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