Anna Shah writes:
It is no secret that common core stymies the educational needs of gifted students.
This leaves parents in a lurch to find ways to nurture talents beyond common core.
Twice exceptional (2E) students are often overlooked. Here’s why and what schools should do for 2E students:
For a general overview of CC deficits, see here: https://schoolsofthoughtny.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/one-size-fits-all-does-not-work-ccss-and-the-gifted-learner-in-nys-2/
NEA asks, “Are We Failing Gifted Learners?”
There is legislation in the State Senate and Assembly which could begin to help New York State optimize the potential of its high-ability learners (“gifted and talented” as well as “twice exceptional” students). One of the bills (S1874-2013/A1524-2013) directs that all teachers be trained in the education of gifted students and provides start-up funding for such training.
Two other key pieces of legislation are A4745-2013/S3389-2013 and S1875-2013/A1522-2013.
These bills will ensure that teachers and administrators are provided with the training, tools, and support they need to promote high-achievement. They also ensure that all students who are identified as “gifted and talented” (including those who are “twice exceptional”) by their school districts receive sufficient appropriate educational opportunities that would include services delivered by a certified “gifted education” professional along with expanded acceleration opportunities.
These bills will additionally ensure sufficient appropriate education for “twice exceptional” students. This category of special education student often does not receive the education needed to thrive and reach his/her full potential.
For those interested, here is a sample letter to legislators to support the Gifted Learners Bill that would provide start up funding & resources for such programs.
To that end, it should be noted that earlier this month the New York State Education Department (NYSED) issued a special education field advisory memorandum advising school districts that gifted students, such as students with high cognition, may be eligible – but are not automatically qualified – for special education programming and services if they exhibit a severe discrepancy between their level of intellectual ability and achievement.
NYSED issued the field advisory memorandum in response to the United States Department of Education’s recent request that all states widely distribute the December 2013 letter by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on the same topic ( see Letter to Delisle link below).
Although only a very small percentage of students are both gifted and have special needs (also known as “twice exceptional students”), OSEP expressed concern that these students – especially students with learning disabilities – are often overlooked for classification as students with disabilities and, as a result, are unfairly and inappropriately denied special education services and supports.
This oversight can be explained. First, NYS provides students a constitutional right to a sound BASIC education, gifted learners have higher cognition needs that are beyond what is considered “basic” yet only a few states recognize gifted learning as a special need that qualifies student for an IEP.
Also, for most students with disabilities, the need for a Committee on Special Education (CSE) referral is based on clear and objective factors such as low or failing grades, the need for retention or the lack of overall progress. But often these signs are not present with gifted students with learning disabilities. This is because these students are usually still able to earn average grades or score in the average range on cognitive and achievement tests despite having a learning disability – they are not challenged but this is hard to quanitfy and diagnose at times.
OSEP advises that these “twice exceptional students” may still be eligible for special education, especially if there’s a severe discrepancy between their level of intellectual ability (which may be very high) and achievement (which may be average) which could be the basis for a learning disabled classification.
According to the National Education Association, these students are a “national resource whose future contributions to society are largely contingent upon offering them appropriate educational experiences. Without appropriate education and services, their discoveries, innovations, breakthroughs, leadership, and other gifts to American society go unrealized.”
Notably, this does not mean that the CSE will automatically classify as learning disabled every gifted student with high cognition who is performing lower than expected at school. NYSED and OSEP both highlight that no single measure or assessment, including the above-mentioned – and often criticized – severe-discrepancy standard, should be used as the basis for classifying (or not classifying) a student as disabled.
In each case, there are a seemingly countless number of factors that the CSE may consider including, among others, whether the student has received appropriate instruction; whether the student is proficient in English; whether the student is experiencing any medical or personal problems that may be interfering with his or her academic functioning; or whether the student would benefit from additional general education instruction in a response-to-intervention format. One or more of these factors could support the CSE’s decision not to classify a gifted student as disabled, despite a severe discrepancy between the student’s intellectual ability and achievement.
Going forward, based on NYSED and OSEP’s guidance, when presented with a gifted student with high cognition who displays a severe discrepancy between his or her level of intellectual ability and achievement, it is advisable that CSE should not automatically classify the student as learning disabled.
Likewise, it is advisable that CSE should not refuse to classify the student based on the presupposition that a gifted student with average or passing grades should not be classified as disabled.
Instead, it is advisable that the CSE should consider ALL relevant factors and base its eligibility determination on the student’s individualized needs and abilities.
In the race to the common core top, gifted students should not be left behind.
NYSEDs advisory can be found here:
USDEs Letter on Delisle can be found here:
Blog: Schools of Thought Hudson Valley NY
Advocacy group: Hudson Valley Against Common Core https://www.facebook.com/groups/HudsonValleyAgainstCommonCore/
Follow Anna @SOTHVNY