In the five decades that I taught and served as a gifted and talented coordinator, differentiation specialist, and educational coach, I had the great fortune of working with colleagues in all departments and all grade levels K-12 in multiple schools, districts, and states. I engaged in educational modeling, co-teaching, observation, and coaching some of the finest educators, and learned far more from them than I’m sure they learned from me. I often joked that I was the “conduit,” carrying best practice and great ideas from teacher to teacher, essentially serving as “professional development on legs,” -- and I always shared the credit for the strategies and learning. Additionally, as a gifted and talented coordinator, I was always on the lookout for ideas and practices that best served our most able learners so that we could maximize the learning for all.
It is no secret that high-end learners often are the least served in our educational system. In many places, schools’ budgets are strapped, class sizes are huge, and teachers struggle to meet the needs of all learners, especially when students’ abilities may bridge up to seven grade levels in a single classroom. See this research from the Institute for Education Policy, Johns Hopkins School of Education, in which authors Matthew C, Makel, Michael S. Matthews, Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, and Jonathan A. Plucker assessed data from NWEA MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) and NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) in California, Florida, and Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, many, many gifted students are doing very well academically.
Some researchers have also posited that learning differences in a given classroom may be even more pronounced when schools resume complete face-to-face instruction, hopefully in late August or September of 2021. They suggest that the combination of the traditional “summer slide” and “COVID slide” in student achievement may exacerbate existing gaps in learning. Though some students, unfortunately, have lost academic ground, others (often our high-end learners) have maintained or accelerated their learning during the past year and a half.
A recent article by Chris McNutt,
Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave: How the Testing Industry Manufactured the "Learning Loss" Narrative examined what could possibly happen as schools resume this fall. The article also includes ideas to mitigate the “learning loss” during the summer. Though the data surrounding “learning loss” is, according to this article, ostensibly inconclusive, here are some of the things that school districts are planning to do with their American Rescue Act funds to bridge the “learning loss”:
In a recent article in TCM blog entitled “How to Identify, Reverse, and Prevent Learning Loss with School-Wide Strategies,” some great strategies to empower teachers were explored. These strategies are things great teachers already do, and could amplify learning for all students if all teachers, K-12, were encouraged and expected to employ them.
For example, teachers in kindergarten through grade two (or those at the elementary level) often employ these exemplary practices:
What if middle and high school teachers more frequently pretested, compacted curriculum, monitored progress with both formative and summative assessments, and held conferences frequently with their students about their learning? What if we reduced class sizes for our secondary teachers so that they could truly know their students and plan for their learning?
Conversely, exemplary middle and high school educators (and some elementary teachers) often employ these nine high-yield strategies (based on the work of Bob Marzano) for effective instruction and learning :
What if elementary teachers recognized the readiness in able learners and taught them to utilize these skills at even younger ages? What if we didn’t wait until middle and high school to introduce and perfect these skills? What if we truly personalized learning in response to student needs and readiness?
As we approach the end of summer (recognizing that educators often remark that June is like Friday night, July is like Saturday, and August is like Sunday during the “regular school year”), many educators’ thoughts are already turning to the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. They are considering how to mitigate “learning loss,” how to support social and emotional learning, how to diagnose and respond to trauma induced by the pandemic, and how to meet students where they are, academically, socially, and emotionally.
As a result of this grand disruption in schooling as we have always known it, we have been given a huge opportunity to reimagine, reinvent, and refine new ways of teaching and learning; let’s not waste it!
September is just around the corner, and many of us are curious to see what this school year will bring. We will “see you in September” to begin this journey -- and will travel it together.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Martha Aracely-Lopez of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found in our website blogs.)
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.