Gifted and talented students move ahead |

Gifted and talented students move ahead

Christine Ina Casillas
Julia Watson Bartnett

“Each student has a different level of experience that has brought him or her to a certain level of education,” said Julia Watson Bartnett, a gifted education resource consultant. “Teachers bring those students to the next level, and that depends on what’s right for the student at that time. What’s fair for the entire class isn’t always what’s appropriate for you.”

Bartnett works part-time for the Colorado State Department of Education as a consultant for gifted and talented students. She will be speaking about the types of giftedness and differences of teaching in the classroom today at Berry Creek Middle School, brought by the Gifted Education Team.

The Gifted Education Team, the newly formed Eagle County Affiliate

of the Colorado Association for the Gifted and Talented, is a group of parents and teachers working with the school district to bring speakers and to sponsor teacher trainings and school visits, among others.

The state recognized gifted and talented students based on five factors, or areas of giftedness:

– General intellect, or IQ

– Specific academics, such as excellent mathematical skills but poor reading and writing skills

– Leadership

– Creativity

– Visual and performing arts, such as music, dance, art and drama

A sixth area of giftedness includes an Olympic-level of athleticism which is recognized by the state but not by the nation.

However, a gifted and talented program isn’t mandatory or funded by the state or United States government, Bartnett said. Yet Eagle County offers a funds for it, albeit low.

But the county’s program for gifted kids begins in grade 3, she said. The state begins from kindergarten through grade 12.

“If a student is already ahead, we need to continue to move that child ahead,” she said. “If you don’t reach kids early, they start to level off at third and fifth grade.”

A student might begin school extremely talented in mathematics, but he or she might not be recognized early. By the time the student reaches third or fifth grade, he or she might have retreated to learning at the same pace as his or her classmates.

Differentiation in the classroom allows teachers to catch a student who might be gifted or talented and challenge that child to a higher level, she said.

“It’s a challenge for a lot of teachers, and it takes a lot of resources,” she said. “For some teachers, it’s just natural for them. But for others, it’s a learning piece.

“A good teacher can successfully mask or hide the differentiation in the classroom, and give a task that’s good for the student.”

The Eagle County School District is teaching teachers how to identify students needs and challenge them to those needs, she said.

The school district’s Teacher Assessment Program – or TAP, which is a merit pay program that tags teachers pay with performance – is just one example of the level to which the county is challenging teachers and students alike.

“TAP is a good program because the tasks vary based on complexity and content of the class,” she said. “A student cannot be taken into a higher level until he or she is ready.”

Gifted and talented students aren’t disabled but many prominent people fall under that label, she said.

Some people hide their disability with their gift, she said. Others hide their gift under their disability.

“Whoopie Goldberg grew up in extreme poverty,” she said. “She was a very shy child who used her humor to speak. She was also disabled, and she used her humor because of her disability and to deter other people from seeing it.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

Giftedness speaker series

Julia Watson Bartnett, a gifted education resource consultant, will be speaking about the types of giftedness and differentiation in the classroom. She will be at the Berry Creek Middle School auditorium from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. today, talking with any interested parents and educators.

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