Building an Exemplary Gifted Program
Our guest this week was Dr. Dina Brulles, Director of Gifted Education for Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona where she has developed a continuum of gifted education programs, Pre-K to 12. The programs she administers incorporate innovative uses of technology, empower underrepresented populations and provide extensive professional development opportunities.
Dr. Brulles is also the Graduate Gifted Program Coordinator at Arizona State University, a member of the NAGC Board of Directors, a consultant and author. She received the inaugural 2014 NAGC Gifted Coordinator Award and also the first NAGC Professional Development Network Award in 2013. Dina has served as president of the Arizona Association for the Gifted and Talented, vice president of SENG, and on leadership teams of NAGC Networks.
There are program goals that should be considered for all gifted programs striving to be exemplary. Dr. Brulles recommended programs “ensure that all GT students participate in the school’s gifted services; being responsive and modifying services for students’ ever-changing needs. GT should be embedded into school and district initiatives to build sustainable services and allow access to resources. This keeps GT in planning processes; including measures for accountability and teacher support.” Her efforts at Paradise Valley’s Gifted Program can be seen here and their fall professional development offerings here (pdf). Other goals mentioned included teacher certification with gifted endorsement and opportunities for social-emotional learning.
There are specific service options which should be available in gifted programs. According to Dr. Brulles, “Ideally schools provide continuum of services; challenge all gifted students including English Language Learners, twice-exceptional, highly and profoundly gifted, EC, and HS as I do at Paradise Valley Schools. You should use the NAGC Program Standards and identify areas of need as well as help advocate for services. Have your local school board adopt Gifted Programming and Scope and Sequence. Schools are then required to implement services.”
Although not always recognized, parents have an important role is developing gifted programs. Dr. Brulles told us, “Parent collaboration at all levels builds support. Sometimes parents can advocate for GT services better than teachers due to their roles. Development of gifted programs should be a team effort that includes all stakeholders.” In addition, parents should be informed of identification criteria and procedures; have access to application forms; and be included in ongoing district planning and evaluations of gifted programs.
Technology has an important role to play in the gifted classroom. “Tech promotes research, PBL, digital collaboration, creativity, student directed learning, and relevant learning. Students need immediate access to resources when engaged in meaningful study. Our GT students love coding and computational thinking! Even our gifted preschool students learn to code,” said Dr. Brulles. She added, “We support teachers via our Gifted Resource Site with PD, teacher videos, lesson banks, curricula and chat groups. Our gifted teachers also use Twitter in the classroom!”
How can service effectiveness be evaluated? In Paradise Valley, Dr. Brulles documents achievement growth by school, grade level and subject area to plan Curriculum & Instruction and PD. Annual evaluation of student progress can be done with standardized, achievement, and performance-based assessments as necessary. Individual knowledge-based assessments; data from teachers and parents identifying weaknesses and strengths can also be used to evaluate programs. Dr. Brulles said, “We alternate yearly with program evaluation 1 year and Parent-Teacher-Student surveys the next year; then use results to modify plans and plan support.” Ultimately a measure of success of a gifted program, she added was, “Happy, engaged students excited about what they are learning. Parents thanking us for what we do!” The transcript of this chat may be found at Storify. Check out videos about the Gifted Programs at Paradise Valley Schools on our YouTube channel.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Program Evaluation from the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented