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.’”
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
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
Looking back at Wisconsin’s history of advocacy for gifted education, it's interesting to put it into context, both nationally and internationally. Much of the history was linked to the research in the field of giftedness.
As early as the 1850’s, Sir Francis Galton worked with a selected group of gifted individuals in England. Early in the twentieth century, Binet developed the first workable intelligence test. Later Terman based his long term study of genius on the Binet test. In 1957 the Russian success of the Sputnik satellite propelled American educational systems to initiate new science, math, and foreign language standards, curriculum, textbooks, and techniques.
The 1972 Marland Report on the Education of the Gifted & Talented formally defined gifted and talented children in the terminology we are familiar with today. One year before that, the U.S. Office of Education concluded that, “Gifted and talented children are in fact deprived and can suffer psychological damage and permanent impairment of their abilities to function well, which is equal to or greater than the similar deprivation suffered by other populations with special needs.”
As early as 1964 the dropout rate among the gifted and talented population was estimated to be three times greater than among normal populations (Gowan). At that time, the U.S. Department of Education incorporated Gifted and Talented data in the Handicapped Section. Why, you may ask? If you compare achievement and potential achievement, the gifted were considered to be handicapped.
In 1993 The U.S. Department of Education published National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent. In this publication, definitions and explanations of programs and services for this population were explained in great detail.
In 2004 A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students came out from the Belin Blank Center of the University of Iowa; edited by Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, et. al., it explicitly detailed the issues related to educating gifted and talented children and youth.
A Nation Empowered: A Ten Year Follow-up to the Important Nation Deceived Report came out in 2014, and further detailed progress in the field of gifted and talented.
The effort to add laws pertaining to gifted and talented education within Wisconsin State Statutes began in 1970 with a study requested by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Leaders within the Wisconsin Association for Educators of the Gifted & Talented (WAEGT) and the Wisconsin Council for Gifted & Talented (WCGT) maintained advocacy efforts until the statute finally became official in 1987, and is known as
[Wisconsin School Law, Chapter 118.35; 118.35(1);118.35(3) Standard (t) S.121.02(1)(t);PI 8.01(2)(t)].
With all of this research, reporting, and advocacy, it is no less important to keep up the effort in the twenty-first century. The future belongs to the current leadership, parents, educators, and business and community leaders to ensure the proper development and support of able learners.
In 2004 Dr. Julia Roberts, a staunch national gifted and talented supporter and leader, wrote a letter in which she defined advocacy and its outcomes like this:
1 Advocate = A Fruit Cake
2 Advocates = Fruit Cake and a Friend
3 Advocates = Troublemakers
5 Advocates = Let’s Have a Meeting
10 Advocates = We’d Better Listen
25 Advocates = Our Dear Friends
50 Advocates = A Powerful Organization
To remain a powerful organization and to advocate powerfully for gifted education, we need many, many advocates. We hope you join us as we continue this worthy effort.
WATG President 2003-2004
Declarations of Gifted Education Week as a public awareness and outreach mechanism began in 1982. This was several years into the campaign to achieve a state statute requiring services for children and youth who are gifted, talented, and creative. (This statute was not created until 1988.)
The earliest records of Gifted Education Week were simply printed press releases from the governor’s office. Eventually a similar declaration was also issued by the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, though today the actual documents are hiding in unknown files in unknown locations. We do know that there were a number of years in the 1990s when the requests for the Gifted Education Week declarations seem to have ended. The practice was revived in the early 2000s and several of those documents have been preserved.
In 2012, WATG’s annual conference was held at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan and Sheboygan’s mayor, Terry Van Akekkem, attended the banquet on Friday. He signed and presented WATG with a similar Gifted Education Week Proclamation for the city of Sheboygan. This is perhaps the only time a city made such a show of support!
Newsletter and board meeting minutes over the years reflect frustration in getting declarations for Gifted Education Week publicized in a timely manner; often they were realized as the fall conference was already underway or even after the conference concluded. Eventually the requests went out earlier so that the WATG Board had the opportunity to distribute the declaration to school districts, compose local press releases, and allow school staff to use the week before and/or after the conference for professional development.
Gifted personnel also created ways to share information, teaching ideas, and thoughtful pieces about gifted students with their colleagues. I can speak of a couple of things that we did in the Janesville Schools.For example, when WATG had pens and pencils created with the logo and website, we would buy enough to put a few in each of the teachers’ lounges. This was pricey enough, considering there were 18 buildings in our district! But it got conversations started around gifted students and gifted education, so it was worth it.
Another creative idea, (which cost nothing but time and a little paper), was to print “myth busters” about gifted kids, or inspirational quotes from the great authors and researchers in gifted education on colorful paper and tape them on the inside of toilet stall doors. Restaurants advertised there; why not us, we thought?
Another idea we tried was to wrap small gift boxes with these same quotes and fill them with small candies, also for the teachers’ lounges.
I share these ideas with you to inspire you to think of ways to celebrate gifted education in your schools. All of you are so creative, and technology is so much more sophisticated nowadays. There is no limit to how you can share information and inspiration.
It is just as important today to keep the need for free, appropriate, systematic, and continuous appropriate programming for our gifted and talented students a part of the conversation within public education. If services for gifted children are not provided in public schools, then only those families wealthy enough to send their children to special schools, camps, clubs, and classes will be able to satisfy the needs of their children. Let’s work together to celebrate gifted education every single day. If you’ve got some great ideas, please share them with us at watg.org. We’ll be glad to share them with others.
Ruth Robinson, Past President of WATG
Project STREAM, Support, Training & Resources for Educating Able Minorities, was a project funded by federal Javits Grant money and supported by the University of Wisconsin Extension & the Department of Public Instruction. The grant was authored and administered by Dr. Donna Rae Clasen at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. It ran from the late 1980s until 2002. During that time, hundreds of middle and high school students spent a week on campus. The ultimate goal was to increase the graduation rates of minority students and then have them enter and complete a university or technical college degree program.
Over a dozen years, hundreds of students from Beloit, Delevan, Racine, Milwaukee,and Waukesha visited the Whitewater campus at least once each semester in between their summer week-long institutes on campus. In addition, teachers from the region taught the workshops and developed relationships with the students. Currently an effort is underway to locate these former students (now in their 40s) who participated for their reflections on their experiences. Anyone with connections to these districts and their former students is asked to contact email@example.com.
The following excerpt from a STREAM brochure summarizes the overview of the project:
Successful collaborative efforts are driven by common goals. It is equally important that all in the partnership endorse the basic assumptions underlying the project endeavors. The STREAM collaboration rests on eight basic assumptions:
1. Abilities and talents are distributed equally without regard to race, gender, nationality or ethnicity.
2. Multiple intelligences exist. In identifying highly able young people, effort should be expanded to determine the ways in which an individual is intelligent.
3. Early identification of talents and abilities is critical. Identification prior to middle school is desirable. Many decisions affecting academic and personal orientation are made during middle school.
4. Systematic and continuous attention to students is required. A nurturing but challenging environment is required every step of the way.
5. Affective components are as important as the academic components. STREAM focuses on developing self-esteem and a sense of competence in both psychosocial and academic areas.
6. Parents and families must be involved in the education of their children.
7. Universities need to link with minority students, their teachers and their parents when students are at an early age.
8. Systems operate in interaction. Changing the status quo requires changes educationally, socially, politically, and in family patterns of behavior.”
As we look at the eight basic assumptions of Project STREAM, we are reminded that these assumptions remain imperative in gifted education today. Thank you to the many who furthered this project through teaching and participation. We hope to learn even more about the impact of this program on the lives of those involved.
WATG President 2003-2004
Parents, Educators, & Kids (P.E.K.) Day: The Inspiration for Children’s Programming and the Teen Conferences
Over the years, WATG has always been interested in programming for gifted children.The first planned event for children included parent, educator, and adult activities, and began in 1980. This event was billed as the P.E.K. Day (Parents, Educators, & Kids). The day was planned cooperatively by officers of the Wisconsin Council for Gifted & Talented (WCGT) and the Wisconsin Association of Educators of the Gifted & Talented (WAEGT). Additionally, the local school district, closest University of Wisconsin campus, and often the regional technical school participated in the planning and event. These events were held on a Saturday. Sometimes they were in conjunction with the WCGT Conference; sometimes they were held on a Saturday in the spring closest to the WAEGT Conference. Sessions were planned so that age groups could be grouped together, from elementary to middle school aged students.
Beginning in 1988, the P.E.K. Days became the Children’s Programs. At this time, the annual conference began on Thursday evening prior to the full-day Friday-Saturday Conference. The Children’s Programs then ran all day, both on Friday and Saturday. This allowed more parents and teachers with school-aged children to attend without additional arrangements for child care. The Children’s Programs were discontinued after the 2000 conferences. There was no programming for students of any age from 2001-2007.
In 2008, parents and educators encouraged WATG to premiere a Teen Conference. This was also a way to enhance attendance at the fall conferences. The Children's Programs had focused on elementary age students, and the Teen Conferences would focus on older students. Thus began a new tradition.
The period of time between 1985 and 2000 marked the inception and implementation of State Standard (t) in Wisconsin law. All of the programming during this time frame was aimed at children, and was sparked by the enthusiasm generated by Standard (t). These years also coincided with the federally funded Project STREAM (Support, Training, Resources for Educating Able Minorities) through the University of WIsconsin- Whitewater. This Javits Grant was authored and directed by Dr. Donna Rae Clasen.
A project has recently begun to locate any of the hundreds of Project STREAM middle school students, and the teachers and counselors who participated in the graduate level coursework that was offered through that early Javits grant. It would be great to follow up with this population of students, now in their 40s. It would be especially great to celebrate with them during the fiftieth annual fall conference of WATG in 2023. Any assistance is appreciated!
Register for this year's Teen Conference.
Ruth Robinson, Past President (2003-2004)
An article in the Stevens Point Journal of November 1990 reported that registration for the Wisconsin Council for Gifted and Talented (WCGT) Conference “was at 748 people, which included 90 children.” This was an astonishing number of registrants! However, keep in mind that 1990 was within two years of State Standard (t) having been added to the state statutes. Mr. Grover, the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Wisconsin at the time, was advocating for greater implementation of programs for special education students, and especially for gifted and talented students. Initially, funding requests were stated as a percentage of state funds earmarked for special education under the category of gifted and talented. This would have ensured a constant, specific funding line for districts.
At the same time, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire pledged to assist in managing the 1991 WCGT Conference for a comprehensive fee of $7,500, which meant they would take over all logistics of the conference. This complicated fee structures but showed a remarkable level of support from the University System.
In either 1990 or 1991, Governor Tommy Thompson announced in his State of the State Address that he would recommend that the State waive these present (20) Standards if school districts had not yet managed to meet them. Through the early 1990s, the Department of Public Instruction sent teams out to districts in a Standards Review Process, which produced a compliance report. That report carried the threat of reduced state aid to districts not meeting the standards. Standard (t), mandating gifted and talented identification and programming, is the twentieth standard, and was barely three years old before this threat appeared. It remains a statute. However, I believe standards reviews have not occurred for many years.
The lessons learned from the state statute fight from fifteen years ago, with the continued pressure to maintain services, is one for practitioners at the district level to remember today. As much as possible, practices need to be specified within a school district’s Board of Education Policies. In that way, the practices, procedures and beliefs will be on record, no matter who is on the staff at any given time. Be sure to include policies on early entrance, grade advancement, grading, post-secondary credits, or any other options that may benefit gifted and talented children and youth.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) has a storehouse of sample policies in every category. If your district is a member of this association, it is possible to get copies of policies adopted by other Wisconsin districts so you do not have to start from scratch. It’s also possible to see policies in related areas that your district may not yet have in place.
This is perhaps the best lesson I ever learned as a coordinator -- make sure that policies about gifted education are in place, because we all know no one stays in a position indefinitely. The work and time invested will pay dividends well into the future. It is difficult for state legislatures to remove existing statutes, and it is equally difficult for Boards of Education to eliminate policies without feedback and repeated readings of the proposals. Planning now secures quality programming for gifted and talented students in the future.
Ruth Robinson, WATG President 2003-04