Building a Broader Community Focused on Motivating Kids to Choose Challenge
This year at the annual convention of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), a gifted and talented coordinator from a Wisconsin school district expressed her relief and thrill at finally being with others who understood. She remarked, “In my district, there just isn’t anyone who wants to sit down and talk about this stuff – I don’t have anyone at my ‘lunch table’”. In our interaction with educators and administrators across the state, this same feeling of isolation has hung heavy over the many educators who advocate for increased academic rigor and challenge in schools. Though there are many reasons for this isolation, it has led to some dire consequences for GT (gifted and talented) programming throughout our state. For example, though programming for gifted students is mandated, less than half of Wisconsin’s school districts have a named Gifted and Talented Educator (166 of the 424 districts). Which brings up the question, “Who is advocating for appropriate challenge in these districts?”
These funding constraints, combined with the growth of educational movements that are aligned with GT education such as RTI (Response to Intervention), individualized education, and integrated student services, have sparked conversations about transformation inside of the gifted community. With its longstanding relationships with districts, states and the research community, the UW System is uniquely prepared to help fan this spark of reform into a movement that will benefit all students in Wisconsin.
These requested funds will bring together GT, RTI, special education and higher education experts particularly from UW System schools in a series of targeted meetings to develop strategies for increasing access to academic challenge for all kids. Our goal is to connect the experience and knowledge base held in the gifted community to broader educational discussions around issues like the racial and socio-economic opportunity gap in our public schools, with the intent of increasing learning opportunities for all of Wisconsin’s brightest students.
The knowledge gained from the last 30 years of gifted and talented education could prove essential to developing schools with healthy educational ecosystems, where students choose to challenge themselves, where geek is cool, where questioning, creating, and synthesizing are more than just edu-speak and where students are encouraged to advocate for their needs. Gifted and talented coordinators, RTI specialists, and teachers who advocate for constructivist methods know how to find student strengths. They know how to help students hone their intellectual abilities and curiosity through integrated problem solving and creative thinking experiences. They know how to craft challenge and how to tap into student motivation. The issue is finding a common language and set of explicit goals from which these groups can come together and advocate for more academic challenge for their students.
That is why we must create explicit opportunities for dialogue between the leading thinkers in gifted education, leading UW educational experts interested in fields not typically associated with gifted and talented, and educators at the school, district and state levels charged with creating more opportunities for challenge for all Wisconsin students.
You can check out the Gifted and Talented Add-On Certification here.
UW Madison Connection
WCATY is proud to be a Badger. As part of the Education Outreach and Partnership office in the School of Education, we work hard to voice the needs we hear from the community and provide access to the wealth of Resources University of Wisconsin-Madison has to offer. From first rate research to world class collections, buildings, labs, and thinkers, we work with experts from across the campus to create the best experience for our learners. Over the course of the year, WCATY works with Professional Learning, Pre-College Programs, Science Alliance, UW-Housing, University Health Services, Epistemic Games Group, Merit, PEOPLE Program, Games + Learning + Society, and many more.