Mary Budde, WATG Treasurer
As the expression goes, if I had a nickel for everytime my parents told me there was nothing I couldn’t learn if I could read, well, I’d be rich. Up through elementary school, my mom and I would go to the public library after school on Thursdays and check out our reading for the coming week. I was fortunate to grow up close to a large neighborhood library, in which there was never a shortage of books that piqued my interest. As an adult, I count reading as one of my treasured daily pleasures.
There is a natural progression of listening, to reading, to writing throughout childhood, although reading and writing are intertwined. Reading to a child in infancy and beyond has repeatedly been shown to benefit children in many ways; in addition, it’s very enjoyable for the adult doing the reading. I would argue it is just as enjoyable to read a favorite book to an elderly person who can no longer do so themselves.
We all have books that, for one reason or another, are our favorites. Maybe they are associated with a particular person or memory, or were just plain enjoyable. The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians, and Other Remarkable People is a collection of short essays of the contributors’ selections, and explanations of the books which impacted them.
Most of the books the contributors cite were read up to early adulthood, although there are a few exceptions. Some are ones you might expect: The Odyssey, Animal Farm, Pride and Prejudice and Slaughterhouse-Five. Others are less traditional: Green Eggs and Ham, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pinocchio, and the Nancy Drew series. However, there are a number of common themes in the essays as to the reasoning for the selections. How many of these apply when you think of books that made an impact on you?
Think about your own selections and how they influenced you. How can you help your children find theirs from the past and present? Has your child read your most impactful book? Form your own family book club to explore books together. It will be an enjoyable and meaningful journey.
The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians, and Other Remarkable People
By Bethanne Patrick. Regan Arts. (March 29, 2016)
Under-representation of minority and culturally different children in gifted education is a serious issue in the American education system. One of the main reasons that these students are under-identified centers around the use of identification methods that are culturally biased. Identification must be based on a student’s potential instead of his/her performance, and identification instruments must be culturally appropriate. School districts use various assessments to identify gifted students. Some of the assessments currently in use are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children Fourth Edition (WISC-IV), the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and, the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), among others.
School districts across the globe have been using the WISC-IV tool for many years.This test measures children’s cognitive skills by evaluating their ability to understand, comprehend, and apply what they have learned. This is a helpful tool to identify all types of learners, especially minority students.
Another test that we can administer to identify our students is the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). The general purpose of this assessment is to test the cognitive abilities of K-12 students relating to their verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal reasoning and problem-solving skills. The CogAT Form 7 is accessible to non-English speaking students, as it is in non-verbal format. It measures cognitive development and problem-solving skills. Some schools use Form 6 and some use Form 7. This is a helpful tool to identify non-English speaking students who are gifted.
The third IQ test that is often used to identify students is the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT). The NNAT is a measure of nonverbal intellectual ability presented in a matrix analogy format. Many districts administer this test to identify students who do not perform well in school due to language barriers or learning disabilities. The entire test is nonverbal and it includes different illustrations and diagrams with various patterns and shapes. This test is a good predictor for success in a school’s gifted program, and some sample tests are available online. If students practice beforehand by taking the sample tests, they might do well in this test, as it will give them the advantage of seeing the types of questions that will be on the NNAT.
Administering these tools help us get a general sense of a student’s abilities and learning style. They give us one view of a child’s ability to be successful in school. However, many other data sources can give us valuable information about students. Multiple data sources may include achievement tests like FORWARD, STAR or MAP, classroom assessments, teacher rating scales, parent nominations, teacher nominations, or classroom performance to identify students for the school’s gifted programming.
My school district is one of the most diverse school districts in the North Shore area of Milwaukee. 55% of our students are minority students and 33% of them are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. Despite using all of these assessments, we still feel like we are not identifying all of our students who are gifted. When I first started my position as a gifted and talented teacher 11 years ago, I had only a few African American students in my GT Resource class. By using various assessments that are less biased, we are able to identify more minority students in our gifted program. Currently, we have 30 African American students, 2 Native American students, 5 EL students, 6 Asian students, and 7 Hispanic students in our GT Resource class. This is a prime example of the importance of using culturally unbiased instruments for identification purposes.
In conclusion, we should understand that human capabilities are much more diverse and complex than what is measured by achievement tests and ability tests alone. Nonverbal reasoning tests do help identify bright children, especially those who are poor or who are not fluent in the language of the dominant culture, but educators should compare the test scores of these children with other children who have had similar opportunities to develop the abilities that are measured. And once we identify students whose needs are not being met, we must act on that knowledge and provide adequate challenging accommodations.
by Lalitha Murali, WATG Board Member
By Martha Lopez, WATG Board
As a Mexican-American educator in Wisconsin, I bring a unique perspective to the topic of why teachers of color matter. They matter to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) families.
For twelve years, I was a bilingual educator teaching brilliant 1st- 4th grade bilingual students in the largest public school district in Wisconsin. Then I taught advanced English Language Arts to academically gifted 6th-8th grade students statewide. The majority of those students were BIPOC. Today, I am one of two licensed Bilingual Gifted & Talented Program Coordinators in the state. Every year, students and parents remark, “how lucky I am to have you as my teacher.” And I feel lucky to be one of the 1.2% of Latina educators in Wisconsin. Allow me explain.
Across the nation, a Washington Post analysis of school district data from 46 states and the District of Columbia found that only one-tenth of 1% of Latino students attend a school system where the portion of Latino teachers equals or exceeds the percentage of Latino students. It’s only slightly better for Black students. That is, 7% were enrolled in a district where the percentage of black teachers matched or exceeded the percentage for students. Among Asian students, it was 4.5%. Meanwhile, 99.7% of White students attended a district where the teachers were as White as the student body.
On a positive note, according to federal data, the share of teachers of color has grown. For example, in 1988, 87% of public school teachers were White, and by 2016, 80% were White.
Nevertheless, the racial gap between teachers and students has widened as the population of younger BIPOC enrollments have increased throughout the US. In 1994, two-thirds of public school students were White, while in 2019 it was less than half.
Some of the challenge is demographic: Latinos are younger, as a group, so they make up a greater share of the student population than the adult population. Teachers may stay in the profession for decades, so it takes time for the workforce to transform.
And yet researchers have found significant positive results when students of color have teachers of their race or ethnicity. These positive results include better attendance, fewer suspensions, more positive attitudes, and higher test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance. Teachers of color also have higher expectations for students of color, which may fuel the other gains.
Studies find that having a same-race teacher makes Black and Latino students more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college, and can even affect a choice of major. A study looked at Black students who had at least one Black and one White teacher in high school and found the Black teachers more likely to expect Black students would finish college. Another study found that Black students were more likely to be referred for gifted and talented programs when they had Black teachers. Studies found the race of a teacher does not affect White students in the same way, although there may be life benefits from exposure to diverse perspectives and role models. Most children are not getting that. About 8 in 10 students live in districts where Black or Latino teachers make up less than 5 percent of the faculty.
As far as Wisconsin teachers, the numbers are very similar to the country. I looked at the three largest public school districts in the state: Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), and Green Bay Public Schools (GBPS). As the figures below indicate, MPS has a 60.1% teacher of color gap. Specifically, about 90% of students are BIPOC, whereas only 28.8% of teachers are BIPOC. At MMSD, there is a 44.3% teacher of color gap, where 57.3% of students are BIPOC and 13% of teachers are BIPOC. Finally, at GBPS, there is a 49.4% teacher of color gap. That is, 54.3% of students are BIPOC yet about 5% of teachers are BIPOC.
It is undeniable, representation absolutely matters, and it matters for almost every educational outcome we can think of. The million-dollar question -- is how do we effectively find teachers of color and how do we retain them? This is the discussion we need to continue to have.
Please save time during the WATG Virtual Conference 2020 to join members of the WATG board for our Virtual UnConference. Several virtual ZOOM rooms (pick one) with various themes will be available for you to join, and will be moderated by WATG Board members. These are the RULES:
Rule #1: Whomever joins the UnConference will be the perfect mix for a great discussion!
Rule #2: Discussions may flow in various directions – you set the agenda for the topic on the fly!
Rule #3: Beverages are allowed (encouraged) during the UnConference!
Rule #4: It is over when it’s over!
Sunday, October 18, 2020 starting at 6pm
Topics will include: Equity in Gifted Ed, Parenting can be Lonely, Twice Exceptional Students (2e), Acceleration in our Schools, How to Become a WATG Board Member, Advocacy within a School, Advocacy at the State Level, and Gifted Potpourri (any topic about gifted that you want to discuss).
Mark your calendars and be there!
The WATG Conference Committee
There is a common belief that perfectionism is a characteristic of gifted individuals. Therefore the question of whether gifted students are more perfectionistic than their non-gifted peers has been studied in gifted education. This is due to the significance of perfectionism in the social and emotional development of gifted individuals.
Perfectionism is a complex concept, just as giftedness is. A current meta-analysis by Ogurlu (2020) suggested that gifted individuals do not differ from their non-gifted peers concerning perfectionism. On the other hand, healthy perfectionism was higher in gifted participants than their non-gifted counterparts. Healthy perfectionism is characterized by striving for excellence and pleasure in the endeavor for success, and an awareness of the limits. Unhealthy perfectionism, conversely, is characterized by dissatisfaction with what has been accomplished, and by setting irrationally high goals. Ogurlu’s study implies that perfectionism is another myth about gifted individuals.
To read more about the study:
Board Member, WI Association for Talented and Gifted
¨Hands-On, Minds On, Now More than Ever¨ is more than a theme for the upcoming Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted conference; it is a rallying call for our work as advocates for Gifted and Talented Students. The WATG board, under the leadership of Jackie Drummer, Past President and current Board Advisor, crafted a statement about the importance of equity for all students. In that statement, we wrote: “As an organization, we are cognizant of the inequities in the identification and educational programming for gifted students of color.” The truth of this statement is jarring. Dr. Marcia Gentry, one of the keynote speakers at our upcoming fall virtual conference, notes that limited seating availability and lack of local normative data leads to gifted students from underrepresented backgrounds lacking access to appropriate services.
We continued our statement observing that “WATG is devoted to examining and rectifying these disparities.” One of the ways we do this is through adult education. This organization reaches out to parents, educators, administrators, and political leaders locally and nationally. We aim to provide tools based on research regarding the importance of providing equitable learning opportunities for all students through educational outreach. Dr. Brian Housand, another keynote speaker at our fall virtual conference, provides practical tools that encourage and empower students and their advocates to work collaboratively for a better future.
Furthermore, “WATG pledges to do our part to dismantle structural and institutional racism.” Parents and advocates for gifted students need to feel comfortable with the adage that we all succeed when everyone has access to the best possible education. Two parent/guardian workshops at our virtual fall conference will focus on families and advocates. One is entitled Parent to Parent, and will be a facilitated discussion, allowing parents to share ideas and strategies that work with gifted children. A second workshop, Growth Mindset for Gifted Kids, will focus on strategies to develop growth mindset in gifted children. Both of these workshops will offer insights into the unique traits that define this population, including a heightened sense of right and wrong, a demand for perfection, and a desire to make the world a better place.
A critical component of educational equity is building cultural capital. All students deserve learning environments that encourage and promote inquiry. The variety of workshops at our fall virtual conference will offer strategies, introduce topics, and inspire creative leadership for all participants. We at WATG ended our social justice statement by “inviting partnerships with other institutions, groups, and individuals to share conversations about the impacts of race, and we will work to listen, learn, and support each other in this critical process of changing our world.” Joining our organization and attending the 2020 Conference will enable us to create a stronger coalition of advocates working to create equitable opportunities for all gifted and talented learners in the state of Wisconsin.
We look forward to seeing you!
Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Board Member
by Martha Lopez
English language learners (ELLs) have historically been underrepresented and underserved in gifted and talented (GT) programs across the United States. To improve identification practices for this population, we can begin by asking ourselves how we can increase the visibility of diverse learners in GT screening. What does equity look like in identifying ELLs for advanced programs? How can we actively improve culturally responsive support for exceptional ELLs in our classrooms?
Traditional concepts of giftedness only hinder the possibility and opportunity for ELLs to be identified for gifted programs. As a result, White and Asian, English-speaking students have occupied most seats in advanced learning programs.
Gifted screening protocols can reinforce these perceptions. Conventional markers for giftedness are rooted in assessment data and previous high academic achievement. This can be especially inequitable for ELLs, whose language output and cultural orientation may mask exceptional promise.
REFRAMING CONCEPTIONS OF GIFTEDNESS TO SUPPORT INCLUSIVITY
To make any progress, we have to be uncomfortably honest about what giftedness should look like in our schools. What are our perceptions and expectations of exceptional students? Do we, as teachers and as schools, tend to identify certain student types, ethnicities, or socioeconomic groups, or one gender? How do a child’s parents or other educators influence us?
At the very least, a more inclusive framework should include three important components:
After an inclusive framework is established, we can critically evaluate the degree to which our definition is also culturally responsive. We must pay close attention to where we can find expressions of gifted characteristics. Language learners can—and do!—demonstrate exceptional content-specific talents. The promising gifted ELL may:
A CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE PROCESS OF GT IDENTIFICATION
Even high-flying ELLs are not likely to be identified through traditional GT screening, as mentioned above, because our screening protocols are not designed to identify them. A realistic representation of underrepresented populations in gifted programming requires that we break with our dependence on test scores. One reasonable solution is to move beyond isolated quantitative data points and toward qualitative portfolios of potential. Inclusive GT portfolios of potential may include:
SUPPORTING ELLS’ TALENT DEVELOPMENT
Ensure that curriculum is culturally responsive: Culturally responsive practice seeks to recognize, value, and authentically represent students’ heritage virtues in the school setting. Are you wondering how to connect this pedagogy to GT programming? Begin learning units with background knowledge surveys, or embed multicultural connections and community engagement as a means of enrichment.
Provide opportunities for self-directed learning: Self-directed learning is an effective tool for student engagement that supports higher-level thinking. By introducing the element of choice, we draw out a learner’s natural curiosity through creative problem solving and experiential learning.
Use assessments that allow for diverse expressions of understanding: Offer choice in how students demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding. Project-based learning (PBL) works exceptionally well in this context. PBL is defined as a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge. This type of open-ended learning allows ELLs to show what they know in ways that are less language dependent, such as design, computer programming, or art.
Consistently work toward the elimination of educator bias: Teachers and parents play a critical role in the gifted identification process. They are most likely to nominate students for consideration and are directly involved in a child’s day-to-day endeavors. We can better prepare both groups to advocate for ELLs who demonstrate exceptional gifts and talents.
On a final note, parents are often the first to note a child’s gifted potential, even if it has not presented itself at school. This may be true of students who have not yet gained linguistic confidence or students are from collectivist cultures, who typically avoid standing out in the classroom. Parents, especially those whose cultural experience with school involvement differs from American norm, may not be aware that they can recommend their child be considered for GT screening. Therefore, it is important for educators to maintain an open communication and partnership with parents. At the same time, educators can benefit from training to reduce bias and spot latent talents in underrepresented populations. Like all successful school programming, achieving effective and equitable GT services takes a collaborative effort.
Within these times of Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (because let’s face it...it is not really distance learning or virtual learning...we were thrown into this), educators are constantly treading water with all things, including lesson planning for students while trying to keep things running smoothly at home for their own children. (Oh...you need to eat again? For the 15th time? At 11 am?)
Some of us may be finding it difficult to differentiate for our gifted students, especially as we navigate new platforms and delivery systems, and build a new plane as we fly it for all of our students.
To help prepare a curriculum that is relevant and challenging, here is a model that could be used in any subject. It would allow students to synthesize information, use critical thinking skills and exercise creativity. You may want to try using this as an assessment for your current unit!
The G.R.A.S.P.S. Model
Provide a statement of the task. Establish the goal, problem, challenge, or obstacle in the task.
Possible sentence starters:
Your task is to… The goal is to… The problem or challenge is… The obstacle to overcome is…
Define the role of the students in the task. State the job of the students for the task.
Possible sentence starters:
You are… You have been asked to… Your job is…
Identify the target audience within the context of the scenario. Example audiences might include a client or committee.
Possible sentence starters:
Your clients are… The target audience is… You need to convince…
Set the context of the scenario. Explain the situation.
Possible sentence starters:
The context you find yourself in is… The challenge involves dealing with…
P: Products or Performances
Clarify what the students will create and why they will create it,
Possible sentence starters:
You will create a … in order to… You need to develop a … so that
Provide students with a clear picture of success. Identify specific standards for success. Issue rubrics to the students or develop them with the student.
Possible sentence starters:
Your performance needs to… Your work will be judged by… Your product must meet the following standards… A successful result will…
**Note that it is unnecessary to use all or even any of the sentence starters. Generally one sentence starter can be used to write.
Good luck as you navigate these new waters and incorporate new and exciting strategies!
-Beth Fairchild, GT Coach and WATG Conference Co-Chair
“Just like people all over the world are working from home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Isaac Newton had to work from home during the Bubonic plague. It was during that time that he was his most productive, developing his theories of calculus, optics, and even gravity…” “…Ironically, while his time actually working at college was “undistinguished”, Newton’s time working at home were his most productive years and would alter the course of science.” (History Hustle)
Dear Gifted Wisconsin Students,
It’s very telling that Newton’s most productive time was while he was under quarantine. Perhaps this can be a time for you to be productive as well. After your class assignments are completed there may be time left in your day to get creative with your own possibilities. Is there a thought you haven’t had time to finish? Words or ideas not on paper? An experiment waiting to happen? A structure calling to be built? A game that needs developing? Creative juices needing an outlet?
The WATG Board of Directors wants to provide a place for you to showcase your quarantined time creations, experiments, musings, and inventions. The details are pending but be sure to watch our WATG Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/WisconsinGifted and our webpage http://www.watg.org/ for guidelines and directions for submission. Our “Nothing Can Stop Me” movement is all about you having an opportunity to stretch out and grow your ideas!
We are not expecting you to be Newton, but we are hoping that you might find time to shut off your screens and get creative! We want to support you during this national time of pausing. Let us share your work! Perhaps you will inspire other students to do the same thing. Who knows where your inspirations may lead? Nothing can stop you!
Parents and teachers, please share with your students as you see fit.
History Hustle. “Isaac Newton Worked from Home During the Plague and 'Discovered' Gravity.” History Hustle, 19 Mar. 2020, historyhustle.com/isaac-newton-worked-from-home-plague/?fbclid=IwAR2tEPrqiuyzO3E_hdT3EHgiwApG8fM8KfiTisQ2c_ITRH55wETA5abMyx4.
Ask many children whether they would rather do art or math, art or writing, art or whatever, and most likely they will answer art. Have you ever wondered why this is?
As people of world cultures, we are still discovering and studying art on cave walls, carved bones, petroglyphs, and pottery. Humankind has been making art since the dawn of humankind. Why is this?
And how does art fit into the world of giftedness?
When I speak of art, I am including all art forms: visual arts, dance, video, music, the written arts (like poetry or rap), etc.
Art has taken a backseat to academic skills over the last 15-20 years in our schools. The main reason seems to be this -- while many academic skills can be fit into a continuum that can be tested, scored and used to compare one student to another, one school to another, one state to another, or one culture to another, art cannot be quantitatively measured. There are so many characteristics of art that there is no easy way to pin art down and say, “This is art. This isn’t.” “This is good art. This is excellent art.” Therefore, if there is any art in a school, it is usually minimal, comes “after” the “regular” curriculum, if there is time in the schedule. Testing rules.
I propose a novel idea -- that art should not be an add-on to the curriculum, but should be the center of the curriculum, with all other subjects rotating around it, or linked to it. If you Google art and education on the internet, you will find a wealth of studies and articles showing what art does for learning! Art is used in so many ways -- as representation or recording of events, as a way of storytelling, in interpretation of something, as an emotional or energy release, as creativity itself, in synthesis of ideas, as a way of resisting or rebelling, in transforming, in the design of things that we use in living our lives. And, above all, making art just feels good!
We are always studying the arts of previous and present-day cultures to learn what people were/are like. How did they live? What did they do in daily life? What was important to them? Why/how did they perish/disappear? The purpose of studying a culture’s arts is several: representation or recording art from a culture shows what things a people did in their daily lives (e.g., pictures of people fishing in a boat). Pictures of daily life can act as storytelling (e.g., first they took the boat out, then they caught a fish, and by bringing the fish back, they fed many people). Art can encourage us to interpret (e.g., this was a very basic way to make a living, and this was the way this culture fed their people). Children often use the components of dance or interpretation naturally as they tell stories or act out life events for themselves, their friends, or a gathered family audience. Gifted students, like all others, can use the arts to express what they have learned in a similar way, rather than filling out a test, or doing writing which may be difficult for them. Many children remark that the arts free them to express themselves without boundaries.
Many educators and students have found another important use for art as interpretation. Studies have shown that students drawing, doodling, or making sketches of what they are learning/listening to allows them to use multiple areas of their brains, leading to greater learning and understanding. This has been shown to be especially true for economically poorer students. Studies of students drawing or sketching while learning show that their learning was far superior to those just writing notes or just listening. The studies of students who use the arts in their learning also show that the arts give them greater focus/concentration, better use and learning of language(s), more self-control, better behavior, and greater empathy towards others. Additionally, studies of learning linking music to cognitive skills is also highly predictive of success in school and life.
Allowing gifted students to regularly practice an art form along with their academics has several other important outcomes. For many students, art is an emotional or energy release. Many gifted students are blessed with an abundance of energy, creative and physical. Allowing them to participate in an art form allows these students a release of this energy, so that they can better concentrate on academic matters.
Since art is also a creative process, it can allow escape from “reality,” at least temporarily. Bill Waterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoons are perfect examples of this phenomenon. This temporary escape from reality allows ideas to pour out, to be put down on paper, to be interpreted, and sometimes presented for the world to enjoy. Alternatively, sometimes people simply “do” art for art’s sake, for the pleasure of it.
The Arts can also allow for synthesis of ideas that perhaps could not be expressed or brought to the surface in any other way. Sometimes students cannot express in a few words what can be acted out or drawn. Maybe after acting out or drawing a student can then express what their thoughts are. Art can be the expression of thoughts, but in a different (and sometimes safer) way.
The arts can also allow for resistance or rebellion to be expressed in a safe way. Artists have been doing this for years! Go to any museum of the arts and see the paintings and sculptures that were created by great artists who were rebelling against kings, governments, or the aristocracy. Look at all the contemporary tagging and graffiti painted on walls and train cars around our cities. Listen to the music of the oppressed. This expression has purpose! The arts allow expression through painting, dancing, singing, or building something. The arts celebrate human emotion!
The Arts can also be transformative. Many students in school have endured the academics required of them just so they could do drawing or dance or engage in some other artform. Only after considerable time has passed will these students realize that they aren’t just enduring the academics anymore, but that there is actual enjoyment in some or all of their studies! Art can change people.
Of course, art is used to design things. Without some way of expressing new ideas, the things we use in daily life, from the clothes we wear to the car we drive, wouldn’t change. Life would not improve, and cultures would not evolve. Invention and design are hallmarks of thriving cultures, and students instinctively understand this. Humans are wired for novelty and exploration.
Finally, making art should be encouraged simply because it feels good. Whether students draw or dance or write imaginary stories, they can be encouraged to “just do” some form of art simply for the sake of doing it. Again, studies have shown that completing something of personal consequence just for ourselves gives us a great feeling of satisfaction. This is because doing so releases dopamine, our body’s natural hormone, giving us a natural “high.” A closing thought - how much better would our world be if all of our “highs” were derived from the arts?
Dal Drummer, WATG Board Advisor
Former Artistic Director of the Lincoln Center for the Arts, Milwaukee Public Schools