December 13, 2012
Department: From Where I Sit
NAGC: 2012 in Review
As we approach the end of 2012, it is appropriate to recap the highlights of the past year in the life of NAGC — to celebrate what we've accomplished together, in spite of a sometimes non-supportive education environment. I am continually impressed with the commitment you make to NAGC and invite you to suggest ways to keep NAGC a vibrant, relevant and responsive national organization.
Realities of the Current Educational Landscape
This past year was a difficult one for education. The economic downturn took its toll on local and state budgets resulting in a loss of over 300,000 teaching jobs since June of 2009. It's not news that some of these were in gifted education. Between 2009 and 2011, 14 states reduced funding for gifted education programs and services. Starkly different views in Congress of the appropriate role of the federal government in education and an imperative to cut federal spending has made advocating in Washington for the TALENT Act and gifted services more challenging. Trends in education, such as greater privatization of educational services and the rise of charter schools and online instruction, add complexity to anticipating and creating services that respond to educators' needs.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation is one continuing reality and we all anxiously await the roll out of the science standards, as well as assessments to match the new standards in math and English/language arts. The emphasis on "accountability" also continues with states adopting growth models and teacher assessment models based in part on student achievement. Closing achievement gaps is still one of the main issues within education and while small progress has been made in narrowing discrepancies among lower achieving students, research reports suggest that the growth of the highest achieving students remains stagnant and excellence gaps have increased.
In this dynamic environment, NAGC continues to lead through numerous projects and activities. For example,
In schools and classrooms
To help our members face implementation of the CCSS, volunteers from the NAGC Professional Standards Committee wrote two books on how the standards in math and English/language arts apply to gifted students and gifted education services. These books, now available through the NAGC website, are already in their third printing — a testament to how badly needed and relevant they have been to teachers in classrooms and districts around the country. By next year, the Committee hopes to provide the next level of materials for both areas.
To gain the attention of educational gatekeepers, the Administrator's Task Force has produced an "Administrator's Toolbox," aimed at superintendents and principals, designed specifically to help them understand how gifted education is important to their goal of raising student achievement and how it intersects with other issues they are most concerned about, such as accountability and RtI. These resources will be available online in January.
Over the past year, NAGC increased its focus on parents and launched a new parent engagement strategy. It includes providing more online informational resources for parents, increasing the number of issues of Parenting for High Potential from 4 to 8 annually (with the addition of 4 online issues), and the addition of a staff position to provide parent outreach, including making the most out of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to inform parents of our resources and to be the place to go for information on giftedness and gifted programming. Our website attracts more than 40,000 monthly visitors, a testament to the reputation of NAGC as a valued resource.
NAGC continued its commitment to professional development through its Webinars on Wednesday series featuring experts providing information and instruction on current topics in gifted education. The 2013 series begins in late January. NAGC also worked for much of each year to provide a vibrant conference for teachers, parents, and the higher education community — with more than 2900 participants and 400 sessions in Denver. The new convention "app" was one of the big hits, as NAGC strives to keep up with technology. Now it's on to celebrating our 60th in Indianapolis, November 6-10, 2013!
Focus on underserved populations
NAGC continues to bring attention to the needs of low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students, most recently through the Unlocking Emergent Talent report, launched at the NAGC Convention in Denver last month. While all convention attendees received this report and many presentations were made at conference sessions and to various constituent groups, NAGC's dissemination efforts have only begun. The report will be shared with educators and education advocacy groups more broadly and the report is available for free download from the NAGC website. A free webinar on the report is planned for the end of January.
We had 12 new Javits-Frasier Scholars, who work in Title I schools, attend the conference for training. NAGC is committed to continuing and expanding the program to support teachers who are able to provide appropriately challenging curriculum and instruction in schools that may not have previously focused on high ability.
Policy and research
NAGC has prepared federal legislative initiatives and continues to raise awareness in Congress and the U.S. Department of Education about the needs of high-ability students. Our TALENT Act proposal focuses on teacher training and dissemination of best practices and would continue research grants on best practices in gifted education and retain a National Research Center.
In another effort to find levers for support, an NAGC work group has been communicating with the Department of Education's Institution for Education Sciences (IES) on adding questions to key national surveys so as to gather national data about programs and services for gifted students — something our field needs but has never had. IES has been very open to our input and suggestions.
NAGC is working to broaden its reach through collaborations with other organizations. For example, in 2012 an issue of Parenting for High Potential that focused on the work of the national talent search organizations was distributed electronically to hundreds of thousands of families through the talent searches. Similarly, a recent issue of PHP on gifted young children was made available to members of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Several of our 2012 book releases were co-published with other organizations, including the Association for the Gifted and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Our partnership with Disney continues to evolve and this year they secured Ridley Pearson, mystery and children’s book author, to speak at the NAGC convention (last year it was Bill Nye, the science guy!!). Our collaboration with the National Consortium of Specialized Secondary Schools of Math, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST) resulted in a second joint conference over the last 3 years, augmenting both conferences nicely.
Communication and publications
NAGC staff and volunteers work diligently to produce numerous venues for sharing information about the organization and its work as well as to produce high quality publications geared for different audiences. Compass Points, the very electronic newsletter you're reading, has expanded to 24 issues annually, which in addition to the NAGC website, is the primary tool for sharing association news.
NAGC continues to engage it constituents through strong, content-based vehicles. Our scholarly journal, Gifted Child Quarterly continues to be the premier journal in gifted education. Teaching for High Potential has a refreshed look in 2012 and as mentioned above, Parenting for High Potential has expanded to 8 issues per year. Connecting for High Potential, which is available on the website, had six issues this past year. In addition, Networks keep members informed about issues in their specialty areas via newsletters and information in the Networks section of the website. And, starting soon, NAGC will offer our members a discounted e-subscription to Gifted Child Today, a quarterly publication for parents and teachers that will include access to back issues.
Responsible fiscal stewardship
In response to the economic downturn, NAGC worked to create new revenue streams including the Expert Speakers Program, new books oriented towards teachers and other practitioners, and some initial steps towards a planned giving campaign. In addition, with careful attention, NAGC has connected companies to NAGC's members through convention exhibits, advertising, and other sponsorships. We appreciate all of their support.
Finally, with a healthy convention attendance, the additional revenue streams, and the other measures the fiscally conservative NAGC staff and board of directors have taken, we are on track to close our association budget year in the black.
Volunteers matter to success
None of these initiatives would be possible without NAGC's volunteers, including committee chairs and members and Network officers and members, who log literally thousands of hours on behalf of their professional association and the field.
As I look back on 2012, I will personally remember it as a year in which new ideas and perspectives on giftedness and talent development were put forward to the field, resulting in a great deal of lively discussion and productive debate about many important and fundamental issues. NAGC continues to be the place where conversations about giftedness and talent can take place and where educators and parents can receive assistance and resources for their work with gifted children.
As NAGC president, I look forward to continuing this productive debate and discussion — all for the cause of supporting high ability and high potential learners — well into the New Year!