Education Week recently highlighted the efforts of parents to see gifted programming funded for their children, particularly in the face of increasingly tight school budgets (Parents Press for Attention to Programs for Gifted Students, Oct 1, 2013).
As they note in the article, this struggle is nothing new. With no federal oversight for how gifted students’ needs are met, states in turn frequently leave this burden to local school districts–and may or may not provide funding to support these students. Here in Pennsylvania, for example, while Chapter 16 does provide a mandate that identified gifted students receive specially designed instruction individualized to meet their needs, the state provides no funding in support of this mandate.
When gifted programs fail to meet the needs of high ability learners, it falls to parents to advocate on their children’s behalf. This may be calling for additional resources or even protesting discriminatory identification measures used to determine whether or not a child is “gifted.” This determination can be very subjective given that, again, there is no federal definition of giftedness.
In an illustration of what zealous parents can accomplish, in July a judge in the US District Court for Northern Illinois ruled that a district had created a separate, segregated gifted program for Latino students, and that the district’s services did in fact discriminate against Latino and Black students (McFadden v. Board of Education for Illinois School District U-46).
It can be difficult to find time to fit “pushing for legislative action” into most parents’ already busy schedules. However, Education Week’s article demonstrates that while these steps can seem minor, success really is the sum of small efforts.
In Washington state, parent and advocacy groups succeeding in pushing lawmakers to change the funding formula for gifted education. In Colorado, parent demand resulted in their district opening a school for high ability learners. In Illinois, a court validated the discrimination parents and students experienced.
By continuing to advocate on behalf of our gifted students, providing them with the chance to learn at their own pace and with similar peers, we can change the face of gifted education.
To join with current advocacy efforts, please visit the National Association for Gifted Children’s Legislative Update page, contact your local NAGC chapter, or organize your own movement. Write to your representatives and let them know why you value gifted education, and how you would like them to do the same.