This poem was written in 1966 by Kaye Stabbird, and describes the life of a highly gifted four year old. Though some of the references might be outdated, there still are four year olds who are asynchronous children, just like Tony, today.
Tony’s drying dishes and cleaning out the hall,
And all he did was use the phone to make a friendly call.
For Tony’s being punished (which happens more and more),
Because he’s only four years old, and much too smart for four.
He asks so many questions, his parents call it “prattle,”
When Tony asked if he could call his uncle in Seattle.
So Tony’s parents answered, “Sure,” only to check too late,
And find he’d talked from coast to coast for fifty minutes straight.
Which started Tony hollering – he wasn’t fresh or bad,
He’d asked to call Seattle, and they’d let him, and he had.
Tony’s in the corner, and upon the naughty stool,
And all because he tried to do the work in nursery school.
When Tony, tired of coloring, to vary his routine,
Miss Keith, his teacher, had him make a bowl of plasticine.
But even though he made the vowel Miss Keith looked fierce and smitten,
To note that on the back of it, MADE IN JAPAN was written.
And since it didn’t seem to help when Tony told Miss Keith,
He only wrote what all cheap bowls had written underneath…
Not really liking fierceness much, he took a pencil… WHOOM,
And fired it with a rubber band across the silent room.
Tony’s in the corner, where he’s been sent again,
Because - at four - reads and writes like someone nine or ten.
Upset about the Bowl Affair, Miss Keith - appearing grimmer -
Decided Tony might enjoy a lovely first grade primer.
The trouble was that later on when she was less forbidding,
And asked if Tony liked the book, he answered, “Are you kidding?”
“My dog can run. My ball is fun. My kitten is a pet…
See mother cook. See Baby look,” How boring can you get?
And just to warn some future child the story wasn’t bearable,
He scribbled on the little page, “Don’t read this book. It’s terrible!”
Since Tony, with things this and that was no example-setter,
The teacher said to stay home until he acted better.
Which didn’t bother Tony much, for what could be forlorn,
Than spending half your waking hours restricted to a corner?
So now he’s sweeping sidewalks, and beating scatter rugs,
And though he keeps his min alert, by watching birds and bugs -
He’s sick of being punished (which happens more and more),
Because he’s only four years old, and much too smart for four.
He’s sick of how his mother says in accents sad and moany,
“He’s brilliant, but I don’t know what we’ll ever do with Tony.”
The Past Foretells the Future
It is an often repeated statement that the past foretells the future; this statement is true in gifted education as well. For decades, gifted education has moved from the past into the future by asserting that “a program’s focus must be on recognizing and accepting individual differences,” and the twenty-first century has proved that there are so many layers to this assertion.
I’ll preface this final entry with credit to Professors Emeritus Dr. Robert E. Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen for their wise persistence, intelligence, wisdom, and generosity of time, talent, and expertise to the field of gifted education. The article below was originally published by the Department of Public Instruction in Education Forward in February of 1985 - nearly 40 years ago. Better yet, it’s based on activity sparked by the Marland report of 1972 - now 50 years old! Stay strong, my friends; progress takes time!
“The surge of interest in education of gifted, talented, and creative students was fomented by a 1972 Office of Education report to Congress, and has caused many Wisconsin school districts to consider developing a gifted program. Large and medium-sized districts have, generally, been able to proceed with developing one or more such programs. Small school districts, on the other hand, have greater trouble finding the human and fiscal resources to implement gifted programs. Yet, the need will continue to exist.
Because resources are scarce, small districts must be both efficient and effective in deploying those resources that are available.The following guidelines may help small districts assure that available resources are utilized to their fullest:
The following mixed media gifted and talented education resources are available through the University of Wisconsin (UW) Extension-Education:
● Clasen, Donna Rae. Teaching for Thinking: Creativity in the Classroom. Madison: UW Extension, 1985
● Clasen, Robert E., etal. Programming for the Gifted, Talented & Creative. Madison: UW Extension 1981
● Clasen, Robert E., et. al. Simple Gifts. Madison: UW Extension, 1981
Note that these books of readings, study guides, and instructor’s manuals, some with multiple publication dates, are being preserved in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library Archive. We hope the video programs will be preserved there in some form also.
The past does indeed inform the future. As we continue to evolve as an important and necessary part of education, we in gifted education can and must use ideas from the past to guide our future. We stand on the shoulders of knowledgeable giants!
Ruth Robinson, WATG Past President 2003-04
The WATG Board would like to thank Ruth Robinson, President of WATG from 2003-2004 for her generous gift of time and talent in compiling these Gifted Meanderings, and archiving all of WATG’s important history. Thank you, Ruth, for your outstanding contributions! You are one of our giants!
Wingspread Summit & Gifted Information, Feedback & Talkback Sessions (GIFTS 2007-2012)
There is a perception that the current struggle (with WATG initiatives, and with life in general) is new, when in truth there have always been struggles. It didn’t start with us and it won’t end with us. The important thing is that we continue the work, despite the struggle. Keeping this in mind, I thought I would take you back not to the beginning, but to WATG initiatives within the current
century, and highlight the work accomplished despite the struggle.
Most of 2004 was spent in planning and collaboration to write a proposal to hold a Gifted and Talented Summit at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The S. E. Johnson Foundation manages the beautiful Wingspread property. It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the unique surroundings are tranquil and intended to inspire successful meetings.
The purpose of this proposed Gifted and Talented Summit was to convene leaders and policy makers from education, government, business, and industry to envision the future for the full development of Wisconsin’s gifted and talented students, both for their own intellectual and social/emotional development and for the development of the state’s economy.
Attendees at the Summit included WATG Past-Presidents Pam Clinkenbeard from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Shirley Paulsen from Green Bay, Tom Zigan from Wauwatosa, and Ruth Robinson from Janesville. Also in attendance were Mary Olsky of EAGLE School - Madison, Susan Corwith from Madison, and Terry Downen from Colby. Jim Wiswall from Neenah, Congressman Paul Ryan, and then-DPI Superintendent Tony Evers were invited but were unable to attend.
The Summit featured a panel of high school students who participated in a round table discussion led by Michael Clay Thomson. The record of the planning, implementation, and results of the conference are included in the files soon to be added to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The lead organizer for the event was Dr. Clinkenbeard.
Additionally, a series of highly successful workshops were supported by competitive grants from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to WATG. The grants were written and directed by WATG President Jackie Drummer and were held over a span of four school years, from 2007-2011. The Grant Application for the 2011-12 school year was not funded. Over that span of years, 27 workshops and professional development programs were held across the state, from the far north to the south and central, and east to west in nearly every Cooperative Education Service Delivery area. The workshops featured topics including diverse populations in Gifted Education, Gifted 101 (beginner) and Gifted 201 (advanced) sessions, Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG) training, and “Grand Rounds” training for physicians, psychologists, and health care professionals about the unique characteristics of gifted children. The SENG training (Marshfield, Kenosha, and Madison), and the “Grand Rounds” training (Milwaukee and Madison), were led by Dr. Jim Webb, SENG founder. A Creativity Guide, a Survival Guide for new Gifted Education Coordinators, and a Speakers’ Directory were created and made available to anyone. Finally, a series of online webinars were developed with these funds, and other projects were begun. This was an amazing volume of work! Though the struggles were real, the payoff was outstanding for gifted education in Wisconsin.
Again, the planning documents, programs, and evaluation summaries are ready to be preserved at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Once that is accomplished, the papers and publications of Dr. Robert E. Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen are being organized for the archives of the
University of Wisconsin. We stand on the shoulders of giants as we continue our work together. Out of our many struggles progress is born!
Ruth Robinson, WATG Past President 2003-04
A Child's Poem
The following poem graced the front page of the WCGT (Wisconsin Council for the Gifted & Talented) newsletter in November of 1985. It was shared by Dr. Sally Reis, of Torrington, Connecticut. It was taken from the G/T Digest, a publication of the Association for Gifted & Talented Students, New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Reis had been a consultant for the child’s school district, but no longer had contact information for the author. It would be interesting to see where this child, who is now 46 years old, has landed.
A Child’s Poem by Chad Curtis, age 9
I sit in a vacuum day after day,
My brain is turned off accomplishment
And wasting away.
My fingers are writing, who cares what they say?
Just turn in that paper
Day after day.
I’m bored and I’m tired; I’m lonely and sad,
“No, you’re gifted and lazy
And noisy and bad!”
“Put him in private school, send him away!”
The principals, teachers, and counselors say.
Is it asking so much, would it be such a shame
To find me a challenge instead of someone to blame?
I’m sent out of the classroom to be all alone.
If THIS is how school is, I’d rather stay home!
I want to be included, I want to have fun,
I want to feel pleasure when school work is done.
So please get some programs and classes and such,
I know it takes work, but the rewards will be much.
I’m just a small boy, I hardly matter at all,
But small boys grow up into men that are tall.
Don’t let me waste all the years that I’ve got,
Let’s work together, please give me a shot!
I know that many of you recognize students like Chad, and understand his pain and frustration. This is why we do what we do. Thank you for your dedication to gifted learners.
Ruth Robinson, WATG President, 2003-2004
A Lot of Talent!
The fifty year history of this organization was guided by the wisdom and talent of many of the national and international leaders in the field of gifted education. Our yearly conferences reflect a lineup of incredible speakers. Also, throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, there were spring conferences, Educator Workshops, and Sparker Seminars for more professional development, and these events featured many renown speakers as well.
Many of the speakers between 1990 and 2015 made repeat appearances and some were mentioned in the 1970-1989 lists. Again, a quick Google search of names unfamiliar to you will reveal the depth of experience, knowledge, and pedagogy shared at conferences over the years. As you peruse this list, please also note a few of the leaders we have lost in recent years.
Barbara Clark* - (1931-2021) Degrees from UCLA, author of Growing Up Gifted in its eighth edition, originally published in 1979
Bert Grover - State Superintendent of Public Instruction, DPI from 1981-1993 Phil Perrone* - (1936-2018) UW-Madison Counseling Psychology
Stuart Stotts folk singer for the Children’s Program
Dr. Elizabeth Meckstroth - Coordinator: Gifted Resource Center in Evanston; Coauthor with Stephanie Tolan & James Webb of Guiding the Gifted Child
Dr. Ellie Schatz*- First DPI Consultant for Gifted & Talented 1987-1991. Founder of Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY) in 1991.
Rob Reid - Children’s Program folk singer
Dr. Barbara Kerr - Author of Smart Girls/Gifted Women
Nancy Johnson* - Pieces of Learning publisher, 1991, 1996, 2000
Dr. James Webb* - (1940-2018) - Founder, SENG, Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted
Muriel Bach* - One woman theater - “Madam, Your Influence is Showing” highlighting Agatha Christie, Golda Meir, Clara Schumann, & others, 1992 & 1993
Dr. William G. Durden - Director of the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins
John Benson - State Superintendent of Public Instruction, DPI 1993-2001 Ms. Dee Hartman - “Gifts We Can Give the GIfted”
Alvin Law - Teaching: Every Kid Counts - - And So Do You! Law was also a keynote speaker at the 1993 World Gifted Conference in Toronto
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph. D. - Director of the Gifted Child Development Center & Institute for the Study of Advanced Development Denver. Author of Upside Down Brilliance
Dr. Carolyn Coil - author of Motivating Underachievers from Pieces of Learning Dr. Sally M. Reis* - 1995, 2009 University of Connecticut, NAGC author, including Joyful Reading Resource Kit
Dr. Alexinia Baldwin - The Many Faces of Gifted
Dr. Signithia Fordham - Those Loud Black Girls
Dr. Felice Kaufman - The Courage to Succeed
Dr. Jim DeLisle* - 1996, 1999, 2002, 2008
Dr. Sally Walker* - Executive DIrector-Illinois Assoc. For Gifted Children since 1997
Dr. James Gallagher - 1927-2014 - in 1980 he was the founder of North Carolina School of Science & Math. He was president of the NAGC when he spoke here. He worked on the Marland Report, and established the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) in the 1970s. His work led to the passage of Public Law 92-142 for the education of all handicapped children. His work also established gifted and talented children as a population with special educational needs.
Stephanie Tolen - Advocate for gifted children & author of well-known article, Is It a Cheetah?
Dr. Roger Taylor* - Prolific speaker on integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska* - College of William & Mary, founding director of the Center for Gifted Education & author of Serving Gifted Learners Beyond The Regular Classroom. She is also a Founding Director of the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University
Ken Vinton: Appreciating the Visual Learner
Anne Marie Roeper - (1918-2012) The Heart & Soul of Gifted; Founder & Director of the Roeper School
Dr. Ann Klein
Dr. Sylvia Rimm* - 2001, 2007 Family Achievement Clinics, author and founding member of the Wisconsin Association of Educators for Talented & Gifted (WAEGT), which merged with WCGT to become WATG
Tony Evers* Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction, DPI 2001-2009, Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2009-2017, Current Governor of Wisconsin
Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson - University of Virginia, Curry School of Education. Author of multiple books & articles on differentiation with gifted emphasis
Dr. Mary Landrum - MS & Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, Gifted Emphasis from University of Virginia
Dr. Maureen Neihart - Child Psychologist Specializing in social & emotional development of gifted children
Dr. Diane Heacox* 2006, 2014, Differentiation Specialist
Dr. Julia Roberts - Member of Kentucky Advisory Council for Gifted & Talented Education, Advocacy & Political Action leader of NAGC
Dr. Chystyna Mursky - DPI Consultant for Gifted Education 2006-2017
Dr. Nadia Webb - Neuropsychologist, coauthor with James Webb & Edward Amend of Misdiagnosis & Dual Diagnosis of Gifted & Talented Children & Adults Dr. Michael Piechowski - Author of ‘Mellow Out’ They Say; If Only I Could, (see his Pioneer Profile in the WATG archives)
Dr. Richard Cash - 2013, “40 and Fabulous!”
Dr. Marcia Gentry, Purdue University; author Total School Cluster Grouping
Dr. Jonathan Plucker
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman
Lisa Van Gemert
WATG is truly indebted to all of the wisdom that these remarkable people have shared with our members over the years. Because of them, we have grown!
Ruth Robinson, Past-President 2003-2004
The journey continues through the history of WATG and its founders, leaders, and advocates. Many thanks to Carol Wright, Maria Katsaros-Molahn, and George Affeldt for their persistence and assistance in keeping this history project on track.
There are an amazing number of nationally renowned authors, researchers, and professors who have been speakers at our conferences over the years. We have very scant documentation from the 1970s, however, we continue to search. A Google search of any of the names below will complete your understanding of their contributions to the field of gifted education. All have authored books and articles, and have offered presentations in the support of advocacy and education of gifted children, youth, and their parents. Their work serves as foundational and is applicable to practitioners today.
1979 -1989 WCGT Conference Keynote and sectional presenters
Dr. Donald La Sall, Director, Talcott Mountain Science Center, Avon, CT
Gina Ginsbeg, National Executive Director, Gifted Child Society
Dr. Robert Samples
Dr. William Purkey, professor of education and chair of the Division of Counseling, Psychological Services and Research at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro Murray Sidlin, Director of the New Haven, Connecticut Symphony Orchestra
WAEGT & NWEA Inservice (a spring event opposite WCGT fall conference)
Dr. Joseph Renzulli*, Director of University of Connecticut Teaching the Gifted Program and founder of Confratute, now in its 44th year
Irving Sato, DIrector of the National/State Leadership training Institute on Gifted & Talented in Los Angeles
Dr. Sylvia Rimm*, Family Achievement Centers, author of dozens of books
Dr. John Feldhusen, Director of Gifted Resource Institute at Purdue University
Dr. Gary Davis*, Professor of Educational Psychology at UW-Madison & author/editor of Handbook of Gifted Education; most recent edition (8th) with Dr. Nicholas Colangelo Dr. Ellen Fiedler* Currently Professor Emerita of Gifted Education at Northeastern Illinois University; her Ph.D.was in Counseling & Guidance from UW-Madison
Dr. Julian Stanley, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, Director of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) through Talent Search
Dr. Bella Kranz, gifted education consultant & professor at Moorhead College, MN
Dr. Sandra Kaplan, Associate Director of National/State Leadership Training Institute in Los Angeles
Dr. Dorothy Sisk, Professor of Exceptional Child Education at the University of South Florida, Tampa & past director of the Office of Gifted & Talented in Washington, D.C. Dr. George Betts*, University of Northern Colorado, author of The Autonomous Learner Model for the Gifted & Talented.
Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Director for the Center for Talent Development & Lecturer at Northwestern University and author of Curriculum Development for the Gifted & Patterns of Influence on Gifted Learners
Dr. Phil Perrone*, Professor of Counseling Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Elizabeth Conner & Mary Olsky, founders of EAGLE School for the Gifted, Madison now over 40 years of operation
Dr. Barbara Clark*, author of Growing Up Gifted
Dr. Juanita Sorenson, UW-Eau Claire; author A Model for Gifted Programs in Small Districts
June Cox - Executive Director of the Gifted Students’ Institute for Research & Development at the Richardson Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas. Her work is the model and research behind the Pyramid Model of Services initiated with State Standard (t) in Wisconsin
Dr. Roger Taylor* Expert speaker on multidisciplinary, integrated curriculum Nancy Johnson*, Consultant and author for Good Apple, Inc.
Dr. Donna Rae Clasen*, Professor in Educational Foundations at UW-Whitewater, Author & Director of Javits Grant funded Project STREAM; Founder of Whitewater TAG Coordinators’ Network, later Southern Lakes Advanced Learner Network
Dr. Robert Clasen*, Professor in Educational Psychology, Gifted Emphasis at UW-Madison, Founder of University Outreach for Talented & Gifted, (UTAG) Coordinators’ Network, later Greater Dane County Advanced Learner Network
Welda Swed Simousek*, Second State Coordinator of Talented & Gifted at DPI
Dr. Ellie Schatz*, First State DPI Coordinator of Talented & Gifted after State Statute Dr. Joanne Rand Whitmore, author Giftedness, Conflict & Underachievement
Dr. James R. DeLisle*, Associate Professor of special education at Kent State University, Ohio and author of more than 80 articles for Gifted Child Quarterly, Roeper Review and his series Gifted Kids Survival Guide
*Indicates a frequent conference presenter
The work and publications of these people formed the foundation of education and advocacy for gifted children, youth, their parents, and educators in the first decade of implementation of State Standard (t) and related statutes in Wisconsin. Future articles will highlight others by decade of presentation. Many of the names repeat often over the years indicating the relevance of their work. In addition, every year more and more educators were finding themselves with responsibilities in the “new” area of gifted education. Therefore, the audience was, and is, never-ending!
Past President, WATG
By Carol Swanson Wright, Historian
for the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted and WCGT PRESIDENT 1990
Ruth Robinson and I have been trying to organize the many strands of historical records from the gifted movement in Wisconsin over the past 50 years. In the process of helping Ruth, I have experienced a serendipitous “brush with history,” and I would like to share that story with you now.
Most educators will recognize the following events as watershed moments on the journey to where we are today:
October 4, 1957: The Soviet Union launched its first satellite, Sputnik I, starting a "space race" with the United States. This achievement sent shockwaves through the American citizenry, which had felt technologically superior amid a post-war economic boom under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Money flooded into the schools for science education and mathematics. I was in eighth grade at the time. The Class of 1962 was so fortunate to be going through high school just as this initiative took effect since it made our outstanding education even better. Even though I had not yet heard the term “gifted and talented,” my classmates and I benefited greatly from excellent teachers and a world-class curriculum in our “honors classes.”
January 25, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson called for congressional efforts to improve the opportunities in education for America’s children. Wary of fears regarding federal involvement in local schools, the administration advocated for grants at the state level that would give local districts great leeway in the use of the new funds. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was the first general aid to education bill that Congress had ever enacted, and it has been one of the most far-reaching pieces of federal legislation affecting education that Congress has ever passed. This law was a cornerstone of the “War on Poverty” and represented a landmark commitment of equal access to quality education by emphasizing high standards and accountability.
October 6, 1971: Sidney Percy Marland, Jr., Commissioner of Education (1970-1972) under Richard M. Nixon, submitted the Marland Report to Congress. The official name of the report is Education of the Gifted and Talented - Volume 1: Report to the Congress of the United States by the U. S. Commissioner of Education. This report concluded that the federal government had provided virtually no services to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. During the next twenty years Congress and the White House sought solutions to overcome this deficiency, but legislative and executive interests usually conflicted with each other. Consequently, Marland's observations about gifted and talented education were much the same after 1971 as they had been before.
Although the Marland report is one of the most important documents in the annals of gifted education, Sidney Marland, Jr. has not received the credit he deserves. James Gallagher surmised that this lack of recognition is due to the fact that the Marland Report was Marland’s “only significant written contribution…[but] a seminal one” to gifted education. (See Profiles of Influence in Gifted Education, edited by F. A. Karnes and S. A. Nugent, 20004, page 101.) Starting out as an educator at the local level, Sidney Marland, Jr., rose through the ranks to become an administrator at the state level, and an executive at the national level, ultimately serving the public in all three roles.
In my recent research on Sidney P. Marland, Jr., I came across some interesting and serendipitous information. Most of the details in this résumé come from Marland’s own testimony before Congress in 1970. Marland grew up in a small textile town only 15 miles from the University of Connecticut. He worked his way through college, as many students did during the depression years of the 1930s, graduated in 1936, and spent a year of military service as a lieutenant in the infantry. After this brief stint in the Reserve Corps, he started his career in education as a teacher at my alma mater. Lo and behold, Sidney Marland, Jr., taught English and drama at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, from 1938-1941.
The Board of Education named Sidney Marland “Outstanding Classroom Teacher” in 1939 when he was earning $1,200 a year. He transferred from the Reserve Corps to the National Guard during this time for these two reasons: (1) partially to augment his teaching salary; and (2) partially to anticipate probable service in World War II. When the war broke out, Sidney left for the South Pacific and Southwest Pacific Theatres. The 43rd Infantry Division of the U. S. Army engaged in five major campaigns, and Marland moved up from first lieutenant to colonel. He was an operations and training officer for most of the combat period until the occupation of Japan. When the war was over in 1945, Marland returned to the United States and served a year at the Pentagon.
Sidney Marland returned to Connecticut and served as Chief of Staff for the 43rd Infantry Division. During this year of reorganization as a peace-time force, he was able to pursue graduate studies in Educational Administration. Marland served as Superintendent of Schools from 1948-1956 in Darien, Connecticut. He remarked that this was “where I gained substantial experience in the educational affairs of a swiftly growing suburb. School building construction, rapid staff increase, high academic expectations, curricular reform, and intensive budget activity characterize the 8 years in Darien.” Darien is very close to Greenwich, Connecticut, which also has high academic expectations. When I was in high school, my English teachers always held up Greenwich High School as a standard of excellence.
From personal experience I can attest that Jennifer L. Jolly’s biography of Sidney Marland (2013) is right on the money (pun intended): “At 34 years old, Marland became superintendent of a school district that competed with private schools for a student body whose fathers were executives in New York City. Marland saw this private school population as a challenge and felt that the public schools in Darien could provide an educational experience that matched that of the private schools.” Connecticut has over three dozen private high schools that compete with the public schools for the best students. A cousin went to one of these outstanding schools, (now called) Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford, and a boyfriend went to another, (now called) Loomis Chaffee in Windsor.
Marland earned his Ph.D. from New York University in 1955 and as of 1956 moved up the career ladder to be Superintendent of Schools in Winnetka, Illinois, which he described in his 1970 confirmation hearings to become Commissioner of Education as “a most economically favorable suburb of Chicago [where] my work lay largely in curricular reform, educational experimentation, and community and faculty leadership. Under conditions of high public expectations and correspondingly high tax support, it was a lively 7-year experience.” Winnetka is the home of New Trier High School, which my English teachers also held up as a standard of excellence. Marland carried this trajectory of excellence from West Hartford to Darien to Winnetka.
The Chicago Tribune reported in Sidney Marland’s obituary that, after having been Superintendent of Schools in Winnetka from 1956 to 1963, he “was considered as a top candidate for a similar position with the Chicago Board of Education in 1966, but refused to apply.” Instead, he became Superintendent of Schools in Pittsburgh for the five years from 1963-1968. Marland then joined the Institute for Educational Development in New York City as president for a year. According to his own testimony, “I had become committed to the grave and urgent needs of big city education, and believed that if disengaged from the direct responsibilities of the ‘establishment’ of education, I could do more independent work to serve urban education.”
President Richard M. Nixon nominated Sidney Marland to be the Commissioner of Education in 1970 with confirmation hearings on November 19, November 20, and December 1. In October of 1971, Sidney P. Marland,, Jr., submitted Education of the Gifted and Talented: Report to Congress. In his monograph on Sidney Marland (1914-1992), James Gallagher summarizes Marland’s contributions to the field of education as follows: “Marland had many interests in the field of education. One of those was the status of gifted students. He sponsored a conference on gifted students as the U.S. Commissioner of Education and signed off on the revised definition that came from that conference in his Report to Congress.”
“Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified people who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society.
“Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement and/or potential ability in any of the following areas, singly, or in combination:
With regard to Sidney P. Marland’s influence, Gallagher says the following: “This definition was embedded in legislation and became the standard definition for many states over the next two decades. It broadened the definition beyond cognitive performance on IQ tests, stressed the need for differentiated programming, and used the phrase ‘capable of,” which means the student needn’t show great achievement at the moment as long as he or she possesses potential.” Gallagher notes that “The basic concepts in the definition will remain central to the field of gifted education at this time.” In conclusion, Marland’s report to Congress was the “only significant written contribution that Marland made. It remains a seminal one, however.”
I have discovered one more anecdote with regard to Sidney Marland that ties together the three historical events I cited at the beginning of this tribute to Mr. Marland. The launch of Sputnik ushered in an era of unprecedented spending to improve the quality of American schools. Although President Nixon was a strong critic of the ESEA, he signed the 1969 amendments to the education bill that Congress had enacted in 1965 under President Johnson. The original bill had included Titles I-VI. These amendments added Titles VII and Title VIII. Section 27 of Title VIII, “General Provisions,” provided a definition of gifted and talented. By carrying that definition forward into the future, the Marland Report still resonates even today.
Finally, Sidney Marland himself draws the connection between the Sputnik era and the 1970s in the May 31, 1973 speech he gave before the Nationwide Invitational Conference on the Education of the Gifted. “I met with a group of Russian educators who were visiting this country to get a first-hand look at the new things we’re doing in the classroom. As we parted, I felt called upon to thank those men and women, not simply to carry out the formalities of my ex officio role of host, but to express the genuine debt that I as an educator feel to Soviet Russia for orbiting the world’s first artificial satellite in 1957….With this in mind, I thanked my Russian visitors and, as they departed, I added, ‘Please…send up more Sputniks.’”
Archiving Our History
Another year is gone. We keep hoping for better days, and are grateful for the vaccines that have given us hope and allowed safer visits with family. As we enter this new year and look forward, it is also common to look back on our past, and several of us have been doing just that with WATG’s history.
Carol Wright, WCGT Past President 1990-91, has been helping to document the specific dates of importance from the 1970’s and early 1980’s, prior to the writing of State Standard (t). The process of organizing past records and documents will continue until the summer of 2022. Then in the summer or early fall at the latest, everything will be donated to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Anyone with interest will be able to research further at that site.
We are also working with the family of Dr. Robert E. Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen to organize their papers, publications, and broadcasts for donation to the University of Wisconsin Archive. They televised teacher education programs, and produced and broadcasted them from the Wisconsin Public Television facilities on the Madison campus. The sheer volume of their work is mind boggling. They were not only pioneers, but they worked tirelessly to educate as many teachers, counselors, psychologists, parents, and administrators on the best ways to educate and support gifted and talented children and youth. We are thankful for their time and talent.
The collections to the archives will be a fantastic accomplishment, and will be a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of WATG at the 2023 WATG Annual Conference.
I will likely take a break from Gifted Meanderings for a few months early in 2022, and I wish you a Happy New Year. Stay well everyone!
Ruth Robinson, WATG President 2003-2004
Parents & Students
The effort to collect, summarize, and publish a history of advocacy and progress of gifted education in Wisconsin continues. In October I had the great pleasure of having lunch with Ellie Schatz, Welda Simousek, and Virginia Pickerell. Schatz and Simousek were the first two consultants for Gifted & Talented in Wisconsin; Pickerell is an author and presenter of strategies and approaches for teaching gifted children.
Our conversation during that lunch confirmed my belief -- the success of educational programming (or lack of it) shapes the experiences of the families served; it has a profound impact on students and families.
At the 2023 Annual WATG Conference (our 50th anniversary!) we will share all of the official historical documentation of our organization, and then the Wisconsin State Historical Society will safely archive the records, conference materials, board member lists, meeting minutes, and financial records. Currently all of this information is being organized for donation.
The anecdotal stories of families impacted by gifted education programs and advocates for gifted education have the potential to be the most powerful addition to the narrative. There are stories of gifted education pioneers and their efforts to encourage and enable their school districts to properly educate gifted children. They blazed trails for others to follow.
We would love to hear from you! Here are the links so you can share your stories:
We are eager to hear all of your stories; your stories are part of our history!
Ruth Robinson, WATG President 2003-04
As we approach fifty years of advocacy, it’s interesting to look back at the leadership rosters and honor those who started and maintained the organization. In all of that time there have only been about 300 people in official leadership roles. Of course, many of these individuals served multiple terms in multiple roles, and many of today’s Board Members certainly fit into that category.
As we examine the rosters of years past, several famous names appear from the earliest days. Professors Dr. Robert E. Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen helped lead the Wisconsin Association of Educators for Gifted and Talented (WAEGT) in the 1980s. Dr. Robert Clasen supervised the University Outreach for Talented & Gifted (UTAG) through the University of Wisconsin-Madison (now the Greater Dane Gifted Network). Dr. Donna Clasen wrote and won a federal Javits Grant to operate Project STREAM for twelve years at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Additionally, she founded the Whitewater TAG Network for Coordinators.
Professor Emerita Ellen Fiedler served on the WAEGT Board before she began her professorship at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She is the author of Bright Adults: Uniqueness & Belonging Across the Lifetime, along with many additional articles and chapters in books on gifted topics.
Dr. Ellie Schatz, the first Consultant for Gifted Education at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and her successor, Welda (Swed) Simousel, were also early leaders in WAEGT. Welda also held offices in the Wisconsin Council for Gifted and Talented.
Dr. Sylvia Rimm, founder of the Family Achievement Clinic and author of many books on the guidance and support for gifted children and youth, served as a past president and officer of WAEGT from 1983-87.
Although not serving as a board member of the state organization, our own Governor Tony Evers can be found as a coauthor of papers in support of gifted education during the 1970s. He served as Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2001-2019 prior to becoming Wisconsin’s governor.
One other notable leader in gifted education nationally is Dr. Nicholas Colangelo. He received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was Director of the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education at the University of Iowa for many years. He is listed as lead author of A Nation Deceived (2004) and the ten-year follow up, A Nation Empowered (2015).
A complete compilation of the list of leaders from all of WATG’s history is still underway. However, the people profiled in this article are some of the powerful pioneers in gifted education with strong Wisconsin roots. We honor them and continue to build on their leadership.
Ruth Robinson, Past President, 2003-04