The tip of the ice burg

I once heard the analogy that visiting a classroom for a day is like looking at the tip of an ice burg just above the surface of water. I feel like have now broken the surface of the water and am peering down below in the clear blue water. I’m seeing just how much I have to learn about teaching such a wide range of individuals. The challenge now becomes one of providing quality educational experiences for at least four different levels of learners. It is a daunting challenge for a fifth year teacher and an ominous challenge for anyone without education training or background; one that should not be undertaken alone.

Luckily, there is research being done on a continual basis in the field of gifted education. Also helpful are the links to resources online, information available at public libraries and bookstores and other experienced educators. I was speaking to a parent of a profoundly gifted student the other day when I reiterated something I experience while working and living in Louisiana. Changes are not made by one individual alone. Many must group to together, all using the resources and research available to create the best environment to educate our children. Not only does this benefit the gifted, but it should also benefit ALL children. It has happened and it can happen again.

The Davidson Institute provides a monthly email highlighting what’s being done now in gifted education. The last email provided links to the gifted and talented programs in two states: Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Apparently, the Davidson Institute has found that only these two states mandate the IEP as a vehicle to provide appropriate education for the gifted child. Pennsylvania boosts a 50 year involvement in the field, and from my own experience, Louisiana has at least a 25 year involvement. The use of the Gifted IEP provides an open communication for the school and parent to meet and discuss how best to meet the needs of the child. The best educational environment is chosen for the student from what is available in the system. In the area that I taught, north of New Orleans, those choices ranged from Inclusion, Resources, Enrichment, and Self Contained.

So my blog entry went from the classroom to the gifted education in the United States. Are we just breaking the surface on this important part of educating a child? Are we ignoring the good that some states are doing because we think our ‘process’ is better? Are we actually looking at the ice burg below the surface or the distorted reflection of the burg through the surface of the water? Are we taking an honest look at how best to meet the needs of these unique children? We have to be honest with ourselves and realize how daunting the challenge is and continue to use all the resources available.

The Davidson Institute Newsletter for October 2007 is available here:


At some point in your teaching career, you will probably encounter an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). But did you know some states offer IEPs specifically for gifted students? A Gifted IEP (GIEP) is an educational plan developed for a gifted student with the goal of providing an appropriate education based on a ‘reasonable calculation’ of that student’s current educational performance level. In other words, the GIEP adjusts the curriculum to meet the needs of the student. Below are some frequently asked questions about GIEPs.

What is the difference between an IEP and a GIEP?

The IEP is based on federal IDEA regulations, and giftedness is not currently recognized in IDEA. GIEPs are based on state regulations and vary according to each state’s requirements.

How will teachers know if their student needs a Gifted IEP?

Ideally the classroom teacher will be present at the creation of the student’s GIEP, which is usually developed by a team of educators. Absent that, the teacher responsible for the GIEP’s implementation must be given a copy. Identification and responsibilities vary by state – there are extensive resources on ‘Characteristics of the Gifted’ available. Please visit this ‘Characters’ sheet for an example.

Which states provide Gifted IEPs?

According to the Hoagies’ Gifted website, the following states provide Gifted IEPs: Ala., Fla.,

Kan., La., N.M., N.C., Okla., Pa., Va., DC, Wash. and W. Va.

The Davidson Institute’s State Policy Database is also a valuable resource for parents looking to understand their state’s regulations regarding gifted education. It is vital for parents to understand the state and local regulations that apply to their situation.

If your state does not provide Gifted IEPs, what is an alternative option for teachers?

There are a few different options teachers can explore if GIEPs are not available in their state. Teachers who are interested in meeting the needs of gifted students in their classroom may wish to become familiar with alternative teaching methods such as independent study contracts. Encouraging students to self-advocate will also help educators understand how to best meet their needs. Finally, encouraging parents to advocate for resources for gifted students can help provide a long-term solution to the lack of GIEPs in certain areas.

We would like to send a special thanks to Todd McIntyre, a special education advocate in Pennsylvania, for his assistance in compiling this information. If you are interested in learning more about Gifted IEPs, you can access the following resources.

* What is a Gifted IEP
* Applied Gifted
* Louisiana’s IEP Handbook for Gifted and Talented Students
* Pennsylvania Forms and Formats

Halloween Inspired Lesson Plans

Please remember, we’d like to feature lesson plans or ideas designed by you in future Educators Guild Posts. If you would like to share any outstanding lessons you have used with your gifted students, please email them to This month’s featured lesson plans are:

* An Introduction to Beowulf: Language and Poetics (Literature)
* Monster Mash (Social Studies)
* What makes you scream? (Art)


A WebQuest is a lesson plan format in which all or most of the information used is drawn from the Internet. They are designed to utilize the student’s time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support the student’s thinking in terms of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

A Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests, San Diego State University

Here you’ll find a ready-made template for scoring or evaluating student WebQuest projects, complete with scoring categories. Checklists with additional scoring criteria to evaluate project fine points are also provided.

Health Factor: Game Development (grades 3-8)
In this WebQuest, a new board game company called Health Factor is marketing a suite of board games that can benefit people by educating them about healthy living. Specifically, the company would like to sell games that teach about each of the human organ systems of the human body. A committee representing Health Factor International is visiting numerous schools to get ideas for these new board games. In order to appeal to the committee, each game should highlight how a specific organ system works, while teaching ways that young people can ensure that their own organs ‘stay healthy’.

Focus on the Future (grades 9-12)
This WebQuest is intended to engage students in a career focus resulting in a projected monthly budget based on the average annual earnings they can expect 10 years from the time they graduate from high school.

If you are looking for assistance, ideas or resources, please feel free to contact us at

Davidson Institute Updates

Davidson Academy of Nevada Logo

Applications Available for 2008-2009 School Year

A free, public school for profoundly gifted pupils on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, The Davidson Academy of Nevada is seeking qualified students to apply for the 2008-2009 school year. The Academy is specifically designed to meet the needs of profoundly gifted middle and high school students, starting at the sixth grade level and beyond. For admission details, please visit

On Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, The Davidson Academy will be hosting a tour for prospective students and their families. For details, visit


2007 THINK Summer Institute Application Available

To download an application, please visit ____________________________________________________________________________________

2007 Davidson Fellows Scholarship Applications Available

For more information on the Davidson Fellows, or to download an application, please visit

Quality schools are the result of quality teachers going above and beyond the call of duty. –Unknown