By Ruth Robinson, WATG president 2003-04
Everyone knows State Statute 118.35 “Programs for gifted and talented pupils” and State Statute 121,02 (1)(t) with specific requirements of such ‘programs’. But do you know when this conversation started in Wisconsin? I thought I did until I continued organizing records.
Connections go back further than ever. There is a copy of the 1903 Wisconsin Journal of Education, the official School Paper of the State, established in 1856, just eight years after statehood. In it, the discussion centers around ‘individualism in classroom instruction’. There was concern over a “lock-step system in the gradation and promotion of pupils that tended to hold back the brighter boys and girls back to the speed of the slowest member of the class’.
In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik which sparked renewed interest in science education in the United States. The same year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Guidance Institute for Talented & Gifted Students (GIFTS) was initiated through the Counseling Psychology Department. The twenty-fifth anniversary monograph of 1982 was monitored by Professor Phillip Perrone (1936-2018).
More recent work toward the statutes mentioned above began in 1970 when State Superintendent of Public Instruction, William Kahl, appointed an advisory committee ‘to research and provide structure for development of legislation and processes for gifted education
in Wisconsin’s public schools’.
The Wisconsin Council for the Gifted & Talented (WCGT) was established in 1972. The Wisconsin Association of Educators of Gifted & Talented (WAEGT) followed a few years later. They consolidated in 1991-92 to form the Wisconsin Association for Talented & Gifted, WATG.
The journey to the legislation quoted above began in December 1975 and concluded with the adoption of 118.33 in 1985 - a full ten year battle. Statute 121.02 specifying standards for gifted programs followed in 1987. The mandate went into effect in the fall of 1988. The fall WCGT
Conference in 1988 was”Planning for Gifted Education: Surviving or Thriving”.
So carry on this proud tradition into the 21st Century!