As an organization, the WI Association for Talented and Gifted has been highly committed to both excellence and equity in gifted education. For many of you “Wisconsin gifted education veterans” out there, you may still even have our mug with the logo “Excellence and Equity” inscribed on it. As an organization, we have been keenly aware of the underrepresentation of minority and diverse students in gifted education programming in our state, and sought to bring awareness to this issue. Over the years, WATG has, with the help of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction gifted and talented grants, sponsored several Diversity Summits in our state. One of the first Summits was held in at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. In December of 2008, a second Summit was held in Janesville, and in January of 2009 a third Diversity Summit was held in Green Bay. WATG also sponsored Four Corners events in Hayward, Platteville, Marshfield, and Kenosha, and highlighted issues related to identification and programming for underserved students. During the 2009-2010 school year, WATG teamed with Milwaukee Public Schools and Cooperative Educational Services Agency #1 in a multi-pronged learning effort entitled “Overlooked Gifts: Finding and Serving Children with Promise.” Workshops, SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted) parent groups, and an internationally-attended conference in Milwaukee were some of the highlights of this joint venture.
In the decade since, WATG has continued its commitment to furthering equity and excellence in gifted education in our state by sponsoring breakout sessions which celebrate diversity at our annual conferences, speaking about these issues at other state and national conferences, (e.g., the WI Public Education Network Summits, the WI Association for School Boards and District Administrators conferences, NAGC), and forging partnerships with other associations such as the Wisconsin Rural Schools Association. WATG has also provided numerous scholarships to students to help promote diversity in learning opportunities for students.
Most recently, WATG has been highly supportive of the districts (Milwaukee Public Schools, Racine Unified, and Kenosha Unified), who have been part of the federally funded Javits Grants, focusing on underserved students who are economically disadvantaged, limited English proficiency, disabled, or “other.” While the work is being heroically done in these districts, many of our WATG Board Members and Association members have served on strategic planning and implementation teams to further the work of these grants, and we are proud of their efforts. We look forward to the “upscaling” of the learning and implementation to all corners of our state, and want to help in this effort.
Though much has been done, and is being done, so much more needs to be done. In countless articles such as these, Unequal access to gifted-and-talented education is a National … This Top Gifted and Talented School is Integrated, Money over merit? New study says gifted programs favor …, The Contradiction at the Heart of Public Education, it is apparent that much more needs to change in gifted education identification and programming to make it more equitable, while preserving the excellence that our students seek and deserve.
So...what can be done at the local level? Here are some ideas, gleaned from much of the current research on “leveling the playing field” for underserved students:
Recommendations for the identification of gifted and talented diverse students:
Recommendations for gifted and talented programming for diverse students:
Although these ideas serve as a springboard, we are certain that other strategies are being tried around our state, and we, the WATG Board, invite hearing what is being done in your district. We will share your ideas, and will continue the quest for both excellence and equity.