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No Spring Break for Gifted Advocates — State Homework with Extra Credit Federal Assignment

April 19, 2011
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The Issue

Ah, spring break — the time to relax for a few days before finishing up the school year refreshed and rejuvenated.  Sorry, everyone, but spring break is canceled this year for gifted advocates.  Too much to do. In Ohio, gifted education funding is suffering, once again, from the unintended consequences of a funding system overhaul. Actually, the overhaul hasn’t taken place yet. Instead of an actual funding formula, every bit of funding not tied to federal maintenance of effort requirements (including gifted funding) was lumped together in one big line item, which will distributed to Ohio districts. Districts will be able to spend the funds on anything they see fit.

This kind of free-for-all district spending formula usually doesn’t bode well for gifted students. In California, which allowed gifted funding to be redistributed in 2009, gifted funding was reallocated by 69% of districts to fund other areas. In Ohio, surveys of districts show that without a change to the executive budget to ensure that state gifted funding goes to serve gifted students, there will be a similar plunge in services next year. OAGC is predicting a decrease of 50 – 70%.

What You Can Do to Help!

What’s an advocate to do? Fight back, of course!!! While the budget bill is being re-written in the Ohio House, gifted advocates need to contact and re-contact their representatives and senators.

How You Can Help

  1. During the break, please contact or re-contact your individual legislator to let them know of your concerns about gifted education. I know that there have one or two groups of gifted parents and educators who have contacted their legislators to meet with them personally on this issue. It is very helpful for legislators to get a local feel for what is going on. If they only hear from me, they do not think it is a problem. They need to hear from you! After the House votes the budget bill out (probably the first week in May), the budget moves to the Ohio Senate, so it is not too soon to begin contacting your senators now. To locate your legislators, use one of the tools on www.oagc.com/?q=legislators . To see if your senator is on the Finance Committee, go to http://www.oagc.com/files/129th%20General%20Assembly%20Senate%20Finance%20Committee.4.20.11.pdf .
  2. Possible points to include in your emails and phone calls:
    1. Gifted education is taking a disproportionately large cut relative to the education budget (89%).
    2. A survey of districts indicates that gifted services could decrease by 50 – 70% next year.
    3. Gifted funding should be restored to gifted units and supplemental identification funds.
    4. Districts should be held accountability for the performance of gifted students. Local control should dictate how they are served not if they are served. Thirty one states mandate gifted services. Why doesn’t Ohio?
    5. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars for gifted students to sit in classrooms learning very little.
    6. There is evidence across the state that unserved gifted students are showing up in credit recovery programs more frequently and that the performance of gifted students who are no longer being served is decreasing.

Questions? Please email me at anngift@aol.com.

Special Assignment for Extra Credit

As you may be aware, the federal “Talent” Act was recently introduced. If passed, it could be a game changer for states that are routinely ignoring the needs of gifted students. Here is a summary of the act:

Success in the 21st century requires a commitment to developing student talent as early as possible.  To address this urgent need, gifted education supporters have introduced legislation to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide responsible federal leadership in meeting the needs of gifted and high-ability students.  To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers (TALENT) Act, which replaces the Javits Act, has four key emphases:

1.  Changes to Assessment and Accountability Systems: The TALENT Act seeks to ensure that assessments are able to accurately determine student mastery of state content standards, which will enable teachers to make appropriate instructional adjustments.  The Act also makes changes to the accountability and assessment system to ensure that all students make learning gains.

2.  Emphasis on Classroom Practice: Identifying gifted and talented students and supporting their needs in the classroom requires specialized knowledge and skills, yet more than 60% of teachers have never received training in gifted education strategies.  To address this paradox, the TALENT Act expands professional development opportunities in gifted education pedagogy for teachers nationwide and develops research-based best practices.

3.  Focus on Underserved Populations: The TALENT Act responds directly to the concern that advanced students of color and those from low-income backgrounds are losing academic ground compared to their more advantaged, high-ability peers.  There is strong evidence that these students do not move into the top achievement levels over time, and those who do reach high levels do not remain in the top achievement percentiles.  The bill recognizes the traditional federal role in addressing the needs of students in poverty and focuses on students in Title I schools and rural schools to ensure they have adequate support to achieve their full potential.

4. Emphasis on Research and Dissemination: The TALENT Act recognizes the development of best practices in gifted education through research and data collection as essential to effective teaching and learning.  The bill addresses these essential components and importantly, includes a critical dissemination requirement so that more districts have access to the latest developments in the field.

Your Assignment

Yep, you guessed it! Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to support the act.

Contact information for Ohio Senators is here.

Look up your individual Ohio Representative here.

Okay, everyone, those are your spring break assignments.  Enjoy!

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