Perspectives on the Impact of Connecticut’s new Gifted and Talented Law, PA 17-82

Connecticut took an important step in narrowing our state's excellence gap when the first law focusing on gifted and talented students, An Act Concerning Services for Gifted and Talented Students, was enacted by the Connecticut Assembly in May of this year, and took effect on July 1, 2017. The law imposes two requirements on the Connecticut's State Department of Education (SDE):

That requirement has already been met by appointment of Dr. Gil Andrada to the position of the State Consultant for Gifted and Talented Education.

Dr. Gil Andrada and the SDE is currently preparing the guidelines. Gifted education experts, including the National Center for Research on Gifted Education at UConn lend their expertise. CAG is also assisting in the guidelines' preparation process.

Although the new law does not provide money for gifted education and imposes no new mandates on the state's 166 school districts, it is expected to have a wide-ranging impact, especially on students who may have never been identified as gifted/talented and/or appropriately served by their local schools. In addition, this new law will strengthen the requirements of an existing Federal legislation, ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which, since 2015, requires the states to create a system of accountability for the educational progress of gifted and talented students, AND allows Title I funds to be directed towards gifted and talented programming.

What does this new law mean, in practice, for Connecticut students? We asked CAG's VP Bonnie O'Regan, Advanced Learning Program Facilitator, Greenwich Public Schools, and board member Penny Conti, G/T Teacher, New Haven Public Schools.

What does this new law mean for you as an administrator and teacher of the gifted?
Bonnie: What the new law means to me is that educators have a resource to go to when they have questions about how to identify gifted, how to serve gifted, and to ask "What are the best practices"? It's important to have somebody who's outside your district to objectively look at what you're doing. I called Dr. Andrada recently with a situation that had come up in my district to get advice on what the next steps we needed to take according to best practice. Penny: More information coming from the State Department of Education will be greatly welcomed. It could be especially beneficial to districts who have lost their gifted/talented program to drastic budgetary cuts.

What does the new law mean for your students?
Bonnie: It's a step in the right direction: the better informed that any educator is the better we are able to meet the needs of the students that we have. Penny: I think it puts us more front and center; people are realizing gifted children need attention. And that's certainly a good thing. If you're in a district that for whatever reason doesn't program for gifted and talented kids, the SDE is now obliged to share best practices for such programming with you. The more we know, the better prepared we are to help a child. Generally, students get only one chance to experience a grade during their schooling. It's important they are served well in each of those grades, K-12.

Will parents notice any change in how their child is educated or evaluated?
Bonnie: In districts that already have robust programs students and parents may not see large differences. In districts where they don't have programs it will have direct impact on the students because the district can be better informed about best practices, and will be able to take action. One of the first things I would like to help do with other educators in coordination with the SDE is update the pamphlets currently available on the CSDE website, 10 BIG IDEAS (for little money) that challenge high-achieving students, with no-cost/low-cost ways of serving gifted and talented students, and make it a part of best practices' guidelines. Penny: The more I know the more I can do with my students. We expect the new 'best practices' guidelines to help teachers and administrators establish and maintain gifted programming that best fits their student population and their districts' profile.

Will the state provide professional development for educators?
Bonnie: The law doesn't indicate that the state needs to be providing professional development for teachers, but it requires the SDE to have guidelines for best practices in professional development for educators. It also requires that appropriate educator training be provided for teachers of gifted and talented students. Once the guidelines are issued at the beginning of 2018, we will have a better idea of what may be possible. At the moment, CAG's Teacher Resource Group (TRG), and CAG's Professional Development program is part of CAG's outreach. Thus far, the State has been very willing to collaborate with CAG if a teacher or administrator contacts the state and asks 'how can I learn more about this, and how can I provide professional learning in the area of gifted ed for myself, or my teaching staff?

Does this change any actions parents should take in advocating for their child?
Bonnie: When advocating for their child, it is a resource for parents to also go beyond the school district, if necessary. Today, if a parent goes to their children's school they can now say "the state says THIS about best practice". Penny: I would think in districts that don't have a gifted program parents probably are and should continue to advocate for their child. The new law can spark more interest in that parents of gifted and talented children may go to the board of education to say "my child needs attention". We are in early stages of this new development, but need to make small steps moving in the right direction. They are all important steps.

Are there any national implications for CT?
Bonnie: I see national implications may be as subtle, but impactful. The biggest impact may be for those states that don't YET have anything for gifted/talented students. What we did in Connecticut can give them hope, and somewhat of a road map as to "this is how we got this done". Penny: Any help is helpful. CAG would be happy to share our experience with others.

How meaningful is this new law, given that currently there is no funding?
Bonnie: It goes back to the Simon Sinek's Golden Circle. The law is giving us the 'why' so that we can move into the 'how' and the 'what'. We have a law for the first time in CT. It gives us a place to start, which to me is huge. I think that it's going to be the impetus for next steps, saying "hey, we need more. It starts with the information". Penny: It's a step and we should be pleased. It's a start. We never had state guidelines for best practices in gifted education before. It's a very good point for parents, administrators, boards of education. If (when advocating for services) you can provide facts and knowledge (i.e. present the state guidelines) instead of just saying '" want this for my child" you have a much stronger case to start a meaningful conversation with the teacher.

What do you see as next steps?
Bonnie: Even without a budget the next steps would be actually doing 'something'. Right now CT has the mandate to identify but not to serve. Next steps would be a mandate to serve. Penny: If the state department of education could put together best practices using a no-cost/low-cost formula there could be some hope, especially for underserved districts in our state.

How does this new law affect CT schools/students overall?
Bonnie: Just the completion of the SDE survey sent out at the end of the school year raised awareness. The survey (which was sent to all district superintendents seeking information on what's currently being done for g/t students) served as a self-reflection of the program as it is and a self-evaluation of the program. Just knowing 'what is', the current status quo, is helpful. Best practice is best practice. A student doesn't need to be labeled gifted to benefit from being challenged. This law is about challenging every student to meet their potential. Penny: The better teachers are at their job, the better they can deliver to their students. Having the guidelines for best practices in meeting the needs of gifted and talented students will be a huge help to educators across all state districts.

CAG is hosting a series of informational forums on the new law in on October 12 at ACES in Hamden and on October 26 at CES in Trumbull and you can register for one of the forums here. If you would like to host an informational forum, please contact info@ctgifted.org.

Back to top ↑