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Gray Matters Volume 14, Issue 3

February-March, 2013

Published by the Office of Advanced Academic Services, Boulder Valley School District

In This Issue: Changes in the Office of Advanced Academic Services

Changes in the Office of Advanced Academic Services We hope you enjoy the new look for Gray Matters! We feel this will be a better format for online reading of the newsletter. As always, we appreciate your feedback. January saw some major changes in the Office of Advanced Academic Services. Jennifer Barr, the Coordinator of AAS for the past 8 years accepted an interim half-time position at

TAG Educational Advisor Meetings

Monarch High School as the Dean of Students. She is not leaving her position as BVSD’s GT coordinator.

She is keeping some of her key responsibilities in that position and

delegating others to the newly hired interim .5 coordinator. She remains committed to Enrichment Activities

talented and gifted student learning and effective programming in the BVSD. Late in January, interviews were held and Pam Gentry was offered and accepted an interim .5 position beginning in February. She is a licensed teacher who has been the TAG Advisor

Professional Development

at Kohl Elementary School for several years. We welcome Pam to the Office of Advanced Academic Services.

Challenges in Counseling Gifted and Talented Nontraditional Students

TAG Educational Advisor Meetings All TAG Educational Advisors are expected to attend the monthly TEA meetings. These are held on the second Monday of the month from 8:30-11:00 a.m. in the Black Diamond Room of the Ed Center. Substitutes for teachers are provided by the Office of Advanced Academic Services. There is no meeting in March.

Enrichment Activities BVSD Sponsored Enrichment Activities Literary Magazine

Submission Due

Feb. 22, 2012

Science Fair

CU Glenn Miller Ballroom

Feb. 23, 2012

History Day

Front Range Community College

Mar. 10, 2012

Destination Imagination

Monarch HS

Mar. 17, 2012

Additional enrichment activities that are not BVSD sponsored can be found HERE


Professional Development Opportunities

TAG-101

February 27, 2013

TAG Nature and Needs of Gifted Students (for Aspen Creek plus others)

March 12,2013

The Road to Recovery from Perfectionism

March 7, 2013

National History Day Assistant

April 5 and 6, 2013

National History Day Judge

April 2 and 6, 2013

TAG-Affective Characteristics of Gifted Learners (for Aspen Creek plus others)

April 18, 2013

Taming the Worry Monster: Anxiety in Gifted Children

April 9, 2013

TAG-Instructional Practices for Gifted Learners

May 16, 2013

Socratic Seminar Facilitator Training

Course start dates: June 6 and August12, 2013 See Avatar for details

Guidance and Counseling Challenges for Nontraditional Gifted and Talented Students by Becky Whittenburg

Whether gifted and talented or not, most high school graduates who go to college enter traditional BA programs at liberal arts colleges. Some GT students will gain placement and/or credit through Post Secondary Option classes, AP or IB exams but few have enough credits to enter college as sophomores. Students who skipped grades, had accelerated placement or significant differentiation based on their needs as gifted K-12 students are likely to find themselves in general classrooms with freshmen of all abilities and achievement levels. In college they may be facing the same issues of boredom, superficial curriculum, repetition or slow instructional pace that they faced during their K-12 years if their accelerated learning needs were not addressed. In larger state institutions these 100 and 200 level classes may have a hundred or more students suggesting differentiation is highly unlikely. My question is, how are we preparing gifted students for nontraditional pathways and/or continuing high levels of education? In its 2009 Position Paper, Nurturing Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) states, “Given the salience of giftedness in social and emotional development and the likelihood that career and academic concerns have implications for well-being, school and other counselors need to be prepared to work with highly able students” (NAGC, 2009). “One non-negotiable requirement in serving gifted students is that the counselor must be knowledgeable about the nature and development of the gifted student” (Robinson, et al., 2002; Silverman, 1993). High school counselors in Colorado usually negotiate their maximum or target case load with their districts through the collective or individual bargaining process. In the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) the high school caseload for staffing is 450 students to one counselor. At middle school it is 350 to one, and both ratios are significantly higher than the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) recommended maximum of 250 students per school counselor caseload. Although a few Colorado school counselors are assigned only GT students (usually in a magnet school setting), most have a caseload of mixed ability students. Counselors may be called upon to provide expertise and guidance for those headed into a halfway house, a traditional liberal arts school, an Ivy League institution, a journeyman or apprentice program, military academy and more - and that is just for the post-secondary part of their job. In addition, counselors provide letters of recommendation and guidance regarding gap year options. The ASCA states that the school counselor “assists in providing technical assistance and an organized support system within the developmental comprehensive school counseling program for gifted and talented students to meet their extensive and diverse needs (italics added) as well as the needs of all students” (ASCA, 2007). Some suggest that between ASCA and NAGC information availability, “a school counselor is well informed of what needs to target but not necessarily how to meet those needs” (Wood,2010).


A survey of colleges and universities in Colorado shows that in spite of this, school counselors in Colorado likely receive little to no training in the unique characteristics and needs of gifted students. It is entirely possible that the heavy caseload combined with a lack of preservice training may result in school counselors who are inadequately prepared to meet the needs of gifted students, especially those who are pursuing nontraditional pathways.

School Colorado State University

Degree Program M.Ed. in Counseling and Career Development

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs University of Colorado at Denver

MA in Counseling and Human Services: School Counselor

University of Northern Colorado University of Denver

MA in School Counseling

MA in Counseling

MA in Counseling Psychology

Gifted Coursework None required. Some mention in an elective class. Special needs populations are included in one 3-hour class and GT may be included. None required. Some GT mention is included in the class focusing on special populations. No electives about gifted offered. None required. GT may be included in 2 classes. Students may have opportunities to personalize projects in some classes and that interest may be in GT. None required.

None required. School has GT degree and endorsement programs. Students may request permission to take a GT class as an elective which must be approved.

I conducted interviews with BVSD high school counselors who report that students themselves may not be open to suggestions of alternative pathways following high school graduation. Students who are, according to one counselor, “hyper focused on school achievement” tend to be rule followers, they “do school well” and believe that there is but one sequence through life. They may think that deviating from what they’ve always been told comes next in the linear sequence is untenable. They may find the very thought frightening. “Decision-making concerning postsecondary plans can be confusing as students try to balance the expectations they have of themselves and the expectations others have for them” (Greene, 2002). Pressure over improving graduation rates also discourages counselors from exploring the full range of options with their gifted and creative students. When students who opt for GEDs count against graduation rates and legislators impose expanded seat time requirements, school counselors have to think long and hard about supporting some students to take nontraditional routes even if it is clearly a viable, even preferable option for them. Quite a few gifted students, especially dancers, models, and actors, have careers while still in their teens that cannot be put off until later. “Students (gifted) in the visual and performing arts . . . have different needs” (Clark and Zimmerman, 2004). These students also have different counseling needs, in addition to different or accelerated pathways, because they fear that their talents and passions will be misunderstood or deemed unrealistic (Wood, 2010). They may benefit from counseling to help in the struggle against stigma; stereotyping; peer resentment; unsupportive families; and myths about eating disorders, mental instability, mental illness, drug/alcohol abuse, and other negative expectations (Wood 2010, Oreck, Baum & McCartney 2000). They would also benefit from counseling as they do the work, usually faced later by more traditional students, of early self-determination, self-knowledge, self-understanding and self-identity. According to Clark and Zimmerman (2004), this may lead them to hide those abilities and plans from their schools further exacerbating issues of access to counseling through the school counselor network. Some of these students go on to complete their educations, if they have the support, ability, time and flexibility, by skipping grades, enrolling in online classes, hiring private tutors, and homeschooling while others simply drop out. In my search, I found no evidence of any who turn their back on their career in order to meet seat time and high school attendance or course requirements. There is some evidence that school counselors may not present the full range of options to students in order to keep them in school. When schools force a choice, students with careers that necessitate youth are highly unlikely to choose school


over blossoming careers that need to begin in adolescence. Not only are school counselors potentially unprepared through their preservice training to guide gifted and talented students with high potential for success in these performance careers, but online tools such as ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Planning), Naviance and College in Colorado also tend to focus on post-secondary educational avenues and more typical career choices. ICAP is a state tool used to guide students toward discovering what their post-high school path might be by taking students through personality tests, interest inventories, school achievement and other data reported by the student. It is self-guided and dependent on the motivation and buy-in of the particular student. It can be helpful for the student who, for instance, enjoys math, working in small groups or alone, likes skiing, is stronger and more interested in the sciences but also holds little interest in literature and dislikes writing. In that case, ICAP may guide the student to look at careers in lab sciences or field studies as opposed to writing for science journals. It can also help students understand the connection between certain courses and future careers. For the student who already knows where her/his passion lies and the career s/he wants to pursue, such programs are of little help, especially in nontraditional areas. In cases such as a professional or pre-professional dancer, for example, these programs may be able to link to schools with collegiate dance major programs, but not major dance companies well suited to a particular kind of dance and a particular type of body of a particular student, never mind those trained in and enamored by Cecchetti or Bournonville technique but not Graham. A counselor would not be expected to have the detailed knowledge to personally recommend dance company programs, but with a much smaller caseload s/he would be able to help guide the student in finding out that information for her/himself. Those students who aspire to the highest levels may outgrow their local mentors and teachers who also find themselves woefully inadequate to give muchneeded advice and guidance. For example, perhaps a student’s acting mentor has a career in community theater, but not in television or motion picture and not on Broadway. This impacts the student because the mentor, like the counselor, is unlikely to have the necessary connections or knowledge base to help the student gifted in acting further pursue that career choice. This leaves gifted students in performing arts each on a solo journey toward an unknown future guided by talent and a dream. Thankfully, the Internet makes possible explorations from the National Ballet of Norway to the Actors Studio in London to the apprentice program of Cirque du Soleil. Support from families and schools are important to the development of these gifted students’ talents as are the characteristics of perseverance, sustained concentration, focus and time to practice in their talent area (Csikszentmihayli, Rathunde & Whalen, 1993; Sabol, 2006). These are students who may be minimally engaged at school but intensely engaged in their work outside of school, another factor that can make leaving high school early a viable choice. School counselors are in a position to have huge impact on these students if they are trained to understand and meet the needs of these nontraditional, gifted students, if the school environment increases the likelihood that counselors will know who these students are, if they are willing to explore all options with nontraditional students and if the caseload is manageable. School counselors risk squandering that impact by disregarding or dismissing the intense drive present in those committed to achieve in these fields and by not honoring the demands made by these career choices. Once the student leaves school, though, they leave access to the school counselor as a resource even as other options such as life coaches, private career and college counselors are available, but at a cost. Many of the high level companies are aware of these issues in programs such dance, drama, film and modeling, so offer in-house counseling for career transition since many people age out of these careers due to injury, waning opportunity or simply wish to do something different. The Woods study (2010) examined gifted student experiences in counseling programs. Students in this study reported that “meeting adults with careers in (my) area of interest and talent and “making a flexible outline or blueprint of a course of study best tailored to the (my) needs and interests” ranked highest in academic counseling program components. “Working as an apprentice or an intern at a place which emphasizes my talents or interests,” “having a mentor in my field of talent or interest that I can talk with on a consistent basis,” and “shadowing a professional who is working in my field” were ranked highest in career counseling options. Van TasselBaska (1998) echoes Wood’s findings and recommends counselors take into consideration the gifted student’s abilities and provide multiple paths for postsecondary planning, however Wood (2010) goes on to say that school counselors must first be exposed to and familiar with both NAGC and ASCA standards in order for favorable impact to be the likely outcome. My final question is, if I was a newly graduated school counselor from UCD and I entered my first high school assignment with a caseload of 400 diverse students including both traditional and nontraditional gifted students, some of whom were already engaged in early careers, would I be equipped with the time, knowledge and skills to support gifted students and nontraditional pathways? My research suggests that I would not. As long as school counselor programs fail to adequately prepare counselors in the nature, development and needs of gifted children and caseloads remain unacceptably high, gifted and talented students, especially those following nontraditional paths, are not likely to receive the guidance and support they need from the very people positioned to help them the most.


References: American School Counselor Association (2003). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs. Fairfax, VA: ASCA. American School Counselor Association (Revised 2007). Position Statement: Gifted Programs. Retrieved January 30, 2013, http://asca2.timberlakepublishing.com/files/PS_Gifted.pdf Clark, G. & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Teaching talented art students: Principles and practices. New York Teachers College: Columbia University. Csikszentmihalyi, M., Rathunde, K., & Whalen, S. (1993). Talented Teenagers: The Roots of Success and Failure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Greene, M.J. (2002). Career counseling for gifted and talented students. In M. Neihart, S. Reis, N. Robinson, & S. Moon (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 223-236). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. National Association for Gifted Children (2009). Position Paper: Nurturing Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children. Retrieved January 30, 2013, http://www.nagc.org/index2.aspx?id=5092 Oreck, B., Baum, S.., & McCartney, H. (2000). Artistic talent development for urban youth: The promise and challenge (Research Monograph Series). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on Giftedness and Talent ERIC Document Services No. ED451665. Robinson, N. M., Reis, S. M., Neihart, M., & Moon, S. (2002). Social and emotional issues: What have we learned and what should we do now? In The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 267-288). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. Sabol, F. R. (2006). Development of visual arts talent in adolescence. In F. A. Dixon & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The handbook of secondary gifted education (pp. 221-247). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. Silverman, L. K. (1993). Counseling the gifted and talented. Denver, CO: Love Van Tassel-Baska, J. (1998). Counseling talented learners. In J. Van Tassel-Baska (Ed.) Excellence in educating gifted and talented learners (pp. 489-509). Denver, CO: Love. Wood, S. (2010). Best practices in counseling the gifted in schools: What’s really happening? Gifted Child Quarterly, 54, 41-58.

Gray Matters Newsletter Spring 2013  

Gray Matters is the newsletter of the BVSD Office of Advanced Academic Services

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