2015 NM Gifted Institute
"Empowering the Next Generation!"
October 16 & 17
New Mexico Highlands University Rio Rancho Center
1 Credit Course Offered - Email Dr. PJ Sedillo
Click here to download the Save the Date Flyer (pdf).
Click here to download the RFP Flyer (pdf).
Call for Proposals
Proposal deadline: July 17, 2015 Application URL: http://goo.gl/Cz0brL
NMAG is soliciting proposals for speakers at this year's Fall Institute on Gifted Education, "Empowering the Next Generation!" This year's conference has a focus on the Next Generation science standards, but will also include presentations on strategies and issues across the field of gifted education.
For those speaking at the conference, registration fees are waived. NEW THIS YEAR! - Turnkey Sessions.
This year, NMAG wants to encourage educators to improve their practice and then show off their work through a Turnkey Session focused on classroom implementation of high-quality gifted curriculum and methods.
If your presentation contains demonstrations of gifted education curriculum, strategies, and materials that can be replicated and implemented in others' classrooms, NMAG may issue a stipend of $50 up front for materials and a second stipend of $50 at the Institute after the presentation. Presenters for the Turnkey Sessions will be required to submit copies of student work and curriculum materials to NMAG by September 30. In addition to general proposal prompts, applicants must describe the proposed curriculum and the expected timeframe for implementation.
For additional information, please click to contact Geoffrey Moon, NMAG President, at firstname.lastname@example.org with “RFP” in the subject line.
Image by: opensource.com
Legislative Priorities for NAGC Affiliate Conference
When President-Elect Christy Jewell-Roth and Legislative and Higher Education Liaison PJ Sedillo attended the NAGC Affiliate Conference in Washington, D.C., from March 21 to 24, they promoted three ideas to New Mexico Senators and Representatives: the accountability in the flow of money and performance of top tierstudents; advanced programming for top performers which is an addition to, not a substitute for, gifted programming; and a national definition for giftedness. Their summary of the experience will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.
National News Links:
Gifted Education Advocates Praise Leadership of Outgoing Sen. Mikulski
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland who announced Monday that she plans to retire in 2016 after 30 years in Congress, has been a dogged supporter of programs intended to identify and educate underrepresented populations in gifted education, advocates said.
Will the Common Core mean the end of gifted programs?
Some U.S. schools are using the adoption of the Common Core State Standards as a reason to scale back or eliminate gifted-education programs, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Jonathan Plucker, a professor of education who wrote the study, says the Common Core was intended to be "a floor, not a ceiling," and that teachers need more training "devoted to curricular and instructional differentiation by ability level.
Educator: Focus on "giftedness" in all students
Teachers should strive to find "giftedness" in all students, educator Cheryl Mizerny writes in this blog post. She calls for the use of instructional strategies often used in gifted-education classrooms to be used with all students, especially those who may be struggling.
Louisiana district seeks to close minority gap in gifted education
Black and Hispanic students often are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs, according to U.S. Department of Education data. A Louisiana school district is taking steps to bridge the gap by addressing two potential reasons for underrepresentation -- test bias and teacher bias.
NEW! The Guide to Understanding and Challenging New Mexico's Gifted Students: An Introduction for Teachers
New Resource from NMAG
(Click to go to Teacher's Guide page.)
The Guide is an informational booklet from NMAG's past president and current Treasurer, Bonnie LaCourt.
Gifted Day at the New Mexico Legislature, February 23, 2015
By Christy Jewell-Roth, President-Elect
It was a cold, snowy day in the Land of Enchantment as students, parents and teachers (approximately 160 in all) from Gallup, Albuquerque, Taos and Farmington arrived in Santa Fe to celebrate Gifted Day in the New Mexico legislature. Representative Christine Trujillo (Democrat in District 25) read a statement about gifted education in our state and then introduced House Memorial 005. After the memorial was read, gifted students in the gallery stood and were recognized.
The audience in the gallery had a bird’s eye view of the events on the House floor for about an hour of the morning. One teacher in attendance likened it to watching an anthill. Legislators were moving about in all directions as staff and student pages entered and exited the floor delivering various items. Legislators introduced guests, made announcements and introduced new pieces of legislation to be discussed at a later time. When the morning session adjourned, much of the gallery audience filed down onto the House floor for photos with legislators.
Those in attendance were also able to take part in a tour of the Roundhouse and eat lunch in the Martinez Memorial Gallery. If you have never been to the Roundhouse or the Gallery, you are missing some beautiful architecture and artwork. Our students were able to see some amazing examples of paintings and sculptures made by local artists. Despite the cold weather, it was a great day for gifted education!
Letter from the President
Do we need so many tests? How many? At what cost?
I recently found myself reflecting on yesteryears’ debates about the amount of time spent in school: how recently educators and legislators debated issues of school day length and school year duration; the yo-yo history of administrative decisions lengthening school days, then retracting them to extend teacher training time. It is interesting to contrast that period of school reform to this, when so much seems to be staked on testing.
In this season when the PARCC test looms large for so many of New Mexico’s students, it has come time to think carefully about the place of standardized testing in schools. Standardized tests may be useful to guide education, but in a country where there is widespread agreement that we should increase student success, the question arises whether all we give up for tests is helpful.
A carefully constructed school curriculum will always include three components: content for students to study, ways to learn that content, and assessments of learning. Assessment is important for at least four significant reasons:
Beyond the time spent on tests, there are also quantifiable costs in dollars and unquantifiable costs to teachers and students. At $29.50/student, the PARCC, just one of the many tests we use, costs than $5 million to administer to New Mexico students. Thinking about intangibles, when I’ve asked my students, “What do you learn from all the tests?” they shake their heads. When I ask how they make them feel, the overwhelming majority reports it makes them feel bad. Teachers talk of having some insights about students, but also a huge loss of morale from the way tests are used to judge them. Our tests generate not only financial but human losses.
When we were having discussions of school day and year, there was little thought to what we do in school; it was assumed that school time was time well spent. Now we give up a large percentage of those precious days not to learning, but to proving that we did something with the reduced time we find ourselves left with.
We need tests in schools, for all of the reasons listed above, but tests don’t raise student performance. School, maturation, teaching, and practice do. We need to take some time in school for assessment, but if we take weeks away from teaching and practice; just letting kids grow older, going to school without learning, shaming them for what they don’t know, who does that help?
Geoffrey Moon, President NMAG
Gifted Education in New Mexico: Spotlight on Michael Freeman
Michael Freeman received NMAG’s 2014 “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” award. For the first in a series of articles about successful gifted education programs in New Mexico, he answered some questions for the NMAG newsletter.
How long have you been teaching gifted education? What grades and subjects are you teaching now?
This is my twentieth year of teaching, eleven of which have been in gifted programs. Currently, my focus is on fourth grade students but I am also team-teaching algebra/geometry in second grade and teaching a creativity group in third grade. For the past eight years, I have been happily providing B-level pull-out gifted services in a school where we have grown from 16 gifted students in 2007 to regularly serving over 100. My favorite part of teaching gifted is getting to teach and work with kids over multiple years. I love seeing them mature, grow, and build on what they have learned. It is especially fun to watch their sense of humor develop and change. The funny thing is that I had never heard of gifted education until I was doing my student teaching and a friend told me that she had found the perfect place for me with a teacher who taught gifted. I had to ask what she meant.
What does gifted look like in your district? Is there a teacher in each school or do you serve many sites?
Gifted programs at APS schools vary depending on the school, the support of the administration and parents, and the number of gifted students at that school. Some gifted education teachers serve multiple schools while others teach in self-contained, or C-Level, classrooms or provide gifted enrichment through a pull-out (B-Level) program. When I began at North Star Elementary in 2007, I was the only full-time teacher of the gifted and worked with one part-time teacher. With the support of parents, teachers and our administration, our program has taken off, with new subject matter and learning approaches added each year.
Our school currently has four full-time teachers of the gifted, and by the end of the year we usually have well over 100 students. In general, we organize our lessons by grade level but we are flexible and find creative ways to provide the services each student needs. I really appreciate and value the gifted (curriculum) strands that all APS teachers are asked to use when designing curriculum, such as Self-Understanding, Independence in Learning, Thinking Skills, Creativity, and Interest Development.
How much time are you able to spend with yours students each day/week?
We base the number of hours a student attends gifted enrichment on the areas in which the student qualified and each student’s needs. I believe our current range is between 3 and 7 hours per week with most students receiving around 5 hours. We never have enough time for everything we want to explore.
If we walked into your classroom on any given day, what would we see?
If you walked into my class you would see a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities with students building, discussing, planning, experimenting, helping each other, and being creative. You would see group problem solving, algebra, 3-D math, Greek mythology, art, and genetics. You might see us practicing thinking strategies like SCAMPER or FFOE or you might see us working on strategy by playing ICO (a 3-D game) or Polis (an ancient Greek game). You might see me trying something out of my comfort zone and you might see students frowning in concentration, smiling at successes, collaborating, or deep in concentration.
What ways have you found to motivate students?
You must get to know your students if you want to motivate them. Some students like competition, some like curriculum offered in a game-like format, some respond to technology use or challenge, and for others it comes down to offering interesting, relevant content. Perhaps the most important way to motivate students is to provide them with choices to give them some control over what they learn and/or how they learn it. A good teacher has a diverse repertoire of techniques and chooses the best one for the student or group of students. I also find that gifted students get bored with routine, so I mix things up and try to find fresh ways for students to experience learning.
What makes your program successful?
Our recipe for success includes the support of parents, administration, and the district. Mix in a large helping of teacher collaboration seasoned with experienced, dedicated teachers. Serve to a group of students who are eager to learn and willing to try new things.
Something I learned from my students is that excitement in learning is not generated solely from new ideas but can also be sparked by taking a novel approach to known subjects. I was once told that every gifted program does a unit on Greek Mythology and considered replacing it until I asked my fifth grade students to rate their favorite topics from all their years in gifted enrichment. Greek Mythology won first place hands down. I have had parents tell me their second grade student reads all the Greek myths and cannot wait until they reach fourth grade so they can study Greek Mythology. I have adapted the Odyssey simulation curriculum from Interact and added a healthy dose of activities that require creativity and problem solving. For example, after reading the Pandora myth, students are asked to create a box with items to counteract the bad things Pandora let loose in the world. They create artifacts to represent the abstract concepts of such things as health, peace, and wealth (or whatever they decide counteracts poverty).
Our students have strong interest in science and math so I stepped out of my comfort zone and put together a unit on genetics based on activities I located on the University of Utah’s website. We recreate Gregor Mendel’s pea experiment using quick growing plants that allow us to raise three generations in one year. That way we can see the traits that are passed down (dominant). We look at patterns in human diseases that are inherited. With grant money I received for field trips, we visited the genetics lab at the University of New Mexico to see their work using fruit flies. Students do a big Family Trait Tree homework project and later interview family members about attitudes and beliefs about human and animal cloning, genetically modified foods, and gene therapy for diseases.
In an effort to provide more STEM skills and opportunities, I started offering a 3-D math program. Students build a shape with cubes and then draw it from three perspectives (front, side, and top view). They look for math patterns and there is always a challenge question to get them to think deeper. For example, one page has a flat pyramid shape with 1 block on top, three on row two, five blocks on row three, and seven blocks on row four. The student is asked to find a math pattern or formula that will allow them to predict how many blocks they will need for the tenth row without building the structure.
What are the challenges to the program?
In addition to funding, which is a problem for all educational services, our biggest challenge is coordinating gifted instruction schedules with our students’ general education (or classroom) teachers. It is difficult to ensure that our students receive all the instructional time for which they have qualified because general education teachers must also schedule activities such as PARCC test practice in the computer lab, field trips, special programs, and parties, all of which our students should participate in along with their classroom peers.
Our second biggest challenge is scheduling IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings with parents, general education teachers, and our gifted teachers given time constraints. We are given one day a week to hold IEP meetings and therefore have a huge problem if parents cannot attend on that day and we have to schedule a different day. Getting coverage for the general education teachers so they are able to attend the meeting is sometimes difficult as well, especially in a school with as many gifted students as North Star Elementary.
What do you want students to retain after being in your classroom?
It would thrill me to have students say that I introduced them to a topic that became a passion for them. I would feel successful if they learned to be more curious about the world, learned something about themselves, and learned to work in a group. I hope they learn perseverance, logic, and the desire to become life-long learners.
How does your program align to Common Core standards?
We align every IEP goal to the Common Core. My fellow teachers of the gifted and I see our job as to guide the students who are ready to go higher or deeper into the standards. We are there to “enrich” the curriculum for students who already know the grade level curriculum or have learned it quickly. We aim for the higher level thinking skills by using more abstract, complex or open ended activities and approaches.
What advice can you give to teachers who want to improve their gifted education programs?
MicIf you want to improve your program, you should keep learning and trying new things with your students. Listen to your students to find out what they are interested in doing. Read journals and articles on gifted education to learn what other teachers are doing. Take classes focusing on gifted students. For me the most important thing was to connect with a gifted cohort to share ideas, materials, and inspiration. I love to bounce ideas around with other teachers of the gifted because we end up with something that is superior to what any of us could have produced on our own. My colleagues are wonderful and each has different talents and skills that they bring to the collaboration table. We are a strong team that is dedicated to gifted students.