receive more of what they need more often. How do we get there?
Advocating for these changes at the state legislature is a good start. To find out who represents you in Madison, go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ and enter your address or click on the map. Your legislators need to hear your stories about the needs of gifted children. Watch for details about WATG’s upcoming advocacy activities here and on Wisgift and Facebook. We will be targeting specific legislators with our advocacy requests, and we’ll need the help of constituents who live in those districts.
Mark your calendars now for next year’s WATG conference on November 5-6. Let’s work together to achieve a measure of success by improving gifted education in our state.