August 3, 2020
Commissioner Mike Morath, Texas Commissioner of Education
Deputy Commissioner Matthew Montano, Special Populations
Niloy Gangopadhyay, Director of Special Populations
Monica Brewer, Statewide Coordinator, Gifted/Talented Education
Texas Education Agency
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas, 78701
Dear Commissioner Morath,
As representatives of families with children who require Gifted and Talented services across the state of Texas, we are writing with concerns regarding the Agency’s guidance for the 2020-2021 school year. To ensure that districts maintain necessary, state-mandated G/T services, and to ensure districts do not overlook preparation for these services in any plans or platforms, it is essential that the TEA include Gifted and Talented Education in Agency planning and in 2020-2021 overview guidance.
We respect and appreciate the work of the TEA’s Statewide Coordinator of Gifted/Talented Education and the Commissioner’s Advisory Council on the Education of Gifted/Talented Students. The 2019 updates to the State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students were necessary and important. We acknowledge the challenges facing all of public education during the COVID-19 pandemic, including challenges facing the TEA.
Because districts must prioritize TEA guidance responding to COVID-19, it is critical to include the needs of all populations. The importance of Gifted and Talented Education in maintaining student engagement and equitable access to continued learning cannot be overstated during the current crisis. For this reason, it is problematic that G/T was not included with other special populations in the Asynchronous Plan Rubric and in other guidance documents. We have learned from the experiences of families in multiple districts that clear requirements are imperative to ensure districts maintain the services and staff needed for compliance and for student learning.
While G/T services must be adapted, they remain essential and can be provided without burden during COVID-19. School district leadership and instructional staff will benefit from the TEA communicating and clarifying the following points, some of which will require revisions or supplements to previously issued TEA guidance:
- The State Plan remains in effect, and all sections can be met in all instructional models
- Update pertinent information in the April 14, 2020 TEA Gifted/Talented Guidance document to reflect G/T expectations for 2020-2021 school year (online and face to face)
- Update the TEA Asynchronous Plan Rubric to include Gifted and Talented services
- Clarify that access to appropriately challenging resources and assignments during virtual learning is a part of the learning expectation for G/T students, not an additional expectation to be fulfilled after completing other required assignments.
Gifted learners at all levels in schools across Texas are a special population whose social, emotional, and academic needs must be recognized to ensure they are engaged and successful. Moreso now than ever, we risk G/T students becoming disenfranchised from public education if they are not provided with the research-supported learning experiences outlined in the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students. We support public education and want to ensure G/T students are able to thrive educationally, even during the unprecedented times we are facing. For these reasons, we ask that the Texas Education Agency continue to include and prioritize Gifted and Talented Education students in all levels of future LEA guidance.
Thank you for your work for all students, including gifted learners. We are eager to serve as a resource for Texas G/T parents and districts. We hope to collaborate with the TEA in the future.
Sabrina James, Chair
Gifted Education Family Network
Amy Warren, Secretary
Lin Lim, Treasurer
Emily Villamar-Robbins, Vice Chair
Angie Hanan, Vice Chair
Myiesha Taylor, M.D., Vice Chair
Kimberley Barber-Davis, Vice Chair
Kim Farbisz, Vice Chair
Jorge Rodriguez, Vice Chair