Category Archives: Policy

Subject-Specific Gifted Services?

An individual recently posted on the Belin-Blank Center teachers’ listserv:

“I’m wondering if anyone identifies and provides services based on specific subjects instead of just overall scores? I am hoping to figure out how to best serve our students.”

If you’re a teacher, you can probably think of several examples. Perhaps “Luisa” shows high potential in math but not in language arts (e.g., Iowa Assessments scores in the 99th percentile in math, but in the 70th-85th percentiles in reading and vocabulary).  In contrast, perhaps “Elizabeth” demonstrates strengths in language arts (reading at the 98th percentile, vocabulary 95th percentile), but not in math (math total 65th percentile).

These two students demonstrate strengths compared to other students in their respective grade levels and would likely benefit from some additional challenges during the school day. When the gifted program in a school is developed for the “all-around” gifted student, however, students like Luisa and Elizabeth might be overlooked and might not receive any differentiated services. Maybe these students don’t need all of the services provided by a traditional gifted program, but they would certainly benefit from being challenged in their strength areas.

This is when we need to start shifting our thinking from creating one gifted program that serves the “all-around gifted student” to providing services for students with strengths in specific areas. This shift in thinking helps us to be more responsive to our students’ needs and helps ensure that they are challenged in school every day.

How do we go about this? You might start by thinking of gifted education as a continuum of services or a smorgasbord of opportunities available to your students. These services might include pull-out classes in specific subjects (reading groups or math groups, for example), subject acceleration, ability grouping for part of the day, honors classes, etc. Other services that may offer appropriate challenges might include participation in contests or competitions as well as doing independent study projects.

Thinking about gifted education in this way helps us to shift our focus from “Who are the gifted students in our school?” to “Which students demonstrate talent in specific areas and how might we help develop those talents?”  It’s all about trying to find the best ways to serve our students.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy reading Beyond Gifted Education: Designing and Implementing Advanced Academic Programs by Peters, Matthews, McBee, &McCoach (2014, published by Prufrock Press).

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Academic Acceleration

This month, we’re bringing back some of our most popular blog posts to celebrate Gifted Education Awareness Month! Today, Dr. Ann Shoplik, Administrator for the Acceleration Institute, explains why it’s so important to advocate for academic acceleration! “Acceleration” can be an intimidating word for some, but did you know that there are at least 20 different forms of academic acceleration?

20 Forms of Acceleration

The word “acceleration” actually refers to over twenty different educational interventions! (Source: A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students*)

 


Why am I an Advocate for Academic Acceleration?

The short answer to this question is that I am tired of gifted students being under-challenged in school. They need the intellectual stimulation that comes from rigorous courses taught at a reasonably advanced level, and acceleration can provide that stimulation. The longer answer is, I am familiar with the research. No educational option for gifted students has the research support that academic acceleration has. In other words, the research is clear and unambiguous: Acceleration works. Gifted students benefit from acceleration. Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject. Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.  So why wouldn’t I be an advocate for academic acceleration?

Now that we have the information that is summarized so clearly and succinctly in the comprehensive 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered, it’s time to put that information to work.  There are at least 20 different types of acceleration, including grade-skipping, subject matter acceleration, distance learning, and dual enrollment in high school and college. There are many forms of acceleration, and that means that we can tailor accelerative opportunities to the needs of individual gifted students. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups.  Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Educators and parents do not have to be afraid of implementing acceleration. Tools are available to help them make well-informed decisions. These tools include the book already mentioned, A Nation Empowered, and they also include the Iowa Acceleration Scale (developed to help the team consider all aspects of acceleration, including academic development, social development, physical development, and school and parental support for the decision), IDEAL Solutions (developed to assist educators and parents as they consider subject matter acceleration in STEM subjects), and university-based talent search programs, which help identify students and give them challenging courses they can take in the summer or via online learning opportunities.

If you are interested in advocating for acceleration for an individual student or you’re attempting to change policies in your school or district, consider starting with the information found at the Acceleration Institute website. It includes the tools already mentioned in this article, and many more. Don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation on acceleration, which you can download and share with other educators and families.

We have the research and we have the tools to help us make good decisions about implementing acceleration for academically talented students. Now, we need the courage to act.

Originally posted by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik on March 22, 2016

*Southern, W.T. and Jones, E.D. (2015) Types of Acceleration: Dimensions and Issues. In S.A. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, and A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (pp. 9-18). Cedar Rapids, IA: Colorweb Printing

Message from the Director: Who Are the Gatekeepers for Talent Development?

That was the question roaming through my thoughts with each opening and closing session of our summer pre-college student programs.  For the nearly 1,000 students who attended one or more of our summer programs, each opening session exudes anticipation as the staff and faculty describe the amazing classes and opportunities awaiting the students.  The closings are similarly fulfilling, yet also different, because students, faculty, and summer program staff have spent an intensive week engaged in learning.  The closing sessions are bursting with energy as the students, teachers, and residential staff share their week-long experiences with each other as well as with parents.  The bonds that are formed during the student programs in the summer are unique.  One of the high school students captured the sentiment:

THANK YOU! I have spent 6 of the last 8 summers at Belin-Blank camps and I am so going to miss them. Thank you for all the opportunities, friends, and experiences you have provided me with. I will forever treasure these summers. Thanks again for everything. I love your programs and what you do here.

I never tire of the thrill of being part of a team of professionals that open the talent development gates to young, highly capable students eagerly seeking ways to develop their talents. I also can’t help but wonder about the bright students whose families and schools don’t know about programs like this and thus miss out on the “opportunities, friends, and experiences … [to] forever treasure.”  How can we make programming accessible to them?  Who are the gatekeepers for these students?

Similarly rewarding is the annual experience of opening the talent development gates to educators pursuing professional development.  Over the summer, 183 teachers enrolled in 249 credit hours.  The Center’s concluding on-campus professional development opportunity, the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI), was truly an opportunity for all attendees to reflect on their role as gatekeepers for talent development in their respective schools, districts, and states.

B-BALI featured expert presentations by several of the A Nation Empowered authors and all of four of the editors (S. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik).  Professor Emerita Joyce VanTassel-Baska’s final keynote presentation, “The Individual and Societal Value of Acceleration:  Research, Practice, and Policy,” was as engaging as it was comprehensive.  Professor VanTassel-Baska wove the three strands of the title into an elegant finale that referred to Julian Stanley’s Talent Search Model as the genesis for the various types of accelerative practices that should be available to high-potential students who are ready to learn more advanced material at a faster pace and at a younger age than typically-developing students.

As Professor VanTassel-Baska’s keynote concluded, I realized that the question about gate-keepers really needs to be not “who are the gatekeepers,” but rather, “Are you a gatekeeper for talent development?”  This is a perfect question for the beginning of a new school year.  Educators, now is your chance to open those talent development gates for your students and to support them walking through the gates to the myriad opportunities for developing their talents.

Although developing the talents of our young people is a lifelong journey, the starting point – the gateway activity – for many who are talented in academics starts with participating in the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS).  BESTS incorporates the Talent Search Model.  As models go, the Talent Search Model is elegant in its simplicity.  BESTS is a system of above-level testing that produces results designed to inform high-potential students and their parents and teachers how much acceleration and enrichment students need.

Despite its potency, the Talent Search Model is not widely used in schools.  There are multiple reasons for this, not the least of which is that traditionally the process occurred outside of the school setting.  Although this is still true for 7th – 9th graders, the Belin-Blank Center is expanding the model for 4th – 6th graders.  Now, teachers and parents of high-potential 4th – 6th graders can access  above-level testing through BESTS in their schools, which we call BESTS In-School.

Educators, especially the teachers of 4th – 6th graders in gifted and talented programs, can become the champions of talent development by opening the gates through appropriate acceleration and enrichment opportunities in subject-specific areas (math, science, English/language arts).  It can start with BESTS In-School.

We hope this year is the year that educators and parents will partner with us to open the gates and support high-potential students though this robust model of talent development and/or through one of the myriad opportunities offered by the Belin-Blank Center.

Lessons Learned: One School District’s Experience with Acceleration Practices

Special thanks to Dr. Keri Guilbault, guest writer for this blog!

A few years ago I worked as a district coordinator of gifted and talented programs in a large school district. New to the state and county, I was surprised to learn that there was no written policy for academic acceleration of students in grades K-12 even though the state supported acceleration. Leaving policy decisions up to local districts led to a hodgepodge of guidelines and practices, and very few written policies beyond early entrance to Kindergarten and dual enrollment in high school.  From time to time, elementary or middle school principals would contact me and tell me about a unique student who was recognized as working years beyond grade level, often frustrated with the pace in the general education setting, and certainly missing out on the opportunity to learn something new.  I appointed an ad-hoc committee to develop acceleration guidelines for our elementary school learners using the Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy as a guide. We implemented a process that began with a referral to a student study team led by each school’s gifted and talented resource teacher who took the lead in completing the Iowa Acceleration Scales for the candidate.  We monitored the students’ academic growth and affective adjustment and in following up with parents, teachers, and administrators I learned some valuable tips to guide future policy and improve practices:

  • Provide additional training on the IAS and acceleration for all members of the student study team, including a school administrator who will have the final decision.
  • Be sure that there is an appeals process in place and that it is made public and available to all parents. Transparency and communication are key.
  • Provide parents/caregivers with a formal notification letter even if they are notified of the acceleration decision face to face. The IAS has a great planning guide at the end that can be used as a template for the acceleration plan and meeting notes.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting during the acceleration decision conference for all stakeholders to discuss the student’s progress and adjustment within 4-6 weeks after any change in placement. Do not skip this meeting even if you think things are going well!
  • Train the gifted and talented resource teachers or at least one staff member at each school on the acceleration process, IAS, and data mining to pro-actively look for possible candidates for acceleration using data that is already collected in the district. For our district, all second graders take the CogAT and any student scoring at the 99th percentile in any subtest was automatically considered. Waiting for teacher or parent requests often leads to inequity in student selection.
  • Provide parent and community information sessions on the acceleration process and policy and establish parent networking and support groups for families of accelerants and potential accelerants. Being able to ask questions and share concerns with other families who have gone through the process can be extremely helpful!

Keri M. Guilbault, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Gifted and Talented Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore and a former district supervisor of Gifted and Talented programs.

kguilbault@ndm.edu

Twitter: @drkerig

Why Accelerate? A Roadmap

Aug16_JVTDr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska gave a riveting talk at the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI) earlier this summer on “The Research and Practice of Acceleration for Gifted Students: Toward Policy Development.” She explained that acceleration policy is needed:

  1. To ensure that it happens consistently across districts, individual students, and time;
  2. To provide guidance for educational decisions about acceleration options; and
  3. To ensure that it is presented as one of the basic provisions for gifted students at all stages of development.

The research on academic acceleration is the strongest research and the best practice we have in gifted education. Nothing else comes close.  Both short-term and longitudinal studies consistently demonstrate the power of acceleration for gifted students; in one study of students who had accelerated 38 years prior, researchers found accelerated students earned terminal degrees (e.g., Ph.D., J.D., or M.D.) at a rate substantially higher than in the general population (37-43% in the accelerated group compared to only 1% in the general population), performed at a high level in their careers, demonstrated a higher rate of patents and publications, earned higher salaries, etc.

Acceleration can be used as the catalyst for talent development in schools.  Schools should provide:

  1. Advanced opportunities as early as possible in identified areas of aptitude;
  2. Sustained practice of the progressive development of skills under the guidance of a coach, tutor, or mentor;
  3. Competitions in the area of strength, so students can see what excellence looks like; and
  4. Collaboration on expert teams for performance.

The above recommendations are consistent with those provided by the National Science Foundation (2010), which calls for more use of inquiry through project-based learning, more research preparation, and more emphasis on career development.

13 Policy blueIf we accelerate gifted students, what does that look like at each stage?  Dr. VanTassel-Baska recommends using acceleration as the first intervention, then providing enrichment and other services. By using acceleration as the first intervention, we are starting with the evidence-based provision. Higher levels of functioning demand that we raise the level of curricular challenge; this ensures a good match with the student’s readiness for learning.  In short, gifted students who are ready for more advanced curriculum need acceleration.

Acceleration is flexible. It can be provided in different ways, from content acceleration to grade skipping (20 different types of acceleration are listed in A Nation Empowered). Acceleration can be provided at different times during a student’s development, it can be provided for a group or individually, and the types of acceleration can be used alone or in combination.

Content acceleration options at all stages of development should be a core for acceleration policy.  Policymakers and practitioners should consider utilizing existing practices. For example, if an option for testing out of high school courses is available for students who have difficulties, this option should be made available for gifted students as well.

Both research and effective practice demonstrate the power of acceleration with high-ability learners. Acceleration is the first and most important differentiation tool for instruction for gifted students and needs to be acknowledged as such. Our gifted programs would be far more effective if strong acceleration policies were enacted.

We thank Dr. VanTassel-Baska for presenting this important talk.

Additional notes from the Belin-Blank Center

  • See the 2-volume book, A Nation Empowered (nationempowered.org), which provides the latest information on research and practice in acceleration.
  • The Acceleration Institute (accelerationinstitute.org) contains many resources for making decisions about acceleration and implementing acceleration policies.
  •  The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a useful tool for making decisions about a grade skip.

 

A Nation Empowered: Empower Yourself with Information about Academic Acceleration, July 24-26

Invent IA footerThere’s still time to register: The early bird discount is available until July 8th!

We are looking forward to seeing you at the July 2016 conference on academic acceleration (www.belinblank.org/bbali). Our aim is to present attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.

All participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

The Pre-Institute (July 24th) focuses on the important tool for making decisions about a grade skip, the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  The Institute (July 25 and 26) provides the opportunity to learn from researchers as well as educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration, including subject-matter acceleration, early entrance to college, dual enrollment, and grade-skipping. In the portion of the conference focused on policy, participants will have the opportunity to hear from schools, districts, and states with successful acceleration policies. They will share their stories of how they were able to put successful policies in place, as well as what participants should consider as they advocate for acceleration in their region.  Participation in the Advanced Leadership Institute on Monday and Tuesday is NOT required for participation in the Pre-Institute.

We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks at this exciting institute.  Speakers include nationally-recognized experts in gifted education research and policy, as well as administrators and educators.  Participants will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of individuals reflecting on the local impact of acceleration policies and practical implications of the research.  We encourage you to register by July 8th, to take advantage of the early bird discount!  See www.belinblank.org/bbali.

Everyone Loves an Early Bird Discount!

Register by July 8th for the early bird discount for the conference on academic acceleration!

The SeTypes of accelerationventh Biennial Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute is focusing on Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students in July 2016.  The institute will provide attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.  Participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration—and from students or parents who have personally experienced the benefits of appropriate programming.
All Institute participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

Speakers who plan to participate include:

Editors of A Nation Empowered:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Ann Lupkowski Shoplik

Authors of Chapters in A Nation Empowered:

  • Linda Brody
  • Laurie Croft
  • Megan Foley Nicpon
  • Lori Ihrig
  • Katie McClarty
  • Michelle Muratori
  • Susannah Wood

Additional expert speakers:

  • Wendy Behrens
  • Jane Clarenbach
  • Beth Hahn
  • René Islas
  • Maureen Marron
  • Jaquelin Medina
  • Panel of students who have accelerated

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Institute! For more information and to register, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.