Just in time for this year’s Gifted and Talented Students Month, which falls in March, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Strengthening Gifted Education in New Jersey bill into law on Jan. 13. It is the first of two bills supported by the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC) to become law. The legislation allows a nine month “get ready” period.
After more than two decades delivering public testimony to the New Jersey State Board of Ed-ucation and meeting with the state’s Department of Education (NJDOE), NJAGC was advised to advocate for legislation requiring reforms to the current regulations in New Jersey Administrative Code supporting gifted students. Representatives from key education stakeholder groups collaborated to agree on the provisions of the new law.
“We advocate for our students every day in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the commu-nity,” said NJAGC Advocacy Vice President Roberta Braverman. “One group of students has often been overlooked in New Jersey. Parents and educators are working together to address the problems affecting the equity and access to quality gifted education services in schools across our state.”
Braverman cites NJDOE statistics, pointing out that New Jersey had 590 school districts with 2,516 school buildings in the 2016-17 school year. There are over 1.4 million public and public charter school students. In that year, there were 116,351 full-time classroom teachers.
Using this data, the NJAGC notes that if 10% of New Jersey’s students were identified as gifted in every grade, that would represent more than 140,000 students.
Braverman notes that few educators have had any courses in gifted education, though most are required to modify instruction for the gifted students, including meeting their academic and social-emotional learning needs.
“The Strengthening Gifted Education in New Jersey Act will help better meet the needs of stu-dents identified as gifted and the educators who work with them,” Braverman said.
The act includes these provisions:
• Redefines the current administrative code, including that multiple services should be provided, and the identification of gifted students should match the services provided.
• Clarifies that a student can be gifted in only one or in multiple subjects or areas.
• Requires that each school district reports the number of students identified as gifted by grade level and the number of teachers/administrators whose job includes identification of and services to gifted students.
• Requires a report by each district of policies, procedures, timelines for identification and instructional adaptations made for gifted students in a continuum of services for all levels K-12, including professional development for staff.
• Modifies the goal of meeting the NJSLS to match the student’s instructional level.
• Requires that the commissioner of education appoint a coordinator for gifted and talented programs with experience and training in the field of gifted education
• By the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, school districts must make information about gifted education available on the district webpage to include policies and procedures used to identify students as gifted and talented, complaint processes, and the continuum of services offered to gifted and talented students in the district.
• The identification process shall include consideration of all students, including those who are English language learners and those with Individualized Education Plans or 504 plans.
You can learn more about the new law and the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children, an NJEA affiliated group, by following @NJAGCgifted, on social media and through the website njagc.org.
Attend the NJAGC conference on March 20 for gifted education professional development, for guidance in identification and curriculum modification, and to network with administrators, teachers, counselors, psychologists, and specialists tasked with meeting the needs of the spe-cial needs of the gifted. Visit njagc.org for details.