Pamela R. Clinkenbeard, Ph.D.
In late June, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released its fall back-to-school guidance document, Education Forward, and it includes a section on Gifted and Talented students. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/sspw/pdf/Education_Forward_web.pdf The full 87-page document offers guidance to school districts about the return to schooling in late August. Topics include ideas for scheduling, physical layout of classrooms, school operations, other health and safety issues, and how to handle inequities in learning that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Most sections of the document contain suggested action steps for districts and schools, steps that are organized by Review, Prepare, and Implement. “Review” refers to tasks that should have been at least underway by the end of the 2019-2020 school year. “Prepare” is for action that should be taken now, before the beginning of the upcoming fall session. “Implement” refers to tasks for the 2020-2021 school year.
The second half of the document is devoted to instructional programming, with a substantial section on Teaching and Learning in general and also a section on school libraries. The document then focuses on three groups of students: special education, English learners, and gifted and talented. Each of these sections is also organized around suggested Review, Prepare, and Implement action items.
The Gifted and Talented section (pages 77-79) refers readers to the general guidance under Teaching and Learning, but also contains actions that are specific to GT students and related Wisconsin statutes and administrative rules. For example, a Review task at the school building level is “Conduct a review of the services provided to high-ability/high-potential students during the school building closing to determine who needs to be evaluated for identification and what extensions were provided.” A recommended district-level Prepare task for this summer is “Conduct, when possible, any suggested identification processes for high-ability/ high-potential students so grouping and subject-based or grade-based acceleration decisions can be made.”
The Implement suggestions for the upcoming school year are all at the school building level, and there are links to several GT resources that are on the DPI website. For example, one suggestion in the Implement section is “Collect and use data to guide instruction for students with gifts and talents.” It contains a link to a document on how to pre-assess students at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of a unit of instruction.
Note that in Wisconsin, the main state “model” for instruction of students with gifts and talents is the general Equitable Multi-Level System of Supports (MLSS) model (many districts may refer to this model with the term Response to Instruction, RtI). In other words, GT students are included in a model that will “match support to needs,” whether the students need interventions to help them learn or whether they need additional challenges (and some students will need both in different areas). For more information on the MLSS model, which has equity and culturally responsive practice at its core, see https://dpi.wi.gov/rti. For more information on gifted and talented education in Wisconsin, explore the links at https://dpi.wi.gov/gifted. Clicking on the “Toolkit for Gifted Education” link will take you to information and practical suggestions for programming in a way that is consistent with the MLSS/RtI model.
Final comment: how can you use this document to advocate for gifted and talented students? Whether you are an educator, a parent, a school board or community member, or a gifted student yourself, you can make sure that programming for GT/advanced learners is not left out of the back-to-school conversation. Share the Education Forward document, send others the three pages that are specifically targeted to gifted education, and ask questions about how the needs of ALL students will be met as we face the challenges ahead.
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