The Peripheral View - Scott Rainey RVC-8 "TAG Program Notes from Oregon"

Instead of my Regular RVC report this month, I want to share with you some notes I took at a recent TAG workshop. The Practices and Citations in Administrative Rules are specific to Oregon, but they may nevertheless help you frame your quest for knowledge and resources in your home state.

On 8/7/2001 I attended a 1-hour K-12 TAG workshop held during a larger conference for Teachers in Portland Oregon. 1 hour for K-12 seems laughable but the speaker, Laura Pehkonen PhD, TAG Program Specialist, for the Oregon Department of Education did a masterful job.

It probably doesn't shock you to learn that there is approximately "Zero" Funding for Talented and Gifted (TAG) education in Oregon. The bureaucratic Symmetry there is significant, since Oregon has laws mandating that the needs of these students must be met. How that is done is different with each school and district.

What is TAG?

It's different in every state. Washington for instance says all students who test at or above the 90th percentile on a nationally recognized standardized test should receive special resources. In Oregon, it's 97%. This makes for odd emotional twists when a TAG kid moves out of a low threshold state like Washington, into a high threshold state like Oregon and suddenly s/he isn't "talented and gifted" any more.

There is a common misconception in schools that nobody shows TAG abilities until Grade 4. We Mensans all know that to be false, and we know that earlier identification and intervention is critical. It is however helpful that Academics who focus on TAG kids agree.

The System is Reactive, not Proactive.

There are no requirements in Oregon Teacher Education or Certification programs to teach teachers how to identify TAG kids. It is probably the same in your state, but do check.

A TAG student without an advocate is likely to fall through the cracks in the system. A parent is the most likely advocate for a TAG child, as the system is not built to create one internally.

If a school district relies on teacher recommendations - as most do - that "this kid shows promise and should be tested," you're going to miss over 50% of TAG kids by Age 8. This is because a great many TAG kids have developed the skill and habit of hiding who they are.

To force a school district to react, a parent needs to act courteously and carefully. In Oregon, if a parent says: "My child has not been receiving services appropriate to his needs," then the schools are required to investigate, and make a determination. This at minimum involves testing.

Schools do not wish to act, in part because they believe that it costs money, so the parent must be persistent. Patiently persistent. Making bureaucrats angry is not a good way to get appropriate resources for a gifted child. Because the threshold in Oregon is the 97th percentile and because there is substantial variability in testing results, on any given day, the TAG kid needs an advocate. I'll repeat the key phrase parents need to know:

     "My child has not been receiving services appropriate to his needs."

The Oregon Rules

Here are some important rule titles from The Oregon Administrative Rules as regards Talented and Gifted Kids. I know these numbers won't apply outside Oregon but the Titles may apply in any state and you'll get a feeling for the enormity of the task just be seeing how long the numbers are:
   581-022-0805 - Definitions
   581-022-1310 - Identification of Academically Talented and Intellectually Gifted
   581-022-1320 - Rights of Parents
   581-022-1330 - Programs and Services for Talented and Gifted Students
   581-022-1510 - Guidance Counseling
   581-022-1670 - Record Keeping Requirements
   581-022-1940 - Appeals and Complaints

About Gifted Kids:

A huge problem for TAG kids is that everything comes easy for them. Every kid should have to work at learning.

TAG kids are often under-achievers. This is an artifact of not having to study and yet getting very good grades, - often straight A's. This is especially a problem when a student gets to College without having developed study habits and skills.

TAG kids are sometimes uninhibited in expressions of opinion, to the point of being spirited and tenacious (ok, obnoxious).

They have a high degree of curiosity, but may not develop a habit of follow through and project completion if not guided. They are good at working independently but it is vital for the teacher who sets independent study programs to also set deliverables milestones and project deadlines. TAG kids will generally require guidance to achieve the habit of completing projects.

Ability grouping is vital. If a school has 100 4th graders, to be distributed to 3-4 classrooms there is a tendency to split up the bright kids into all 4 classes. This is a recipe for disaster on many levels. The main problem is that the bright kids will motivate and challenge each other if grouped. If an individual is the only bright kid on a project team, the bright kid can end up doing all of the work, but cause the teacher to believe that each team member contributed. This robs the normal and slow kids the opportunity to learn by contributing. Research is strong and conclusive that ability grouping is vital.

"I'm Bored" from a TAG kid can mean many things
Only 3 of 10 TAG kids are highly creative, but that only means that the rest need to be encouraged towards creative endeavors, particularly those who display perfectionists traits which inhibit their participation out of concern for doing a less that terrific job.

TAG kids have a high sense of Right and wrong, fair and not fair. They tend to quickly pass judgments.

A large percentage of TAG kids drop out of college because for the first time in their lives they have work at study and learning. Unless study habits are developed earlier in life, the acquisition of study skills simply does not come easily.

Showing one's logic and process in Math Class is difficult for TAG kids who often "Intuit" the answer and haven't a clue of how they got there. "I get it, why do I have to do 5 repetitions of the same problem?" is common, and often resisted. Specific attention from the Math instructors on this point is vital.

TAG kids can also be learning disabled at the same time. Dyslexia and ADHD are very common "dual gifts."

"Teaching Gifted kids in the Regular Classroom" is the unfortunate norm due to lack of administrative attention and funding. Teachers are encouraged to study books on this topic.

Some Downsides:

Anorexia and Bulimia is very common in Gifted Girls.

Girls with high aptitudes in Math begin falling behind boys at the onset of puberty. This is behavioral, not aptitude changing, as has been proven by separating boys and girls for math classes starting in about Grade 6. The fall off is clearly due to not wanting to stand out or make the interesting boys in their schools look bad.

There is a strong need to do exceptional work, therefore plagiarism is actually common. "That writer said it better than I could, why not use his/her words?"

70% of kids who enter Kindergarten able to read or do math, will loose that ability before they leave Kindergarten, generally within 6 weeks. This has to do with the child's desire and need to please their teacher, by meeting - and not exceeding - her expectations; and wanting to fit in with his or her peers.

27% of TAG qualified kids drop out of school in some rural school districts.

Most of the High School kids who have shot up their schools were TAG kids. If that interests you, see and lookup "Hellmouth" about the shooters at Columbine High School.

Prison populations have 300% higher TAG populations than the general population outside of prisons.

For links to a variety of Gifted Children's resources, see
Stanford Binet L-M tests and giftedness

Level           IQ Range        Prevalence
Mild            115-129         1-in-6          to   1-in-44
Moderate        130-144         1-in-44         to   1-in- 1,000
Highly          145-159         1-in-1,000      to   1-in- 10,000
Exceptionally   160-179         1-in-10,000     to   1-in- 1,000,000 
Profoundly      180+            Fewer Than            1-in- 1,000,000   
-- Dr Miraca Gross, internationally recognized expert on Exceptionally gifted children,