Imagine if each Wisconsin school district had to report to DPI how many gifted students it identifies and serves, as well as the demographics of those students. And imagine if that type of information was easily available for all to see.
Accountability measures such as these - which ensure services for advanced learners are widespread, transparent, and equitable - are the subject of legislation that is being drafted as of this writing.
Members of WATG’s Government Action Committee anticipate this accountability legislation will move forward in the coming months and be on the Governor’s desk by late February. Additionally, a second bill on acceleration policy is being drafted and should follow the same timeline.
While no additional funding is attached to either of these bills, the policy changes now could lay the groundwork for future funding-related measures.
Stay tuned here to find out how you can help make this vision a reality. In the meantime, it’s not too early to get to know your state legislators.
To find your state legislators, go to the legislature home page https://legis.wisconsin.gov/; find the section called "Who Are My Legislators?" and enter your HOME address. Your state Senator and Assembly Representative and their contact information will pop up.
WATG Government Action Committee
The state budget passed on July 8th and with it a DOUBLING of the funding for gifted and talented education in the state! WATG poured countless hours into building relationships with two key offices to make this happen. We have a LONG way to go in our state but this is a fantastic start! All of this funding is earmarked for the existing grants program, and DPI is hard at work to determine a fair and equitable way to distribute the additional funds.
Meanwhile, WATG is already in talks with its legislative supporters to strengthen policy for gifted and talented education in the state. These talks have just started, but could result in substantive policy and accountability changes that make services for advanced learners more widespread, transparent, and equitable. As we know, just having a state mandate for identification and services does not guarantee their availability.
Reminder: there are other appropriate sources of funding for advanced programming and services, outside of the GT grants program. General school district funding for professional development, curriculum and instruction, and assessment should include appropriate services for developing students' gifts and talents. There are also long-standing federal sources, including Title I funds that support underrepresented gifted students, Title II funds that support teacher professional development in meeting the needs of advanced learners, and Title IVa "well-rounded" funds, particularly with respect to AP, IB, and early college credit options.
More recently, federal ESSER funds may be used to support gifted students, as well as other students. DPI issues guidance on how ESSER I, II, and III funds may be used. At this page
there is specific guidance for gifted and talented (emphases ours):
"Gifted and talented learners have experienced disrupted learning due to shifts in learning environments, staffing, access to technology, access to coursework, access to direct services, and being identified, potentially impacting their opportunity to make progress toward their individualized learning plans. Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations [CRRSA/ESSER II] may be used to expand summer services, purchase resources, engage in professional learning, hire additional staff, or contract with other agencies. Areas to prioritize may include the following:
Celebrate our victory and send us ideas for future policy!
You may have noticed that WATG’s Government Action Committee has been emailing you a lot recently asking you to contact your legislators requesting support for gifted education in this biennial budget.If you followed the recent budget hearings, you may even have heard several board members testifying. This year, we had seven individuals testify in person and at the virtual listening session, asking for support for gifted education! So why the big push? Why are we hitting this SO HARD this year? Well, we are very pleased to FINALLY announce that we have partnered with the legislative offices of Sen. Bernier and Rep. Petryk in drafting a budget motion for this budget. It has been an absolute pleasure and joy to have worked behind the scenes on this monumental task for the last several months! So what is a budget motion? In a nutshell it is a formal ask brought forth by a member of the Assembly and a member of the Senate requesting budgeted funds for a clearly defined area.
Here is the overview of our budget motion:
So what does it all mean? Our current level of state funding for gifted education would go from $237,200 and year to $1,000,000! That is a HUGE increase! And here is the best part; it is just the first step! This is an excerpt from the four page budget motion:
The overall goal for the state should be to fund universal early screening that includes all five areas of giftedness that actively addresses equity, and that uses local norms; and to provide ongoing talent identification and development. It would also include access to and preparation for advanced and accelerated coursework materials for K-12 schools and professional development opportunities for teachers. There are programs available to license gifted education teachers and gifted program coordinators, but there is no requirement that educators of the gifted obtain these licenses.
However, a jump to this future state would require a substantial amount of resources requiring state aid of about $14 per pupil ($12 million) to bring Wisconsin in line with best practices in surrounding states.
While this is an achievable goal going forward, this motion looks to bring Wisconsin incrementally closer to this reality. The first step includes additional funding for the existing grant program to get schools to identify and serve more gifted and talented students.
Do you want to help make this vision a reality? Here is your call to action: CALL (don’t just email) your state legislators and ask them to “support or co-sign the budget motion brought forth by Sen. Bernier and Rep. Petryk”. If they have ANY questions, or would like any information, simply direct them to reach out to either Sen. Bernier or Rep. Petryk. LET’S FLOOD THESE OFFICES WITH PHONE CALLS!!! We are specifically hoping to target the offices of the legislators on the joint finance committee. Those members are:
Representative Born (Co-Chair)
Senator Marklein (Co-Chair)
Representative J. Rodriguez
Simply click on their names for their contact information.
We hope that this budget motion will make it through the Joint Finance Committee and to the Governor's desk. We thank you in advance for your support as we push to make this a reality for all GT kids in the state of Wisconsin!
Hillarie Roth, Government Action Committee Chair
Dr. Pam Clinkenbeard, Government Action Committee member; WATG Past President
It's state budget season again! Here is the short version of this article - details follow.
1. SITUATION. Wisconsin provides less funding for gifted education and advanced learners than any other state that provides funding.
2. SUPPORT. WATG has key supporters in the state legislature for increasing that funding in the upcoming state budget cycle, but they will need more colleague support.
3. ACTION. WATG needs YOUR support to make an increase happen; we’ll need effort from individuals, with participation from as many WATG members and friends as possible!
NAGC and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted recently released their State of the States report, which summarizes a great deal of program, policy, and funding information on gifted education from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This link takes you to the 200+ page report, a downloadable PDF, and a short executive summary. Since there is no federal policy for gifted education, there is huge variety among the states in their level and type of support for gifted education and advanced learning. So how does Wisconsin stack up?
Approximately half of the states have dedicated state funding for gifted education. Of these states, Wisconsin is at the bottom in amount of funding, with its $237,200/year for small competitive grants, most of which go to some of our regional CESA groups for purposes of student programming or teacher education. In contrast, some states send funding directly to local school districts based on student enrollment. States that are similar to Wisconsin in terms of local control vary considerably within the state in how policies are implemented locally. One thing that most states have in common is a firm emphasis on equity and multiculturalism, at least in written policy.
Although Wisconsin can be considered in the top half of states for funding (given that half of the states do not provide any state-level funding for gifted education), its $237,200 per year contrasts sharply with funding for advanced learners in several other midwestern states. For example, Minnesota spends approximately $13 million per year, Iowa spends $40 million, and Ohio spends $78 million.
Efforts to increase funding in Wisconsin up to now have not resulted in legislative action to do so, but with support and assistance from WATG's 2020 State Legislator of the Year, Rep. Warren Petryk, we are preparing a package of policy and funding requests for the state legislature for the upcoming budget cycle (the biennium beginning July 1, 2021). Earlier in the current biennium, WATG presented a session on gifted students in a state Capitol room packed with legislators and staffers, most of whom were surprised to learn how little their state supports advanced learners. There is scattered but significant support in the Capitol, and WATG is working to coordinate that support in a way that will lead to significant action.
There are several small actions that you can take right now to help improve the situation in Wisconsin. One is to make sure that you know who is representing you in the state legislature (if you don't already know). To find your state legislators, go to the legislature home page. From there, find the section called "Who Are My Legislators?" and enter your HOME address. Your state senator and Assembly representative and their contact information will pop up. It is critical that legislators hear from their own constituents on these issues!
WATG will be providing sample messages in the near future, but one easy communication to make right now is just to send them the link to WATG's new report, Advanced and Accelerated Learning in Wisconsin. Another excellent new WATG resource that you could share is our podcasts. The "Resources" tab on the WATG home page also leads to a wealth of additional information that you might choose to share, including information on equity, specific domains of giftedness and talent, social-emotional issues, etc. Of course, you should feel free to add any personal anecdotes about your own experiences and those of the children you parent or teach to your message.
Finally, you can vote on April 6 for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dr. Deborah Kerr and Dr. Jill Underly are running for this nonpartisan office, and WATG has asked each a series of questions about their support for equitable gifted education. Stay tuned for more information on this race, and on the National Association for Gifted Children advocacy efforts at the federal level. NAGC will be working to keep and increase Javits funding and to support the reintroduction of the "Booker bill," formally known as the Advanced Coursework Equity Act. The support of both Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan from Wisconsin are considered particularly important for federal appropriations for gifted education. WATG will report more on federal activity after participating in the
NAGC Advocacy and Leadership Conference
in late March.
With the Primary Election scheduled for February 16th, WATG posed a few questions to the State Superintendent candidates. Of the seven candidates on the ballot we heard back from five of them. We received no response from Deborah Kerr or Steve Krull. Here are the unedited answers from the five candidates who replied; their names are in an order of random drawing. WATG does not endorse or support any political candidate and the responses to these questions are not a representation of WATG’s views or opinions.
What role should the DPI play in ensuring that advanced learners and highly capable students are served in Wisconsin and how should those students be served within our schools?
Joe Fenrick: Together with families, educators, and students I want education to be a model of bottom up instead of top down. Where parents, teachers, and community members come together to make decisions. These decisions need to benefit the students while providing them an opportunity to grow. Every student deserves an equitable education that promotes future promise. Every student also deserves schooling that enhances their talents and skills.
At Fond du Lac High School I have been a champion of expanding classes that are dual credit where students receive both high school and college credit. We have partnered with UW-Oshkosh’s CAPP program where students can earn up to 30 college credits while in high school. We have also partnered with MPTC for our students to receive credits towards the trades if that is the path they wish to follow. These higher education credits are offered to the students either at half cost or free. Each year we continue to expand our offerings. As State Superintendent I want to expand this program to all schools throughout the state and remove barriers to accelerated learning.
When school districts form partnerships with business, county governments, and universities, opportunities are created to enhance our children’s learning that will prepare them for the future. As Chair of the Human Service committee and Chair of the Social Service committee for the Fond du Lac County Board, I oversee a 40-million-dollar budget and hundreds of employees. I oversee Harbor Haven, Fond du Lac County’s Nursing Home. During our monthly reports we noticed that there was a constant need for CNAs and an opportunity for high school students to gain hands on training in the healthcare profession. As Chair, I approved and recommended a program where Harbor Haven partners with area high schools and offers CNA training to students. These students are then employed at the nursing home and gain valuable hands-on experience.
"To boldly grow where no plant has grown before" was the research that I set up for aspiring students that wanted experience in a formal research lab setting. A partnership was formed between UW-Oshkosh Fond du Lac Campus and Fond du Lac High School where students could apply to be research assistants. Students would take part in research that was out of this world by planting different vegetables in simulated Martian soil. The results of the research are still in pre-publication.
As the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I will make it a priority to create partnerships and help further the education of children. These opportunities can and will exist in all of our communities and all over the state.
Sheila Briggs: DPI’s role is ensuring that all advanced Learners and highly capable students learning needs are met in Wisconsin schools. This means sharing effective educational practices to address the needs of all students, including a more equitable way of identifying students and working with educators to address issues of disproportionality that often occurs for students of color, English Learners, twice-exceptional students, as well as students from economically disadvantaged environments. It is also critical that we continually promote best practices for working with families of these advanced and highly capable students so they can be, and are, active partners in the identification and programming for these kids.
Within schools, personnel should use multiple measures to identify students in each of the areas of giftedness. Students should be served with a continuum of supports, so students have extensions provided within the general education environment and beyond.
We believe that equity means that every kid has access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education. That includes students identified with gifted or talents and highly capable students. Existing state statutes and administrative rules can help in providing a baseline for what is expected for all districts but that is not sufficient. While accountability is critically important, shifting mindsets from the all-to-common belief about advanced learners (i.e., “they’re smart, they will be fine”) to the more powerful and necessary message that excellence must be fostered and celebrated is needed now more than ever. That means support for these learners in all schools so each and every advanced learner/highly capable student has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Dr. Jill Underly: I am a proponent of all kids having access to content, experiences, and opportunities that engage all students - including advanced learners and highly capable learners. I would love for every school to have a dedicated gifted and talented curriculum and activities coordinator to help coordinate and identify these activities for kids.
Troy Gunderson: My campaign platform of Leaders Ready to Lead, Students Ready to Learn, Teachers Ready to Teach, and Future Ready Graduates calls upon the DPI to lead a statewide discussion on the role of public education in advancing our state forward, ensuring that we meet the needs of each child, advancing teaching as a profession and producing graduates who are career, college, and life ready. To reach these goals the DPI will advance the principle of meeting the needs of each child. This means expanded opportunities to experience challenge in areas of interest for talented and gifted children.
Shandowlyon Hendricks: I am the mother of two children with vastly different academic capabilities: a daughter who attended a school for gifted and talented, and a son with multiple severe disabilities. I have seen both sides of students receiving an education that wasn’t consistent with their skill level. Further, I witnessed the emotional, social and behavioral ramifications when curricula did not sufficiently challenge and engage my gifted and talented daughter. The Department of Public Instruction has a duty to deliver a premier, fully-funded education to all students regardless of academic capability, and students with academic inclinations and talents deserve an education that reflects their potential. I support opportunities for students to receive an accelerated education in public schools through robust honors, AP, IB and G & T programs. As a mother, educator, and administrator, I recognize not all schools are currently in a position to fully serve their students so that students achieve at their maximum potential. Therefore the role of DPI as it relates to advanced learners and highly capable students is to ensure that there is a plethora of schools offering gifted and talented programs throughout the state, no matter a child’s zip code, race or socio-economic level. Further DPI should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high performing school.
What is your understanding of State Statutes 118.35 and 121.02(t) and Administrative Rule 8.01(2)(t)2? How should these standards be funded and implemented? https://dpi.wi.gov/gifted/laws
Joe Fenrick: We need the state and local school boards to support funding programs that encourage our children to achieve high standards. They need to fully fund honor, AP, and CAPP level classes in all schools and help fund activities that push our children to reach their full potential. We need to involve parents and let them know what options are available and be completely transparent. Every student also deserves schooling that enhances their talents and skills.
Sheila Briggs: These two statutes and this administrative rule provide the framework for our work, and the work of public schools in our state. They define what gifted/talented means, the different domains of giftedness, the need for a district gifted/talented coordinator and a gifted/talented plan, as well as specifics about identification, programming, and collaboration with families (as described above). Wis. Stat. sec. 118.35(4) gives DPI the authority to promote new and innovative approaches to help advanced learners grow and learn in their area(s) of giftedness.
The current appropriation for this grant is $237,200 but that is clearly insufficient and inequitable given the needs of students all across the state. With additional funding, more projects could be funded and those could then serve as models for other districts or regions of the state where additional support and effective models are sorely needed.
As the Assistant State Superintendent at the Department who has overseen Gifted and Talented for the state for the last decade, we have worked with families and schools to ensure proper identification, access to services, and advocating for additional funding. I have led the work with multiple school districts to ensure they are in compliance with the statutes, and to support their work in better identification and programming for students.
Dr. Jill Underly: My understanding is that every district needs to have plans and a process for identifying kids who are gifted and talented. In addition to the plan, the district needs to have structures in place to provide for ways to serve the identified kids most fully. After that - it’s going to look different in each school district, and a lot of that has to do with resources - both human and financial. It would be great to set-aside funding for at least a 25% GT Coordinator that could be a contract extension or part of a teacher’s job duties/contract. Right now, that’s not the case as it’s an unfunded mandate. School Districts instead often interpret the rules and provide differentiated learning and field experiences and other enrichment experiences for kids throughout the year and during the summer - providing access to enrichment without charge, as required by the rules.
Troy Gunderson: The state of Wisconsin has made a commitment to identifying and serving children who demonstrate exceptional performance and skill and who, as a result, require additional programming to stretch and develop these unique talents. The statutes and rules are designed to ensure school districts comply by identifying a person responsible for the tasks of identifying and serving such children. I believe those children identified as talented and gifted should receive differentiated programming best designed to grow each child. Uniquely talented and gifted children deserve the opportunity to apply these talents and gifts in programming or opportunities designed to foster growth. Each child needs the opportunity for growth that comes from a genuine intellectual challenge.
Shandowlyon Hendricks: I agree with the “spirit” and “mandate” of both statues and the administrative rule. Some would argue that a large part of the difficulty in establishing advanced programming for gifted and talented students is that the process for funding our schools is deeply antiquated. We need an updated state funding stream that goes beyond property values. Local property tax base funding leaves many schools critically underfunded and prohibits gifted and talented students in rural and predominantly Black and brown ZIP codes from accessing opportunities they are entitled to. Wisconsin is in dire need of a funding update for our schools. The per-pupil aid system is inefficient in distributing funds and grossly oversimplifies strategies to power up our next generation of Wisconsinites. Working with the Governor and legislators, we will seek to raise the revenue intake limit for schools, bolster the state funding budget, and eliminate inefficiencies in funding. Sufficient funding will allow schools to dedicate time and resources to identifying students who are gifted and talented. Similar to the identification process embarked upon to identify students with disabilities, the DPI must put in place a statewide plan for identifying students who are gifted and talented and placement in a school offering a rigorous G & T program. Because G & T students are gifted in many areas, my Bill of Rights for Wisconsin Students is critical in ensuring that not only we elevate “gifted” learners in content areas but also “talented” learners in the arts. We must ensure students consistently have access to honors, AP, IB and G & T programs with sufficient funding to secure the future of these programs at our school. Drawing upon my experience as the parent of G & T student, as State Superintendent, I will ensure that the DPI meets statutory requirements as it relates to allocating and disbursing funding to nonprofits, CESA’s and UW System schools to provide services and opportunity to G & T students outside the realms of regular school operations.
We have noticed a troubling trend of districts dismantling advanced programming in the name of equity. How will DPI ensure that districts show accountability for accomplishing both excellence and equity?
Joe Fenrick: For too long we have seen a top down approach to education where the voices of families, students, and educators were ignored. We have seen the effects of high stakes testing where schools are forced to reduce curriculums and eliminate electives, gifted and talented programs, and extracurriculars while focusing on teaching to the test. There is so much more to student achievement than a standardized test score. Teaching not testing is one of my main platforms. The money that is being spent on standardized tests can be shifted to fund the arts, robotics, and furthering the minds of our children. School report cards should reflect the high level classes that are being offered at the schools and the pathways for advanced learners.
Sheila Briggs: While I believe that all children have beautiful strengths, talents, and unlimited potential, and it is our job to foster and support all children in developing these strengths, that is not the intent of the Gifted and Talented statute. The statute is designed to ensure that students that are so advanced that they would need services or activities not ordinarily provided in a regular school program in order to fully develop these capabilities get the programming they require. The purpose of the statute is not to identify more and more students as gifted and talented, but to ensure that those that are, are getting the support they need.
The push to ensure equity in identification is important. But the way we go about this is critically important. If we are applying an anti-biased lens, we will know that we have achieved equity--not by large numbers of identification, but that the small numbers identified mirror the demographics of the population. It is critical that we examine our identification processes to ensure that there is not gross overidentification nor underidentification within populations--we often have disproportionality in gender, race, socioeconomic status, and ability status. When that happens, we must examine our measures of identification to ensure they are free from bias.
Dr. Jill Underly: I haven’t noticed that trend at all. In many of the districts I interact with, they are adding advanced programming and licensing high school teachers with master's degrees to teach college level courses. There are programs such as Start College Now at our tech and public colleges that are opening up lots of opportunities for students. My interpretation of equity is that all children have access to the same robust programming that has been traditionally offered to GT students. Equity is then ensuring that students have access and that they are not underrepresented in enrichment programs and opportunities; and that these opportunities are always provided without charge as part of their public school education.
Troy Gunderson: I find it difficult to understand how eliminating programming for certain students promotes equity for all students. I believe equity is about meeting the needs of each child. I do not believe excellence and equity are mutually exclusive. I believe the roll of the DPI in this scenario is to advance the concept of an individualized approach for all children. Excellence is a reflection of the success of each student and equity derives from opportunities for this success. Eliminating programs for talented and gifted children accomplishes neither.
Shandowlyon Hendricks: My Bill of Rights for Wisconsin Students guarantees a premier, fully-funded education to all Wisconsin students. When a gifted and talented student cannot access programs of the academic rigor they are entitled to, that in itself is an equity issue. Data shows that marginalized students (students of color, students living in poverty, students in rural areas, etc.) are allowed to participate in G & T programs, honors, AP and IB programs at the same rate as their counterparts. Therefore, increasing the number of marginalized students participating in the aforementioned programs is a key strategy in increasing equity in Wisconsin’s schools. As State Superintendent, DPI will set and attain goals for increasing the number of marginalized students who participate in G & T programs. My promise as the next Superintendent of Public Instruction is to guarantee students the education they deserve, no matter their academic potential. Advanced programming – and ensuring students from every ZIP code across the state can access it – is key to ensuring true equity for Wisconsin’s students.
Given that Iowa funds gifted education annually at $37.6 million, Minnesota at $12.5 Million, and Ohio at $73.5 million, while Wisconsin provides just $237,200 per year, how can WATG partner with DPI to increase our state’s investment in advanced learners?
Joe Fenrick: I will work with the State Assembly, State Senate, and the Governor to provide additional funding for our schools. As an elected official, I have experience working with both sides of the aisle to increase funding for social workers, nursing homes, and mental health. As State Superintendent I will bring together all major players and work together to find a solution. The solution needs to be equitable and help all districts involved. Here is where the Department of Public Instruction needs to be innovative and transformative when looking for a solution.
I will meet with WATG on a regular basis to discuss our schools and education. I want to be a voice for families, parents, children and educators as State Superintendent.
Sheila Briggs: The funding that Wisconsin schools receive to specifically support gifted and talented students is grossly inadequate. As you point out, Wisconsin pales in comparison to our neighboring states in investing in our most advanced learners. In the past, I have met with and worked with WATG on the best way to move the legislature on this. We have proposed additional funding in DPI’s agency budget, and I have supported WATG in their lobbying efforts to continue pushing on the legislature. I would continue to seek WATG’s ongoing support and partnership to ensure Wisconsin is supporting our Gifted and Talented Learners.
A large piece of the puzzle is fixing our broken funding formula, prioritizing and fully funding our public schools.
Dr. Jill Underly: DPI partners with CESAs on a lot of things and I think that the best route to advocate for advanced learners is to work through the CESAs for the smaller and mid-sized districts, and directly through the central offices with the Directors of Curriculum and Instruction for the urban districts and large suburban. Since this is already in state law, and it is for all intents and purposes an unfunded mandate, DPI could partner with CESAs as part of their CESA contracts to provide professional development to teachers on differentiated learning, enrichment opportunities and extension for advanced learners. They can also partner with CESA to provide enrichment field trips and experiences.
Troy Gunderson: As indicated in our campaign platform, I believe the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction must begin by hosting a statewide conversation on the role of public education in moving Wisconsin forward. No such exercise is complete without a discussion about the need for a more independent and individualized approach to educating our children. This will include a discussion with the WATG about the energy, resources, and funding needed to foster success for talented and gifted children.
Shandowlyon Hendricks: I believe education is a collaborative process. As a single mother, a paraprofessional, a special educator, and an administrator, I understand and value the contributions of every person involved in our education system. That is why as the next Superintendent of Public Instruction I am eager to work with all stakeholders, including parents, teacher’s unions, nonprofits, and community organizations – WATG included. I will work with the legislature and the Governor’s office to restructure our funding system overall and ensure fair, consistent funding to all schools and districts, but we also must dedicate more money to these programs to ensure we are living up to our promise to students. I will welcome recommendations and collaborations with WATG and organizations across the state. I will maximize potential, create new trajectories and unveil opportunities for success for G & T students, like my daughter.
WATG would like to thank the candidates who responded and we wish them all well in the race ahead!
2021. It’s a new year - thank goodness! Happy New Year!
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’d like you to take out your calendar, or open your app, and mark two dates:
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 and Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
Why those two dates? We have some important elections coming up. I know. You’re thinking - didn’t we just do this?
But I’m talking about the 2021 statewide primary in February and the spring election in April.
Why are these elections important? In 2021, Wisconsin will elect a new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. As of this writing, we don’t know for sure who will be on the primary ballot on Tuesday, February 16, but there are about half a dozen people who are collecting signatures right now to get on the February ballot. Those who make it past the February primary will be on the ballot in April.
WATG’s Government Action Committee will send a questionnaire about gifted education to all of the state superintendent candidates. We’ll share the results with our newsletter recipients as soon as the results are ready.
What other races are on the ballot? Check myvote.wi.gov about three weeks before the election to see what’s on your local ballot. There may be local school board races in addition to the statewide superintendent race. All of these races impact gifted kids in Wisconsin.
Hillarie Roth, WATG President-Elect and Deb Kucek, WATG Past President, members of WATG's Government Action Committee met with Representative Warren Petryk in November 2020.
Pamela R. Clinkenbeard,
Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, UW-Whitewater
Many of us are diligently trying to keep track of the changing landscape regarding voting procedures for the Nov. 3 election. Absentee voting, early in-person voting, and voting at your local polling place on Nov. 3 are all possibilities. The purpose of this short article is twofold: (1) to share two official websites that you can use to double-check the process in your own area and (if you vote absentee) to track the progress of your ballot; and (2) to draw attention to “down-ballot” races, including local school referenda. (See the My Vote Wisconsin link https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ for details of what’s actually on your own ballot.)
What does this have to do with gifted education, you might ask? At least three connections come to mind. Local school referenda can have a direct impact on funding for advanced learners. If there is more funding available in general, then support services for gifted and talented students are less likely to be seen as a “frill.” Paying attention to congressional races reminds us to communicate with our U.S. representatives. Several of Wisconsin’s congresspersons have been very supportive of gifted education at the federal level, and your WATG board and government action committee members have worked hard to keep up communication with them, but it can help enormously if actual constituents contact their own congressperson requesting attention to advanced learners. Finally, state Senate and Assembly races are critical because so much that affects the day-to-day life of schools, students, and teachers comes down to decisions made by the state legislature, especially in this extra-challenging environment. Do you know how your own state legislators feel about gifted education? Do they serve on any education-related committees or on the Joint Finance Committee that largely determines public school funding?
What’s On My Ballot
My own ballot, in addition to the five choices for president/vice-president (plus write-in) that all Wisconsin voters will have, includes races (some uncontested) for my U.S. Congressperson, my state Senator and state Assembly representative, and a number of county offices (District Attorney, Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds). It also contains two funding referenda for my local school district -- one to exceed revenue limits and one to issue bonds for building construction and facility upgrades.
https://elections.wi.gov/ - Wisconsin Elections Commission
General information including deadlines for registration and absentee voting, articles on voting accessibility and security, and results from past elections. Note: given recent news about the U.S. Post Office, many sources suggest that published deadlines are too optimistic, and that earlier is better if you intend to mail in an absentee ballot.
https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ - My Vote Wisconsin
This is a personalized site where you can see if you're registered, request an absentee ballot (or see if you've already requested one), see what actually appears on your ballot, etc. You can even track the progress of your absentee ballot after you mail it or turn it in at your municipal clerk’s office. (You can also find your municipal clerk.)
As we approach the election, I urge you to vote and make your voice count.
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.
Did you know that there is no Wisconsin legislation that requires pre-service teachers (education majors) to have a specific course in gifted education? I remember when I was in college, my only conversation about gifted students occurred (for about 10 minutes) in my REQUIRED Special Education class. That was 40 years ago! I’m sad to say that nothing has changed about that requirement (or lack thereof) in all this time! Education students are fortunate when they have an instructor who knows the importance of specifically training their classes on the needs of gifted children.
We are fortunate to have some staff at higher education schools in Wisconsin that are turning this problem around and working to create change for our gifted students! I would like to highlight them for you to show our gratitude!
Dr. Uzeyir Ogurlu from UW-Stevens Point is new to the WATG Board of Directors. He has national and international research experience that he can bring to the work of WATG. With a deep background in gifted education, it is important to him to make sure his students are getting the current information they need. “Dr. O” invited WATG to talk with his students about the “state of gifted education in Wisconsin” during his January term class and again this week for his spring term class. From first hand experience, I can tell you that these college students were amazed that they were given no prior information about gifted students, and they are willing to go the extra mile to get more information now that they know there is a need.
Dr. Jen Collins, director of the UW-Platteville School of Education, brought a van load of their education students to the WATG fall conference last year. She went above and beyond in graciously accepting our invitation to bring students, and UWP financially supported the students’ registration fees. WATG board members were able to spend a day with these students and share a wealth of information and resources with them.
Dr. Scott Peters and Dr. Pamela Clinkenbeard from UW-Whitewater have continuously gone above and beyond for gifted students, not only in Wisconsin, but also nationally and internationally. Both have served on the WATG Board of Directors. Dr. Clinkenbeard is currently an advisory member, and is helping to push funding and legislation for gifted education right here in Wisconsin. Dr. Peters is working with the WATG Acceleration Team, writing a comprehensive state report on acceleration practice and policies in the state. In addition, UW-Whitewater is working on a fully-online gifted and talented licensure program that could start this fall if there is enough interest.
It is imperative that we educate our pre-service and in-service teachers about the needs of gifted students. We cannot just expect them to “know” how to program for, and meet the needs of our students if they are not taught why and how to do it appropriately. WATG is grateful to these instructors for making sure that gifted education is promoted under their watch.
Are you wondering what you can do to help? Reach out to your representatives and let them know that specific legislation for educating our pre-service teachers on the needs of gifted students is an important piece in creating the BIG change we need in Wisconsin. Teachers and administration cannot adequately support gifted students if they do not know how. Let’s teach them!
Past President, WATG
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