Isabella Bird Community School

Gifted & Talented

Rebecca is a passionate advocate for our gifted learners. As a parent to two highly gifted learners, she understands the unique needs of this population of our school. Rebecca has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Gifted Education from Regis University, and holds dual certification as a Special Education Generalist, and Gifted and Talented Specialist. She is also a certified SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted) parent group facilitator. In Rebecca’s spare time she loves reading, completing puzzles, hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with her husband and two children, Zachary and Zoey.

Because gifted children are so diverse, not all exhibit all characteristics all of the time. However, there are common characteristics that many gifted individuals share:

  • Unusual alertness, even in infancy
  • Rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly
  • Excellent memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas
  • Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
  • Often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler
  • Deep, intense feelings and reactions
  • Highly sensitive
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealism and sense of justice at early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Longer attention span and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer
  • Learn basic skills quickly and with little practice
  • Asks probing questions
  • Wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area)
  • Highly developed curiosity
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Puts idea or things together that are not typical
  • Keen and/or unusual sense of humor
  • Desire to organize people/things through games or complex schemas
  • Vivid imaginations (and imaginary playmates when in preschool)

Reproduced by permission from: Webb, J., Gore, J., Amend, E., DeVries, A. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children.   

In the late 1980’s, the perennial argument over the definition of giftedness itself (whether an inborn trait of the individual, or an ability and willingness to work hard in order to achieve) moved in the direction of achievement and accomplishment. What we now know is that giftedness does not always equate to academic achievement. Educators’ preconceived ideas about what constitutes giftedness may result in misunderstandings about the identification of students with diverse socio-economic, language, cultural and racial backgrounds. (Bruch, 1975; Callahan et al., 1995; Grossman, 1998). At IBCS, we seek to change the historic disproportionality in gifted education. To begin, we utilize the Columbus Group definition of giftedness.

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Strategies, Programs, Personnel, and Resources

IBCS meets the needs of gifted and advanced students through a full-time programming model referred to as clustering. This is a research-based strategy to attend to both the academic and social/emotional needs of gifted learners. This model clusters GT students into a classroom with a teacher who has training and experience in meeting the needs of this diverse group of learners. Research is clear that gifted students benefit from time with their intellectual peers and benefit emotionally from grouping with like-minded peers. IBCS believes in clustering GT students together for their academic instruction as a means of attending to their academic and affective needs. Services for gifted and talented students are driven by goals set forth and instructional strategies outlined in their individuated advanced learning plans. IBCS employs a full-time gifted coordinator/s to help support the cluster model through testing and identification, modeling, planning, offering extensions and resources for our cluster teachers.

Equitable Access to GT Programming

Too many students do not receive appropriately challenging curriculum and services and as a result, fail to reach their potential. This is a loss, not only for the students, but for the nation. The gaps in support and services for our most advanced students are even more pronounced for children from minority, ELL, and low-income backgrounds. As our education policy focuses nearly exclusively on grade-level achievement in an effort to close the achievement gap for struggling learners, another achievement gap has been widening. Research on student performance on state and national tests shows that there is a growing gap at the top of the achievement scale between white students and students of color and between advanced students from low-income backgrounds and those from more advantaged circumstances. This achievement gap, dubbed the “excellence gap,” for high-ability students is especially problematic in light of the demand for a high-performing and highly skilled workforce to ensure U.S. economic competitiveness in the new global economy.

IBCS is committed to addressing the ongoing disproportionality in gifted education by actively seeking to offer equitable GT programming for our underserved populations. We accomplish this by intentionally placing students into the GT cluster classrooms through the lens of equity. Students that do meet the threshold for formal GT identification can be intentionally placed into the cluster classroom and offered full-time GT programming. We also actively seek to identify students from diverse backgrounds by encouraging participation in testing, universally screening all students in K and 2nd grade, sharing characteristics of giftedness in CLED (culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse) populations with teachers and advocating for equitable identification practices at the state and national level. Our goal is to have our GT programming reflect the population of students that we serve and become a model for what equitable access to GT programming should be. We seek to become a model for equitable access to gifted programming in the district.