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.

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.

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.

Celebrating World Teachers’ Day

If you ask a teacher why he or she chose a career in education, chances are that the answer will be to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of students.

While those of us in education share in this desire and have witnessed the difference a teacher can make in the lives of their students, a 2016 study by the United Nations revealed just how critical the role of teachers is in making the world a better place. In monitoring the progress toward achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals—goals that aim to realize a world with no hunger, no poverty, gender equity, peace, and more—it was determined that without achieving the goal of quality learning for all and lifelong learning, none of the other 16 goals will ever be realized.

World Teachers’ Day is October 5, a day to recognize and celebrate the committed educators around the globe who help youth and adults to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to live a happy and productive life.

Celebrated since 1994, it has become an occasion to empower educators, to assess the state of the teaching profession around the globe, and to consider ways to address the remaining challenges, especially the acute shortage of teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the world needs 69 million new teachers.

In today’s world, teachers are more important than ever before.

While we add our voice in acknowledgment of teachers on World Teachers’ Day, in the KDP community, we celebrate teachers every single day.

KDP strives to continually support its educators through professional development opportunities, networking, online resources, publications, and financial assistance. Just as we understand our students need differentiated instruction, professional development and resources also need to be tailored to differing needs of our educators; so resources, such as our monthly newsletters, vary by professional position. Whether you are a preservice teacher, a teacher preparation faculty member, or practicing professional, we strive to meet you where you are. We are united by a shared commitment to excellence in education and to one another’s professional growth.

As the world celebrates teachers on October 5, we know one day of recognition isn’t sufficient given the critical role of teachers in society.

So, KDP celebrates teachers each and every day. We applaud you, thank you, and cheer you on because you are indeed making the world a better place.

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Language + Communication = Advancement

Hello fellow educators!

On July 21, 2017, I joined a community of student leaders in the United Nations General Assembly Hall to celebrate innovative ideas in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (UN). The event, themed “Many Languages, One World,” brought youth from around the globe together to present action plans for advancing the SDG. Their presentations were borne out an essay contest sponsored by ELS Educational Services and the UN. The contest encouraged young scholars to share their ideas on how to repair the quality of living within the areas of SDG, such as quality education, climate action, economy growth, and justice. The presentations, which were the culmination of research, exposed current issues in many countries and offered resolutions to avoid the stagnant results of previous trials.

As essay contest winners showcased their visions of the future, their presentations were simultaneously translated by interpreters into the UN’s six official languages. With the help of listening devices, those in attendance could hear the presentations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, or Spanish.

On the subject of education, students spoke up about the issues of race and sex, and advocated for equality in education to combat this problem. One student’s objective was to eliminate illiteracy and offer free secondary education. Another student argued that education could be the key to achieving all targets of the SDG. Others suggested how we, as global citizens, could support a switch to alternative sources of power, such as green energy, to reduce carbon dioxide. Students advocated for improvement in the quality of water in rural areas and explained how the water affects agricultural products. With limited access to food and water, students may become malnourished and dehydrated, and therefore struggle to succeed in school.

We need to make keeping students in school a priority. An essay winner speaking about Brazil revealed a link between school dropouts and criminal activity in that country. As global citizens who belong to the education community, we have to be mindful of students who may not live in safe conditions. Creating a comforting space within the classroom and leading students in project-based learning activities can allow them to feel safe and empowered.

We must increase collaborations among our neighboring countries and communicate our successes in repairing these damages. By sharing what’s wrong in one country, we can offer tips on how another country made it right. Improving the policies and systems of management that currently exist throughout all countries would reflect a global agreement on acceptable standards of living.

Diversity makes our society more resilient. Education makes it powerful.

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.

Kappa Delta Pi’s Response to Charlottesville

The sad and tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12 are a stark reminder of the importance and relevance of our work as educators. As members of Kappa Delta Pi, a storied organization with a 106-year legacy of inclusion and equity, we call on our members to take action.

First, stand united with us in support of our mission and vision for empowering, preparing, sustaining, and supporting teachers as they advocate for the best interests of students. We remain committed to the goal of advancing instruction so that students are globally aware, socially responsible, resilient, and able to solve problems in just and equitable ways.

Second, take an active role in developing empathy in ourselves and our students, and in modeling respect for others and tolerance for those whose ideas and beliefs are different than our own. By incorporating a social justice approach to education, young people of all backgrounds will learn that they are not victims of their circumstances and that they can become part of the desperately needed change to disrupt and eliminate inequities.

Third, directly confront and counter racism and discrimination, and provide a healthy and caring way to address these difficult issues. Silence supports a colorblind perspective that exists in many school settings and communities. As educators, we must work together and support one another to educate children who are committed to creating a better and more just society.

We can reach these goals by explicitly teaching current events like the one in Charlottesville to our students and helping them to understand the consequences of these actions. One person can make a difference; however, by working together as a profession, we can have an even more powerful impact on making our schools, our communities, and our world a better place.

Dr. Peggy Moch, Executive Council President (2016–2018)
Faye Snodgress, Executive Director