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TAGT Conference – 2 Parents’ Perspectives

December 16, 2008

A CGA campus representative’s perspective of the 2008 TAGT Annual Conference sessions – she has four children in elementary school:

I attended “Ability Grouping: Research on Special Classes and Gifted Clusters” presented by Todd Kettler, CISD Director of Advanced Academics. According to all the research in this field that has been analyzed and reproduced, ability grouping is beneficial to ALL learners, and it does not harm any learner to remove the gifted kids from the typical classroom. In fact, based on research measuring their academic scores, it actually helps lower learners in particular. As I predicted, I left this session feeling frustrated. This practice SHOULD be used at the elementary level, and 6 students (in my opinion) does not constitute a cluster. I believe this should be a mandatory session for all school principals.

I also attended the session “An Update on Research on Gifted Education Best Practices” given by Dr. Karen Rogers of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Achievement is languishing with our GT kids. All the research says to keep the pace fast and non-repetitive and to regroup the students according to their current performance levels in each subject taught. We are not doing this for our gifted elementary kids. Again, I left this session feeling frustrated as Dr. Rogers clearly points out that intellectually GT students must work 2-3 times faster than “regular” class pace in order to retain their learning accurately.

All in all, I thought these last two sessions were very informative, but very frustrating because our district will not ability group (like I said, I do not consider 6 a cluster) at the elementary level despite what all the research shows. How can we change this policy? I know my kids will be challenged when they get into middle and high school, so I know there is hope for their future.

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By Jenny Quonoey

Thanks to the Coppell Gifted Association, I was able to attend the recent TAGT conference in Dallas. I found it a fascinating experience, and I thought I could share a few observations with you.

I came to the conference from the perspective of a parent with two children in the Challenge program in a Coppell ISD school, but not much knowledge about gifted programs, nor about the way they think and learn. Well, none of us can really claim to know what’s going on in our children’s heads, but perhaps I have gained just an inkling of how their minds work, as a result of the conference.

Thursday morning started with the keynote speaker, Marcia Tate, who was a true inspiration. Her enthusiasm and energy was a fantastic way to start the day, and prepare our minds to learn for the rest of the conference. In teaching us how to effectively teach others, she also had us learning facts about the human brain and the layers of skin.

From Lynn Price’s seminar, I learned about Dabrowski’s five overexcitabilities. As she showed lists of typical characteristics of each, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a list to accurately describe each of my boys. The five categories are Psychomotor, Sensual, Imaginational, Intellectual and Emotional. I wonder if you can see your child in there anywhere. Several of the speakers recommended the book ‘Living with Intensity’, to further explain the details of the overexcitabilities.

In Benny Hickerson’s class, I learned some of the reasons why gifted children can be found to underperform. For one, it could be caused in cases where gifted children were not challenged academically in early schooling; therefore they did not learn how to try hard to achieve results. Another cause could be overprotective parenting, and I was interested to hear her describing overprotective parents as “handicapping” their children.

James Webb gave a great presentation on Friday morning. He provided us with many techniques for motivating gifted children, while also reminding us of the need to sometimes give the children “room to fail” in order for long-term success to result.

Nancy Polette was also a fantastic speaker. She taught us about whole-brain learning, and went through many different examples of ways to introduce information to students, and have the information sink in.

There were many other interesting topics in sessions I attended and learned from. I was only disappointed in one of the nine sessions I attended, but perhaps the problem was that the standard had been set so very high by the other speakers.

Wandering the exhibition booths was great for getting an idea of all the materials available out there. My boys are enjoying some books I bought them, and perhaps they may be inadvertently learning something while they read.

Several times someone would see on my name badge that I was from the CGA and would speak very highly about the association. Okay, so maybe I sometimes basked in the praise, especially when it was a presenter speaking, but I know that the reputation was earned by a hardworking team over the last few years. So don’t tell them I took all their credit, okay? Hopefully they won’t find out.

Overall, I’m delighted and very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference. The only downside I can see is that I STILL have Marcia Tate’s “Number Line Hustle” going through my head, more than a week later. It’s not for me, but for my family who you should be concerned. I’ve been humming it night and day. It is very catchy, though. But that one snag is far outweighed by the high quality of speakers I was able to learn from, and the chance that perhaps I understand what’s going on in my sons’ heads – even if just a little.

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