Fort Bend ISD updates new action plan for gifted and talented program

Fort Bend ISD is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the 2019-20 school year.

Fort Bend ISD is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the 2019-20 school year.

Fort Bend ISD outlined plans to revamp the identification process for its gifted and talented program to increase the number underrepresented groups of second-graders.

The Texas State Plan defines “gifted and talented” as “a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment and who:

  • exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area;

  • possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or

  • excels in a specific academic field.”

Typically, 5%-6% of students in a district are identified as gifted and talented, said Laurie Westphal, FBISD’s new  director of the program. Based on the district’s 76,000 students at 80 campuses, that means about 4,500 students across the district, or 57 students per campus, are identified.

“We need to make sure that parents really need to understand that your kid may be a high achiever, but that doesn’t mean they are [gifted and talented],” FBISD trustee Dave Rosenthal said during the July 15 board meeting. “There needs to be some learning that happens in the community, in the parent realm.”

Research and analytics firm Hanover Research administered a survey during fall 2018 to 7,326 elementary, middle and high school students—gifted and non-gifted—in grades three, six and 11.

One key finding was underrepresentation of certain student subgroups in the program at grade 2, including African American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, Limited English Proficient and special education students. As a result, the district will test all second grade students.

“By testing across the board in second grade, we might see more of those things that even parents aren’t seeing,” Westphal said.

To increase the identifications, Alice Ledford, FBISD executive director of strategic planning, said the district's program task force recommended:

  • using multiple methods for identification and screening;

  • reviewing demographic data;

  • maintaining pathways for teachers and parents to nominate students for the program; and

  • beginning to identify giftedness in other areas, such as leadership, visual and performing arts, and creativity.

Two years ago, the task force began working on a framework and recommendations for the program. In 2018, a parent advisory committee was created to help the task force with five-year task maps to support the identification recommendations and other goals, said Stephanie Williams, FBISD Teaching and Learning executive director

For the 2019-20 school year, the task force will work on implementation and alignment of its plan with the Texas State Plan as well as to set goals and milestones for the program, Williams said.

The trustees agreed that they would like to see those milestones be measurable and to have the task force address the board at a future meeting.

“We will be spinning our wheels for nothing if we don’t provide those students with the resources they need,” Trustee Kristin Tassin said.
By Christine Hall
Christine Hall joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2018, and covers Missouri City and Fort Bend ISD. She previously reported on health care innovation for the Texas Medical Center, was a freelancer, and held various news roles at the Houston Business Journal.