Sunday, October 28, 2012

Title I + Gifted Education=Partnership for Equity

Increasingly, gifted education scholars, school district administrators, and advocates are beginning to cross the aisle’ to seek out collaborative programming with organizations and agencies that will help to improve services to high potential students nationwide. The goal for many of these more recent collaboratives is to address the continuing ‘under-representation of children of color’ (primarily African American and Hispanic American) in gifted and advanced learner programs.

One of these potential school-based collaborative partners is Title I. Due to the increasing number of school children living in poverty conditions nationwide, every state has the potential to receive a share of Title I funding.  Poverty is a major impediment to school achievement in America today. The purpose of Title I funding is to bridge the ‘gap’ in resources between low income students and non low income students, thus- improving chances for school success. Annually over $14 billion is provided to school districts whose students are at risk of failure and living in poverty. Lack of understanding of culture and race and continuing discrimination in schools also remains a ‘major divide’ in schools relative to effective teaching and learning of culturally diverse high ability learners. (A future post will address the importance of RACE & CULTURE in serving Gifted children & youth).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of Title I funding, is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” Access to gifted and advanced learner instructional programs will enable students at Title I schools to perform these minimum standards and go beyond proficiency standards preparing them more readily for advanced coursework at the secondary level, and improve their chances of success in college and beyond. Instruction in gifted classrooms focuses more (than in the regular classroom) on higher level thinking skills, concept-based learning, problem-based learning, scientific thinking, literary analysis. Gifted programs are specificially designed to nurture curiosity, creativity, and ‘thirst for learning’ that high ability/gifted students bring to the classroom.  

This past May (2012), a group of experts, including scholars, program developers, and advocates of low income and culturally diverse gifted learners met together for two day Summit in DC at the invitation of the National Association of Gifted Children to discuss and develop solutions to the issue of national under-representation and lack of service to low income learners with high potential. A link to the recently released summit report is below. This problem has plagued our schools and the field of gifted education for far too long. Conversations continue as to the best solutions. Partnering with existing programs is one solution that should be considered.

Title I serves students are ‘at-risk’ for low educational performance for reasons beyond their control. They come from low socio-economic families; may live in single parent homes; some live in large, often multigenerational families; they may be first generation immigrants from economically disadvantaged homes; or be English Language Learners. These factors have little or nothing to do with a students’ capability for high intellectual performance. Numerous research studies have provided strong evidence of the potential for students from all backgrounds to demonstrate high cognitive abilities, leadership capacity, creative ability, and extraordinary compassion and sensitivity for others (see Olszewski-Kubilius & Clarenbach and VanTassel-Baska & Stambaugh  below)
As a local district coordinator of gifted services a few years ago, I forged a partnership w/ the Title I department in order to address the issue of under-representation. The first challenge was to provide evidence of the presence of high potential students in Title I schools. In short order, I was able to review district wide test score data and located a number of students with subtest scores and comprehensive ability scores on nationally standardized tests were well within the range considered for placement in gifted programs (90-99th %ile).  Over time,  we were able to successfully forge a partnership with Title I, increase access to enrichment programming to Title I students, provide professional development  for Title I schools, and formally identify an increased number of Title I students as gifted, providing access to existing services and special schools.

Many districts are using this Title I/Gifted Education Partnership model to DIRECTLY ADDRESS UNDER-REPRESENTATION IN THEIR SCHOOLS, some are targeting specific populations who are under-represented in certain programs. More girls for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math programming, more Black males in gifted programs overall, more Hispanic/ELLs in AP courses, etc. The strategy chosen will vary based on needs of the district. This model is one solution to the problem of under-representation, there are more to be considered.
Want to demonstrate that your district is seriously concerned about addressing under-representation in gifted education?
~Form a partnership with the Title I department, and develop targeted services for Title I schools, break the old ‘deficit perspective’ of students in poverty, and you are very likely to not only increase the numbers of African American, Hispanic, first generation immigrant children, and low income learners identified as gifted you are also likely to help the district  improve overall student performance for many years to come.
For more details on Title 1, see:
U.S. Department of Education. Title 1: Improving the Academic Achievement of the disadvantaged.

Other Resources, Related News Stories:

Montgomery County Schools, MD. Allocates part-time position for G/T teacher in Title I schools

Taylor, K. (2008) Poverty’s multiple dimensions. Journal of Educational Controversy

Summit Reports:

Olszewski-Kubilius, P. & Clarenbach, J. (2012). Unlocking  Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low Income, High Ability Learners. Publication of the National Association for Gifted Children.

VanTassel-Baska, J. & Stambaugh, T. (Eds) (2007) Overlooked Gems: A National Perspective on Low Income Promising Learners. A Joint Publication of the National  Association for Gifted Children and The Center for Gifted Education, College of William & Mary

Monday, October 22, 2012


Educators, families, and other stakeholders continue to grapple with the question: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GIFTED?'   Broad based research for a century  has' provided extensive evidence of how students with high ability/gifted traits ‘look’, how they ‘behave’, and how they ‘respond to the world’ around them.

Characteristics like:
Ø being an early reader,
Ø having intense emotions,
Ø expressing high cognitive response to problem solving,
Ø having exceptional knowledge of a particular discipline, content area
Ø having an exceptional ‘number sense’,
Ø expressing a high level of empathy,
Ø demonstrating perfectionistic tendencies –

are seen/observed in gifted learners across cultural groups. In conversations with families, teachers and the students themselves, these traits are quite common.  If then, this is the case, why are we still unable to  identify giftedness across culturally diverse groups in a fair and equitable manner for the purpose of providing access to publicly funded programs? The reasons are numerous, a few are listed here:

Reason #1- In some cases, program opportunities are slim to none with budget cutting at a high in some states, districts, ALL gifted learners are being shortchanged and forced to sit in classrooms where basic, standardized learning is the norm! These students are suffering, being smothered and their gifts WASTED!!

Reason #2- In other cases, school leaders have not yet taken this problem of UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF CULTURALLY DIVERSE GROUPS IN GIFTED PROGRAMS seriously OR they  haven’t been forced to develop  stronger programming based on evidence-based practices that are readily available with the support of expert trainers and their own specially trained teachers!

Reason #3- In other situations, leadership has initiated the challenge, yet educators with biased opinions about what ‘giftedness’ LOOKS LIKE are still the ‘gatekeepers’ and therefore, teacher referrals of African American, Hispanic, Immigrant, BiRacial, Low income students for gifted programs remain low.

At this juncture, there is no real excuse!! So, students from multi-cultural backgrounds and low income environments languish away in classrooms everywhere.

Sometimes gifted learners are considered to be ‘a troublemaker’,  OR the one ‘who is given to flights of fantasy’ (that’s what was said about Nelson Mandela by his uncle and J.K.Rowling by one of her teachers, respectively)

Some special programs are in place in districts, at universities, and at the regional level across the nation that others can learn from IF PROGRAM MODELS ARE DESIRED AND FUNDING IS MADE AVAILABLE (three such programs are listed at the end of the page). Using ‘there are no gifted kids in this school’ as an excuse because the school serves a high percentage of students from poverty OR a high percentage of children of color is NO EXCUSE! (A teacher in a Title I school actually said that to me some years ago when I was there to conduct professional development about Gifted children from poverty).

 At the end of the day…ALL children with high potential demonstrate their gifts the same way and over their liftetime whether they become an award winning scientist, nobel peace prize winner, a college professor, research scholar, classroom teacher, engineer, social activist, ecologist, anthropologist, musician, artist OR just one of your neighbors, or colleagues on your job, you ‘recognize’ them and sometimes wonder- if they were  identified as gifted as a child and had access to an appropriate education when they were young.

Universal traits of giftedness are found in the literature from many different sources. Below is an excerpt from a ‘Universal Traits’ chart that I developed for use during professional development sessions with teachers (the actual chart contains additional descriptors). It shares traits and the ways (negative & positive) that they may be demonstrated.  Any gifted learner, regardless of background may demonstrate one or more of these traits/characteristics.

Universal trait
Positive/acceptable way trait may be expressed in the home, community & school (Negative/Aberrant manifestation)
Verbally precocious
Talks early, using full sentences sooner than others, enjoys using ‘big’ words; reads early; tells long stories; is an avid reader; demonstrates superior oral expression skills; may imitate the preacher or other speakers; likes poetry; writes lyrics for songs; very descriptive. Learns second language easily.(TALKS TOO MUCH; WANTS OTHERS TO HEAR THEM, BUT IS NOT A GOOD LISTENER; DESCRIBED AS ‘SMART MOUTH’)
Reasons well
Goes beyond the surface to probe deeper and discover new information; figures things out more quickly than age peers; engages in conversation with adults, older children easily; sounds like ‘he’s been here before’; makes connections between seemingly unlike objects, ideas, places, things (QUESTIONS AUTHORITY; TROUBLEMAKER)
Artistically & creatively inclined
Expresses rhythm, learns patterns quickly; sings in tune and rhythmically at an early age; enjoys creating patterns out of color, shapes; tells elaborate stories through drawing; is dramatic (SPENDS TOO MUCH TIME DOODLING; GIVEN TO ‘FLIGHTS OF FANTASY’)
Rapidly learns new  information
Needs only 2-3 repetitions to learn new material; puts thoughts, ideas, words, answers together quickly; may get frustrated with constant repetition of information in school or in conversations at home; advanced memory for details. (BORES EASILY; MAY BEGIN ACTING OUT IN CLASS WHEN WORK IS TOO EASY; MAY BOTHER OTHER STUDENTS)
Unusually sensitive to the needs of others
Idealistic, sense of justice formed and expressed early, may be responsible for caring for younger siblings, will express concern for others being treated unfairly (MAY BE OUTSPOKEN RE: FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE ISSUES; DOES NOT RESPOND WELL TO ‘DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT I DO’)


With this chart in hand, I challenge you to go into a Title I school; a low income community; to your place of worship;  to a reservation; to the country/rural area; to the ‘hood’; to the barrio; and deliberately search for child or teenager  in each of those environments who ‘looks’ and ‘behaves’ like this.  Once you find them (and I’m confident that you will) –



For more information about three service models for diverse populations of gifted learners, go to:

University of Massachusetts, Boston TAG Latino Program

Project EXCITE, Center for Talent Development, Northwestern University Chicago, Illinois

The Timbuktu Academy, Southern University & A&M College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Monday, October 8, 2012

Raising a Gifted African American Male:One mother’s story

"As the mother of a gifted young man I am humbled to share my story. My African American son entered a rural area public school at upper elementary level after having attended a private, independent school during his earlier years. Even then, we knew that he was different, he had boundless energy, was excited about learning anything new, able to write cursive during preschool and was an early reader. His preschool teachers encouraged us to allow him to be ‘skipped’ but we decided against it. After enrolling in the public school, he became comfortable, entered a spelling bee and easily won first place for the entire 4th grade.

The day after the spelling bee, he brought home an envelope marked ‘TAG’ from the Talented & Gifted department. While we applauded the administration’s swift recognition of his potential, the challenges were just beginning. After identification, he was clustered with predominately White and Asian classmates who scoffed at the idea that he could be gifted. My family and church prayed with and for him as he remained ambitious and jovial. Extended family encouraged him by sharing their stories of trial and triumphs from integrating school during segregation to discriminating experiences in the workplace. As a village we were molding my youngster to overcome.

There are times when he has struggled with ‘fitting in’. It began with disruptive classroom behavior in electives where he had some friends, to acting out on the school bus to prove he was a “bad boy”.  At home, he shared his feelings of being ostracized by other black students for being in classes with mostly Whites and Asians. He also explained the contempt of the gifted program classmates  (those very students) when they openly discussed his being a part of their “clique“. Clearly there was an internal conflict. He wanted to fit in with those who were teasing him about “acting white” and at the same time, he felt being in the gifted classes was where he belonged. He tried to demonstrate that he was just one of ‘the boys’ by being disrespectful to teachers. On the other hand, he was adamant to stand his academic ground in core classes with the other ethnicities as his entitlement to rigorous opportunity.

Now a teen, my son is magnetic, witty, compassionate, candid and thoughtful.  He enjoys courses at regional Math and Science Center and summer experiences studying Lego Robotics and engineering. He excels at Spanish (I’d like to think because of our formative lessons in his nursery), but his best grades are in his favorite subject of math. I should mention his sense of humor is mildly eccentric as it seems he’s always saying the unexpected and unimaginable. With all of his academic success, playing Football is truly his first love and extreme passion. He is a linebacker and running back on his high school team. He also participates in community service activities and has become extremely influential among his peers- standing out as a leader with conviction and integrity.

My son is now re-defining himself somewhat from student to teacher. Watching this metamorphosis is exhilarating and honorable. It warms the heart of a Mom to see her child blossom...." 


This mother’s candid account of her son’s development to date is very telling..his gifts were recognized early and he was ‘placed’ in a program of services. But, being placed in the program did not prevent the psychosocial challenges of ‘fitting in’ with other students and overcoming the quandary of being black and gifted in a mainstream setting.  His saving grace was his family who ‘shored him up’ with stories of their own struggles and victories over time. For so many children & youth, families can make the difference.

*This story is an excerpt from one that will appear in an upcoming book of family narratives: Multi-Cultural Families Bringing Up Gifted Children: a National Perspective


Monday, October 1, 2012


Last week, I recommended that to ‘TAKE OUR PLACE AT THE TABLE’ we need to be well-informed about issues and resources that will enable us to engage in conversations that will affect the course of education for high ability diverse children now and in the future. To assist with that process, this week’s post will provide some of those resources. Some of these are programs, books, links that many of you are already familiar with. Some will be new to you.

I ask that you take a look at the resources and share this page. The list is intentionally brief. Please take a moment to go to at least one site or check out one resource that is new to you and then, SHARE it with someone else. Remember, if we are to improve our advocacy and address the educational and social needs of a broader group of high ability/gifted learners, we must be in the mindset of SHARING. Make no assumptions. Because you may know something or have access does not mean that others do.

How do we improve services for more students? We make information more ACCESSIBLE to a wider audience. When, as a field, gifted education and advanced learner programs begins sharing more across different populations, engaging in more collaborations services for high ability learners will improve incrementally.



The New Common Core State Standards and the Gifted

Identifying & Serving Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Gifted Position Paper


Banks J.A. & Banks, C.M. (2012) Multicultural Education: Issues & Perspectives (8th Ed). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons

Coleman, M.R. & Johnsen, S.K. (Eds) (2012). Implementing RtI with Gifted Students: Service Models, Trends & Issues. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press (available Nov 1)

Kennedy, Banks, & Grandin (2011). Bright, but not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism.  Jossey & Bass

10  Facebook Pages you Must See!!
 (Search on Facebook for each page, review, & join or ‘like’ to keep up to date w/ their materials)

Black Kids Read
Each One, Teach One
Gifted Development Center
Gifted in Michigan
Gifted Homeschoolers
Great Potential Press
Hbcu Kidz
International Gifted Education
The Black Academy
The School for Gifted Potentials
Supporting Gifted Learners
WeAreGifted2 {just launched Sept 30th! - please 'like'}

Gifted in Wisconsin
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted
Teaching for High Potential (THP)

The study and new book project re: Culturally Diverse Families Raising Gifted Children is going very well!! Many thanks to parents and educators who have contributed over the past few months. We have interviewed a number of families and collected narratives from others. To date we have 30+ interviews and narratives from a wide variety of families from across the nation raising gifted children (African American, Hispanic, Bi-Racial, Low SES, Immigrant, Rural, Native American). If you or someone you know is interested in sharing a story, please contact me immediately at for more details. We’re very excited and do appreciate your support!