Gifted and Talented Program
Question asked via campaign email
How will you address the removal of GEL services within our district? Or do you agree with the cutting of the program? We have an entire population of students that are not getting their needs met, and no one is addressing it- other than saying teachers are differentiating their learning. Unfortunately, that is a buzz word, and we all know there is no time or energy for that with all time and energy going to our learners that are struggling. This subset of learners are bored and not getting the education they deserve, and are generally told “great, you got done what you needed, have some free time”.
Hi (name redacted)! Thanks for reaching out and I'm sorry it's taken me a few days to respond. Another parent asked almost this same question in one of my community groups so I have reflected on it, maybe just not as publicly as I should be. So thank you for bringing it to my attention and letting me know that others may have a similar question. For reference, their question was, "Please explain your experience with GT /2E students as well as how you feel that students that are GT or 2E are currently supported in the district. When faced with budgetary cuts is spending on programming for GT/2E “safe” or do you think spending will or should be reduced?"
To be honest, as a parent, I have been quite frustrated with the "gifted" program in this district. And there's a reason why I put it in quotes. My daughter (who is now a Sophomore at FHS and in advanced math, AP bio, and honors English [she was never a history buff]) attended kindergarten at Cedar Park Elementary in AV before we moved to Farmington. Due to her advanced reading skills and other areas of development she was invited to join the Gifted and Talented Development program pretty much immediately after school started (it looks like 196 has since shifted to only screening grades 2-5 for G&T, they no longer include grades K and 1).
When we moved to Farmington we were hoping that she could continue with some sort of gifted program as the program she had been in was beneficial and valuable to her academic growth. We found that she would often get bored (like you mentioned), be disruptive to her peers (we later found out it's because she has ADHD), and wasn't feeling very challenged. One of her classmates had been invited to participate in different extensions yet my daughter had not despite her almost perfect academic record and high standardized test scores (I have opinions on standardized tests in general). It left our family confused as to how they chose which learners got to participate in these extra extensions and I never got a clear answer when I asked.
As a former G&T learner myself, I see the benefits of having a specific program. There are learners that excel in different subjects and may need more advanced instruction to foster and further support that potential. When I was pulled for G & T during my elementary years I remember looking forward to it because we were introduced to different activities and learning experiences not found in our regular classroom. We were cognitively challenged and encouraged to think outside of our comfort zone and I appreciated this. I believe this followed me into adulthood and allows me to see a scenario or situation from several different angles, often seeing possibilities others don't see.
I see the benefits but I would like to modify how the program operates. First, I would like to ensure that the program is accessible to all students. Research shows that marginalized communities are often overlooked for these programs due to conscious or unconscious bias. I would also want to have an inclusive screening process that ensures all learners are being screened and identified appropriately. For example, my son is showing signs of ADHD hyperactive which means that teachers will probably see his behaviors over his intellect. My son will probably be one of the students they identify as "struggling" when in fact he will require a subject he is passionate about to maintain his focus and attention. And it's usually these passion subjects that show the individual's adeptness and higher level of understanding. I believe that our educators can differentiate WITHIN a specialized program. Why not encourage learners to focus on strengths and cultivate continued curiosity? They might be facing barriers in other subjects that have an adverse effect on their confidence and self-esteem.
In summary, I do support a program focused on cultivating a learners strengths or areas of proficiency but I would want to redesign its governance as the current terminology "Gifted and Talented" can feel invalidating to learners who may not be selected to participate and the selection process is inequitable.
I hope I answered your question accurately and if not, please let me know what I didn't answer and I would be glad to follow up! Thanks (name redacted)!