Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Advocating for Our Future

Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Advocating for Our Future

Article excerpt

In almost every setting, parents are their children's first and strongest advocates. Parents of gifted and talented learners are no different. They see their children's strengths and understand the frustrations that can develop when there is a mismatch between a child's abilities and the grade-level curriculum offered in the local school district. As advocates, parents most often first direct their attention to improving their children's situation in their school building, working to ensure appropriate placement and curricular decisions. Often this important advocacy role expands, as parents learn how doors open and favorable decisions are made. Many parents then find themselves involved in broader efforts to influence policy and funding at the district level, some times joining with other parents to form advisory groups, presenting testimony before the school board, conducting surveys on the range of services supported by the community, and otherwise working to ensure that district leaders have the information they need to provide high-quality gifted education services and programs for all gifted students in the school district.

At some point - sometimes after years of effort at the local level - a percentage of parents devote their advocacy time to increasing their impact by becoming active at the state level, where a new audience - state legislatore - makes key decisions affecting gifted education. Parents often join their state gifted education associations to advocate for state funding of gifted education and on policy decisions that have a direct impact on gifted learners such as: teacher training requirements, acceleration strategies that include permitting high school graduation credit for college coursework, and lowering the minimum age for entrance to kindergarten, and whether a school district will recognize a child's identification as gifted from another district in the state.

During state-level advocacy campaigns, advocates find that working with other organizations to increase the number of advocates on behalf of advanced students has a greater impact on legislators; that strong, consistent messages, backed by research and data, add to effectiveness; and that it can take years of persistent efforts to yield success. Advocacy at the state level is not for the faint of heart! However, working at the state level can be very satisfying when the effort and time that goes into a successful legislative and policy campaign results in increased awareness and victories that impact thousands of students across the state.

National Impact

Just as working at the state level increases the number of students who benefit from funding and policy decisions, working at the federal level has the potential for systemic changes that would benefit gifted students across the nation. Even at the federal level, individuals make a difference. You're already familiar with numerous campaigns that resulted from the actions of one person or a small number of individuals. Rosa Parks comes to mind, as does the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, among many grassroots efforts, changed public opinion and influenced federal legislation and policy.

Although the federal government is a limited partner on education funding (the federal government provides 7-9% of the total funds spent on education), and provides no funds directly to districts specifically to support gifted and talented students, there are federal grant programs that support gifted learners, and there are other federal laws - No Child Left Behind as an example - that have an impact on what is happening, or not, for gifted children across the country.

NAGC Campaign

Recently, NAGC has significantly increased its federal advocacy resources to raise awareness of the needs of gifted students and to influence policy decisions in Congress. We've been working for years with the state gifted education associations, our members, and other organizations to support a range of initiatives - and we've had many successes. …

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