Gifted All Day Long: Implementing New State Standards That Require Gifted and Talented Education Services to Be an Integral Part of the Core Curriculum Will Result in Improved Teaching and Learning for Everyone
Gosfield, Margaret, Leadership
Recently enacted legislation did away with the 200-minute-per-week requirement for service to gifted students (AB 2313, effective Jan. 1, 2001). Does this give permission to local districts to do nothing for their gifted students, as some parents are beginning to complain? Not at all, as a brief look at the new standards approved by the State Board of Education last October will demonstrate.
Recognizing that gifted students are gifted every day, all day--not just on Tuesday afternoon--the new legislation specifies that services in GATE (gifted and talented education) programs must be an integral part of the school day, and include modification and extensions of core curriculum appropriate for gifted learners. The new program standards provide guidelines for ensuring that this occurs on a regular basis.
What does this mean for local districts and school sites? It means first that greater emphasis must be placed on professional development. No longer can we justify providing training only for assigned after-school or GATE pull-out teachers. Since most gifted students spend the majority of their time in regular classes, regular teachers must be professionally trained to meet the needs of gifted students in those regular classes. In other words, it is time we recognize that every teacher is a teacher of the gifted and prepare all of them accordingly.
Furthermore, it is not enough for administrators and teachers to give lip service to the notion of curriculum differentiation (modification). Teachers must be trained to develop the skills to provide the depth and complexity as well as accelerated pacing and novelty required by gifted learners. At the same time, administrators need to know what to look for when they come into classrooms where core curriculum is being differentiated for gifted students.
No longer can we take the easy way out by offering a pull-out program unrelated to the core curriculum and feel satisfied that we are adequately meeting the needs of gifted learners. Districts can still have pull-out programs, but they must be considered adjunct programs and do not take the place of primary programs, which must have differentiated core curricula at their centers.
The new standards were four years in the making, a joint endeavor of the California Department of Education and the California Association for the Gifted. The extended committee writing and reviewing the standards document was made up of a great variety of interested people, including CDE staff, school administrators, teachers and psychologists, as well as parents of gifted children and members of the community,
Input was also provided by representatives from other education organizations, including ACSA, CTA, PTA and the California Association of State and Federal Education Programs. People from small, medium and large districts, as well as from inner city, rural and suburban school districts, provided input on many different levels. The document went through several drafts before being submitted to the State Board of Education for approval.
The standards are divided into eight sections, covering each of the basic program components: program design, identification and placement, curriculum and instruction, social and emotional needs, professional development, parent and community involvement, program assessment and budgets. The sections are brief, with one page devoted to each.
The standards document was structured to provide both a base of minimum standards that all programs must meet and a vision of what exemplary programs would look like. Therefore, the standards are presented in columns, with those items considered minimal shown in column one, commendable standards in column two and exemplary standards in column three.
The immediate payoff for an exemplary program is approval for three years instead of one, avoiding the necessity of preparing a new application yearly. …