Illinois mandates gifted and talented accommodations
- As of July 1, schools in Illinois are now required to have systems in place to identify and advance or accommodate academically gifted children of all ages. The Accelerated Placement Act is part of the statewide effort to close equity gaps, including for those who have been historically underserved, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- Many districts in Illinois already had plans for granting gifted children early admission to kindergarten and 1st grade, or otherwise appropriately accommodating them. The law now requires all districts to have board-approved plans formally on the books. The act requires districts to structure a path for students who want to skip a grade, and also for acceleration in individual subjects.
- When evaluating children for early kindergarten entry as well as grade advancement, social-emotional levels come into play just as much as academic ability. Pushing a child beyond his or her maturity level can lead to stress and have social and relationship repercussions, not only with peers, but sometimes with slightly older siblings.
Support for programs aimed at gifted and talented students has always been a hard sell. The number of students involved is relatively low, plus there's the (perhaps unspoken) assumption that those students don't really need anything "extra" to be successful. The corresponding paucity of robust gifted and talented programs has inordinate long-term effects on bright students of disadvantaged backgrounds, who must rely entirely on public schools to serve their needs.
One potential way to address these concerns is to ensure that any policy crafted for all students in a district clearly benefits the high achievers along with everyone else. This allows districts to sidestep the typical resistance to initiatives directed specifically to gifted students.
One new development is that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents that kind of opportunity for broad, performance index-based policy improvement at the state level. All 50 states and the District of Columbia filed accountability plans to the U.S. Department of Education more about a year ago, and most are now approved. A recent analysis of the plans found that three-quarters will be a boon to high achievers, something almost unheard of in the days of No Child Left Behind. (Colorado and Louisiana led the pack.)
Meanwhile, some see expansion of gifted and talented programs as a possible solution to segregation, particularly in New York City's specialized high schools. One proposal would expand gifted and talented programs throughout elementary and middle schools to help more students pass the high-stakes entrance exams into the elite high schools. But while some research finds that clustering high-achieving students in one class ups the odds of students in under-represented populations being identified as gifted, other experts say school-wide enrichment models are the better way to go.
- Chicago Tribune New Illinois law requires schools to have policy accommodating academically gifted students
- Thomas B. Fordham Institute High achievers will benefit from most state ESSA accountability plans
- EdExcellence Accountability in the Age of ESSA