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