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[carousel_item src=”http://idahoea.org/wp-content/uploads/2013-Edufest-Peggy-W-Tina-P.jpg”] Peggy Wenner from the Department of Education and ITAG/SAGE President Tina Polishchuk[/carousel_item]
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Group Welcomes GT Experts to Edufest
Perhaps never fully embraced in mainstream educational circles anyway, gifted students in Idaho have seen programs discontinued, consolidated or marginalized as a result of the recent economic downturn. The slow but steady recovery of Idaho’s economy, combined with growing acceptance of differentiated education practices, provides a sense of optimism for this often overlooked group of students.
Most importantly, gifted education in Idaho can count on ITAG/SAGE as an asset, resource, and advocate. Idaho, The Association for the Gifted, is a passionate group of educators specializing in gifted education and dedicated to assisting teachers, students and parents.
ITAG/SAGE supported the 17th annual Edufest on the campus of Boise State University July 29-August 2, featuring renowned guest speakers and compelling training sessions on a variety of topics related to gifted education. 125 attendees came from Idaho and surrounding states for strand sessions such as:
- A Teacher’s Toolkit: Teaching Thinking Skills for the 21st Century Learner
- Engagement and Thinking: That’s What It’s All About
- Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted
- Differentiation and 21st Century Learning: What is the Fit?
- Developing Quality Curriculum Units: Look at Models, Strategies and the Common Core
The organization also spent time addressing some of the pressing concerns facing gifted and talented education in Idaho. Not surprisingly, the most critical issues are based on dwindling funding for key programs. ITAG/SAGE is working to reinstate a $550,000 training grant that was eliminated by budget cuts in recent years. While noting that Idaho has a state mandate that requires identifying and providing services to gifted students, the group also pointed out some disturbing statistics and trends:
[blockquote] 39% of Idaho school districts have reported that they currently provide no GT services. [/blockquote]
As of 2012, Idaho has a 29% shortage of GT educators, meaning that nearly 2,000 students needing a GT teacher do not have one. 15% of all high school dropouts nationwide are GT students.
Another over-arching takeaway from Edufest was the very clear parallel between the principles of gifted education and the concepts being put forward in the Idaho Core Standards. Individualized and differentiated curricula, project-based learning and integrated education are familiar philosophies for gifted and talented teachers, and there is substantial optimism that they will make the Idaho Core Standards a more effective blueprint for student success.
ITAG/SAGE worked on a committee with the state Department of Education to develop two proposals that would restore funding to gifted education in Idaho over a three year period. The organization has also made a direct request of Governor Otter that he prioritize gifted education in his suggested budget.
For more information about gifted and talented education in Idaho, visit www.itagsage.org.
Overheard at Edufest
“I like the camaraderie of learning. People here are eager to get new ideas, share experiences and regain excitement”.
“No Child Left Behind stymied the growth of kids who were not struggling and put teachers in a bad position”.
—Susan Baum, PhD. Edufest presenter and Director of the 2E Center for Research and Professional Development at Bridge Academy.
“The strategies work. They get you started on examining creative strategies on thinking outside the box for your classroom”.
–Tina Polishchuk. President, ITAG/SAGE.
“Teachers provide a spark for every kid and instill a love of lifelong learning”.
—Brian Marinelli. 5th year teacher in the Boise School District.
“It wasn’t an issue of the legislature not supporting the concept of gifted and talented education. It is on the legislature’s radar and the change in the economy will help GT education funding get back to where it should be”.
—Peggy Wenner. Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Idaho State Department of Education
“Educators have not been well trained to think deeply about how the skills and knowledge of Common Core can be used. Gifted and talented educators have always had to do that”
—Dr. Jann Leppien. President of Edufest and Associate Professor at Whitworth University.