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Like A Lion

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

In NC, it would be an understatement to say that we have had some rain.

In like a lion, eh? ROAR! We hear you, March!

Not only has the weather of late been unsettled, but also the world of education, particularly gifted education has been unsettled. It got me thinking and reflecting on gifted resources, in particular, talent searches like JHU-CTY, DYS, etc. If the mission of these places was to serve the needs of gifted students, why are there so many families that have HG/PG students with needs that go unmet? More to the point, if they are doing such a great job, why did we feel the need to create BRIGHTLinks?

The answer: They are doing it wrong.

For example, you may have read about the new pilot study that JHU is doing where they are now accepting scores in the 98th percentile and a wider variety of testing to receive CTY-eligibility. I write to inquire about the purpose of this study and I received the following response, "CTY is gathering data to allow us to continue our research on talent identification. We want to ascertain whether students who perform in the 98th percentile on accepted tests are successful in our courses (those courses at the CTY level) and, if so, how that affects our current assumptions around talent identification."

How interesting! It is good to re-evaluate policies surrounding how one might identify a gifted student. My next question was, "Will you be providing free CTY level courses to these newly eligible students in order to test your hypothesis?"

Response: "While enrolling, the application will prompt families to provide a copy of their child’s score report. The courses in our Online Programs have an associated tuition. You can view the tuition/fees for Online Programs courses here​."

"Hmmm, really?" I go on to ask "if in the past they have often received inquiries from students to "be allowed" to pay for and participate in their CTY Online Programs? It would make sense if you are planning to study "if students who perform in the top 98th percentile are successful in CTY above level-course work" that CTY would carry the study past eligibility to extend an opportunity to take CTY-level courses as well to see if your hypothesis is true."

The responses become more canned. "CTY is a research organization within a research university, and it is part of our mission to continually evaluate and validate the best ways to identify and serve advanced learners. We have arrived at no foregone conclusions about this pilot program and will share our results with the CTY and gifted and advanced learner community as we come to them".

I see...CTY, you are doing it wrong!

If BRIGHTLinks had the kind of funding that CTY or DYS has every gifted student would receive the following:

  • Needs Assessment: Including academic, social, emotional. Assign an advocate to each student.

  • Evaluate Needs and Individualized Planning: Using 18 ways to accelerate a student as the guide, walk alongside parents and work with schools on ways to meet needs. Open doors and assist with ease of access to above level courses (including AP and college classes if student's need access) regardless of age or grade. Plans would be re-evaluated as needed. Goal: Create the Least Restrictive Learning Environment vs Least-worst option.

  • Connection and support: Create databases of families and of therapeutic resources by geographical location.

  • Resources: spreadsheets of camps, competitions, and courses for many interests.

  • Be available: If a parent or teacher feels a student is gifted with needs but has not yet been identified, we would be a place to call to help get a student identified.

  • Outreach: Have teams establishing pathways to access courses available across the country. Advocating to agencies such as the College Board to allow access and credit for work.

Giftedness is a spectrum of learning needs. High achieving students often are getting their needs met in school. Gifted kids, especially HG/PG kids, are the ones with unique learning needs. Some students need enrichment or perhaps a deeper study of a subject that can be solved with an overlay of current curriculum. Some students need to be allowed to compact curriculum and may advance through 2-3 levels of math in one year. Some students need some of both and more.

There should be a well established, well funded, and well respected talent search organization that provides direct intervention supported by research to help schools figure out a way to meet the spectrum of needs by now. One that parents and schools can reliably call on to help get school right for these kids at any age.

These places are resource and enrichment focused instead of focused on individual needs.

Talent searches, you are doing it wrong! This is, of course, my opinion and my vision. I am waiting to win the lottery :)

Until that day, I will continue to be a lion for my cubs and for our community. I would encourage parents to continue to be lions for your cubs. Be Fearless, courageous, and tenacious. Make some noise, write letters, make inquiries, get involved, demand more. Without demand, things will always remain the same.

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