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School Board Election 2020: Local GT Context

School Board Election 2020: Local GT Context

St. Croix Valley Gifted provided all candidates with background context about the current local picture for GT learners. See item 5 on our questionnaire for what each candidate has to say.

Using 2018-2019 enrollment and identification data, St. Croix Valley Gifted calculated 20 percent (see slide 6 at link) of Stillwater Area Public Schools students in grades 4 – 12 qualify for some form of Gifted & Talented (GT) services, whether clustering in elementary classrooms, GATE, or other supports.

Giftedness is not a measure of who is more important or more valued, nor a predictor of future success. The term describes learners whose natural cognitive abilities and development, when measured using various methods, look notably different relative to what’s considered typical for their age-based grade. Just as athletes have vastly different coaching needs, the same is true for gifted learners. Kids may exhibit giftedness and other learning differences, which can make it difficult to determine how best to meet their mix of needs. Giftedness from one student to the next sometimes shows in specific subject areas vs. across the board.

Giftedness exists in all socio-economic and diverse groups. English Language learners and students of color historically are underserved GT populations in Minnesota and across the United States. St. Croix Valley Gifted began in 2012 as a chapter affiliate of Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT). Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), MCGT and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) each recognize a critical need for stronger, more equitable access to gifted services among students of color.

Gifted programs in the U.S. public school system do not receive any federal funding; Minnesota categorical funding ($13ppu) only stretches so far. Minnesota school districts must develop and include plans for this student population as part of World’s Best Workforce (WBWF). Responsibility for district GT services changed hands several times over the past eight years; Spring 2013 budget cuts included a GT coordinator (.4 FTE).

St. Croix Valley Gifted’s 2017-2018 Community Feedback Initiative gathered local input about access and availability of GT supports at area schools. Local thinking appears in this statement from the resulting report:

Broadly speaking, local access to GT services in K-12 is unpredictable and inconsistent; identification offers no promise of supports, services, or programs.

Community concerns around local gifted services center on the following topics: student access to and continuity of GT services and supports (academic and socio-emotional learning) across K-12; whether promises about the type(s) of GT services to be delivered are kept or broken; and whether classroom instruction and related decisions (procedures, personalized learning, acceleration, etc.) rely on evidence-based practices and reflect deep understanding of GT needs and attributes vs. being based in casual belief or stereotype.