NAGC 2010 Day 1
Last week I told my 2nd graders that I'd be seeing them on Monday this week instead of our usual Thursday because I would be going to Atlanta, Georgia, for the national GT conference. Little Abra looked up at me with excited sparkling eyes and gushed, "You get to go to Atlantis?!?!" Pretty cute :o) No honey, not Atlantis. Just Atlanta.
Today's sessions consisted of a "whole-group" morning session and about 10 self-selected, in-depth afternoon sessions. This morning's session focused on NAGC's new (technically - revised) PreK-12 Programming Standards. Back when the original standards came out in 1998, I used them (together with our state GT accreditation standards) as a helpful reference guide that aided me in the development and implementation of our district's gifted program. The new standards are intended to still assist in that process but to also put a greater emphasis on student outcomes, not just program structure.
Why were the standards revised? To establish better alignment with the NCATE-approved NACG-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards; to update them to reflect current research; to integrate general, special, and gifted education (because our students are not just in the gifted classroom); to be more specific; and to create a greater focus on student outcomes.
The new standards focus on Learning and Development, Assessment, Curriculum Planning and Instruction, Learning Environments, Programming, and Professional Development, each of which has its own sub-standards such as Self-Understanding, Socio-emotional Development, Coordinated Services, and others.. Here is just one example that typifies the new format:
Standard 3: Curriculum Planning and Instruction
Student Outcomes 3.3 - Talent Development: Students with gifts and talents develop their abilities in their domain of talent and/or area of interest.
Evidence-Based Practices 3.3.1: Educators select, adapt, and use a repertoire of instructional strategies and materials that differentiate for students with gifts and talents and that respond to diversity.
Evidence-Based Practices 3.3.2: Educators use school and community resources that support differentiation.
Evidence-Based Practices 3.3.3: Educators provide opportunities for students with gifts and talents to explore, develop, or research their areas of interest and/or talent.
As a practitioner in the field, I like the focus on student outcomes and appreciate the intent of helping schools to focus on what is best and needed for the child. This new version is well-designed for that purpose. But also as a practitioner in the field, I will be curious to see how user-friendly the new format is, particularly for those who are looking for a guide in the development of quality programming and services in their school(s). The old standards were structured in a user-friendly format for that purpose and the new version doesn't strike me as being quite such an obvious tool for that need. The '98 standards were program-focused, and the new standards are student-focused. Overall, reading the new (perhaps I should say revised) standards definitely gives one exemplary details of what should be happening for gifted students, but more importantly - what the students should be gaining as a result of those services.
A few suggestions of additional uses for these standards were presented. You could use them to inform stakeholders in your school/district/state about characteristics of effective programming for gifted students as well as learning and social/emotional needs of gifted students. You could use them as an advocacy tool in regards to school and state policies about gifted education. You could use them to identify important skills and knowledge that your school or district might need to devote some professional development to. And ... what are your ideas?
A word of advice for anyone out there who is downloading the standards as you begin (or continue) the journey of developing programming and services for students... It can be overwhelming to read them all at once. What a daunting task it is, especially in the beginning, to actually aim for and reach these lofty yet attainable and important goals. Don't try to eat the whole buffet in one year. Pick a handful of student outcome standards to focus on and then do just that: focus on those. At the end of the year, assess and set new goals for reaching a few more standards. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are superb services for gifted students.
The afternoon session I attended was on Assessment and Identification. In this in-depth session, we learned about and discussed multiple assessment/identification options, content and format bias, evidence-based practices, and phases of assessment/identification. We also examined sample cases of student data and discussed whether or not those students (based on the data shown) would qualify for services in our home districts (or if more information was needed).
I also discovered, at the NAGC booth, a really cool little poster they've created with a summary of common myths and realities about gifted students. You might recall that earlier this year Gifted Child Quarterly (NAGC's journal publication) did a special issue on myths and realities. Well, it is all now summarized into a handy little poster you could hang in your classroom. (Or better yet - the teacher's lounge! :o) I bought one this afternoon ($5) and am debating just how many more to get for the schools in my district. Here are a couple photos so you can see what it's like. Currently, NAGC doesn't have this item listed as available in their online store, but maybe they will list it there after they read this post ;o)
Join me here tomorrow for a report on Day 2! :o)