Author: Geoffrey Moon

Funding Gifted in Tight Times

As the legislature convenes in special session and school districts across New Mexico build budgets for funding the 2017-2018 school year, the New Mexico Association for Gifted would like to highlight the need for a range of quality gifted education programming in our state.

A wide range of needs

New Mexico’s student population contains a wide range of gifted students – children of immigrants, research scientists (and immigrant research scientists!), artists, farmers; speakers of Spanish and English, Navajo and Tagalog; students whose lives outside of school are incredibly enriched in ways that support school learning, as well as those who care for siblings instead of doing homework, so that their parents can work multiple jobs.

At current funding levels, schools across New Mexico struggle to identify giftedness with equity and serving the wide range of needs. Yet, thanks to the promises made in Individual Education Plans, our gifted students may receive a range of services to meet their needs, including small group services that help students who will be the first generation in their family to attend college, whole-day programming for the highly gifted, acceleration in talent areas, and special thinking skills instruction. Continue reading

Press Release from Santa Fe: Equitable ID and Services

We’ve decided to repost this press release from SFPS as a clear articulation of a vision that aligns well with our association’s vision for education in New Mexico. This is also a pivotal theme of our October 14 & 15, 2016 Institute for Gifted Education.

Santa Fe Schools Improve Equity in Gifted Education

June 14, 2016, Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe Public Schools, building on its commitments to diversity and world-class schools, has embarked on a multi-year mission to increase the identification and improve services to gifted students through its new program of Services for Advanced and Gifted Education. By identifying and removing barriers to participation, SFPS SAGE has started on a path to establish strong gifted programs across all schools, including students from every background.

Giftedness, according to the National Association for Gifted Children, is defined as high performance or potential in about the top 10% of a field or domain.   The State of New Mexico provides supplemental funding to support services for a portion of the intellectually gifted, around 3-7% of the total school population.  To maintain motivation, growth in skill and knowledge, and interested in school, these students generally require more advanced curriculum than their grade level provides.  In addition, some subgroups of gifted students, such as those with extremely high levels of ability, specific learning challenges, or those who will be in their family’s first generation to attend college, may need special services to help develop potentials into results.

In past years, gifted students have been found in Santa Fe schools using a series of IQ, achievement, and thinking skill tests that were administered when a parent or teacher felt very strongly that a student may be gifted. While the tests measure a broad range of abilities associated with good educational and life outcomes, and are highly reliable, this system failed to identify many of our gifted students.

Why? IQ scores and the likelihood of a student being nominated for testing are both influenced by students’ previous opportunities. Students who are culturally different, linguistically diverse, or economically disadvantaged are underrepresented in gifted programs across the United States, since they are less likely to get referred for testing in the first place and, if tested, are on average less prepared to score well on the tests.

To reduce this inequity, Santa Fe School’s SAGE program has trained teachers to better recognize characteristics of giftedness, and in addition to teacher and parent nominations, mined achievement test scores to find and automatically refer high-performing students.  Improving equity in testing, SAGE is using tests that can be delivered in Spanish as well as English, and compares each student to others with similar previous opportunities.  More than 800 students, or about 1/20 Santa Fe public school students, were tested this past school year. Continue reading

Call for Award Nominations

Dear NMAG members:

Please consider nominating someone you know who is doing an outstanding job advocating for gifted students, either serving as an administrator or advocate benefiting gifted students, or serving as a teacher of gifted students. We would like to recognize these people at our Annual Meeting on October 15.

These recipients will receive a framed certificate and a lifetime membership in the New Mexico Association for the Gifted. There are many people supporting gifted students in New Mexico; please join us in recognizing a few of the outstanding educators. Your nomination form (Award Nomination Form 2016 NMAG) needs to be emailed to nmgifted@gmail.com by August 26, 2016. The nomination form is attached.

Thank you for your thoughtful nominations. I hope to see you on October 14 & 15 at our Fall Gifted Institute where we have some outstanding people presenting.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey Moon

Past President, New Mexico Association for the Gifted

Thumbnail of 2016 Award Nomination Form

Click the image to download a .pdf nomination form.

PARCC and Gifted Education

The PARCC, who publish the eponymous test used to measure educational progress toward college and career readiness in New Mexico, has released version 4 of its Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual.  Accommodations for PARCC are specifically targeted at English language learning students and those with 504 or IDEA disabilities. Gifted students who are not ELLs or twice exceptional are not part of that group.

PARCC Homepage Screen ShotI have met many educators who have written testing accommodations into individual plans for gifted students.  I have myself.  For those smart students who have the slow, deliberative processing style of a creative person, it can be tempting to extend testing time.  Students who express anxiety around testing or who are affected by high levels of perfectionism may present a need for a customized testing experience as well.

Fortunately, the PARCC provides two sets of features that may be applied to any student: “administrative considerations,” and “accessibility features.”  Administrative considerations include small group settings, special timing allowances, or frequent breaks.  The PARCC’s accessibility features include spell checking, highlighting, selective text-to-speech, glossaries, and noise buffers.  But which features should you consider for your gifted students?  The answer is dependent on the purpose of and way we interpret standardized tests.

The Purpose of Standardized Tests

Ask any random group people why we give standardized tests, and you’re likely to get as many answers as you have conversations.  Policy makers and school administrators use tests to evaluate the efficacy of programs and teachers.  Colleges and special programs employ them to determine the likely success of candidates and select participants.  Teachers may see tests as diagnostic tools for best planning educational opportunities. In the era of Value Added Modeling, tests become opportunities for greater pay and accolades on one hand and liabilities weighing against their evaluations on the other.  Parents might view tests as a measure of whether their students are doing well in school or which school to select.  Students may see tests as measures of their success or failure or simply trials to get past, depending on their experience.

While some purposes of testing may have more merit than others, any meaningful use of a test requires that it be reliable and valid.  Reliable tests produce consistent scores.  Valid scores measure what they purport to measure. And both reliability and validity require that test administration be controlled.

If validity and reliability are dependent on standardization, why do we give some students accommodations, changing those usually controlled conditions?  Because for some students, accommodations produce a significantly more valid and reliable result.  In my humble opinion, this should be the test of when to allow a change to the standardized administration of a test, through accommodations, administrative considerations, or accessibility features. Continue reading

NMAG On Demand

NMAG On Demand Free PD

Bringing professional development by nationally recognized experts in gifted education to every teacher in New Mexico is no longer a dream, it’s a reality.

Oh, and did I say it’s FREE!!! Continue reading

Call for Nominations for Award

Dear NMAG Members:

Please consider nominating someone you know who is doing an outstanding job advocating for gifted students, serving as an administrator benefiting gifted students or an outstanding teacher of gifted students. We would like to recognize these people at our Annual Meeting on October 17. These recipients will receive a framed certificate and a lifetime membership in the New Mexico Association for the Gifted.

Continue reading

Letter from the President: Teacher Evaluations

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.

Continue reading