I, for one, think that North Carolina is on the right track for our gifted students. For far too long, “proficiency” has reigned, while only recently has the emphasis on “student growth” become a center point for our state. Unfortunately, for many gifted and over-achieving students, the emphasis on high-stakes testing and the push for proficiency has shifted the focus from all students to the students who are in danger of not making a level “3.” Don’t get me wrong, I firmly stand on the fact that our charge as educators is to reach and teach ALL of our students with equal gusto.
Now, however, with the valuable and revealing data we gain from EVAAS in terms of both student growth and teacher effectiveness, we can paint a more accurate picture of how much our students are learning and growing each year. Couple this data with our new Common Core State Standards and North Carolina Essential Standards, and we are beginning to develop a recipe for success.
As I work with school districts to develop their curriculum maps, pacing guides, and unit plans, I am seeing more emphasis than ever before on formative assessments, higher-order thinking, conceptual design, student choice, multiple criteria for success, and overarching essential questions. Districts are pulling from research to make decisions that will affect instruction and student learning.
When I went back to school to work on my master’s in gifted at UNC-Charlotte under the tutelage of Dr. Brenda Romanoff, my experience changed my life, but most importantly, it changed my classroom. I thought I was a good teacher and was told I was a good teacher, but when I learned about conceptual design, providing students with more ownership and choices, and depth over breadth, I became a much better teacher. My program of study transformed my classroom. Ironically, one of the most enlightening aspects of my education was learning that strategies and instructional methods that I was learning about to enhance the schooling experience for the gifted student were just as important, valuable, and effective for students who are not gifted.
I am so excited about the future of education in our state. These curriculum changes are going to provide us all the opportunity to examine how we facilitate instruction and challenge us to take into account inquiry-based instruction, 21st century skills, and student readiness as we prepare out students to live in our exciting, stimulating, and ever-changing world.
Check out ASCD’s October 17 article on supporting gifted students by clicking here!