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Summer 2020 Newsletter

Gifted Education Family Network

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BACK TO SCHOOL 

GEFN requests GT inclusion in TEA district guidance for Fall 2020

On Monday, we urged Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath to include Gifted and Talented education in Agency planning and in 2020-2021 overview guidance. The Gifted Education Family Network sent a letter to the TEA Commissioner asking the TEA to remind districts that they are required to maintain necessary, state-mandated G/T services. While G/T services must be adapted, they remain essential and can be provided without burden during COVID-19. 

How will GT look in your district?

Please let us know what you’re hearing. Email us or use our web contact form to share your feedback. As a reminder, Texas GT students must still be identified and served per the State Plan in all instructional models, including virtual. 

SUMMER 2020 HIGHLIGHTS

We’ve had a busy summer! Here is a quick recap of what we’ve been doing here at the Gifted Education Family Network:

• Standing in support of Black gifted students

In June, the Gifted Education Family Network joined in the call to action for reforms to address discriminatory practices in our criminal justice system, the use of deadly force by police, and injustice suffered by all impacted by racism. Read our statement standing against injustice and in support of Black families.

• Publishing a new full grade acceleration resource

We co-published a new free parent resource on full grade acceleration with Gifted Unlimited, LLC. Get the details and the FREE PDF.

• Confronting racism with SENG & Black GT scholars 

In her role as president of Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, our GEFN GT Professional Advisor, Dr. Kristina Collins, hosted & moderated two virtual town hall conversations featuring Black GT scholars in the Consortium for Inclusion of Underrepresented Racial Groups in Gifted Education. I-URGGE published a social justice statement in June on confronting racism against black students in GT education

• Sharing parent experiences at Campersand 

Gifted Education Family Network leaders spoke at Campersand in July about our experiences advocating for our kids’ advanced learning needs. GEFN Board Members Lin Lim and Emily Villamar-Robbins were the session speakers, in collaboration with Sabrina James and Kimberley Barber-Davis. Their advice is: No matter where and how your children will be learning next year, your voice can help gifted services in public schools which improves future opportunities for all our students.

MEMBER BENEFITS

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Get 20% off books at Gifted Unlimited 

As a subscriber to our newsletter, shop at Gifted Unlimited and use the code TXGiftedFam20 for 20% off your purchase of books. The bookshop offers a wide selection! Thank you to Gifted Unlimited for providing this offer for families of gifted students. Offer good through August 31, 2020.

INTRODUCTIONS 

Meet our Leadership Team

The Gifted Education Family Network is led by the following parents. We appreciate the investment of their volunteer time supporting gifted education.

Board Officers: 

  • Sabrina James, Chair
  • Amy Warren, Secretary
  • Lin Lim, Treasurer
  • Emily Villamar-Robbins, Vice Chair
  • Myiesha Taylor, M.D., Vice Chair
  • Kimberley Barber-Davis, Vice Chair
  • Angie Hanan, Vice Chair
  • Kim Farbisz, Vice Chair
  • Jorge Rodriguez, Vice Chair

GT Professional Advisors:

  • Dr. Todd Kettler, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Baylor University School of Education; Chair, Texas Commissioner of Education’s Advisory Council for Gifted Education
  • Dr. Kristina Collins, Assistant Professor, Talent Development, Texas State University; President of SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted); Member, NAGC Board of Directors (National Association for Gifted Children)
  • Dr. Fred Bonner, Professor and Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership and Counseling; Executive Director, Minority Achievement, Creativity and High Ability (MACH-III) Center, Prairie View A&M University
  • Dr. Anne Rinn, Professor of Educational Psychology; Director, Office for Giftedness, Talent Development, and Creativity, University of North Texas College of Education

Statewide GT Parent Group Leaders:

Leaders of statewide GT Parent Groups are invited to join our Parent Advisory Council. We will exchange information and support each other through wins, losses, concerns, and barriers we encounter. Our Parent Advisory Council will meet via Zoom in October, and currently includes these parents: 

Please email us if your group leader would like to participate. 

WHAT TO READ

A Texas GT educator explains: How will we serve them now?

To read & share: Meredith Austin, Ed.D., writes on Medium.com about what gifted programs should look like as schools return to a world where in-person attendance, transitions, and groupings may be limited. With some certainty emerging about the “look” of Texas public schools next year, gifted education leaders must review current practices, adapt our models, and ensure that each of our students learns something new every day.

A call for parent-teacher partnerships: “Families are one of students’ biggest assets.”

In a NY Chalkbeat essay, Christina Armas writes: “Teachers started to realize parents’ commitment to supporting their children. And these concerns opened a conversation between teachers and parents about education being a process, not a polished product. When parents go back to work and students go back to school, I hope this partnership carries on. We should be sharing more of our professional knowledge and experience with parents.”

UCONN to expand research about underrepresented GT students 

The National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), part of the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, recently was awarded five years of funding to expand its research in identifying and serving gifted and talented students who have been traditionally underserved. Read the key findings of the ongoing project at the University of Connecticut.

Curated resources for the gifted in the time of COVID-19

The Gifted Education Family Network curated a list of possible ways to support gifted children during our global crisis by helping others, accelerating academics, finding new challenges, and more. 

Gifted or ADHD?

Tracy P Alloway, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today about twice-exceptional (2e) children: “In my research, I found that gifted students displayed similar oppositional and hyperactive behaviors compared to students with ADHD. Interestingly, both groups also had very similar IQ scores. Yet they had very different learning outcomes. Why?”

KUDOS

Drop everything now — and thank a teacher!

Families, our teachers need our support more than ever. Now is the perfect time to write a thank you note or buy a gift card in appreciation for their dedication to the field of education and specific ways they’ve helped your child.

Be well

We applaud districts for carefully considering all issues involving reopening schools. We wish the very best of health and well-being for every family in our network. To those GEFN families on the front lines of providing essential services to our community: our deepest thanks. Please take very good care.

YOUR CORNER OF TEXAS

Events near you

Is your local GT parent support group hosting a live or virtual meetup and looking for new members? Or … are you feeling like the only GT family in town? Please let us know about it. GEFN wants to connect gifted families in your area. Get in touch and we’ll try to help advertise events, meetups or even “gifted family seeks other gifted families in Anytown, Texas” to help connect gifted families in Texas. 

LET’S CONNECT

Refer a friend

Please consider asking friends and family across Texas to sign up for our Gifted Education Family Network. It’s new, it’s free, and its purpose is to advocate for strong, vibrant, and appropriately challenging education programs for students with exceptional potential. The broader our reach, the more GT families can connect across Texas, and the better we can all support GT learning in our schools and at home. 

Ready to network? Here’s how.

QUOTABLE

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Featured

Letter to TEA Commissioner: Requesting GT inclusion in TEA district guidance for Fall 2020

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

COVID-19 Support
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.

Sincerely,

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

Featured

Black Families Matter

The leaders of the Gifted Education Family Network (GEFN) are devastated by the recent and senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We recognize that the events of the past month do not exist in isolation. We condemn unjust practices and policies that historically have harmed, endangered, and oppressed Black families in all aspects of our society. We denounce the injustice of acts of violence, racial microaggressions, hate crimes, and murders committed against Black fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters across our nation. We grieve the horrific impact of individual biases and systemic anti-Black racism on Black families, including our Black families in Texas. We join in the call to action for reforms to address discriminatory practices in our criminal justice system, the use of deadly force by police, and injustice suffered by all impacted by racism.

Equity is central to the mission and vision of our organization. Children do not have the opportunity to learn and achieve their full potential when their families are constantly concerned about their safety or when educational systems do not value their contributions. Further, if all children, regardless of their cultural, ethnic, and racial identities, are not afforded access to needed educational opportunities, humanity will miss the opportunity to engage the invaluable, precious human capital these individuals provide, and we all suffer.

We stand with everyone who is calling out for justice, equality, and the end of structural racism. As advocates for gifted education, we pledge to use our work to inform, support, and empower parents to insist on critical improvement in funding and policy initiatives that impact the future of gifted education, especially for underrepresented and underserved students.

We ask that all families involved in gifted education join us in an explicit call to action from our respective communities to (1) listen to Black voices when they share their lived experiences, perspectives, and solutions for change, (2) to acknowledge and understand our own implicit biases, (3) to examine the failures of our criminal justice system, (4) to educate ourselves on culturally specific concepts in gifted education, and (5) to take immediate action to advocate for justice and change. We cannot tolerate continued systemic anti-Black racism that has gone unaddressed in our country for far too long.

Featured

Spring 2020 Newsletter

Gifted Education Family Network

Newsletter • Spring 2020

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TOP STORY 

Stay home & reach out! 

Help grow our network of gifted families

Please consider asking friends and family across Texas to join our Gifted Education Family Network. It’s new, it’s free, and its purpose is to advocate for strong, vibrant, and appropriately challenging education programs for students with exceptional potential. 

The broader our reach, the more GT families can connect across Texas, and the better we can all support GT learning in our schools and at home.  Learn more about the GEFN mission and vision.

RESOURCES: GT IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 

Our new website features a curated list of possible ways to support gifted children during our global crisis:

Actively help others. Volunteering to make a positive difference can help gifted kids cope with the suffering they see. Check out our running list of ideas. If your family has found a unique way to serve others during this time of crisis and isolation — please email us about it. We plan to share selected ideas on our website and social media.

Accelerate learning. Acceleration and flexible pacing are effective and important strategies for meeting the needs of gifted students. We have a guide to acceleration resources, including official Texas public school Credit by Exam opportunities.

Take time for enrichment. GT families in our network have curated a list of our favorite online enrichment opportunities to challenge and inspire.

View all resources on one page, including Basic Needs and 2e Needs.

KUDOS

Thank you, school districts

We applaud districts that have launched a learning at home model to sustain our children during this time of school closure. That connection with the school community has provided our families with some normalcy in a turbulent time. Announced on April 17 by Executive order of the Governor, Texas schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.

Be well

We wish the very best of health and well-being for every family in our network. To those GEFN families on the front lines of providing essential services to our community: our deepest thanks. Please take very good care.

EYE ON THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE

Watching the Texas Senate Education Committee

As of May 2019, Texas law does not require public school districts to spend a specific dollar amount on gifted education. The Texas Senate Education Committee scheduled a hearing for March 11, 2020 (postponed due to statewide closures for coronavirus) at which “monitoring gifted services” was on the agenda. ACTION ITEM: When future testimony is needed to advocate for GT services, would you or your family members be willing to represent gifted families by testifying? Get in touch and we will put you in contact with parents and students who have experience testifying!

YOUR CORNER OF TEXAS

Events near you

Is your local GT parent support group hosting a public event or virtual meetup? Or … are you feeling like the only GT family in town? Please let us know about it. GEFN wants to connect gifted families in your area. Get in touch and we’ll try to help advertise events, meetups or even “gifted family seeks other gifted families in Anytown, Texas” to help connect gifted families in Texas. 

Noticing any changes to gifted ed in your school?

In Texas public school districts, we depend on local school boards to fund programs that help gifted learners thrive. Services can vary greatly from district to district. Are you noticing changes in gifted services? Please let us know what you’re hearing in your area. Email us, or use our web contact form, to share your feedback.

2e NEWS

Supporting twice-exceptional students

Gifted Education Review Issue #5 (free PDF) includes articles about gifted students with ADHD, strengths-based instruction for 2e learners, and subject acceleration experiences of 2e students.

RECAP: 2020 BAYLOR GT PARENT CONFERENCE

Super sessions & networking opportunities galore at Baylor U’s Gifted Parent Conference  

We loved meeting all the parents who attended this spring’s GT Parent Conference hosted by the Baylor Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, at Baylor University in Waco. Around 70 Texas parents attended. A huge thank you to Dr. Jennifer H. Robins and Dr. Todd Kettler with the Baylor School of Education, and thanks to the incredible presenters: keynote speaker Justin Vawter of NuMinds Enrichment, Dr. Laila Sanguras, Dr. Cheryl Taliaferro, Dr. Tracey Sulak, Dr. Julia Hejduk, Dr. James Bishop, Tracy Fisher, Cole Sussman, Kailey Farris, and parent group leader panelists from six districts. 

Save the date for the next GT Parent Conference on January 30, 2021 at Baylor University. 

What’s next? If your organization is hosting an inexpensive opportunity for parent learning, please let us know!

BEHIND THE SCENES

Startup status: Green light!

The Gifted Education Family Network is finalizing our Executive Board and confirming professional advisors and business & community sponsors. We’re seeking families (including parents and students) and professionals to join us in our mission. Sign up for the network here.

LET’S CONNECT

Ready to network? Here’s how.

QUOTABLE

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

— John Muir

Share your PG + ASD story – Research Participants wanted!

BACKGROUND

Lin Lim, Ph.D., had a colorful educational journey, with primary and secondary schooling in Singapore followed by a Bachelors in Economics with a Minor in Environmental Studies at Boston College. She then completed a doctoral program in Psychology at Boston University, with an interest in attitudes and beliefs. She completed a graduate academic certificate in Twice Exceptional Education through Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education and is 2 courses away from a graduate academic certificate in Mind, Brain and Teaching through Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Education.

She has been very involved in her local non-profit and education-related groups in Texas. Currently, Lin is a founding member of a Texas parents grassroots non-profit, Gifted Education Family Network (GEFN  –giftededucationfamilynetwork.org), which shares information, resources and focuses on equity in education to gifted families, including 2e, PG, and special populations. She also serves on the Certificate Program Advisory Committee at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. Lin has two children, one gifted and radically accelerated, and the other, who is twice exceptional. Lin advocates for a neuroscience-informed, strength-based educational, and parenting approach.  

PURPOSE

I am interested in educational equity in public school for 2e students in general and am really Interested to collect qualitative narratives from PG+ASD families. The percentage of students that should qualify for both gifted and SpED services in public education and are actually serviced are way below incident levels. 

I would love to collect and analyze qualitative unstructured educational stories of PG + ASD families that are currently/previously in public schools.  If your child/children have ever been in public school, even briefly, I will be interested to hear your story from multi-family members’ perspective. 

This will be for an original content article, future publication submission/s in scholarly journals, or other forms of online or print production.

Here is the post-interview confidentiality form.

QUALIFICATION

PUBLIC schooling: must have at least tried public schooling before other forms of schooling.

PG definition: one of more subscale in IQ assessment that needed extended norms, hit ceiling or over 145, or FUll scale/GAI or other composite scores over 145.

ASD- Formal diagnosis OR If there is no formal diagnosis yet but strongly suspected – will be interested to hear your current journey also. Just note no formal diagnosis during the interview.

SUBJECT

Parents/primary caretaker/s of PG+ASD children, Sibling/s of target subject and PG+ASD children (minimum 13 years old). If your child would like to share their perspective and experience but are close to 13 years old, please reach out.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Click here to participate

Thank you,

Lin Lim, Ph.D.

llim9@jh.edu

Zenliving.com

NEW! Free Parent Resource on Full Grade Acceleration

Get the PDF

“Most parents have heard of ‘skipping grades.’ They may not know, however, that research recommendations can help educators and parents determine whether a grade skip – also called full grade acceleration – may be in a student’s best interest. What does research tell us about this practice, and how does this research address myths and concerns about acceleration?”

The Gifted Education Family Network and Gifted Unlimited, LLC are excited to announce the release of a free parent resource on full grade acceleration.

Free and available for download, this publication summarizes research on acceleration, offers sources and links for further reading, and includes concerns specific to Texas public school students.

The Gifted Education Family Network wishes to thank Gifted Unlimited, LLC for its partnership in creating this resource for parents!

Sources and links for further reading are included. Get the PDF now.

past / SENG Panel of 13 Leading Black Scholars of GT Education

Online event hosted by SENG – Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted

Join SENG’s next Presidential Town Hall Meeting for two exclusive SENGinar panel discussions with 13 leading Black Scholars in Gifted and Talented Education.  Parents and educators are encouraged to attend and learn from the panelists’ personal testimonies, strategies, and practices.

Presenters for this event represent the Consortium for Inclusion of Underrepresented Racial Groups in Gifted Education (I-URGGE).  Among the panelists is SENG President Dr. Kristina Collins, one of the Professional Advisors on the leadership team of the Gifted Education Family Network.

The online event includes two sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 21 at 7pm EST (6pm Central): “From Courageous Conversations to Courageous Actions.”
  • Session 2 – July 23 at 7pm EST (6pm Central): “Unpacking the Lived Experiences of Gifted Black Scholars in America Today.”
Click here to register!