The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) has a 30-year history of providing support to educators and parents to meet the unique needs of gifted and talented students. TAGT has been a leader in advocating for laws and rules that ensure these students’ needs are met.
Under Texas Education Code (state law) §29.122, “…each school district shall adopt a process for identifying and serving gifted and talented students in the district and shall establish a program for those students in each grade level…”
The Texas Administrative Code (state rule) 19 TAC §89.3 states “School districts shall provide an array of learning opportunities for gifted/talented students in kindergarten through grade twelve and shall inform parents of the opportunities.”
The Texas State Board of Education has adopted the following as its goal for services for gifted learners: “Students who participate in services designed for gifted students will demonstrate skills in self-directed learning, thinking, research, and communication as evidenced by the development of innovative products and performances that reflect individuality and creativity and are advanced in relation to students of similar age, experience, or environment. High school graduates who have participated in services for gifted students will have produced products and performances of professional quality as part of their program services.”
These are examples of a state law, a state rule, and a state goal that the State of Texas recognizes gifted students must have for their specific needs to be met. However, one of the most important tasks that the parent of a gifted child undertakes is to be that child’s educational advocate.
Why is it critical for parents to serve as education advocates?
Because despite the lofty goals stated above, there is no accountability for gifted education written into law. Therefore, the quality of services for gifted students will vary greatly from school district to school district, from school to school within a school district, and even from grade to grade within a given school.
While many districts have quality programs in place that meet the needs of the gifted; many others do not have such programs. Advocacy is a significant factor that impacts the quality of a school district’s program for the gifted. The most effective advocacy comes from inside the district and from the outside community. These advocates can maintain the necessary vigilance that ensures gifted programs remain a priority.
When there is no advocate within the school system, the role of the parent advocate becomes even more valuable. A group of advocates can increase the likelihood of having an impact—there is potential strength in numbers. But it is important to establish a positive working relationship with the school district. Good advocacy is most effective when the advocates has done their homework, and know how and when to approach school leaders in a positive and professional manner.
There are approximately 20 Parent Support Groups in Texas that have affiliate memberships with TAGT. View the list. About half of them have web pages. Visit their websites and see what information you can learn from them. Contact their leaders to find out first-hand what issues they face and what strategies have been successful for them.
How to organize a parent group in support of gifted education
• TAGT Past-President Colleen Elam wrote “Advocating for Appropriate Education for Your Child,” an article full of good advice for parents of gifted children.
• Colleen Elam also wrote “What Makes a Parent Group Successful?” a number of years ago, but the lessons therein are still timely about how such a group can have a lasting impact.
• The “Friends of Libraries” articles, while designed for library support groups are very clear and well-organized and provide excellent tips for forming any type of advocacy group.
• “Supporting Gifted Education Through Advocacy” by Sandra Berger is an overview of the rationale and methods used by effective advocacy groups.
• The Sample Bylaws of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Association for the Gifted and Talented (HEBAGT) will give you an example of how one group has achieved ongoing success using a more formal structure for its design.
• “Suggestions for Good Advocacy” provide a reminder of the best ways to approach and behave with various people in your role as advocate.
• For a wide range of articles related to advocacy, visit the Gifted Advocacy page on the Hoagies Gifted Education Page. (Links offsite)