Loki and the Gifted Children

This beautiful mural is on the side of the James Bay Community School.

When I go to schools to talk with and listen to  parents as they arrive with their children, often one person will want to come back to talk about an issue that is especially important to him or her.

Today I listened to questions and comments about the shamefully inadequate funding for extra service and support for gifted children, and the strange delay in testing.

A 2009 Maclean’s article (I wish they’d move that maple leaf over) discussed erosion of services to gifted children:  “As his classmates learned phonics [I’ve got lots to say about phonics, but not here, not now] Marshall says her son, who by five had graduated to the Harry Potter series, sat alone with a novel…. in B.C., the number of students identified as gifted has dropped by nearly half since 2000. (The decline coincides with the province’s 2002 decision to stop earmarking special education dollars, which, says [former] Education Minister Shirley Bond, gives boards “flexibility” to “best meet those needs.”)…. [T]he context for cutting special education services is rarely the subject of candid discussion.”

In twenty years of teaching in Special Education / Learning Support / Reading Recovery in Greater Victoria, I’ve seen first hand the erosion of service to gifted children. Teachers who have “Gifted” as part of their school assignment often receive a FTE point (full time equivalent – 1.0 = a full teaching day) for “gifted” of something like .02. That works out to about half an hour every two weeks for a small group of identified students.  Fun? Probably. Serious investment in bright young minds? Not so much.

I went looking for a support and information group for parents.

The BCTF support and information group link doesn’t work.

The BC Association for Gifted Children seems to be in hiding, because I can’t find a link that connects. It shouldn’t’ be this difficult. One of the several BCAGC pages I found is inextricably entwined with the political presence of an MLA. Odd.

I tried Mensa. The site has lots of information about gifted children (and provides a scholarship – check it out). But again, the link to the BC Gifted Children’s Association didn’t work, so I tried a Calgary link, clicked though to British Columbia, and again found a link to BCGCA. Clicking  that got me to the Vancouver Community Network, where Brian on the phone help desk. found that BCAGC is not hosted on VCN but is hosted on a different server: pwcows.com.  Brian found an address, president@gca.bc.ca. I emailed, and it bounced as an “unrouteable address”.

I went back to Mensa and followed the link to the BC Ministry of Education Special Education page where  the government manual “Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines” addresses Gifted Designation on page 60 of the pdf. The Ministry says “Early identification of students who are gifted is an important element in planning and delivering appropriate educational programs for these students.”  Makes sense. If they’re not identified, how could service be targeted? Oh, but wait – remember that 50% drop in gifted people  in BC referred to in that Maclean’s article? And Grade Five is “early”?

There are lots of “shoulds” in this manual, including in regard to the education of gifted children.  I always felt when reading it as a teacher that the “shoulds” were like reading “should be able to feed 50 with one croissant”. I still feel that way.

Funding for gifted children and for the entire public education system has been dramatically eroded in terms of real dollars since 2001, regardless of the predictable creative accounting–based government “highest funding ever” silliness.   CUPE BC, not alone in thinking we have an emergency in regard to public education funding in BC,  identified ‘emergency action’ as being required in April 2010. It hasn’t got better since then.

All this from a walk around a pleasant neighbourhood in Victoria, talking with parents and walking with a friendly orange cat named Loki.

About Diane McNally