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New Research Study: The State of Gifted Education in Nebraska A study of gifted programs in Nebraska was conducted over the past two years by NAG board members Dr. Julie Hehnke and Dr. Wanda Stelk. Detailed results of the study are noted in the article titled Discussion of the Findings. One major concern identified in this study within the field of gifted education is the lack of adequate staff development for both those responsible for gifted/talented education, as well as classroom teachers. Therefore, the Nebraska Association for the Gifted Spring Conference in Omaha on February 19-20th, 2009, is an opportunity not to be missed. Julia Roberts and Bertie Kingore, well-known experts in the field of gifted/talented education, will be the featured speakers. In addition, a variety of presenters will offer practical advice and instructional practices to use with gifted/talented students within the learning environment. The study identified and evaluated specific gifted and talented program components that were compared with the practices recommended in the gifted and talented program literature. Alignment of definition to identification, definition to program options, and identification to program options were reviewed. Other areas of evaluation included student identification methods, program options, staff development, and program evaluation. Data were obtained by examining district gifted/talented plans submitted to the Nebraska Department of Education. The researchers created rubric and checklist instruments for the collection of data.
Discussion of the Findings
Following is a discussion of the findings of this study as compiled by the researchers. Lack of staff development in all components of gifted education in Nebraska emerged as a major trend in the research data. *Only 3% of Nebraska school districts stated their gifted/talented educators possessed certification or a degree in gifted education. *Less than 10% of Nebraska school districts provided professional staff development opportunities in this area. *Less than 10% stated all staff received any type of ongoing staff development addressing the needs of gifted/talented learners. *No Nebraska school districts indicated they provide release time for preparation and development of differentiated educational materials. *Over one-half of the school districts that received an exemplary rating in the research study were associated with one specific educational service unit that offers gifted/talented staff development opportunities to its associated school districts.
According to the research (Hoge, 1989; Johnsen, 2004; Renzulli, 1975), the identification instrument should relate to the district’s definition of giftedness and program options. *Less than 17% of Nebraska school districts have definitions, identification procedures, and program options that are aligned to each other.
Nebraska mandates all school districts have an identification process in place for gifted and talented learners and mandates school districts will use multiple assessment measures and appraisals in the process to identify high ability learners. *One-fourth or less of the school districts met exemplary status with any component of the standards set forth by NAGC and from best practices as stated in the literature. *43% of Nebraska school districts relied solely on using intelligence and/or achievement tests for identification and automatic placement into gifted/talented programs. *Of the 24% of the school districts that used a matrix to collect quantitative and qualitative data for use with the identification process, 24% of those districts used quantitative and qualitative assessment data inequitably. *There is a need for additional information and training for Nebraska school districts in the development and use of an identification matrix for gifted/talented students.
According to RUPRI (2006), Nebraska’s population has experienced a steady rate of change with an increase in the number of non-English speaking students as the most notable change. *Three school districts utilized a non-verbal identification measure. *Of the 10% of school districts having the highest SES ranking, only one school district achieved exemplary status with use of an assessment that was responsive to a student’s economic and other physical conditions. *There was an explicit need for Nebraska school districts to implement the use of a culturally fair and non-biased assessment in the identification process.
Due process procedures are imposed on school districts under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Johnsen, 2004), and the Nebraska Department of Education requires school systems to include a provision to appeal decisions regarding the identification or non-identification of students. *Slightly over half of the Nebraska school districts complied with these regulations by stating an appeals process was in place as part of their identification procedure.
Research provides evidence that gifted/talented students require an affective curriculum and specialized counseling to meet social, emotional, and academic needs (Clark, 2002; Janos, Marwood, & Robinson, 1985; Moon, 2002; NAGC, 1998; Reiss & Moon, 2002; Robinson, 2002; Silverman, 1993). *Less than 35% of the school districts reported providing this service to their students. *9% of the districts reported they had counselors with this training. *Academic specialized counseling was only provided by 4% of Nebraska school districts. *1% of the school districts provided guidance for students performing below their potential.
The findings of this study verify that most Nebraska school districts provided some type of services for gifted/talented students, although the types of services varied greatly from district to district. *One-half of the school districts indicated they utilize differentiation of instruction. *Most commonly used methods of differentiation of instruction included compacting (54%), curriculum enrichment (48%), and flexible grouping of students (44%). *About one-third of Nebraska school districts reported use of acceleration. *Dual enrollment was offered by 39% of the school districts, with almost three-fourths of those districts located within 40 miles of an institution of higher learning. *29% of Nebraska school districts offered Advanced Placement classes, and of those districts, 39% were located in non-core areas, rural and remote sections of the state with low total student enrollments. *Less than 20% of the school districts reported a continuum of services across grade levels PreK-12. *19% of the districts had identification procedures and program options beginning at kindergarten, 2% at first grade, 7% in second grade, 72% at the third grade level or later. *Program options varied greatly from elementary to middle school to high school.
NAGC (1998) suggests ongoing formative program evaluations and summative program evaluations conducted a minimum of every five years. *42% of Nebraska public school districts utilized a formative evaluation process to guide their program.
10% of the school districts indicated they conduct summative evaluations of their gifted/talented programs.
Feel free to share these findings with administrators, school board members, staff, parents, and community members to promote gifted/talented educational opportunities within your districts. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.
Dr. Julie Hehnke Dr. Wanda Stelk firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com