New gifted education recommendations forwarded to PDE
Some key changes, many with PSEA support, could be coming for state oversight of gifted education and how school districts operate those programs.
The State Board of Education passed along a series of recommendations for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to consider and to issue a report at a public meeting.
“Many of the recommendations are in line with what PSEA has advocated, so we are pleased'' said Bernard R. Miller, PSEA director of education services. “They would be good for both students who are gifted and the education staff who work with them.''
Miller highlighted the key recommendations:
- Establish a voluntary Program Endorsement Certificate for Gifted Education. Miller said PSEA advocated for the “voluntary'' wording since those teaching gifted could face having to take 12 additional credits to become certified. “We do like the idea of staff being qualified, and getting some recognition. But we really feel it should be voluntary,'' Miller said.
- Increase the frequency of PDE monitoring of school districts' gifted programs. PDE currently monitors only 10 districts each year randomly. The State Board didn't make a specific recommendation for frequency, but Miller said increasing it will help address issues raised by parents and staff.
- PDE should post on its website its Compliance Monitoring Manual. Miller said this will increase public transparency of districts' programs.
- PDE should post the executive summary and corrective action plans resulting from its monitoring of districts. Miller said this also improves transparency, but just as importantly provides information for districts on how to improve their own programs and compliancy.
- PDE should conduct a literature review of research related to universal screening. Miller said the key here is that improving and establishing screening mechanisms to determine if a child is gifted will identify students earlier and, therefore, in gifted programs earlier.
- PDE should maintain support for gifted education liaisons through the state's network of intermediate units. Miller said that while intermediate units have had liaisons assist districts with special education programs, it has only been in recent years that IUs have also started providing liaisons for gifted programs. He said this will make sure that the support is maintained.
“As a gifted educator for nine years, I am eager to see an emphasis placed on gifted education by the State Board of Education,'' said Ciminy St. Clair, an elementary gifted teacher in the Norwin School District, Westmoreland County. “With the series of recommendations up for consideration, I feel a prominence being placed finally on gifted education and progressive change set into motion.
“As for how the recommendations have impacted my students already, last spring the Intermediate Units created a K'Nex tournament statewide for gifted students … The students were judged by college professors, engineers, and other local professionals in the STEM field.''
Miller is particularly pleased that the State Board directed PDE to make a progress report to the board at a public meeting no later than the fall of 2015.
“This will give the public and all interested parties an opportunity to listen, and to provide input," Miller said. “It was exactly this kind of procedure that gave PSEA and others an opportunity to publicly advocate the Board for recommendations that we think will improve gifted education programs overall in Pennsylvania."