Data Sources: St. Croix Valley GT Learners & Local Supports
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St. Croix Valley Gifted sent a formal data request to Stillwater Area Public Schools in late October 2018. Our main goal was to get a picture of how many GT learners the local school district serves and how services and programs are funded. We included this letter in our earlier post about district budget cuts. Conversation with Stillwater Schools about the funding piece is ongoing, but we can share student population info here.
We asked how many students enrolled in this school district qualify for GT services via district practices. Identification for district GT services first happens in third grade, which is why our question asked for students in grades 4-12. This what we learned in their reply:
With district enrollment for each of the recent two years just over 8000 students, the above numbers show that GT learners are about 20% of total district enrollment, or 1 in 5 kids are identified for GT services. These figures do not include K-3 students who are not yet identified, but already are part of district classrooms, which suggests the actual number is somewhat higher than that.
Ownership for district GT services has changed hands several times since 2013, when Spring budget cuts eliminated the previous GT Coordinator position. GT services fall under the Learning & Innovation area of the district’s administration org chart. It is one of several areas within the Director of Personalized Learning Systems‘ responsibility. To our knowledge, no district staff are allocated full-time to coordinating GT services across the school district for either elementary or secondary.
We soon decided that there was enough interest for a full chapter to focus on St. Croix Valley families and educators who live and work with local GT learners. Here’s a summary of what we have done locally, including three Family Friendly Candidate Forums for local school board since 2014.
During 2017-2018, we conducted our bi-annual community survey to understand current needs and concerns. The final report is online and our serving chapter president presented it to the Stillwater School Board during Open Forum on August 9.
Our main conclusion from local feedback: Broadly speaking, local access to GT services in K-12 is unpredictable and inconsistent; identification offers no promise of supports, services, or programs. There clearly are opportunities to improve existing services.
When considering the 20% of district learners who have been identified for services, also keep this in mind:
When GT programs and supports vanish, schools experience hidden costs as student needs go unaddressed (ex., socio-emotional and mental health, amount of staff time to resolve concerns, decreased student engagement and retention among families pushed to seek alternate options, diminished draw among potential student families).
Among the leading causes for dropping out of high school include feeling unchallenged, unmotivated or bored. 82% of underachieving gifted students reversed their underachievement when they had opportunities for strength-based gifted programming.
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