I’m going to get straight to the point.
You know this whole Talent Development business coming from NAGC – and their need to redefine gifted education?
It’s not about the kids. It’s about the money.
To understand this, let’s go back in time to meet Kerri L. Briggs. Briggs grew up in Midland and Houston Texas. She received her doctorate in 1996 at the University of Southern California.
Within less than six years of working for the federal government, Dr. Briggs was appointed Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education by Bush Junior (also a native of Midland and Houston, Texas).
In 2008, under Dr. Briggs’ direction, the Department of Education proposed a new priority for Javits grants – the only source of federal funding for gifted research. Specifically, all future grant applications would be required to demonstrate scaling up, “a tipping point where at least 60% of the students who could benefit from an innovation are experiencing it in their educational setting”.
The rationale was explained in the Federal Register:
In order to have a national impact with the limited funds available for new awards under this program, the goal of this priority is to expand upon, field-test, and evaluate research-based interventions that have shown evidence of success in increasing the number of economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, or disabled students performing at high levels of academic achievement.
Now, I don’t know Dr. Briggs, so all I have to go on are basic records that anyone who does a google search can find.
[I’ll leave it to all the other Sherlocks to help figure out where exactly the idea of scaling up and gifted education originated – as I really don’t think it was Dr. Briggs’ brainchild. But, if you’re really interested in sleuthing, you may find it interesting that under Jeb Bush, Florida pushed the same gifted-scaling up agenda at the same time as Briggs did.]
All the same, the change in priority was eventually approved. Beginning in 2008, all Javits grant applications had to articulate scaling up academic achievement for underrepresented student populations.
Guess who got the money?
- Sally Reis, University of Connecticut
Dr. Reis is the wife of Joseph Renzulli, the Director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
- Carolyn M. Callahan, University of Virginia
Dr. Callahan is a former NAGC Board President and works at Renzulli’s alma mater and NRC-GT’s partner institution.
- Tonya Moon, University of Virginia
Dr. Moon earned her Bachelor and Master degrees at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She’s also the past Chair of the NAGC Research & Evaluation Network.
- Ann Robinson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Dr. Robinson served on the NAGC Board at the time of the funding and went on to be the Board’s President in 2009.
- Cheryll M. Adams, Ball State University—Center for Gifted and Talented Students, Teachers College
Dr. Adams received her Ph.D. from University of Virginia and has previously served on NAGC’s Board.
- Julia L. Roberts, Western Kentucky University
Dr. Roberts served on the NAGC Board of Directors beginning in 2003.
- Karen Rogers, University of St. Thomas
Dr. Rogers served on the NAGC Board of Directors in 2007. She, along with Ann Robinson, also served on the Task Force that developed NAGC’s position paper that redefines gifted as a those children achieving in the top 10%.
My concern is that we have another tangled web of talent development going on here.
On one hand, you can take a look at the list above and think, “Well, of course these folks got Javits money. They’re clearly leaders in their field. They must know what they’re talking about.”
Or, you can examine the list closely and see a pattern of nepotism that controls the purse strings and leadership positions mainly for people who can prove their lineage, in some form, back to Joseph Renzulli.
The problem is, this gross misuse of power stifles the creative exploration of best practices in the field of gifted education. UConn may do some good work in the field of gifted, but they certainly do not have all the answers. We need bold new researchers willing to challenge stale ideas in order for our field to grow and flourish.
Rather than advocate for the whole gifted child and rally against scaling up, NAGC has become complicit in reforming the concept of gifted in a manner that financially benefits few researchers and businesses.