Highlights from the NAGC Affiliate Conference: March 21-24, Washington, DC
By Christy Jewell-Roth, President-Elect, and Dr. PJ Sedillo, Legislative and Higher Education Liaison
We were proud to represent New Mexico at the National Association for Gifted Children State Affiliate Conference held in Washington, DC, in late March. With advocates from states across the country, we discussed local and national issues affecting gifted education. On the last day of the conference, we visited Capitol Hill and met with New Mexico lawmakers and their staff to lobby for gifted legislation before Congress. Specifically, we urged Senators and House members to support legislation known as the TALENT Act that would help close the “excellence gap” between high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers. It would do so by reforming how the learning progress of high-achieving students is tracked and reported each year and by ensuring federal teacher training dollars can be used to support gifted education teachers.
We also applauded Congress for doubling funding for the Jacob Javits Gifted Education Grant Program last year and urged continued strong support for this initiative in next year’s (FY 2016) budget. The Javits program funds applied research conducted by universities throughout the nation to develop best practices for identifying and serving high-achieving students from populations traditionally under-represented in gifted education programs.
In the evenings, we were able to travel on the Metro and see some of what DC has to offer. We enjoyed a powerful and moving musical entitled, “Freedom’s Song,” performed at Ford’s Theater. The musical tells the story of Lincoln’s presidency, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary since his death. We were also able to enjoy a variety of ethnic foods offered throughout the DC area.
Our experience there has energized us for gifted education work here in New Mexico. Please visit the following links to read more about the issues we discussed and the conference itself. Cory Messenger, a Javits Frasier Scholar from New Mexico, will be interviewed for the next issue of this newsletter.
(Parts of this article were taken directly from an NAGC press release.)
Letter from the President: Teacher Evaluations
by Geoffrey Moon
Many of my friends are teachers. In New Mexico, we've all received our annual performance reviews, based on observations of the Danielson teaching characteristics, classroom surveys, and in some cases, value added modeling of test results or "VAM" scores. Some were given their evaluations just days ago, in the final hours of the school year.
Talk of those evaluations has dominated end-of-year parties, walks, and phone conversations, because most of my friends are either disheartened by the results and/or disillusioned about the validity of the whole system.
Some of the results of those performance reviews:
I won't tell you what my evaluation mark was, except to say that it pleased me. Based on my friends' experiences, it was evident that it would have been lower if I had spent all my time teaching in the classroom instead of performing professional development for others, and it would have been depressed if it included VAM scores. My wife also told me she thought my principal was softer than hers. She's probably right.
Given these cautionary tales, we should be careful about how much we allow our evaluations to affect us. We should not judge ourselves based on small samples of data that do not reflect the scope of our work. We should also not compare ourselves to each other with a system using tests of different levels of quality, samples of different and questionable size, and evaluators who may or may not understand our disciplines.
So what do we do with all this information? We should treat ourselves as we treat our students! We should admonish ourselves that, regardless of rating, like every student, we can and will grow. We should find a grain or spoon or cupful of salt to take these evaluations with (even if they are favorable), and find something in them to learn from. We should examine what we feel about this evaluation system and its results, and then let it go so it doesn't consume our precious summer rest.
And then we should place a bookmark in our hearts for the Fall, to remember when we return that we teachers are important, smart, influential, and strong in number, then band together to improve this system so it actually helps us be better at what we do.
New Mexico News
The U.S. Department of Education will allow New Mexico to use results from its teacher-evaluation system to meet No Child Left Behind Act staffing requirement.
New Mexico is the first state to be granted a waiver of exemption from the “highly qualified teacher” requirement of No Child Left Behind. NMAG members are encouraged to follow this issue with consideration of its implications for gifted education. Please follow the links below for more details about this landmark decision.
NM Receives Waiver PED Press Release
Read the letter from Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education to Hannah Skandera, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education:
KRQE News New Mexico Gets Waiver on Teacher Requirements
San Juan Chapter NMAG Conference Highlights
On April 14, the San Juan Chapter of NMAG presented its 4th Annual Conference entitled "Giftedness and the Real World" at the Sycamore Park Community Center in Farmington. Over thirty-five teachers and parents attended, representing all four school districts in the county.
Keynote Speaker Dr. Amy McConnell Franklin, in her presentation entitled "Pedagogical practices to develop emotion-related skills in gifted students," guided her audience to consider the three dimensions of emotional intelligence: awareness, intention and choice. She led group activities to engage everyone in the practice of identifying these aspects for themselves and then facilitated discussions about how to help teachers and parents guide their students and children to discover these components for themselves.
Dr. Franklin’s keynote was funded by an award from the Land of Enchantment Teacher Quality Partnership Grant.
For the rest of the day, conference registrants attended break-out sessions with titles such as "Overexcitabilities - the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Weird," "High School Enrichment Seminars," "Optimism: A Foundational Skill for Compassionate, Accountable Decision Making," "Cooperative Group Problem Solving," and "Empowering Entrepreneurial Spirits for the 21st Century: An Interest Development Center.”
The final session featured a student panel of alumni of the San Juan Mentors program who participated with the audience in a lively question and answer period about their experiences with local mentors in fields such as cardiology, pediatric medicine, flight nursing, Air Care flight, graphic design and advertising.
National News Links
Playing Games Develops Social Skills for Students
It is often said that life is not a game, but a new program funded by the Copperas Cove Education Foundation teaches students lifelong skills through gaming.
How does a teacher’s race affect which students get to be identified as ‘gifted’?
Black students are more likely to be identified as “gifted” when they attend schools with higher proportions of black teachers, according to a new study, and Latino students are more likely to be called gifted when they go to schools with more Latino teachers.
The study doesn’t get at why there is such a correlation, but it adds another layer to a long-simmering debate about why black and Latino children are less likely to be called “gifted” than their white and Asian peers.
Skip A Grade? Start Kindergarten Early? It's Not So Easy
There may be benefits to allowing advanced students to enter kindergarten early, to skip a grade or take a course above their grade level, according to two recent reports. However, 20 states have policies that prohibit early enrollment in kindergarten, one study found.
IDEA Applies To ‘Twice Exceptional’ Students, Too
The U.S. Department of Education recently sent a reminder memorandum to states saying districts must provide services to "twice exceptional" students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Federal officials say they have received complaints that some districts are reluctant to evaluate students with intellectual gifts, who also have emotional or mental-health issues.
TAG program pushes county students to reach next level
A Virginia school district meets the needs of its students in gifted education through various enrichment and in-classroom supports. Elementary students work with gifted-education specialists during the school's intervention period, and specialists work with middle- and high-school teachers to enhance their regular classroom lessons.
N.J. district revives gifted-education program
A New Jersey school district has re-established its gifted and talented education program with the launch of a middle-school program. Students have been engaged in hands-on learning projects such as engineering a bridge and writing a book.
How poverty can affect gifted education
Educators and researchers are reviewing testing profiles and programs to better meet the unique needs of students with intellectual gifts who also live in poverty. This article highlights some of the challenges and programs aimed at serving such students.
Ride Share Sign-up for NAGC Conference
NAGC’s 2015 National Convention is in Phoenix from November 12- 15! If you would like to provide or share a ride, please send an email with “Ride Share to Phoenix” in the subject line to email@example.com.
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
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.