The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): What Does It Mean for Gifted Education?
Pamela Clinkenbeard, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Parents and educators all over the country are trying to understand the potential implications of the new federal education law. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA, formerly nicknamed “No Child Left Behind”) has been revised and reauthorized, and it was signed into law in December 2015. What does the now-named Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mean for the day-to-day life of schools and students? How will it affect gifted education and students with gifts and talents?
Highlights. Advocates for gifted education are generally happy with the way that ESSA turned out. Among other items, it makes it clear that Title I funds may be used to identify and serve low-income gifted students; it strengthens the requirements for teacher preparation in gifted education with use of Title II professional development funds; and it retains the Javits Grant program for research and dissemination of evidence-based practices. In addition, both states and school districts will be required to report disaggregated achievement data for the advanced band separately, which Wisconsin already requires. This practice makes “excellence gap” data more readily available. Under ESSA, states have more flexibility with respect to the implementation of federal regulations than they had before. The 2016-17 school year will be a transition year before accountability plans go into effect in 2017-18.
Resources. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) was instrumental in making sure that ESSA contains language that supports gifted education. There are several resources on their website that can help you understand the changes. Here you will find a news release, a Q&A document, details of the specific ESSA provisions related to gifted education, and several other items, including a video of the one-hour December 17, 2015, webinar “NAGC Briefing on ESSA” (available on YouTube).
Wisconsin DPI Awarded Javits Grant
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) was awarded a $1.1 million, three-year Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the grants is to support innovative strategies that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the needs of high ability/high potential students. The major emphasis of the program is on students traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented education, particularly economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient (LEP), and students with disabilities, to help reduce the serious gap in achievement among these groups at the highest levels of achievement.
With its Expanding Excellence project, the DPI will partner with three school districts: Kenosha Unified School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, and Racine Unified School District. The project will help partner districts build culturally responsive Multi-Level Systems of Support to increase the number of high ability/high potential primary students from low-income families or who are English language learners that are identified and served in these districts. The three goals for the Expanding Excellence project are to:
- Build collaborative, culturally responsive educational systems that include school and district staff, students, and student families, to support the achievement of high ability/high potential students from economically diverse backgrounds or who are English learners.
- Increase the percentage of high ability/high potential economically disadvantaged students and English learners identified for advanced services through culturally responsive assessments.
- Increase the percentage of high ability/high potential economically disadvantaged students and English learners that achieve at advanced levels in reading and mathematics.
Expanding the View of Giftedness
Jane Clarenbach, Director of Public Education at the National Association for Gifted Children, recently wrote an article titled Expanding the View of Giftedness for the American Association of School Administrators journal. She states the ability of a significant number of K-12 students goes unrecognized because they may not be demonstrating high achievement. This results in undeveloped or underdeveloped talent, a loss not only for the students but for their communities and our nation, as well. Clarenbach provides examples of how five school districts are addressing this issue. Read the article.
Gifted and Talented Teacher and Coordinator Licenses
Wisconsin offers add-on Gifted and Talented Teacher and Coordinator licenses. To receive either certification you must already hold a valid Wisconsin teaching license. Presently, there is one approved program, jointly offered through UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater. Get additional information about the certification program.