Interview with Dr. Joy Lawson Davis

Co-Editor of Gifted Children of Color Around the World

Educators worldwide know Dr. Joy Lawson Davis as a global expert in gifted education.  With over 40 years in the field, her books include the award-winning Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (author), Gifted Children of Color Around the World: Diverse Needs, Exemplary Practices and Directions for the Future (co-edited with Dr. James L. Moore III), and No More Dreams Deferred: Breaking the Barriers to Self-Advocacy for Underserved Gifted Learners (forthcoming, co-edited with Deb Douglas), among other publications.  She has served on the board of the National Association for Gifted Children, as the founding executive director of a Governor’s School for gifted students, as the Virginia State Specialist for K-12 gifted programs, as Director of the Center for Gifted Education at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, as Associate Professor and Chair of Teacher Education at Virginia Union University, and in numerous advisory and leadership roles across the country.  

During this challenging time, we are thrilled to interview Dr. Davis on her latest book and on challenges advocates must address in order to achieve equity and excellence in gifted education.  Read below to learn what parents should know about challenges facing gifted children of color, steps that can improve equity and access, and the importance of strengthening gifted programs for all students who need these services.

What should GT advocates know about the impact of poverty on gifted students of color, and how can they support these students in their districts?

Gifted students of color and those who live in poverty are underserved in school programs for high ability/gifted students nationwide. According to research, there are countless numbers of students from culturally diverse backgrounds who are missing out on services because of biased identification practices, teachers who don’t recognize and believe in the high intelligence creativity of these students, and lack of funding to fully support comprehensive program changes needed to ensure equity and access for all students with high potential. Schools can do more to support these students by changing their identification practices, providing cultural competency training for teachers, and ensuring that school leaders are culturally competent, as well. All school districts that have equity, diversity and inclusion as part of their strategic plans should also be sure that gifted programs are examined and redesigned to ensure equity.

When you talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion, there has to be policy that includes gifted plans, plans for high ability students, [or] advanced learner plans.    I have seen many school districts’ strategic plans that don’t mention anything about high ability and gifted students.  If there is nothing written into policy about equity in gifted programs at the district level, leaders are really not compelled or inclined to do anything.  They will overlook these kids continuously and they will move on to other priorities, other needs that the district may have. 

The information on twice-exceptional African-American students in your book Gifted Children of Color Around the World and in your chapter in Scott Barry Kaufmann’s book is incredibly important.  How can GT advocates support improved awareness of twice- and thrice-exceptional students, and specifically, implementation of recommendations in your book? 

First and most important is educator training on the traits of gifted learners who may also have other exceptionalities, and integration of this training with cultural competency training. Generally, 2E programs address the needs of students in the majority population. Black students with the same traits (gifted and having learning disabilities or other exceptionalities) are served based on the areas needing support, and their gifts are totally dismissed. Look among your exceptional populations students who receive[] SPED services to determine if there are students who may also qualify for gifted services. Teachers must be re-trained to see students of color [as] capable of high intelligence, not always [to view them] as deficient in skills, troublemakers, loud, too busy… twice exceptional services must expand to locate and serve Black students as well as White students.  

What policy changes should GT advocates ask states and districts to make to better support students of color? 

[Ask for] policy changes in identification protocols, ensuring that all services are demographically representative… Black students, Latino students, Native American students are underrepresented in gifted programs.  Policy changes in teacher preparation should also be considered.  Mak[e] sure that all preservice programs include coursework in Special Populations of Gifted students and Culturally Responsive pedagogies.  Additionally, policy changes to increase parent/family engagement are also recommended. In teacher prep programs, all states have mandatory courses, and that’s how they determine whether the teacher prep programs are certified…  If we look at those mandatory courses and include pedagogies, that would be something that all state programs can do.  If that doesn’t happen and we know it’s not happening, then we can be sure local training covers these types of courses.  There are grad programs, masters programs that don’t have any idea how to address the needs of gifted students in general, but certainly not how to deal with the needs of special populations, those understandings are critical. 

An additional change I would recommend is that all school districts increase their parent and family engagement response.  How are we engaging parents?  How are we working collaboratively with parents?  Do parents in these special populations groups feel like gifted programs belong to them?  These are some of the kinds of things I teach about when I conduct full workshops.  We talk about the sense that some populations do not feel gifted education belongs to them, and that’s simply because of the way we’ve operated…  There will be parents even after their children have been identified who will say, “I didn’t know much about this before.” …There’s a sense that gifted programs are owned by other populations, and the populations that are underserved don’t feel that same sense of ownership.  But we can change that.  We can correct that.  Locally, we can change that with policy, but we can also change that with action, with practice.

How can advocates help educators learn to work more effectively with students of color?

Advocates are parents, community members, other stakeholders – these groups should create forums, councils, and be demographically representative and invite school personnel to THEIR table to discuss and plan for change in gifted programs to make them more accessible.

Advocates are groups like your own… these groups, your groups, can create forums.  You can ensure that they are demographically representative, and then you can invite school personnel to your table. It’s always about being invited to the table, being part of the table.  If you don’t have a seat, you are on the table… as advocate groups, you can actually have your own table and then invite school personnel to the table.  Their response to your invitation will say a lot about what their interest is, how willing they are to collaborate, to be partners, and to change conditions in gifted programs to make them more accessible.  We just simply have to decide that we are going to be able to do this.  It may happen differently district to district, but one of the things we can do is to have forums and councils and bring other people in from the school… you invite people to your table, and have these deep and difficult conversations about changing policy.

In addition to learning from your books, do you have recommendations for ways that GT parent groups can become more inclusive of families of color?

Invit[e] faith based leadership, community organizations, Fraternities/Sororities, [and] other existing community support groups to join them at regularly scheduled meetings held throughout the community.  Increasing the sense of belonging is very important.

These other community groups have conversations on their own about these gifted programs that schools have that don’t have anything to do with their kids.  Their kids aren’t being served, and many times they set up their own enrichment programs, Saturday morning programs…  I have been engaged over the last few years with a number of these groups who are doing excellent work that looks just like gifted programs but they are not being held in the school district… you won’t get their constituency voice at the table unless you reach out to them.  Reach out to community organizations, existing organizations.  Find parents in the community, in your schools, who are part of these organizations.   

Advocates for GT have seen a concerning trend of attempts to eliminate funding for gifted programs.  What advice do you have for parents working to protect and improve funding and requirements for gifted programs across the country, both at the local and state level?  

This trend across the country is really dangerous, I think –– very alarming, very concerning. When these things happen, and when we eliminate funding for gifted programs, those who suffer the most are the most vulnerable.  

Your arguments to maintain funding MUST include a position of equity and access that will ensure that all populations, all communities, all families’ needs are met or will be met by gifted/advanced learner programs.  You must be more invitational in your own behavior.  Voices must be those of a wider variety of community members: Black, Hispanic, Low income, Immigrant, any other populations that have been left out of the discussions in the past MUST BE HEARD. Our goal for gifted/advanced learner programs is total inclusion and access for all.  Giftedness has no boundaries. It is not synonymous with affluence. Gifted children originate from all communities.  Everything that you do should demonstrate your belief in these core principles. 

Most of their arguments have to do with the fact that gifted programs… are not meeting the needs of a wide population.  You have got to be smart enough, and genuine enough… to [say]: all communities have gifted students, and we want to meet the needs of those students. You must be more invitational in your own behavior, and not promote exclusion, elitism, and segregationist behaviors.  I’ve seen too much of that already… given the fact that we’re already suffering under this pandemic, the most vulnerable populations are suffering more under this pandemic, community groups like your own must be more invitational, you must be more inclusive.  Voices must be those from a wider community of community members… You have to reach out, and you have to reach deep sometimes. You have to discard, and recognize first of all, your own biases, your own microaggressions that have kept people from being a part of this conversation.

Not to suggest that all children are gifted – I’m not saying that.  I never will say that.  What I’m saying is that in all communities there are gifted children.  Giftedness has no boundaries.  It is not synonymous with affluence.  Just because parents and their children have means does not mean that all of their kids are gifted.  Gifted children originate from all communities.  I have been around the world with this message. There are other communities from different countries around the world who are having the same issues that we are having, and their message is that gifted children originate from all communities.  Our responsibility is to go to all communities and find these gifted minds, bring them in for enrichment, for acceleration, bring them in and train and provide the challenge they need so they can help move our societies forward… we have a responsibility for them if we want them to help society.  We are missing out on a lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity… so many of these kids have the answers [to] the problems that plague us as a society everywhere.  

[If] the school districts who say they want to remove funding and programs win, [then] the children who are gifted and high ability and who have less means…will suffer the most.  We can’t allow that to happen. Publicly funded programs should be available to the public[, and] students from all demographics should benefit. We have an obligation to ensure that gifted programs are inclusive and designed to equitably be available to students from all racial and income groups. Our children are counting on us!  


The Gifted Education Family Network wishes to thank Dr. Davis immensely for her time and for her lifetime of incredible work in the field of gifted education.  

We are excited to recommend Dr. Davis for onsite and virtual parent workshops, private consultation, professional learning workshops, keynote presentations, and evaluation of programs, including consultation services to address equity in gifted education. Please visit drjoylawsondavis.com to learn about her services.

The Gifted Education Family Network also recommends these books by Dr. Davis for both parents and educators, available for purchase:

Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners 

Gifted Children of Color Around the World: Diverse Needs, Exemplary Practices and Directions for the Future

COMING SOON: No More Dreams Deferred: Breaking the Barriers to Self-Advocacy for Underserved Gifted Learners, co-edited by Dr. Joy Lawson Davis and Deb Douglas (forthcoming).

Photo credit and all rights to content in Gifted Children of Color Around the World and Bright, Talented & Black: a Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners reserved by Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D.

Emily Villamar-Robbins, J.D. holds a Graduate Academic Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education and has served in multiple volunteer roles for gifted education at the local and state level.  She serves as a member of the Texas Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council on the Education of Gifted Students.

past / October 2, 2020: PACE Fort Bend invites you to virtual meeting on “The Social-Emotional Health of Our Children During COVID-19”

PACE, the Fort Bend Association of Parents for Academic Excellence — and a member of the Gifted Education Family Network’s Parent Advisory Council — is inviting the Gifted Education Family Network to attend their virtual event called “The Social-Emotional Health of Our Children During COVID-19.”

This parent learning event will be held virtually via Zoom on Friday, October 2, 2020, from 9:30 am -10:30 am. Please feel free to invite parents who may be interested. Remember, you are your child’s best advocate and you make a difference!

To register, click here. Registration will close when we reach capacity. Zoom link will be emailed to registered participants 24 hours prior to the event.

Thank you to PACE Fort Bend for generously opening this event to families in the Gifted Education Family Network! PACE families have advocated for gifted & talented learners since 1990.

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

past / Sept. 15, 2020: Free virtual event: Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty – MACH-III Center

We invite the Gifted Education Family Network to a free virtual event, “Masterclass: Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty,” hosted by the Network’s GT Professional Advisor Dr. Fred A. Bonner II and the MACH-III Center.

Register today at: https://bit.ly/3a7kTCV

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

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!

 

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.