The Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY) and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at University of Wisconsin-Madison recently received a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the Jacob J. Javits Program in the U.S. Department of Education to work with districts to improve instructional opportunities for gifted students from low-income settings. Currently in Year 1, WCATY is implementing the “Supporting Smart Spaces” model with approximately 160 students in nine schools across the Milwaukee Public School district. The project will expand to 2-3 additional Wisconsin districts in subsequent years of the grant.
Purpose and goals:
This project builds on the assets of students, families, schools, districts, communities, and University of Wisconsin to support “Smart Spaces”, where academically advanced students from low-income settings have increased opportunities to develop their talents in challenging and innovative ways. Two issues illustrate the opportunity gap in gifted education: (a) the persistent underidentification of gifted students from particular populations, namely students of color from historically underrepresented groups, low-income settings, bilingual families, and students with disabilities; and, (b) a lack of resources available at both the school and district level to provide accessible and high-quality programming once students are identified as gifted. These issues for underrepresented gifted students are well-documented and play a critical role in the larger achievement gap facing the K–12 public school systems (Castellano et al, 2003; Diaz, 2002; Grantham et al., 2011; Peters et al., 2013; Plucker et al., 2010; and Resnick; Goodman, 1997).
Smart Spaces increases access to sustained, high-quality instructional programming for academically advanced students from historically underrepresented student populations in gifted education, specifically those from low-income settings. WCATY first collaborates with school and district-level staff to map existing assets for academic challenge in their schools and communities, as well as build professional learning opportunities around balanced identification, differentiation, culturally relevant pedagogy, and integrating quality teaching into online instruction. The core of instructional programming for identified students is a series of blended, online course modules that can be taken as part of either the regular literacy coursework or the Response to Intervention (RtI) instructional framework. State-certified teachers develop the curriculum, direct the online learning platform, and meet frequently with students in face-to- face sessions. WCER is conducting a rigorous, mixed-method evaluation of the impact of the course modules on student achievement and engagement, as well as the nature of program implementation, across all districts sites in the grant.
Gifted Connections Corner
This space showcases groups and projects working to strengthen education, parenting, advocacy, and opportunities for gifted students in Wisconsin.
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We’d love to hear from you! ~The WATG Networking Committee