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WCE Hosts Conference on Needs of AIG Students

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The sixth annual conference for AIG coordinators

On May 8, Watson College of Education was host to the sixth annual conference for AIG coordinators, teachers and counselors from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction  AIG Region 2 local educational agencies in southeastern North Carolina. The event was coordinated by Eddie Caropreso, associate professor and AIG program coordinator.

The conference focused on the social and emotional needs of academically or intellectually gifted students.

Rick Courtright, the gifted education research specialist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), was the keynote speaker. Duke TIP offers a variety of programs and resources for gifted students in grades 3 through 8.

During his remarks, Courtright addressed myths about gifted students and insufficient resources devoted to nurturing their many talents. One common misconception, he said, is that resources can be placed elsewhere since AIG students can easily comprehend information. Also, that gifted students are all alike and excel at everything. To support his point, Courtright cited research conducted by Tracy Cross of The College of William & Mary who found, “The gifted are the most heterogeneous group to study because they can vary the most on the most variables.”

Gifted children see the world differently because of the complexity of their thinking, often feel like misfits and sometimes feel pressure to sacrifice talent to achieve social acceptance, Courtright said.

Research by The Columbus Group has characterized giftedness as “asynchronous development.”

Students often manifest high achievement in one domain, but not another, said Courtright.  For example, a young student might be able to do pre-algebra yet still lack the fine motor skills needed to tie shoes. Our society has an insufficient understanding of gifted students and these children often experience someone saying, “You can’t do that? I thought you were gifted,” he said.

Heredity, environment and motivation all play a role in determining who is gifted and what students can achieve. Courtright said the increased focus on standardized learning and testing in school and the many myths surrounding gifted students can hold them back. He challenged teachers to do more to help AIG students reach their potential.

The sixth annual conference for AIG coordinatorsThree panels, comprised of students from Codington Elementary, Roland-Grise Middle School and Hoggard High School, were also featured at the conference.

Karma Maples, gifted education specialist at Codington, said gifted students are in the general education program and take AIG as a class for 45 minutes each day. Four students on the panel said they like the challenge of AIG and enjoy participating in after-school activities like Battle of the Books. The students also participate in sports, music and other activities. Asked what more the school could do to help them, they suggested spelling bees, math challenges and interesting books. One student said, concisely, “More projects… fewer essays!”

Asked if they had ever been bullied, three said no. The fourth said, “Sometimes people say, ‘Point at the nerd,’ and they point at me, but it’s not really bullying because it’s a compliment.”

At Roland-Grise, gifted students are separated from on-level students. AIG coordinator Elin Reuben explained that there are also different levels in the AIG program and students can accelerate to high school courses in math, history and science. Four eight graders who participated in the panel said they like AIG because it’s challenging, everyone works hard, and that their opinions matter.

Asked what they would change, students mentioned eliminating work similar to on-level classes and their frustration with delayed access to teachers in the North Carolina Virtual Public School classes.  In terms of social and emotional needs, the students all said they’re comfortable with who they are, and have friendships with AIG and non-AIG students.

The sixth annual conference for AIG coordinators
Advanced Placement classes are offered at the high school level instead of the AIG program. Students on a panel from Hoggard High led by AIG Specialist Jean Hall said, “AIG programs in elementary and middle school are excellent, but when it comes to high school, you’re on your own.”

One added, “The harsh reality of high school is that your sole focus is on getting into college, and you need to take AP courses, get the grades and get the extracurricular to do that.”

Asked what could be improved, the students said more real world application of material covered in class and an AIG coordinator or more counselors so they have access to a person for assistance and advice.  One junior and aspiring engineer said he has met with his counselor three times since he began high school because “they don’t understand what we need and they don’t have time for everyone.”

Following the conference, Caropreso said he was proud of the students who participated on panels and particularly impressed with Kyle, a Hoggard junior who has taken the initiative to go out and find real world applications for what he’s learning in school. Caropreso expressed frustration with the increasing emphasis on standardized tests and test results in schools, pressure on kids to take AP classes to beef up their resumes to attract scholarships for college rather than to learn, and a lack of teachers and counselors to help nurture and develop the many talents of gifted learners.

The sixth annual conference for AIG coordinators“Tests are a narrow measure of learning accomplishments and potential, and the kids are right about a lack of resources at the high school level,” he said. “In elementary school, there’s an AIG coordinator for 20 kids or so, but by high school, counselors are responsible for hundreds of students.”

Still, Caropreso is encouraged when he speaks directly with students.

“They’re our best cultural asset, and we should continue to do everything we can to help AIG students reach their potential,” he said.

Duke TIP is a global leader in identifying academically gifted students and providing them with opportunities to support their development. For information, visit http://tip.duke.edu/

For information on North Carolina Academically or Intellectually Gifted program standards, visit http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/academicservices/gifted/ncaig-program-standards.pdf