Tag Archives: NAGC

Working with Parents to Improve High Ability Students’ Education


This week my school system is having their Annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences. I feel this Spring Conference is just as important as our Fall Conferences are, but the parent turn out is noticeably lower than in the Fall. I was reminded over the weekend that Parent Teacher Conferences shouldn’t be the only time in which both parties work together to help improve the education of their children, particularly in middle school.

Middle School can be a tough transition for many students. In the elementary classes students are given their foundations, and middle school build on that foundation. In the middle school, students learn some independence and choice. Students can choose from sports, clubs, and after school activities that interest them.

When it comes to high ability learners, we have to be keenly aware that they are in the right classroom level that matches their ability. I found a joint statement that NAGC and NMSA (National Middle School Association) wrote in order to challenge schools, parents, and councilors to make sure they are meeting the needs of these learners.

To ensure that high ability learners are getting their needs met we have to look at creative ways to met them. Here are a couple examples of accommodations:

  • Long Distance Learning: If a high ability learner needs to take high school / college classes in middle school this is a great way to solve that.
  • On-Line Classes: If you high school or district offers online classes for high school credit. High ability learners would benefit from this.
  • Subject / Grade Acceleration: Moving a high ability learner a whole grade or just in a subject.
  • Independent Studies: Allowing a high ability learner to learn a subject on their on at their own pace is a great way to met the need to challenge students. (MOOCs are great for this since they are usually sponsored by a college.)
  • Participating in School and/or community based clubs: Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Chess Clubs, Spelling and Geography Bees, Astronomy Clubs,and such: Allowing high ability learners to take part in programs listed above is a great way to met the needs of high ability learners.

All of the accommodations  listed above that would be effective and successful will only happen when parents, teachers, administrators, and councilors work together to make high ability learners challenged during school and after school. In middle school specifically, several of the accommodations listed above would work much easier the more parents and teachers talk and discuss the needs of their children.

In your middle school, what are some accommodations you have seen that have been successful? Share those in the comment sections below.


Purposes of Grouping Gifted Students

cori_middle_school_readingOver the past weekend I read a position paper on grouping from the National Association for Gifted Children.  I thought that I would discuss some of the high points of this position paper.

Grouping gifted students is one of the foundation practices of gifted education. There are many different types of grouping strategies that can be done that can produce positive results. The optics of groups is what can be interpreted as “elitist” or creates the illusion that this group of gifted children may think too highly of themselves, or it may be perceived that grouping gifted children harms the struggling students. None of this is shown in recent research.

There are four purposes for grouping:

to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs of these children in the most conductive manner;

to allow for learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.

The overall aching affect of the strategy of grouping is to create the least restrictive environment possible for learning to take place. This also allows schools to channel challenging course work to these students.

Grouping Practices

There are two types of grouping: full time and part time, and they each have strategies that can fall into performance based or abilities based groups. Performance based group option is based on grouping students with similar achievement levels. Ability based group option is based on grouping students based on intelligence, ability, or aptitude tests.

Full Time Ability group options:

  • Full time gifted program
  • Self-contained gifted classroom
  • Special / Magnet school for the gifted
  • Cluster grouping: (top 5-8 gifted students at a grade level are placed in a mixed ability classroom as a small group, and are provided with appropriate differentiated instruction.

Research shows that using full time ability grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/3 years to 2 years growth. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Part time Ability Group options

  • Pull out/send out/withdrawal/resource room enrichment groups: gifted students are removed from their regular classroom for specific time each week to work on differentiated activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and extensions of the general curriculum.
  • Like-ability cooperative groups within classrooms: when a teacher decided to use cooperative learning groups in a mixed ability groups with usually the 3-4 highest ability students being grouped together.  They are given appropriately differentiated expectations and assessments.

Research shows that using part time ability grouping strategies  could yield students growth levels of growth of more than a year in creativity, and critical thinking skills in subjects that are focused on during the pull out. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Performance groupings that meet daily (subject specific)

  • Cluster performance grouping: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject like math or language arts are placed in a mixed ability classroom and are provided with differentiated instruction in that core subject.
  • Regrouping for specific instruction: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject are placed in a high performance classroom and provided with accelerated and enriched content and skills from that core subject.

Research shows that using performance based grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 years to 1 3/4 years growth depending on the content that is .

Performance grouping options that do not meet daily:

  • Within-class / flexible grouping: a teacher of a mixed ability class divides the class into groups according to their “readiness” for the curriculum to be taught.
  • Like-performing cooperative learning groups: when a teacher decides to use cooperative learning groups places the highest 3-4 performing students in their own group receiving differentiated instruction and assessments.
  • Performance based pull out/ send out/ withdrawal/ resource room enrichment classes: the top performing students in a core subject are removed from the regular classroom to work on more challenging and complex content and skills based on the core subject.

Research shows that using part time performance grouping strategies for specific subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years growth depending on the subject.

Schools should have many grouping options available to students from pre-school to high school. How schools decide to group will be based on what is the culture of the school. The options chosen by schools and teachers will have to fit the culture of the school. What ever option that is chosen is ensure that gifted students achieve at their highest potential.

Grouping students together is a way to allow gifted students access to learning at the level and complexity that is needed. It allows gifted students to make social connections with same aged peers who think and learn like them.

How does our culture form our view of giftedness?

Shameless Plug: On Sunday March 20th at 9pm ET the #ohiogtchat will be doing their chat on the fomation of identity in gifted children and adults. I hope that you can join us for this timely chat.mar20 ad

One of the questions that we are talking about for our chat is: How does our culture form our view of giftedness? I think this question has many different aspects to it. There are positive aspects and negative aspects to what our culture believes about giftedness. What I think it boils down to is the perception of what giftedness is. I believe those who have a negative view on giftedness doesn’t understand what it is, or believes that it doesn’t exists.

What is giftedness? There are several known definitions on gifted. Here are a few:

From the Ohio Department of Education:

“Gifted” means students who perform or show potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience or environment.

From NAGC:

Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, or sports).

From the Columbus Group:

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Each of these definitions are a reflection of what our culture believes what giftedness should be defined as. If we look outside of our American culture and look to what other countries believe what giftedness is I believe there are things that would reflect their culture as well:

In the United Kingdom giftedness includes:

  • who are generally recognized by their school as being of superior all-round intellectual ability, confirmed where possible by a reliable, individual intelligence test, giving an IQ of 130 or more; or
  • who exhibit a markedly superior developmental level of performance and achievement, which has been reasonably consistent from earlier years; or
  • of whom fairly confident predication are being made as to continual rapid progress towards outstanding achievement in either academic areas or in music, sport, dance or art and
  • whose abilities are not primarily attributable to purely physical development.

The NAGC of Britain has the definition of giftedness as:

Highly gifted children tend to be those who demonstrate asynchronous development – the process whereby the intellect develops faster and further than other attributes such as social, emotional and physical development. Due to their high cognitive abilities and high intensities, they experience and relate to the world in unique ways.”

Looking back at our culture again, where do we come up with our own perceptions of what giftedness is, and how do foster the idea that giftedness is an important area in education that can’t be ignored.

There are many people who believe that giftedness is something that is a child is born with and some believe that it something that can be developed over time. I believe a child is born gifted, and that the talents that child has can continually be developed. I feel that if you look at the other side of this coin can a child be born with a disability, or is that disability developed over time?

Some are under the perception that every child is gifted. This is not so. Many children are smart, and creative. That doesn’t make them gifted. I have several teachers I work with who have trouble distinguishing between smart and gifted.  By claiming that all children are gifted they are essentially saying that there is no such thing as gifted, and that all children are the same. That is just no so. The perception has to change, but that perception is what is what our culture uses to influence the idea of giftedness.

Finally, the perception that being gifted is an elitist idea. Being gifted is a condition in which the child has no choice to be. Just like a child who has an I.Q. of 70 had no choice in it. The idea that we should help children who are gifted succeed in to school and in the community at-large is not elitist. It is necessary. Once these children have been identified they need to have the right tools for success.

Our culture changes how we look at individuals who are gifted. When Terman did his study of gifted individuals our culture looked at them as though they were different. Once our society saw that gifted children were an asset during the 1950’s and 1960’s the view of Gifted Education changed, along with how we saw giftedness. From there through the 1970’s and 80’s researchers started to look at giftedness a condition. Renzulli and others started to look at gifted children so they could further understand them. All that research helped us get to where we are today.

I hope that you take time out of your busy day to join our chat and see where this question leads us. Again, #ohiogtchat is Sunday March 20th at 9pm ET. You can follow me at @jeff_shoemaker and Heather at @HeatherCachat for further details.


Get Informed and Make a Difference

getconnected_header_724x420_2014I was talking to a few of the pre-service teachers doing some student teaching in my building about Education, and what is Gifted Education. From those few conversations I began to reflect on what should Gifted Educators do to help them, not only survive in the classroom but thrive.

  1. Classes, Webinars, and MOOCs: I would encourage teachers who teach gifted children take a few classes about Gifted Education. Even if you are a Regular Education teacher take a few classes. We all need the Credit Education Units (CEU’s) anyway to renew our certificates. There is a lot that can be gained from a class or two to give you a different perspective on gifted children and Gifted Education as a whole. If you don’t have time to do a class, there are webinars sponsored by NAGC, CEC, or SENG that can help you gain a better understanding of gifted education. Some universities off some MOOCs on Gifted Education and topics that are related to classroom management, gifted behaviors and characteristics.
  2. Use Social Media: There are a lot of people on social media that are associated with Gifted Education. Get into a Professional Learning Community (PLN), or start one yourself. Look to others for support, innovation, ideas, and information on classes, webinars, and MOOCs. Join a chat like #gtchat or #ohiogtchat to see what is going on in Gifted Education, and how you can contribute to spreading the need for Gifted Education.
  3.  Read Blogs and Watch Vlogs: To see what is going on with Gifted Education read blogs, and watch Vlogs (video blogs) . Both are a great source of help.
  4. Create a Parent / Educator Group: If you are able join a parent and educator group in your school district or in your community for support. Being a GIS can be a lonely place when you are the only one or one a few that service a large school district. If there isn’t one in your community or school district, then get with some like-minded people and start one.  Start small with chats over coffee, then add some others who mind like to join.
  5. Conferences: There are many different conferences that are offered in the Gifted Field. There are conferences for NAGC, OAGC, (and many other state conferences), SENG, and CEC. Going there will allow you meet other in the field, give you plenty of resources that will help you in the classroom.

Everyone wants to make a difference in the children they teach. They also want to make a mark in the field they teach. Being connected is a great way to do that. If you run into a teacher who is new to Gifted Education help them get connected. That way they can be informed and make a difference.