Washington promises a continuum of Highly Capable Program services K-12 to identified gifted students as part of basic education. These students can be found in school districts large and small, and across all demographic groups. Our districts seek to find and serve each of these students.
Inclusion in basic education has resulted in the identification and support of increasing numbers of gifted students from all backgrounds, particularly those from previously underserved populations. Yet districts continue to struggle to identify and serve all their eligible students due to a lack of adequate and equitable state funding.
Amid growing challenges—changing demographics, increasing diversity of the student population, and limited fiscal resources—addressing the needs of gifted students is a real issue. Underserved gifted students may include students who are already the focus of reform efforts: dropouts, students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and students who live in poverty. Research shows that between 18 percent and 25 percent of high school dropouts are identified as gifted. The majority of those students are from low-SES families and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.
Providing for the needs of gifted students is an important component of local school efforts. Using multiple measures to identify gifted and talented students and providing various strategies to meet their needs will go a long way toward helping these students excel academically (closing the achievement gap), stay in school (increasing the graduation rate and reducing the dropout rate), and be successful in their lives.
The direction and continuity of local gifted services and supports are heavily influenced by the strength of state policy initiatives and funding. Unfortunately, the state appropriation for the Highly Capable Program currently covers only about 15% of the actual costs to districts to provide this basic education service. We were very disappointed to see that the House budget proposal released today does nothing to remedy this.
In 2010, the Legislature created the Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group. Comprised of national and state experts on gifted education, the HCPTWG recommended the state increase funding to 5% of total student enrollment, and increase the number of hours of highly capable services funded to 6.5 hours per week in a class size of 15 for grades K-6 and 3.1 hours per week in a class size of 15 for grades 7-12. Funding the recommendations of the HCPTWG would be an important step towards ensuring equitable access to the state’s Highly Capable Program. Continuing to stand by an obsolete and inequitable formula and claiming to have met their obligation, as the House budget proposal did today, is not acceptable.