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Advocacy Update – 12.7.17 – SB216 Update and Botkins Local Follow-Up

The Ohio Senate Education Committee met on 12.6.17. Due to the number of witnesses scheduled for SB216, the committee limited testimony to two issues: licensure and kindergartner readiness examinations. Testimony on gifted will be scheduled for a later date.  State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria gave testimony on all aspects of SB216. Press accounts of his testimony were limited and mostly focused on a difficult exchange between the superintendent and the bill’s sponsor. What the press did not cover was Superintendent DeMaria’s objection to the gifted professional development prohibition included in the bill. His statement regarding gifted was:

“A provision in SB 216 would prohibit the Department from requiring educators working with gifted students to do professional development focused on gifted education. This directly reverses a rule recently adopted by the State Board. The rule was developed with stakeholder input over a five-year period of deliberation and is designed to meet the needs of Ohio’s gifted students without overburdening educators. It was cleared through JCARR with no opponent testimony.

During the process of creating this rule, multiple superintendents testified that they wanted clear guidance and flexibility in serving gifted students. Families of gifted children stated that they wanted educators working with their students to have thorough training in gifted education. This rule is a balance of those interests. Before changing this requirement, the breadth of the discussion and the needs of these students should be taken into account.”

While it is certainly gratifying that Mr. DeMaria supports our position on this issue, his words do not matter as much to senators as emails from constituents. The gifted community must continue to contact their senators along with the members of the education committee.  Even if you emailed before, email again. To find your senator, please go to http://ohiosenate.gov/members/contacting-your-senator.  The education committee contacts are below:

Peggy Lehner (R) – Chair

Lehner@ohiosenate.gov

Matt Huffman (R) – Vice Chair

Huffman@ohiosenate.gov

William Coley (R)

Coley@ohiosenate.gov

Randy Gardner (R)

Gardner@ohiosenate.gov

Gayle Manning (R)

Manning@ohiosenate.gov

Rob McColley (R)

McColley@ohiosenate.gov

Steve Wilson (R)

Wilson@ohiosenate.gov

Louis Terhar (R)

Terhar@ohiosenate.gov

Vernon Sykes (D)

Sykes@ohiosenate.gov

Joe Schiavoni (D)

Schiavoni@ohiosenate.gov

Cecil Thomas (D)

Thomas@ohiosenate.gov

The message is simple: Please eliminate the provision in SB216 that would prohibit the state board from requiring any gifted professional training for classroom teachers providing gifted services. This provision will eliminate all accountability for gifted students and will lead to the degradation of true services. There will be no need for licensed gifted intervention specaialists if any classroom teacher can be a gifted service provider regardless of training. 

Please add your own sentiments about why having trained gifted instructors is important for gifted students.

This bill could be discussed possibly through February or March before being passed out of committee unless there is pressure from the bill sponsor and senate leadership to move the bill more quickly.

Previous Advocacy Update Clarification - I wanted to follow up on a statement that was made in an early advocacy update about Botkins Local where the district is requiring all teachers to undertake the gifted professional development, teachers who did not have identified gifted students in their classroom. I indicated that I didn’t understand why a teacher with no gifted students would be getting the training.  I received an email from the superintendent of this district who explained why all of the teachers were receiving the training. He stated that because it is a small district, they do not identify gifted students until the end of second grade, and they do not provide formal services until the 3rd grade. However, he felt strongly that even though there no identified gifted students in grades K-2, there were still unidentified gifted students in the classroom who would benefit from trained teachers. He also thought that it made little sense not to include the intervention specialist who worked with students with disabilities, because there are often students with multiple exceptionalities including, for example, gifted students who also have a reading disability. This was not a decision made as a misunderstanding of the standard. It was made with thoughtful intent. It was a local control decision, and it was made to benefit children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 12/8/2017
Last Update: 12/8/2017

Advocacy Alert – 11.21.17 – Testimony Needed for SB216 Hearing on 12.6.17

While SB216 was thought originally to be a bill that would receive plenty of discussion, it is unclear how many hearings will be held before this bill moves forward. A hearing has been scheduled for December 6, 2017 for opponent and interested party discussion.  It is critically important that gifted advocates weigh in on this bill. There are four critical features that will hurt gifted students:

  1. The provision that would prohibit the state board of education from requiring any classroom teacher providing services to gifted students from receiving professional development in gifted education. This provision would essentially make gifted services meaningless. Gifted students would merely be marked as served as they sit in a classroom with a teacher who has no training in how to meet their needs.
  2. Another issue that is bad for gifted students is a requirement that sub-group sizes remain at 30 for accountability and reporting purposes. These sub-group sizes are scheduled to be phased-down to 15 over the next few years under the new Ohio ESSA plan. This essentially hides the poor performance of minority, students in poverty, ELL, students with disabilities, and gifted students in smaller, rural districts. We know that gifted students in these districts are the least likely to be identified and served in the state. 
  3. There are also some issues under College Credit Plus that are troubling particularly one that states that if the same course is offered at both a high school and a university, the student must take the course at the high school. This is very bad news for our most gifted students who need to take the highest quality courses to get into out-of-state universities that will not accept credit from high school dual enrollment courses. This really undermines student and family choice.
  4. The last issue would permit a school district superintendent to employ a licensed teacher to teach a subject or grade level for which the person is not licensed. Again, this would undermine any level of integrity of service provided in any classroom. If a superintendent could allow any teacher to be gifted intervention specialist, gifted children in many districts will have no real support for their needs.

We need witnesses who can provide both written and verbal testimony at this hearing. We particularly need witnesses that can testify on one or more of above issues by speaking to: 

For more information about this bill including a Senate Education witness slip, please go to http://oagc.com/advocacyUpdates.asp  and look under the “132nd General Assembly” topic heading.

The hearing will take place on 12.6.17 at 3:15 PM in the South Hearing Room of the Ohio Senate building.  If you can provide written or verbal testimony, please email anngift@aol.com  for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 11/21/2017
Last Update: 11/29/2017

Advocacy Update – 11.8.17 – SB216 Hearing Recap and Update

On November 8, 2017, the Senate Education Committee received proponent testimony on SB216, the so-called education de-regulation bill.  Before testimony began, the committee chair, Senator Lehner, indicated that this bill was complicated and would need to have detailed discussion from multiple perspectives. This was not going to be a three hearing bill.

Almost twenty witnesses testified in favor of SB216. Most of the witnesses were district and ESC superintendents. Of these witnesses, three superintendents spoke to the issue of gifted professional development hours:

The testimony offered by Wickliffe City and Chardon Local superintendents and administrators indicated that “[G]iven the amount of additional training contemplated in a number of areas, meeting this standard seems to be unattainable for most districts. Further, all teachers with gifted licensure are already required to meet a six-hour licensure renewal requirement. By directing that this professional development be completed in gifted education, this objective could be completed without further mandate.”

(Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of the professional development requirement. Also, if the objective could be completed without further mandate than how is the standard unattainable? There are actual examples of many districts, large and small, that are meeting the standard. The larger question is why are some districts meeting the standard and others not?) 

The superintendent from Plain Local School had this to say about the gifted professional development. “We have professional learning communities scheduled daily and weekly in our district where valuable and relevant training is taking place. Teachers are constantly learning new teaching strategies to reach all students. In addition, my teachers are analyzing and evaluating data to ensure that they are differentiating in every classroom. I trust my teachers to make decisions based on their data to reach all students in their classroom.”

(The vast majority of classroom teachers have no knowledge of gifted children or training in gifted education. General differentiation techniques are not sufficient for this student population. Trust in general teaching ability is all well and good, as is differentiation for all students. But neither have been shown to be a good substitute for professional development that is specific to gifted students.)

Finally, the superintendent from Coldwater Exempted Village Schools disliked that his Advanced Placement (AP) teachers had to take gifted professional development for Advanced Placement to count as service when College Credit Plus instructors did not have the same requirement.  He believed that his district should decide what was appropriate.

(ODE staff has indicated that the department cannot impose requirements on programs run through the Department of Higher Education so professional development requirements cannot apply to College Credit Plus teachers.  It should be noted that Advanced Placement is not in and of itself service unless it meets the needs of the gifted student. The depth, breadth, and pace should also be differentiated. A later conversation with this superintendent indicated that his main concern was training for AP teachers.)

Only Jason Wood was asked any questions from the Senate Committee on the gifted professional development issue. Senator Huffman (bill sponsor) stated that a proponent of the gifted training told him that without a mandate for gifted training, districts wouldn’t do it. He then asked if Mr. Wood would do the training without the mandate. Mr. Wood said that they were doing the training. But how they do it and when should be up to the district, and if they thought ten hours was sufficient than that the district should only provide that level of training. He also indicated that the district provided a good deal of training in differentiation. (Again, general differentiation is usually not sufficient for gifted students.)

Senator Gardner asked Mr. Wood if 30 hours was too much, what would the right number be? Was the answer somewhere between nothing and 30 that could yield a compromise? Mr. Wood felt that that AP teachers should be exempt from all training and that districts should decide on all hours.

Testimony from all three witnesses can all be accessed at www.oagc.com/advocacyupdates under the “132nd General Assembly Legislation” heading. To view the hearing, please go to http://www.ohiochannel.org/collections/ohio-senate-education-committee?2. Click on the November 8 Senate Education Committee hearing. The testimony and questions from the senators for Mr. Woods is at the 2:08:30 mark in the video.

Once all witnesses were heard, Chairwoman Lehner indicated that her office would be pulling together interested party meetings on various issues. People interested in various topics should contact her office. 

Posted: 11/8/2017
Last Update: 11/16/2017

Advocacy Update – 11.1.17 Gifted Advisory Council Meets; SB216 Update; USDOE Grant News

Gifted Advisory Council Meets – Last week, the newly formed Ohio Gifted Advisory Council met for the first time. The Council which was included as part of the new gifted operating standards was formed to do the following:

(1)Represent a variety of stakeholders from diverse regions of the state, including parents, general and gifted educators, administrators and others as determined by the superintendent;

(2)Assist in the development and updating of a department-approved plan for gifted education in Ohio;

(3)Advise on policy recommendations;

(4)Serve as advisors in establishing criteria for review of proposals to implement innovative gifted services; and

(5)Establish criteria for identifying and recognizing schools, districts, and other educational providers

After brief introductions and a presentation about the new gifted operating standards, the council discussed the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats regarding the standards. The council will meet next on December 5th, 2017.  To view all the documents from the council, please go to www.oagc.com/advocacyupdates.asp and look for the “Gifted Advisory Council (2017) heading.

SB216 Update – The Senate Education committee did not meet for the past two weeks, but is expected to meet on November 8, 2017 at 1:30 P.M. It is very likely that proponent testimony will be taken on SB216. The committee hearing can be viewed online at www.ohiochannel.org. It will be interesting to view the testimony of those who support removing gifted professional development for classroom teachers. It is not clear when opponent and interested party testimony will begin as the Ohio General Assembly moves into the holiday months.

What should gifted advocates do now? Start a conversation with your own senator about the importance of providing professional development to classroom teachers serving gifted students.    Also, a short very polite note to committee members about your concerns is a good start. To find your senator, go to http://ohiosenate.gov/index and go to the “Find Your Senator.” The link to the committee members is http://ohiosenate.gov/committee/education . In case you need to review the specifics of SB216, please go to www.oagc.com/advocacyupdates.asp and look under the “132 General Assembly” topic.

Federal Grant News -- The USDOE has proposed new rules for the use of discretionary grants programs. The specific language is as follows:

Proposed Priority 5—Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents

In addition, the Department believes that students possessing special innate skills, talents, and abilities—especially such students from disadvantaged backgrounds—should be given every opportunity to realize their full potential for the benefit of the Nation at large. Developing and empowering students to become the innovators of tomorrow is essential for our economic competitiveness. Therefore, this priority also seeks to promote high-quality educational opportunities that nurture students' individual gifts and talents to prepare them for future success

(c) Developing opportunities for students who are gifted and talented (as defined in section 8101(27) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended), particularly students with high needs (as defined in this notice) who may not be served by traditional gifted and talented programs, so that they can reach their full potential, such as providing a greater number of gifted and talented students with access to challenging coursework or other materials

Public comments on this grant program will be taken until November 13th, 2017. To support this change, please go to:   https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/12/2017-22127/secretarys-proposed-supplemental-priorities-and-definitions-for-discretionary-grant-programs

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 11/1/2017
Last Update: 11/2/2017

Advocacy Update – 10.18.17 -  SB216 Sponsor Testimony Recap

Senator Matt Huffman provided sponsor testimony on SB216 today in the Senate Education hearing. His written testimony was short and mainly referred to the list of issues addressed in the bill. This summary is posted at http://www.oagc.com/files/Ohio%20Public%20School%20Deregulation%20Act%20Summary%20of%20Items.pdf . It was clear from his spoken testimony, which can be viewed at http://www.ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-senate-education-committee-10-18-2017 (starting at the 29:30 mark) that the

gifted professional development prohibition provision is not a minor issue to him in this bill. He shared that teachers in Botkins Local were required to get gifted professional development when they had no gifted students in their classroom. As the gifted standards for service are not mandated, it is unclear why this district is implementing gifted PD in all classrooms. It is very clear, however, that Senator Huffman believes that the provision is a mandate is for all, and he is unlikely to be dissuaded by the facts over his superintendents’ views. Even though he has stated that he wants a robust conversation on the bill, it is unlikely that he will personally change this provision. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t hear from his constituents. He believes that superintendents are the best people to decide what the children need in their district and if parents don’t like it they should complain to their local school boards. Other senators on the committee have different views on this, which they shared both publicly and privately.

This bill is highly controversial. It will not be moving anywhere quickly. But it could move forward at some point. The Senate hasn’t heard about gifted in some time. They will, without a doubt, get an earful about the gifted provision from superintendents, particularly in Northwest Ohio. If Senator Huffman’s example from Botkins is any indication, we will need to do counter this testimony with the facts and with the stories from other superintendents, teachers, and children who are benefiting from this new provision. This committee also needs to hear from parents, especially regarding how difficult it is to advocate for gifted students in small, rural districts. While Senator Huffman may remain adamant about this provision, other senators are more likely to listen.

While the Senate Education Committee schedule has not been posted yet, there will likely be proponent testimony on Wednesday at 3:15 pm. Again, it can be viewed online at www.ohiochannel.org.

What should gifted advocates do in the meantime? Start a conversation with your own senator about the importance of classroom teachers serving gifted students with   Also, a short very polite note to committee members about your concerns is a good start. To find your senator, go to http://ohiosenate.gov/index and go to the “Find Your Senator.” The link to the committee members is http://ohiosenate.gov/committee/education .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 10/19/2017
Last Update: 10/19/2017