Power Up Potential Conference – What is Our Purpose?

By Maureen McDermid, Gifted Children’s Association of BC

Two organizations, the Gifted Children’s Association of BC (GCABC) and the Lower Mainland Gifted Contacts, an educator group (LMGC), that support and advocate for gifted learners have come together to raise awareness of gifted learners in our province. The purpose of this conference is to inform those who work with gifted students and those who nurture them by sharing the most current information we have about recognizing giftedness and supporting gifted potential.

The Gifted Children’s Association of BC has long been one of many parent support groups that operated in BC in support of students with special needs. Local chapters brought together parents in a school district or region to network, share and learn from each other and provide feedback to schools about how initiatives or programs were serving their students.  It was a positive force in the community in many places across BC, energized in the early 90’s by the Ministry of Education’s decision to support the philosophy of inclusion of students designated as Special Needs, which was taken as a signal that all designated students would be receiving enhanced support.

In those day the language of inclusion was ‘integration’ and the intent was to include all learners in regular classroom settings, closing special education classes and programs. To support this move, many additional Education Assistants were trained and hired and specially trained teachers employed in schools as Resource Teachers to support integration.  In addition, in recognition of the additional needs special education students needed, a system of reporting identified students and receiving additional grants to provide services was instituted.

Many of us who worked in schools and supported families with gifted children wondered how this would serve our students. While we could readily see the benefits for students in other categories of need who had been grouped together by designation so specific types of instruction could be offered efficiently, we wondered how this would benefit gifted students. Best practice in supporting the gifted category of special need includes having the opportunity to work with like-minded peers as well as providing a learning environment that offered the breadth, depth and pace for learning that these students needed. If classrooms and programs that gathered these like-minded learners together disappeared, how would that optimum environment and support survive in a very mixed ability class? However, the special education grants allowed districts to identify students and claim funding that provided for an array of supports and assignment of teachers with gifted special education backgrounds to work with and support identified students.

Awareness about and service to gifted learners has been in steady decline in our schools since 2002! 

On January 3, 2015, the Vancouver Sun ran an article motivated by a visit of two journalists (Tracy Sherlock, Chad Skelton) to the TALONS program for gifted students at Gleneagles Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC.  Subsequent investigation of the status of gifted education in the province resulted in the following findings:

  • Students reported as gifted to the Ministry of Education has dropped by half across BC, from 2.5% of students to just 1.1% since 2002.
  • Experts in the field agree that this is not because BC’s population became less intellectually able, but because gifted kids are no longer being identified

For example, in some districts, this drop was striking – where?

  • Mission – the % share of gifted students rose steadily from 2002 to 2006, then in one year dropped to almost none!
  • Surrey – in 2002, 2.7% gifted were reported, in 2014, 0.9%
  • Vancouver – 2002, 5% reported, this past year, 0.7%

Coquitlam (third largest district in the province) is one of only 5 districts where the number of identified gifted students reported in the past few years has increased. The other districts are Delta, Revelstoke, Conseil Scolaire Francophone, and Haida Gwaii.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

In 2002, the Ministry removed targeted funding to four categories of special needs students, one of which was gifted. Removal of this targeted funding meant that very quickly, those supports that had been in place because the funding required that it be spent on services to the students who were designated, stopped!  Districts also stopped assessing and designating students because they reasoned that there was no option as there was no funding.

THE RESULTS

Fewer and fewer students were designated as gifted and fewer teachers acquired the knowledge and experience to identify and respond to their needs. And so today, the number of gifted students reported to the Ministry has dropped from a high of about 16,000 students in the later 90’s to a little over 3,000 today.

FAST FORWARD TO 2018! THIS IS WHY GCABC AND THE LOWER MAINLAND GIFTED CONTACTS EDUCATORS GROUP IS ORGANIZING THE POWER UP POTENTIAL CONFERENCE!

We need to raise the issues of

  • appropriate environments and instruction for gifted students,
  • the growing emergence of twice exception students – gifted and with a learning challenge – and,
  • the increasing prevalence of behavioural and social emotional issues emerging with gifted students.

We invite parents, educators and health care and counselling professionals who support, report, diagnose and treat gifted students to join us and learn, network and organize in support of these learners. We look forward to seeing you!

 

Dr. James Webb is My Hero – Don’t miss seeing him in Canada!

By Debbie Clelland, Past-President of the Gifted Children’s Association of BC

As a parent of two gifted sons, I have been very fortunate over the years to be inspired and consoled by the resources created by Dr. James Webb.  That is why I am ecstatic that he is joining us here in Vancouver in April as a speaker for parents, educators and health care professionals! Since I realized that some of you may not really know about him, I wanted to jump up and down a bit about how rare and important an opportunity it is to hear him speak.

Back in 2003 when our oldest son was assessed as gifted, my partner and I turned to each other and said, “OK, now what?”  There were two things that really helped us: the GCABC and the resources created by James Webb.  We got a VHS tape out of our library of James Webb presenting to a group of parents about understanding giftedness, and then watched it several times.  It helped us see we were “normal” gifted parents experiencing “normal” things with our family. That was a huge relief, and so needed for us and our family to make sense of re-interpreting our experience over the previous 9 years with our sons.

James Webb (Jim) is a great humanitarian on a mission to help parents of gifted children, educators and mental health professionals understand giftedness and its many nuances.  When he discovered that parents and psychologists were struggling to understand the social-emotional aspects of giftedness, he created the organization Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG). Within SENG, he developed a way to train parents to lead support groups for other parents and created a new publishing house to get books out there as a support for gifted families. He even ended up writing several books on unique things like grand-parenting gifted children and the sometimes world weary existential depression experienced by some gifted people

I have had the pleasure of seeing Jim present at a few SENG summer conferences in various locations around the US, and have always found him to be an engaging speaker who really “gets it”. He speaks to the people in the room in a way that conveys his many years of learning as if we are sitting down at the kitchen table together to have a chat about these gifted folks we all care so much about.

I was over the moon when I learned that our own Maureen McDermid invited Jim to join us in Canada and that he accepted.  To my knowledge, this is the first time he has presented in our country.  I can’t say enough about how big a deal this is – come and join us!


Still not registered for the conference Power Up Potential 2018 with Dr. James Webb, and a number of other experts on giftedness? Sign up on the conference website before March 1 to take advantage of the Early Bird rate. 

<< Register for Power Up Potential Here!

A Gifted Student’s Reflection on her Academic Journey

Two programs offered by some school districts and one offered by a consortium of the Vancouver School Board (VSB), the Ministry of Education and the University of British Columbia (UBC) are providing opportunities to students with high ability to reach their intellectual and creative goals.

The Challenge Program in Surrey is offered to students in grades three through seven and includes “intense academic, intellectual and creative challenges.”

The Multi-Age Cluster Classes (MACC) in Surrey is offered to students in grades five through seven and provides “academic support and social-emotional support for highly gifted students.

Both Challenge and MACC are offered in other districts in similar format. You find more information about the challenge program MACC on the Surrey School District website.

The University Transition Program is an early college entrance program open to 10 VSB students and 10 from other districts in each of the two years.

Read Fannia Xu’s positive experience in the public school system in Surrey, BC, transitioning from Challenge Programs, into MACC and then the University Transition Program at the UBC.

The letter below is reprinted without edits.


Academic Transitions by Fannia Xu

I wasn’t the most popular kid in the fourth grade; my classmates often teased me for my love of academics. I had been hoping for some challenges academically since sometime around the first grade. For a long time, I’d always felt ashamed to admit that what I was learning in school was too easy for me; fellow students always said that I was just bragging and exaggerating the ease of the course materials. Because of this, I never felt very well-liked or at home in the school environment.

Before I was in MACC, I took part in the Challenge Program, which was where I was first introduced to the idea of being challenged in academics. I’d fell in love with the program, but it left me hoping for more in terms of challenge and acceleration. This, of course, led to my registration for the testing for the MACC program at Berkshire Park Elementary.

When I first joined the MACC program, everything we were learning had felt foreign and unknown. For once, I felt like I was in an environment where I was constantly given challenges. MACC wasn’t an accelerated program, and that much was obvious; however, the deeper looks at some plain and ordinary subjects opened my eyes up to new opportunities and also helped pave the way toward the future I chose. The fields of study we encountered in MACC were truly eye-opening. The students in the program were just the cherries on top; MACC was a place where I felt I could always be myself.

As a student in MACC, I’d always thought that that would be the limit on my academic life, that MACC would be the most accelerated program I would partake in, that I would leave MACC to attend my local secondary school like the majority of the other graduates had done. After my three years in MACC, I discovered this academic drive inside of me, telling myself that I had to push myself further and further with everything I learned. That was when I made the conscious decision to apply to the University Transition Program.

At first, I was reluctant to apply; the picture that my mind painted of Transition had always included intense workloads and a large amount of stress, combined with no free time. Though that much has been made true in Transition, I can also testify that not a single day goes by without having fun, and that fun comes within being a small, cohesive community. The only reason I’ve been able to survive in Transition so far is due to the massive support network that exists between each and every one of my classmates. This was something that was different from MACC; although we often worked together, we never quite functioned as a community. I didn’t receive such a large amount of support while I was in MACC, but I suppose it was not needed.

The big difference between Transition and MACC has always been the issue of accelerated vs. comprehensive learning. Though MACC was not an accelerated program, being a student in the MACC program definitely made the transition between elementary school and the Transition Program a lot easier. Today, I can safely say that I am content with my academic life, and none of that would be possible without the journey I’ve taken, through Challenge, MACC, and now University Transition.