In April, I acknowledged the Belin-Blank Center’s “Big Pause,” aimed at doing our part to flatten the pandemic curve. We shared that summer coursework for educators and programs for students would not be as we had hoped. Although programming was paused, the Belin-Blank Center’s mission to serve and empower the worldwide gifted education community was never on hiatus.
This mission requires us to examine our actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We consistently strive to address gaps in these areas; however, my colleagues and I know that we can do better. We are stepping up our efforts to educate ourselves about the history and impact of racism, particularly as it relates to education. We started with introspection, which will continue indefinitely as we also work to increase our awareness through dialogue and new learning. We remain dedicated to diverse, equitable and inclusive programming that increases access to gifted education opportunities in underserved populations. Based on our own enhanced awareness of the issues, we will be able to take informed actions to improve our programs and services.
An important aspect of our approach will be to maintain a local focus while also addressing nationwide issues, including educational disparities that have been made salient through COVID-19. Educators involved in gifted and talented education are aware of disparities in access to gifted programs, and the only federal legislation concerning gifted education, the Jacob Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act, has a singular focus on increasing access to underrepresented populations through funding research-based programming. There are two components to this funding. First, the Javits Act provides grants to state education agencies. Our TICE (Talent Identification-Career Exploration) project, which works with rural Iowa schools, was funded by one of these grants.
The second part of the Javits Act establishes a national research center through a highly competitive proposal process approximately every five years. Since 1988, the University of Connecticut has been awarded this funding. We congratulate them on their extraordinary work, which was recently renewed. We are honored that as part of that renewal, the Belin-Blank Center will be one of their partners. The research will focus on the following important questions:
- How can we simplify identification systems while expanding participation opportunities for underserved students?
- What impact do teachers have on gifted students’ academic success?
- What are the benefits of gifted programs? How do they extend beyond academic achievement?
- Can universal screening be effectively implemented for acceleration?
In the April newsletter, I shared my perspective that these past few months have created some challenges as we adapted to the changes made necessary by COVID-19. However, we also recognized exciting new opportunities to grow and advance into the future. My colleagues are hard at work developing new online programs for pre-college students. We have long dreamt of increasing access to our programming through online options, and now we are poised to make this possible. We will have more details on these programs, some of which you inspired with your suggestions, over the coming weeks.
I hope that you are enjoying the sunshine while staying well and safe. We will see you soon, online, with new, innovative programming that nurtures potential and inspires excellence.