Twice-Exceptional Learners: Reaching Full Potential

Today’s bloggers are Chin-Wen Lee, University of Louisville, and Jennifer A. Ritchotte, University of Northern Colorado, whose essay on twice-exceptional (2e) learners appears in The Educational Forum.

“To believe is to look at the tiniest seed and envision a blossoming flower.” —Anonymous

Schools should provide educational opportunities that help all students reach their full potential.

Too often, a focus on ensuring all students are performing at grade level overshadows the critical need to develop potential in our brightest students. A high-quality education needs to be accessible to all students; equity in education is critical. Failing to fully address the unique learning needs of gifted students implies an inequity in our educational system that is simply indefensible. Unfortunately, this issue is most pervasive for gifted students from underserved populations, such as twice-exceptional (2e) students.

Many parents of 2e students express frustration over receiving little help for their children within the school system. Parents commonly report that their requests for additional services at the school and district levels are denied because their 2e children appear to be performing at grade level. Teachers of 2e students often report this same frustration. Limited access to training and resources limits teachers’ ability to effectively meet their 2e students’ unique learning needs.

Twice-exceptional learners, defined by the National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice (2e CoP), demonstrate “exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances.” A unique set of circumstances includes masking of abilities and disabilities. The 2e CoP’s definition highlights that twice-exceptional learners “may perform below, at, or above grade level.” Supporting these learners requires specialized methods of identification, enriched educational opportunities, and simultaneous supports for academic and social-emotional growth.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, holds promise for providing educational services to twice-exceptional students. The Supreme Court concluded that for students with disabilities, meaningful educational benefits should be made possible through individualized education plans. In other words, providing meaningful educational benefits does not stop when students with both gifts and disabilities demonstrate that they can perform at grade level.

To provide educational services for 2e learners, educators need specialized academic training and ongoing professional learning. There is also a need for recruiting a more diverse, representative sample of professionals to support 2e learners. General and special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and other specialized service professionals should be part of the teamwork.

Of course, there is no single solution that will fix the educational system for learners who are not receiving adequate opportunities for talent development. Keeping an active agenda for advocacy and striving for policy change is critical, especially given that states where the coexistence of giftedness and disabilities is addressed in state law may have better opportunities to improve their practices than states where gifted education is not mandated.

All students deserve opportunities to develop their gifts and talents. This represents a unique challenge for those parenting and teaching 2e learners because of commonly used non-comprehensive approaches to identification, a lack of training on the specialized needs of this student population, and limited access to resources that might improve 2e students’ educational experiences. We contend that the first step to empowering 2e students is to empower ourselves and those around us with the knowledge needed to provide these students with the education they deserve.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Lee and Ritchotte’s essay with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2018.

Chin-Wen Lee

Jennifer Ritchotte

5 Ways to Provide Meaningful Experiences in the Classroom

Providing effective instruction is the key to supporting a student’s education. An important component of such instruction is the facilitation of engaging activities that will promote questioning and diverse conversations around subjects that are relatable to your students. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4, which encourages quality education for all, promotes innovation and creativity. This goal can be advanced through your classrooms in five ways.

1. Collaboration

Organize collaborations amongst teachers and students on a weekly basis to foster a positive school environment. Grade team teachers can plan periods that are centered around whole group and small group instruction across the grade level. For example, dedicate a social studies period to joining three classes together for small group projects.

2. Peer-to-Peer Intervisitations

Following the path of collaboration, create differentiation of instruction through peer-to-peer intervisitations. The purpose of having students from one class visit students in another would be to pair students who have similar interests or strengths together and challenge them to develop their critical thinking skills. Guided reading groups would be a great channel for this because they can move at their own pace and be challenged through essential questions and inferring techniques.

3. Authentic Conversations

Commit to the SDG #4, quality education, by developing real connections to the students you teach and invest in. Individual conferences are valuable because the teacher becomes the learner. Students can teach the teacher about their culture through the labels that they add in their writing, their word choice, and the narratives that they share through the process of storytelling.

4. Professional Development

Work with other teachers during professional development to try out a new protocol that you are interested in using in your classroom or school. Fellow teachers can assist you in trying out a protocol prior to introducing it to your students. By sharing your ideas with colleagues, you can demonstrate your ideas and receive insightful feedback to make it better before presenting it to your students.

5. Social Media!

AAs members of Kappa Delta Pi, an organization that prides itself in promoting educational resources and successes, feel free to share your classroom activities on social media and celebrate your progress on meeting educational goals. This would support the SDGs, particularly within quality education, by sharing successful teaching experiences with educators across the world. If you are doing amazing work in the field of education, please share it with the UN using the twitter handle @GlobalGoalsUN and the hashtag #GlobalGoals. Have you found ways to reach out to friends, family, or colleagues about the success you have had with projects surrounding education? Please share below!

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a graduate student in the Literacy Specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She chose to become a UN Youth Representative to be able to offer a unique approach to education.

Intersectional Thinking as a Tool for Educational Equity

(L-R) Roderick L. Carey, Laura S. Yee, David DeMatthews

Today’s bloggers are Roderick L. Carey, University of Delaware; Laura S. Yee, Georgetown Day School; and David DeMatthews, University of Texas at El Paso, whose essay on intersectionality appears in The Educational Forum.

Anthony is an 11-year-old Black boy in Ms. Johnson’s fifth-grade classroom. Although he’s a contributing classroom citizen, well liked by his peers and eager to excel, Ms. Johnson struggles to sustain his interest in reading. She restructures reading groups, attempts to draw connections between popular television shows and the content of books, and even purchases titles portraying racially diverse children and topics that other Black boys in his class seem to find interesting: cars, machinery, sports. Shunning even books that portray Black boys, Anthony retreats further. “I still don’t see myself in these books!” he exclaims.

Mr. Richardson, the principal at a racially and ethnically diverse U.S. high school, noted that toward the end of the year, more boys than girls enrolled in advanced math and science courses for the following year. To remedy this disparity, he used a grant to create a summer enrichment STEM program geared toward girls. However, very few Latina girls enrolled. Yesenia, an enthusiastic Latina sophomore, declined to enroll in the program because of the overnight travel required. She noted, “I can’t take that time away from my job and family this summer.”

What similarities do Anthony and Yesenia’s school and social experiences reflect? What similar yet unsuccessful thinking did Ms. Johnson and Mr. Richardson use to engage their students?

Perhaps intersectionality, a concept more regularly taken up in women’s studies, political science, and sociology, can provide some insights into these school-based challenges. Intersectionality describes the co-relational forces of how oppressions such as (but not limited to) racism, sexism, and classism interlock and intersect simultaneously within the lives of individuals. Intersectionality has been adapted as a way to understand that forces like race, class, and gender (as well as ethnicity, sexuality, age, and nation of origin) may not stand alone in their impact on individuals’ lives.

Schools are not free from such dynamics; they mirror and perpetuate them. So, intersectionality pushes educators to view the complexity inherent in students’ lives, drawing attention to the sometimes hidden yet critical domains of oppression that overlap in the experiences of students who most often struggle to secure success in schools.

Why didn’t the interventions put in place by Ms. Johnson and Mr. Richardson work for Anthony and Yesenia? Both students are marginalized for multiple facets of their identities.

A closer look reveals that Anthony faced marginalization not only for his race, but also in the way his race intersected with gendered expectations for Black boys. Anthony, a young Black boy from low-income circumstances, was also questioning his gender expression, and so the reading interventions missed the mark by not considering this crucial nuance. Mr. Richardson’s STEM program for girls considered gender but did not take into account intersections of gender with ethnicity, class, and cultural norms. Removing Yesenia from her home, even for supplemental educational, could prove difficult for her recently arrived immigrant family without significant supports in place.

In our article “Power, Penalty, and Critical Praxis: Employing Intersectionality in Educator Practices to Achieve School Equity,” we argue that intersectionality provides educators deeper insights into the lives of their students. Educators or youth service providers implementing interventions to create equity and address disparities caused by societal oppression must utilize intersectional thinking to more precisely meet the needs of their increasingly diverse student populations. Employing intersectional approaches to PreK–12 policy and practice supports the possibility for better shaping and enacting critically refined curriculum and programs. Intersectionality can prove to be a highly effective tool in deconstructing taken-for-granted notions of our students and how best to serve them.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Carey, Yee, and DeMatthews’ essay with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through February 28, 2018.

A Framework for School Safety and Risk Management

This year’s holiday season marked the fifth anniversary of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Since 2013, there have been at least 272 school shootings in the United States—about one per week, according to Everytown USA, a nonprofit organization that researches and reports on public gun violence. In 2017 alone, there were 64 shootings at schools and universities, with 31 of those resulting in injury or death.

As Everytown USA asks, how many more students will have to die before legislators pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives?

Until that question is settled, teachers and administrators are on the front lines of protecting their schools from targeted shootings. In a new article published this month in The Educational Forum, school violence expert Ann Marie C. Lenhardt, professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College, reports on “A Framework for School Safety and Risk Management: Results from a Study of 18 Targeted School Shooters.”  With coauthors Lemuel W. Graham and Melissa L. Farrell, Lenhardt expands on the long-term study they first reported in the Forum in 2010.

According to the authors, although awareness of targeted school violence has increased in the last decade, school-based mental health services and resources with a framework for threat assessment and prevention are still largely absent. The authors’ current paper builds on their previous study of 15 cases of targeted school shooters between 1996 and 2005, which focused exclusively on school culture, peer/social dynamics, and disclosure of intentions. The new paper focuses on 18 premeditated cases (16 incidents) of targeted secondary school shooters between 1996 and 2012, using publicly available resources to look at the contextual root variables.

In their new paper, Lenhardt and her coauthors examined 22 indicators in three areas—individual factors and behaviors, family dynamics, and triggering events—and found that the higher the number of risk factors present, the greater the potential for violent acts.

According to the authors’ data, environmental factors within the family may play a key role in how an adolescent responds to stress. Results showed that 94% percent of the shooters had demonstrated a lack of resiliency or an inability to rebound from an unsatisfactory experience, hindrance, or insult. This lack of inner resolve or self-confidence, coupled with poor coping skills in 83% of the shooters, was the deadliest combination of indicators measured. In addition, 67% of the shooters felt alienated, had been bullied, or had issued a violent threat. Five indicators were present in 61% of cases: signs of depression, lack of empathy, poor anger management, intent to carry out threats, and a history of previous threats or attempted suicide. Most of the shooters (83%) had access to weapons in their homes.

The authors recommend that teachers and principals use the study’s indicators to identify students at risk of violent behavior, and then take these steps to preclude school shootings: enhance mental health services in schools, include threat-assessment services, and promote family engagement in services. Everytown USA points out that in addition to the heartbreaking losses from targeted homicides, affected schools experience a drop in student enrollment and a nearly 5% decline in surviving students’ standardized test scores.

Lenhardt and her coauthors note that all students who receive counseling support services can become more resilient and, as a result, will be more likely to achieve academic and life goals.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Lenhardt, Graham, and Farrell’s research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through January 31, 2018.

Educators Play an Important Role in Teaching Tolerance

On November 16, 1995, UNESCO’s 50th anniversary, Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. Instead, it is respect and appreciation for the rich tapestry of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression, and our ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse. Only tolerance can ensure the survival of diverse communities in every region of the world.

Along with outright injustice and violence, discrimination, prejudices, and bigotry are common forms of intolerance. Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgment, ethical reasoning, and critical thinking.

The diversity of our world’s many cultures, ethnicities, religions, and languages is not a pretext for conflict, but instead is a treasure that enriches everyone. Every day, let’s build new bridges of tolerance, trust, and understanding.

Fighting Intolerance Requires Education
Laws are necessary but not sufficient for countering intolerance in individual attitudes. Intolerance is often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the other, other cultures, nations, and religions. Intolerance also is closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride, whether personal, political, national, or religious. These notions are taught and learned at an early age. Therefore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on education. Greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance, neutrality, human rights, and other ways of life. Encourage children at home and in school to be open-minded and curious. Education is a life-long experience and does not begin or end in school. Endeavors to build tolerance through education will not succeed unless they reach all age groups, and take place everywhere: at home, in school, in the workplace, in law-enforcement and legal training, and not least in entertainment and on the information highways.

Tolerance Education in Schools
A number of school officials recognize the need to teach tolerance and promote appropriate curricula. What students learn in the classroom needs to be reinforced in other aspects of their lives, which requires parent involvement. Students may confront their parents about their bias toward people unlike themselves. We still need to discover effective strategies for teaching students how to peacefully confront their peers, family, and friends. Learning should also focus on the values, attitudes, and behaviors which enable individuals to learn to live together in a world characterized by diversity and pluralism. Today, educators have reaffirmed John Dewey’s ideas with a sense of urgency for the interventions required for schools to address social injustices and to promote values of democracy and tolerance (read Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D. (2009). Rachel’s challenge: A moral compass for character education. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(3), 111-115.).

Do we need to organize tolerance workshops to educate parents as well? If yes, what specific topics should be addressed?

Components of the Tolerance Education
Teaching tolerance to young children is important for continuing further educational programs and reinforcing the message over time. To that end, educators have developed age-appropriate materials. For instance, a curriculum might include the exploration of meaningful texts, classroom exercises from newsletters, and newspaper sections directed toward younger audiences. Additional methods might include short theatrical productions and role-playing exercises. Instilling critical thinking skills, creating role-playing, and cooperative learning have proven effective teaching tools. Teachers need to be clear about how and why we make the choices we do, about whose stories matter and why, and about the values we use to make those judgments. What classroom activities do you plan to teach students about tolerance?

Summary
Educating students about other cultures, ethnicities, religions, and genders helps them understand people different from themselves. Students’ ability to recognize and understand diversity leads to greater tolerance. It will also will help them to attain a high level of performance in schools, the workplace, and eventually their career. If you have any great experience or success story from your classroom, please share it with KDP.

Educators play an important role in teaching tolerance. High-quality educators demonstrate neutrality and objectivity, and remain unbiased. They teach their students to truly embrace every human being’s individuality”

Srecko Mavrek is a teacher at KAPPA International High School and adjunct lecturer at CUNY’s Hostos Community College in New York City. He is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO representative to the United Nations.

 

Bridging Social Capital in a Full-Service Community School

Today’s blogger is Xiaoxia A. Newton, an associate professor in the College of Education at UMass Lowell. She reflects here on a research article she and her colleagues recently published in The Educational Forum.

Sofia Vargas (a pseudonym) is a 17-year-old sophomore attending the Advancement Academy, an alternative urban high school in the Northeastern United States. Like her peers at the school, multiple factors place Sofia at risk: poverty, a history of high-level behavioral referrals each year, multiple course failures due to her inability to meet course expectations or refusal to complete course work, and an ongoing mental health condition. Two years ago, the Advancement Academy began the process of transforming itself into a full-service community school (FSCS) with the support of multiple community partners and funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The FSCS initiative is transforming Sofia’s life by providing opportunities for bridging social capital, a scholarly concept that describes the connections or relationships between individuals in various social groups or networks. Prior to receiving any FSCS services, Sofia had an average 20 to 30 behavioral referrals each month. Since her involvement in the FSCS services, Sofia’s behavioral referrals have been drastically reduced, and she has not had any referrals in many months.

Most important, Sofia’s outlook on school has become more positive and self-regulated, as she is often asking teachers for her progress reports and course credits.

Sofia’s teachers commented on how she is like a new student, and they unanimously nominated her for a teacher-student award. Despite still going through periods of behavioral and emotional distress (often related to out-of-school events), Sofia now has a support network of school staff and community partners working together to address her holistic needs.

My colleagues and I showcased Sofia’s story and the Advancement Academy’s FSCS initiative in a peer-reviewed paper in The Educational Forum (Newton et al., 2017). The empowerment evaluation approach we chose allowed us to move beyond focusing solely on numeric indices but instead on engaging key program stakeholders in building our understanding of the problems they try to tackle and prioritizing our evaluative inquiry.

We chose the Empowerment Evaluation (EE) framework to guide our evaluation work because of the fit between the program design and the key features that characterize EE. The program attempts to address a complex social problem and therefore adopts a whole-child approach that engages multiple community members and is at the very beginning stage. On the other hand, EE focuses on improvement and empowerment, emphasizes collaboration between evaluators and stakeholders, and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. Given the program design, its context, and its stage, EE offers an ideal framework guiding our evaluation effort.

Several lessons emerged from our work that invite more questions than answers. For instance, are numeric indices adequately capturing the richness of individual stories (like Sofia’s) as the school is transforming some if not all of its students’ lives? How do we think of scale in this context? As university researchers, the empowerment evaluation approach has forced us to move out of our own methodological comfort zone and wrestle with conceptual, methodological, and logistical challenges when doing this line of evaluation work.

Meanwhile, Sofia’s story is an example of the opportunities for bridging social capital that full-service community schools can offer students placed at risk.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Xiaoxia and colleagues’ research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through November 30, 2017.

October 24th is United Nations Day

Dr. Rose Cardarelli is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO Representative to the United Nations.

Srecko Mavrek, Dr. Basanti Chakraborty, and Dr. Rose Cardarelli (L-R)

On October 24th, the United Nations (UN) will observe its 72nd anniversary on the day of the original signing of the UN Charter in 1945.

Over its history, the UN has evolved to stand for more than just crisis mediation. For example, in September 2015 the 193 member states of the UN took on the enormous task of adopting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of objectives consisting of 17 global objectives and 169 specific targets all designed to create a positive impact on our future by 2030.

Our Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) mission of quality learning for all and our strategic goal related to literacy sustainability both appear to be perfect opportunities to contribute to the collective global effort of UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, labelled: “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

KDP was recognized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 2010, with the intent of our contributing to UN efforts designed to have a significant impact on advancing quality education on a global scale.

KDP currently has five official professional and youth representatives accredited before the UN. These KDP representatives participate in UN events (workshops, conferences, seminars, media campaigns), and support publications and projects designed to keep KDP members and the UN DPI informed of educational activities that may be relevant to the community at large. In those ways KDP can and does play a key role in helping the UN achieve its sustainable development goals in education.

Serving as one of those professional representatives for the last year, I have had the privilege of attending and reporting on several important events, to include the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) conference. I have also posted UN events and activities on KDP’s Global and blogs. A recent highlight of my service as a KDP representative to the UN was my selection to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) during the week of September 18th. The passion and enthusiasm from most of the world’s leaders attending the UNGA was not only exhilarating but reassuring. This opportunity also gave attendees access to many important UN side-meetings being conducted around the city designed to address the 17 sustainable development goals by many professional organizations.

As should be expected, education was a primary agenda topic at the UNGA because it is widely accepted by all UN representatives that education (particularly SDG#4) is the fundamental foundation stone for achieving all the other sustainable development goals. There were discussions about the need for funding and investments, and also on the need to leverage and share resources and opportunities across local, national, international levels. There was also discussion among many of the attendees about other related global challenges, such as early childhood education, educating female children and educating the millions of refugee children suffering in camps today. Discussions concluded with the goal of increased collaboration, sharing and helping one another to make access to quality education more of a reality across all the globe.

Opportunities for Children at the UN

CTAUN has a special event for high school teachers and students scheduled at the UN from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on November 9, 2017 entitled: “From Desperation to Inspiration: The Anne Frank Diary at the United Nations.” The event marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The program will help students learn about Anne Frank’s life during the holocaust and will also enable participants to better understand the work of writers whose lives were impacted by discrimination. CTAUN offers research to bring global issues of Peace & Reconciliation; Refugees; Sustainable Development Goals; Coping with Climate Change and Cultural Diversity & Cross-Cultural Communication into the classroom. For more information, contact: teacherresources@teachun.org.

The Guided Tours Unit at the United Nations Visitor Centre also has an exciting Children’s Tour for elementary school children. It opened in February 2013 and is tailored for children 5-10 years of age, with topics such as human rights, disarmament, peacekeeping, and the sustainable development goals, presented in a child-friendly way. Tickets for the tour can be purchased online at: http://visit.un.org/content/tickets.