In August of 2022, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) presented their 2nd Annual Symposium on Equity for Black and Brown Students.The key highlights of this symposium focused on the importance of developing systems that honor and respect all individuals all of the time. Systems should strive to become proactive in their acknowledgment that eminence exists in all demographics and socioeconomic groups.
Dr. James Whitfield, Ph.D. explained that rather than continuing to only discuss the data, educational institutions and advocates must change now and offer services. Access to rigorous academic opportunities proved a salient theme throughout the conference. For instance, Dr. Whitfield counseled against deficit thinking and the belief that one failure means exclusion from advanced course work for traditionally marginalized populations. Rather, the system should include opportunities for students to master skills and build on their inherent strengths.
Building on the theme of developing assets, Dr. Francesca Lopez, Ph.D. spoke on the topic Role of Asset-Based Pedagogy to Expand Rigor. Using data and qualitative examples, Dr. Lopez highlighted how rigor and high expectations are critical to student success. However, for students from traditionally marginalized communities, these expectations must include teachers trained in Asset Based Pedagogy. Educators trained in this pedagogy understand that Critical Consciousness means that they must maintain high expectations, maintain rigor, view the student’s home culture as a place of strength, and promote critical consciousness in their students.
Gifted and talented students exist in all demographic and socioeconomic groups. In Identifying and Serving Students Who Are English Language Learners and Gifted, Dr. Nielsen Pereira, Ph.D. explained that changing our mindset allows us to recognize that multilingual learners bring amazing assets to our educational environments; however, identification and appropriate services are key to student success. Currently, the data shows that non-native speakers are not equitably represented in academic programming that enhances their talents.
Recommendations to alleviate this issue include the use of universal screening; applying multiple identification measures; communicating with parents (making sure it is in their language), and providing professional development as a leveler for the challenge. In the school environments, recommendations included building language-rich environments, recognizing and honoring the home culture of the student, using the home language to build community, and promoting language practice by allowing students to work with dominant language speakers.
More than one speaker stressed the importance of accepting that for many black and brown students, schools prove challenging environments. Drs. Anne Gray, Ph.D., Stephanie Masta, Ph.D., and Doctoral Candidate Sarena Gray, M.Ed. spoke about the historical trauma affecting Native American people. These scholars shared the detrimental effects that lack of authentic representation causes. All students should see themselves reflected and honored in the systems intended to help them grow.
Moderated by Drs. Joy Davis, Ph.D., and Erinn Fears Floyd, Ph.D., a panel discussion by parents and students proved a highlight of the conference. All six parents spoke about the importance of involvement in their children's education. This involvement allowed partnerships to form between parents and schools and enabled parents to bring forth their own talents into the system. For instance, parents in rural communities may have access to broader networks that can support schools with fewer resources. Advocacy includes students' voices. More than one parent and student spoke about the importance of allowing students to advocate for their educational needs. However, as more than one student pointed out, teachers and administrators must be willing to listen to the students.
As with last year, this conference provided a wealth of information for continued program enhancement. All students, including gifted and talented children from traditionally marginalized communities, deserve the opportunity to learn something relevant every day.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D
WATG Board Member
Madison Olszewski, a student at Menasha High School, has been selected to have her art be part of an exhibit displayed in Sarasota, FL through a non-profit group called, Embracing Our Differences. This organization uses the power of art and education to expand consciousness and open the heart to celebrate the diversity of the human family.
Madi's piece titled, "A Mile in My Shoes" was one of 50 chosen from 17,912 entries from 123 countries, 47 states and 423 schools around the world. Her piece will be showcased in the 19th annual exhibit, January 15 through April 10, in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. The exhibit consists of 50 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote. Her art can be viewed at Embracing Our Differences.org,, along with a short video of Madi explaining her inspiration and creative thought process. You can view Madi’s video here.
Madi's art work was also chosen as the cover for the school's annual catalog.
There was also a national segment on PBS talking about the exhibit: The link for the PBS
Segment is here.
Congratulations to Madi, and to all of the educators, mentors, and artists who inspired her along the way!
If you have a student or students whom you’d like to showcase in our featured Spotlight on Students series, please contact us at email@example.com, and put Spotlight on Students in the subject line. We’d love to hear from you.
Partnerships help advocates for the gifted and talented population grow stronger. For this reason, the WATG board was excited to partner with The G Word Film organization. This organization is based in California, and their film, currently in post-production, is a new documentary about giftedness, intelligence, and neurodiversity in the 21st Century. It asks the critical question, “Who gets to be gifted?” As they work to finalize this documentary, they have developed a phenomenal website with clips from their movie, highlighting amazing youth from all walks of life. Further, they are becoming a force within the gifted community, advocating for all gifted learners, especially students from traditionally underrepresented communities.
Recently, the G Word Film hosted a discussion with Drs. Ford, Davis, Statmore, and Mr. Ridgeway, entitled: Young, Gifted & Black: Recalibrating Race, Education & Equity for San Francisco. While the core focus of this presentation was centered on San Francisco, many of the themes for moving forward resonate with all learners. Here they are:
The entire podcast, along with many other resources, can be found on the G Word Film website. Take a look, and stay tuned for the release of The G Word Film.
Social Justice Taskforce Chairperson
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
The November 8, 2021 article by Frederick Hess, director of educational policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, entitled
Defend Gifted Education. And Then Do Much More,
is a must-read for parents, educators, and advocates for the gifted student population. Summarizing the article fails to give justice to its eloquent defense of our students. This snippet, however, manages to capture the understanding that equity includes ALL gifted children.
Three years ago, in a
“Culturally Responsive Equity-Based Bill of Rights for Gifted Students of Color,” a group of equity scholars including Donna Y Ford, Kenneth T. Dickson, Joy Lawson Davis, Michelle Trotman Scott, and Tarek C. Grantham argued that “gifted students of color need skilled gifted educators, gifted programs committed to recruiting and retaining them, and access to gifted programs and services, including Advanced Placement, accelerated, magnet schools, early college, and other programs for advanced students/learners.
They’re right. In fact, when equity is understood in this way, there are endless opportunities for simultaneously pursuing both equity and excellence.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D. and the Justice For All Taskforce
The 2021 Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted Fall Conference offered the opportunity to delve deeper into key issues around gifted education, both locally and nationally, with a specific focus on equity.
Regardless of the difficulties surrounding change, growth requires it. Dissecting what works versus what continues to challenge a system often begins the change process. For some, this dissection leads to refinement. “This worked, now all we need to do is…” For others, this dissection leads to complete system elimination. “This worked, but for reasons x, y, or z it no longer meets our needs.” Historians, however, dissect the past to develop a better understanding of the future. They ask, “How did we get to this point in time?”
One way to advocate for the continuation of gifted and talented services centers on dovetailing the service into specific niche settings. For instance, careful data analysis may indicate the need for highly targeted instruction. A student may benefit from full grade or subject-specific acceleration; promoting the child to a new class appears to eliminate the need.
Full grade and subject area acceleration models exist and show success. Nonetheless, as parents and educators note, these programs do not address the needs of all gifted students. Asynchrony (non-linear development) and other factors might work to undermine a student’s academic progress. For example, a four-year-old with a seven-year-old brain might still need a kindergarten structure. Similarly, highly talented musicians, athletes, or visual artists might require both talent development and advanced academics targeted to foster their needs.
However, these models often appear to perpetuate system biases. For numerous reasons, including, but not limited to test anxiety, lack of preparatory opportunities, and continued systemic bias, underserved and traditionally minority populations rarely receive the benefits of gifted programming. Indeed, this proves to be the biggest rationale for the rallying cry, “The program is inherently biased, eliminate it.”
Scholars from these very communities, however, propose an alternative path, tied to local norms and talent development. Within this framework, the goal becomes one of inclusion rather than exclusion. One strategy suggested focuses on the use of non-verbal identification tools. The importance of these instruments stems from their non-biased narratives.The challenge comes in disseminating and utilizing the data.
Used with prudence, nonverbal identification tools provide entry points. Rather than using these tools to find one or two students from diverse backgrounds in older grades, use them to find a strong cohort of kids early on. The data may or may not lead to a group that would reach a scale score of 130 on a traditional IQ test. The data, however, might lead to “students of promise.”
Data collection leads to service development and delivery. Recognizing the disparity in access to enriched opportunities, educational models should adopt an enrichment for all mentality. Talent development is good for all kids and allows brains to create higher-level problem-solving skills. Providing enrichment opportunities in the early grades allows for students to hone in on their passions and develop stronger social-emotional connections to their school community. Students and school systems benefit from this positive engagement.
Providing enrichment opportunities, moreover, increases the bonds between the school, home, and community. Parents who believe that their school district provides both appropriate educational opportunities and rewarding experiences become allies. Moreover, as students progress through their academic careers, these bonds ensure that a continuation of appropriate service opportunities remains. Families with strong local connections tend to maintain residency within their district.
Ultimately, to arrive at a point where targeted instruction utilizing full or subject-area acceleration becomes the norm, a foundation of opportunity for all must exist.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D,
WATG Secretary for the Justice for All Taskforce