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Illinois Association for Gifted Children
How can I make a difference to support advanced learners at my child’s school?
Parent advocacy can have many positive results when it comes to serving the needs of gifted children.
To learn about gifted programming and provide input at your child’s school, start by reaching out to your child’s teacher and/or building principal. You may wish to share resources about current policies and laws such as the Illinois Acceleration Act and the Report Card Act. The IAGC also provides a model acceleration policy to guide school districts with respect to the Acceleration Act. Further information can be found on the Illinois Association of Gifted Students website.
Become involved with the IAGC and our advocacy efforts to support advanced learners in Illinois. To find out more about ways to advocate in Illinois, visit our Policy and Advocacy Overview webpage.
When parents who share a common concern work and speak with one voice, advocacy becomes even more effective. For a useful resource, you may wish to access the free e-book from the NAGC and Prufrock Press,The National Association for Gifted Children Starting and Sustaining a Parent Group to Support Gifted Children.
As the school year begins, a useful ritual is to check out the view from each student’s perspective by sitting in each of their places as we arrange the classroom. How easily can each student see the projector screen? A talkative friend? A view of the playground?
Considering what students “see” can help teachers eliminate distractions and physical obstructions to learning; it can also help us find new ways to motivate advanced learners.
When setting up your classroom, imagine that you are a student. Take a seat, and look around...
Role Models and Vision: Is there a picture of an inspiring adult role model who shares my gender, culture, and/or race—a depiction that celebrates his or her contributions and achievements? What does that picture communicate to me about my future possibilities and potential?
High Level Questions: Is there a provocative, deep question posted that captures my attention and curiosity? Is there a question that I would like to explore and discuss with my friends and family? Is there a question that makes me think about how the themes or topics we will explore in the classroom this year may be important or relevant to my life?
Rich Vocabulary: Is there a new, rich vocabulary word displayed that would be fun for me to learn and use? How might it relate to math, science, or the world?
Personal Interests: Is there any place in this classroom for my own “learning agenda?” Does this classroom have a place for me and to explore and share what I love to learn?
When looking through a student's eyes, classroom landscape has tremendous potential to welcome and engage all learners, including advanced learners. And once teachers consider the view from the students’ seats, classroom spaces may provide a beautiful vantage point to “see” more students with gifts and talents than ever expected.
Adapted from 2016 blog post by Patricia Steinmeyer: https://pslearns.com/2016/07/24/meeting-the-needs-of-gifted-learners-in-the-core-classroom-try-sitting-in-their-seats/
Students who are gifted are not necessarily inclined to struggle socially, and in fact, gifted children tend to be socially adept, popular, happy and confident with their friends. Gifted children have many strengths: they are often inquisitive, imaginative, and highly communicative. They can be passionate about learning, joyful, and curious about the world around them.
Gifted students may also be sensitive, anxious, or focused on complex questions, intense interests, and/or world issues at a young age. As a result, some gifted students may feel isolated or misunderstood by their peers. Parents may observe that their gifted child prefers the company of older children or adults to whom they can better relate on an intellectual level. At the same time, the child may not be advanced emotionally, and he or she may encounter social-emotional challenges due to this uneven, or “asynchronous,” development. Parents should talk to their gifted children about their interests and experiences and encourage them to share their feelings about learning and friendships. Providing situations in which their child can interact with peers with similar interests and abilities is another way that parents can help their child to feel socially accepted and confident.
Another common challenge that some gifted students may encounter is dealing with anxiety or perfectionism. Students may imagine problems that are beyond the scope of what they can solve. They can envision a perfect, sophisticated solution, but they may become frustrated when it is not reached easily. By teaching a growth mindset--that mistakes and struggle are a part of the learning process--parents can help their gifted students to understand that problem-solving, asking others for help, and not “knowing all of the answers” are a natural part of the learning and growth process.
A wealth of books and resources are available to help parents and educators understand and meet the social-emotional needs of their gifted children.
To learn more, here are some useful resources:
National Association for Gifted Children Webpage, “Social-Emotional Issues”
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (“SENG”) Website
VanTassel-Baska, J., Cross, T., & Olenchak, F. (2009). Social-emotional curriculum with gifted and talented students. Waco, Tex.: Prufrock Press.
UPCOMING ACCELERATED PLACEMENT WEBINAR
AUG. 12 - 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
ISBE’s Division of Curriculum and Instruction will host a webinar and Q&A session on the Accelerated Placement Act at 3 p.m. on Aug. 12. Registration is now available. Registration is now available
The Accelerated Placement Act requires all school districts to develop and implement a local policy that uses a fair and equitable decision-making process with multiple measures to identify students who may benefit from accelerated placement.
The webinar will be available after it airs on the ISBE website. Information will be posted here. Please share with your districts, other parents, and REGISTER!
Should I Talk With My Child About Giftedness?
Parents of a child with gifts and talents should help their child to develop self-awareness and a positive self-concept. Supportive parents recognize a child’s strengths and abilities, and help their children to do the same. However, it is important that children feel valued and loved not because of their accomplishments and intelligence but because of who they are.
Parents should be cautious about praising a child for his or her innate abilities. Instead, parents should give specific praise to children for effort, problem-solving, solution seeking and incremental growth. This is because a child who hears her parents’ constant praise for being “smart” may feel that she has to continually demonstrate this to earn approval. Moreover, a child who intelligence is an unchangeable trait may develop a “fixed mindset,” believing that talent and “smarts” should be enough for success rather than hard work and effort.
In contrast, a child who develops a “growth mindset” understands that abilities, skills, and understanding grows with increased effort, practice, and perseverance. A child who develops a growth mindset will be more likely to embrace challenge and risk, recognizing that mistakes as a part of the learning process.
For additional information on growth mindset, see Carol Dweck’s The New Psychology of Success (2008). A helpful resource for parents and educators about the unique social emotional needs of gifted children is The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do we Know (2nd edition) by Maureen Neihart, Steven Pfeiffer and Tracy Cross (2016).
If your child has been identified as “gifted” --perhaps to qualify for advanced programs in school or outside enrichment programs -- summer is a great time to explore your school, community, and the Internet to learn more about the academic and social-emotional needs of gifted children. The Illinois Association for Gifted Children website page “I Just Learned My Child is Gifted” includes several helpful resources about meeting the needs of gifted learners. Also, the National Association for Gifted Children website offers a wealth of resources related to meeting the needs of gifted learners, including a page related to potential Social and Emotional needs.
Summer also offers an opportunity to explore your community for resources (e.g. museums, music programs, libraries, weekend enrichment/summer programs) that offer enrichment experiences and/or learning opportunities for your child. You may consider attending conferences such as the Northwestern Center for Talent Development’s Annual Family Conference that will take place on the Northwestern University Evanston campus on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Also, mark your long term 2019-20 calendar for the 2020 IAGC Sliver Conference to take place February 6-8, 2020.
If your child has not yet entered kindergarten, take some time to learn about programs for high ability students in your school district. In addition to your school or district website, the Illinois School Report Card site is one place where you can find out about your child’s academic programs and enrichment opportunities for high ability students. (For the 2018-2019 school year and after, the Illinois Report Card Act requires schools to report information about gifted programming, the number of students served, the percent of teachers with gifted training, and growth data for high achieving students.)
Acceleration is one intervention you may wish to discuss with your child’s teacher or your school principal. “Acceleration” is when a student moves through the academic curriculum at a younger age or a faster rate than typical students. Evidence shows that acceleration is an intervention that benefits high ability learners. (The University of Iowa’s Acceleration Institute website includes a variety of resources and information about acceleration and its benefits.)
Under the Illinois Acceleration Act, districts must have policies for early entrance to kindergarten and first grade, grade level acceleration, and acceleration in individual subjects. Your child’s school district should have information available about its acceleration policy and identification procedures for placement. The decision about whether acceleration is best for your child must involve parents and be based upon a variety of factors--not just a single test. Also, school districts need to notify parents of any accelerated placement decision with respect to their child.
Finally, when school begins this fall, make an appointment with your child’s classroom teacher to discuss your child’s learning needs. Your child’s teacher should be able to explain what types of differentiation and enrichment are available in the classroom, as well as provide information about what programs the school has to meet the needs of gifted learners. It may be helpful to ask-- “What programming/curriculum best meets my child’s needs?” Students may be gifted in different areas, so the best program may be different for each child. Your child’s teacher may also offer guidance about extracurricular and enrichment opportunities at the school designed to meet the needs of gifted/high ability learners.
As a parent, you are your child’s most influential teacher, and play a vital role in supporting your gifted child on his or her personal and academic journey. We hope that you will discover resources, build networks, and make friendships through the IAGC to help you along the way!
-Patricia Steinmeyer (IAGC Education Committee, Co-Chair)
Your Participation is Needed Now!
This blog has been updated to reflect the online survey whose format is somewhat different than the downloaded survey.
The Illinois State Board of Education is currently asking for input on proposed changes to Illinois’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. The proposed amendment will guide how public schools across the state are evaluated and rated as well as establish priorities and support for school improvement.
Illinois’ ESSA Plan is available online. Proposed changes to the plan begin on page 47 of the document at https://www.isbe.net/Documents/ESSA-Amendment1-20190422.pdf . Several potential ESSA Plan changes could significantly impact educational opportunities for gifted and advanced students. Some of our members have spoken to these changes at the recent ISBE listening tour meetings across the state. Now we are asking our members to complete an online survey on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website, https://www.isbe.net/Pages/ISBE-ESSA-Amendment-Feedback.aspx
IAGC’s participation in similar ISBE requests for comment has had a positive impact. Please consider IAGC’s positions as you take a few minutes to complete the online survey:
Question #1: Should the weighting of academic indicators remain at 75%?
Question 1: What are indicators for a well-rounded education?
Question 1: What should be the testing policy for newly arrived English learners?
Fourth Page: Summative Designations
Question 1: Should ISBE change the number of summative designation categories?
Question 2: Should ISBE change the names of the summative design categories?
IAGC has not taken a position on preferred naming of the designation categories. However, we believe that earning the highest designation should require schools to demonstrate growth of students across the achievement continuum and progress toward closing disparities among racial and economic subgroups in the percentage of students participating in enrichment and accelerated learning options and reaching the highest achievement levels.
Once you have completed the ISBE ESSA survey, please also take a moment to forward this email to colleagues, relatives, and neighbors who care about ensuring that high-ability students in all Illinois communities can develop their talents.
Thank you in advance for speaking up for high-ability students!
ISBE is holding a listening tour regarding changes to the Illinois ESSA plan. See the meeting schedule below. We urge IAGC members to attend a meeting and voice support for keeping the proposed weighting of the Academic Indicator (75%) and Student Success Indicator (25%) for evaluating schools.
We encourage members to inquire:
The 2019 Support and Accountability Listening Tour will include the following stops:
Is My Child Gifted?
“My child seems to learn new things quickly. Is my child gifted?”
Some children quickly learn to read or write. Others excel at solving problems and puzzles. Still others have outstanding athletic or creative talent. Giftedness comes in many forms, and it blossoms among all demographic groups, cultures, and personality types. “Twice exceptional” children may have special learning needs or disabilities and also demonstrate giftedness in other areas.
One of the challenges for determining whether a child is “gifted” is the lack of a common definition or metric. In some states, such as Illinois, “giftedness” in mathematics and language arts has been defined as the “top 5% locally” (Illinois School Code,105 ILCS 5/14A-20). The top 10% locally or nationally is another commonly accepted benchmark for giftedness.1 And when it comes to school districts, designating which students are labeled “gifted” can vary. For example, students who are in the top 10% on a nationally normed test may not be in the top 10% of students scores for the same test in a high performing district. Conversely, some schools may have a very small percentage of students who score in the top 10% nationally. Accordingly, a child who is labeled “gifted” in one district may not be labeled “gifted” in another.
Schools have different protocols for identifying giftedness, but there is no “one test” that is determinative. Multiple measures such as ability tests, achievement tests, classroom observations, student work products, and teacher/parent/student ratings of gifted characteristics are some common measures used to identify gifted children.
It is generally understood that a child who is “gifted” demonstrates abilities and talents that are well beyond what is expected for his or her age group. Gifted children exhibit “asynchronous” development, and may show abilities far beyond their same-aged peers. If you suspect that your child is gifted, you may want to do some background reading about high ability children, observe your child at home, and talk with your child’s teacher(s) about your child’s experience in the classroom. Is there are particular area that interests your child? Does your child have abilities or strengths that are beyond what you observe are typical for a child of the same age? Is your child curious, always asking questions, highly observant, or imaginative? The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has an informative webpage about characteristics of gifted children: NAGC: Common Characteristics of Gifted Children.
Ultimately, given the diverse ways that giftedness manifests itself and differences in identification protocols, the question “is my child gifted?” may lack a definitive answer. But the inquiry prompts further questions that may be even more pertinent to a child’s growth:
As parents explore these questions, the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (“IAGC”) provides a wealth of resources, and encourages and welcomes parents along the journey. We hope that you will join us!
-Patricia SteinmeyerIAGC Education Committee, Co-Chair
1. The National Association for Gifted Children. website. "What is Giftedness?" http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/what-giftedness
All members are invited to join us for the Spring Committee and Board Meetings on May 4, 2019. Committee meetings are scheduled from 10 AM - Noon. The Board meeting begins promptly at 1 PM. We welcome your participation in any or all events! Please register via the links on the left-hand side of this page. If you would like to attend via GoToMeeting, please contact Diane Beedy via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Illinois Association for Gifted Children is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
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