As CAGT is revealing a new website and starting this new blog, I started thinking about “rebranding.” In a sense, we are trying to rebrand CAGT. A change in the website will hopefully keep things fresh, provide more information to stakeholders in a clearer fashion, and continue to build awareness about gifted and talented education.
That last part is key because it seems gifted education continues to be one of the most misunderstood, under-represented, and ignored aspects of education. As I thought about this concept of rebranding in terms of CAGT, it seemed appropriate that we should think about rebranding gifted education as a whole.
Just this spring, Governor Hickenlooper signed new legislation regarding the academic acceleration for students (HB 13-1023). Simply put, the law suggests that schools have a transparent plan that allows for academically advanced students to continue to receive challenging curriculum through a clearly defined acceleration process. Possibly the most powerful part of this legislation is that it is not limited to students who have been previously identified as gifted and talented. This legislation could provide the open door stakeholders need to make GT relevant and “rebrand” it within schools to help advanced students.
Over the past few months, I have had numerous conversations about academic acceleration with colleagues and other professionals. Although many understand it and are encouraged by legislation that helps provide opportunities for academic advancement in schools, just as many have been confused about acceleration and why schools would need to provide such opportunities to any student who wants the challenge.
One teacher even asked why we should be required to provide so much “extra” when the content at that school is already advanced and challenging. My reply was simply “why would it be any different than providing opportunities for struggling students to catch up to the level of your challenging curriculum?”
The level of confusion among these professionals simply comes from a lack of exposure and understanding about advanced learners. Too many teachers still view gifted education as a group of straight “A” students who need two or three worksheets instead of one. If you are reading this blog, obviously you are not one of these people, but you have the opportunity to influence change in someone who is.
Because we are passionate about what we do and our roles in gifted education, it is easy to become an overbearing advocate that tells people all the wrong things happening in schools. I’m sure many of us (myself included) are guilty of exactly that. Although we want everything to be perfect for our beloved population of students, we sometimes become too focused on problems rather than solutions. HB 13-1023 allows everyone to open the door for a subtle and poignant conversation about advanced learners, academic acceleration, and gifted and talented programs in a way that builds the awareness we so desperately need.
Many of you reading this are already very confident advocates for gifted education. Others prefer everyone else to do the advocating as you stand by their side in support. Both roles are obviously fine and vary with comfort. My task to you is this… whether you are a passionate, confident, and vocal advocate of gifted education or a fly on the wall who simply wants to know how to support your own child; start conversations with people about the new academic acceleration legislation and the simplicity of meeting a student’s academic needs.
As the legislation states, acceleration opportunities include, but are not limited to, single-subject acceleration, curriculum compacting, concurrent enrollment, credit by examination, advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, specialized advanced academic programs, independent studies, grade acceleration, grade telescoping, and early entrance to college.
Imagine how education, specifically that of gifted students, would change if every parent, teacher, and administrator were familiar with these options and how they provide a foundation for advanced learners through acceleration. It is time to help spread the word and assist in rebranding gifted and talented education through knowledge. Rather than limiting your conversations to gifted students, speak of how academic instruction should be matched to students’ ability, regardless of the level. From cognitively delayed to academically advanced and every student in between, we can advocate for a rebranding of gifted education by speaking up for all students.