Posts Tagged ‘SB 5354’

SSB 5354 passed out of the House Education Committee and now moves to the House Appropriations Committee.  That puts the bill one critical step closer to final passage. Unfortunately, the bill was amended by the House Education Committee and no longer contains the language requiring universal screening. We fear that without the universal screening requirement, when OSPI creates the report on equity that SSB 5354 requires it will point out that the districts who chose to adopt universal screening did better on addressing their issues than those districts who did not. There’s no need to delay this requirement. We know what the results will be.

What follows is the letter we sent to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that they schedule a hearing for SSB 5354 as soon as possible. If you’ve not yet shared your support for SSB 5354, please follow this link and choose the option to comment on this bill.


Members of the House Appropriations Committee:

SSB 5354: Concerning Programs for Highly Capable Students makes several targeted adjustments to existing law to correct problems that make Washington’s current highly capable program inequitable. As amended in the House Education Committee, perhaps the most important of those adjustments has been removed. Removal of universal screening will perpetuate existing inequities in the highly capable identification process and stands in direct opposition to the recommendations of scores of experts in the field. I urge you to schedule a hearing on SSB 5354 as soon as possible, and further that you restore the language requiring universal screening.

In recent years, Washington State has taken tremendous strides towards making access to highly capable services more equitable. Highly capable services are now recognized as basic education and are funded in the prototypical school model. Last year, the legislature explicitly required districts to prioritize the identification of low-income students but gave no direction on how best to achieve that goal.

The changes made by SSB 5354 reflect a comprehensive set of reforms that provide evidence-based guidance in support of increasing equity in our state’s highly capable programs. As passed unanimously by the Senate, SSB 5354 would also have required districts to adopt universal screening to ensure no student slips through cracks in the system.

The existing referral system misses too many students. This is not just a Washington state problem. It is a national concern. The research on this is clear.

The use of the nomination stage as the first step in the identification process is pervasive across the field of gifted education….In nearly all conditions, identification systems that require a nomination before testing result in a large proportion of gifted students being missed. Under commonly implemented conditions, the nomination stage can cause the false negative rate to easily exceed 60%. Changes to identification practices are urgently needed in order to ensure that larger numbers of gifted students receive appropriate educational placement and to maintain the integrity of gifted education services.[i]

Evidence that supports the use of universal screening in addressing issues of equity in gifted education programs is abundant. One study found that:

Without any changes in the standards for gifted eligibility, the [universal] screening program led to large increases in the fractions of economically disadvantaged and minority students placed in gifted programs. Comparisons of the newly identified gifted students with those who would have been placed in the absence of screening show that Blacks and Hispanics, free/reduced price lunch participants, English language learners, and girls were all systematically “underreferred” in the traditional parent/teacher referral system. Our findings suggest that parents and teachers often fail to recognize the potential of poor and minority students and those with limited English proficiency.[ii]

Recommendations on how to correct the existing identification system are equally clear:

  • Nominate and assess a larger number of students: Whatever the process is to determine eligibility, if you want to miss fewer students, formally evaluate as many as possible.[iii]
  • Adopt a policy of universal screening of all students in one or more grade levels for the identification process. Select assessment instruments that are culturally sensitive and account for language differences.[iv]

Our goal isn’t just to identify more students. Our goal is to provide students who are being systematically excluded from consideration for gifted programs with the education they need. As the Fordham Institute wrote in its report, “Is there a Gifted Gap?:”

Increasing the participation of qualified yet underrepresented students in gifted programming in elementary and middle schools would change the trajectories of these children and gradually lessen social and economic inequality.[v]

Their recommendation for how to close the gifted gap:

First, schools should employ universal screening practices to determine which children may benefit from gifted services. Such practices have been shown to boost participation of minority students and can be implemented at low cost….[vi]

It makes sense that we have staff at OSPI to help districts as they design and adjust their programs to make access more equitable. It makes sense to have staff at OSPI who can report what districts are doing in a timely fashion so we can build on what works, and change what doesn’t. It makes sense to have trained administrators and trained staff making the decisions about what needs to happen in their district. It makes sense that the people actually making decisions on placement for students have training on the characteristics of giftedness and the services that benefit these students. It makes sense to look at a broad pool of potential students, and to stop relying on a referral system that excludes some students for reasons other than need. It makes sense that we take down artificial barriers to participation, whether those barriers are thrown up during the referral and assessment process, or once a student is identified.

To exclude any of these reforms risks perpetuating a point of failure. The removal of universal screening from SSB 5354 risks creating a gifted gap sized hole in our highly capable program. Together, these adjustments will make access to highly capable services more equitable. We hope we can count on you to help us ensure every student who needs highly capable services is identified and served with the education they need. I urge you to schedule a hearing on SSB 5354 as soon as possible, and further that you restore the language requiring universal screening.


David Berg
Washington Coalition for Gifted Education

[i]   McBee, Matthew T., et al. “The Impact of the Nomination Stage on Gifted Program Identification: A Comprehensive Psychometric Analysis.” Gifted Child Quarterly, vol. 60, no. 4, Oct. 2016, pp. 258–278, doi:10.1177/0016986216656256.

[ii] Card, David, and Laura Giuliano. “Universal Screening Increases the Representation of Low-Income and Minority Students in Gifted Education.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 29 Nov. 2016, http://www.pnas.org/content/113/48/13678.full.

[iii] Peters, Scott J., et al. “Who Gets Served in Gifted Education? Demographic Representation and a Call for Action.” Gifted Child Quarterly, Mar. 2019, doi:10.1177/0016986219833738.

[iv] Gubbins, E. J., Siegle, D., Hamilton, R., Peters, P., Carpenter, A. Y., O’Rourke, P., . . . EsteparGarcia, W. (2018, June). Exploratory study on the identification of English learners for gifted and talented programs. Storrs: University of Connecticut, National Center for Research on Gifted Education.

[v] “Is There a Gifted Gap? Gifted Education in High-Poverty Schools.” The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, fordhaminstitute.org/national/research/there-gifted-gap-gifted-education-high-poverty-schools.

[vi] Ibid.

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SSB 5354 has passed out of the Senate Way & Means committee and has been sent on to the Rules Committee. Once received by the Rules committee, it is eligible for consideration. Since the bill received a unanimous vote in Ways & Means it is possible that it may be considered for the consent calendar as early as this week and sent to the floor for debate and a vote.

Please contact your Senator NOW and request his/her support for SSB 5354.

What do you want to say to your Senator? You could ask them to contact members of the Rules committee and request expeditious scheduling of SSB 5354. Or you could just express your support for SSB 5354 and ask for a yes vote on the floor. Or both. Or something else. Your choice.

There are a number of ways you can do this.

1. Use the comment on this bill option on the bill page and send only to your Senator. You don’t need to know who that is to use this as the system will tell you his/her name. Use the comment box to ask for support for SSB 5354.

2. Use the Legislative Hot Line. You need to know who your Senator is to do this. If you don’t, see 4 below. Prepare your message in advance and read it to the operator.


From the Legislative web site:

Toll-Free Hotline
Do you want to send a message to your Senator? Call our HOTLINE at 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 800.833.6388). Callers to the Hotline can leave a brief message for their district legislators on issues of concern or on questions they may have about bills or laws. These messages are forwarded electronically to the appropriate individuals. When leaving a message with the Hotline, please be prepared to give your name and street address. For non-English speaking callers we offer interpreter services for many languages.

During the Legislative session, the Hotline is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

3. If you already have your Senator in your email contact book, send an email with SSB 5354 in the subject line and ask for support.

4. Know who your Senator is but don’t have the email address? Use the Legislative web site to find your Senator and then click on Email to send one through this site.

Don’t know who your Senator is? Go to the District Finder and enter your information. A white message bubble will appear on the map. Click on your Senator’s name and it will take you to the Senate listing (see above paragraph) where you can send an email.

5. Although Legislators prefer email, you can also write a letter and mail it. Mail addresses can be found using the site in item 4 above.

6. If you have a close relationship with your Senator, you can always call his/her office directly. Phone numbers available at the Senate site in 4 above.

Whatever method you use, please contact your Senator as soon as possible. The deadline for getting this bill passed in the Senate and on to the House is March 13th.
It is imperative that contact with individual Senators be made as soon as possible.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

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SSB 5354 passed unanimously out of the Senate Ways & Means committee, with some amendments, and now goes to Rules for the next actions. The substitute bill is not yet posted but you can find it at the link above in a few days (so many bills were voted out of committees yesterday that it will take a while for the techs to catch up with their posting).

The procedures in Rules are somewhat arcane. Please read the following so you will know how it all works – or is supposed to work.


March 1 was the deadline for bills to advance from their chamber of origin. SHB 1641 was not heard in the House Appropriations committee and is effectively dead for this session. But if (when!!) SSB 5354 passes the Senate it goes to the House – where promising groundwork has already been laid in the public hearing and executive action in the Education committee on February 18. See http://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Bill2Law.aspx for the process.

Thank You to everyone who contacted legislators in support of this bill. We could not have done it without your active support.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

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We’ve attached our testimony to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Also testifying in favor of SB 5354 were Senator Ann Rivers, the Prime Sponsor of SB 5354; Jennifer Flo, Vice-President, Washington Association for the Education of the Talented and Gifted; Charlotte Akin, M.Ed., WCGE Executive Board, Past President WAETAG; Austina De Bonte, President, Northwest Gifted Child Association; Dr. Michelle Reid, Superintendent, Northshore School District.

WCGE SB5354 Testimony

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We have two (companion) bills on highly capable programs before the Legislature. SB 5354 and HB 1641:  Concerning Programs for Highly Capable Students. You can read the bill in its entirety here.

Getting a bill introduced is only the first step. 

Bills must get a public hearing in the policy committee(s) before the cut off date. Sometimes this is difficult to do. Over 1100 bills have already been filed this session with more to come and there will not be time to hear them all.

We want to be sure our bills get an early hearing in both the House Education Committee (HB 1641) and the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee (SB 5354). We ask your help in getting a hearing scheduled.

Below is a list of the members of the House and Senate education committees. If any legislator listed for either committee is yours, PLEASE email or use the hotline 1.800.562.6000 and request that they ask the committee chair to schedule an early hearing date. Be sure to give the appropriate bill number.

Not sure of your district or legislators? Go to https://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/

h_s education committees contact list.numbers

Please take this first step within the next 72 hours. Sooner is better than later.

There will be subsequent opportunities to advocate for these bills including one we’ll be sending out next week, but this is the first and most important. Without a hearing, the bills are dead and we’ll have to start all over again next year.

Thank you for taking this important step for our highly capable students!

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gifted ed day flyer 2019 - sb 5354 & hb 1641Download a PDF of this document here.

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