The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is pleased to receive a Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The award provides $1.1 million for the Expanding Excellence project to increase the number of underrepresented students identified for and receiving gifted services.
A key characteristic of talent is that is exhibited across gender, race, ethnicity, income level, and exceptionality. It is expected the composition of students identified with high ability or high potential should reflect the student population in schools. For example, if 57% of the students in a school qualify for free/reduced price lunch, then it is reasonable to expect that approximately 57% of the students needing advanced learning opportunities qualify for free/reduced price lunch. Evidence, however, shows a statewide disproportionality for students identified for gifted services. A lower percentage of students that qualify for free/reduced price lunch, are students of color, are students with disabilities, or are English language learners are identified than would be expected. Without appropriate learning opportunities to develop their talent, fewer of these students achieve at advanced levels on state and district performance measures.This phenomenon is known as the “Excellence Gap.”
The Javits grant program serves to address this gap for three federal categories of students traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs: economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient (LEP), and students with disabilities. Through the Expanding Excellence project, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is partnering with three school districts, Kenosha Unified, Milwaukee Public Schools, and Racine Unified, to mitigate the disproportionality in identification and the resultant Excellence Gap for two student groups: those that qualify for free/reduced price lunch and those that are English language learners. The project will support these districts to create culturally responsive multi-level systems of support (also known as Response to Intervention systems) that include advanced learners to achieve three goals:
District Leadership Cadres, staff from twenty demonstration schools in the partner districts, and a State Leadership Cadre will learn about and implement several initial strategies to accomplish these goals at the primary level: identification, instructional, and family engagement components of U-STARS~PLUS; Dual Capacity Framework; and Academic Parent Teacher Teams. The grant will give one hundred educators from the partner districts an opportunity to complete coursework through the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to obtain the supplementary Gifted/Talented Teacher license. A Strategic Planning Committee will be established to develop an action plan to scale up the project model statewide.
Expanding Excellence furthers the goals of State Superintendent Tony Ever’s Agenda 2017: To promote excellence for all and prepare all students to graduate college and career ready. The project is a collaborative effort with the Special Education, Title I, Bilingual/ESL, and Content and Learning teams at the Wisconsin Department of Public, the Wisconsin RtI Center, the Wisconsin Disproportionality Technical Assistance Network, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
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