Wisconsin DPI Ordered to Write Rules Identifying Gifted Children

Amy Hetzner:

The state Department of Public Instruction must write more specific rules for how Wisconsin school districts should identify gifted and talented students, a Dane County circuit judge ordered Friday.
The ruling by judge Michael Nowakowski gave a rare court win to advocates for gifted student education. Yet the judge rejected a request that the DPI create rules detailing what programs districts have to provide to gifted students and provide a more vigorous enforcement of its standards.
Todd Palmer, the New Glarus parent and attorney who filed the suit, called the judge’s ruling “a tremendous victory for gifted students in this state.”
It comes at a time when Palmer and others argue that services for gifted children are in danger because of the twin pressures of school budget constraints and efforts to raise proficiency levels among low-performing students.
Currently, DPI’s rules on identifying students in need of gifted and talented services require only that school districts use “multiple criteria that are appropriate for the category of gifted including intelligence, achievement, leadership, creativity, product evaluations, and nominations.”

3 thoughts on “Wisconsin DPI Ordered to Write Rules Identifying Gifted Children”

  1. Congratulations and thanks, Todd Palmer, for pursuing this, especially in the face of criticism from those who conflate giftedness with middle and upper-class S/E status.
    Speaking of gifted students (and challenging high school curricula), the NYTimes had a piece on competitive private and public schools and their preparation for college. (I admit to getting a contact anxiety attack reading some of it.)

  2. Thanks, Jim. You beat me to the punch! Here is what Todd sent out yesterday:
    On March 2, 2006, I filed a lawsuit against DPI and State Superintendent Burmaster for failing to develop, implement and enforce a gifted education program in Wisconsin. On November 1, 2006, I filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the Court to decide the matter on the record, without a trial. The matter was fully-briefed by myself and the state Defendants. In addition, the Wisconsin Association of Talented and Gifted (“WATG”) filed an Amicus Curiae brief to provide the Court with a unique perspective on the issues significant to gifted and talented education in Wisconsin.
    This morning (January 12, 2006), oral argument on the motion was held before Judge Nowakowski. At the end of oral argument, Judge Nowakowski rendered a decision from the bench. I am pleased to announce that Judge Nowakowski granted the motion requesting an order be issued against DPI and Superintendent Burmaster requiring them to develop rules for the identification of gifted and talented pupils.
    However, the Court denied the request to require DPI to develop more detailed rules for the implementation and enforcement of gifted education mandates in the state. Although Judge Nowakowski agreed that the information provided by Plaintiff and WATG made a compelling case on improvements for gifted education in Wisconsin, he held that his role as a judge limits the tools available to him to fix such problems. He indicated that several of these problems must be addressed by the Legislature. Others require additional factual development for purposes of litigation.
    Unless appealed by a party, the decision means:
    1. DPI must create rules for school boards to use in the identification of gifted students.
    2. Members of the general public – including you – can participate in crafting those rules.
    3. The rules, once promulgated, must be followed by school districts.
    4. Pragmatically, DPI has succeeded in shifting much legal responsibility to school boards for gifted education.
    5. This decision and the arguments advanced by DPI therein, have not fully resolved the legal issues associated with gifted education implementation. Future litigation appears inevitable.
    I do not have a copy of the decision, as it was read by the judge into the record. I will distribute a copy of the Court order against DPI once finalized and signed by the judge.
    Thank all of you who signed the Petition for Rulemaking. Please consider participating and assisting in future efforts to improve gifted education which will be initiated soon.
    Also, WATG should be commended for stepping forward as a leader in gifted education in Wisconsin and providing the Court with more information on the significant issues associated with the topic. WATG was represented by Attorney James Bartzen (with the assistance of Attorneys Tess O’Brien and Cynthia A. Van Bogaert) of the Boardman Law Firm in Madison. These attorneys submitted an outstanding brief and provided their services on a pro bono basis. They should be commended for their public service.
    Todd Palmer
    DeWitt, Ross & Stevens sc
    Two East Mifflin Street
    Suite 600
    Madison, WI 53703-2865
    (608) 255-8891
    Fax (608) 252-9243
    We will post a copy of Judge Nowakowski’s order to DPI, when it becomes available, on the Madison United for Academic Excellence website.

  3. I should add that the MMSD does not believe in identifying gifted students and therefore has no real identification system in place. (To quote one MMSD elementary school principal “ALL children are talented and gifted, so we don’t need any special services.”) That means this ruling should have a significant effect in our district.
    As well, I should add that much has been written in recent years about how to identify and support academically gifted students of color and poverty (for example, Donna Ford’s “Multicultural Gifted Education” and Slocumb and Payne’s “Removing the Mask: Giftedness in Poverty”). I know that our district TAG staff has read and thought a lot about these issues. I am excited by the prospect that the Administration may finally make some good use of their wisdom and expertise. It could mean that our high ability poor and minority elementary school students won’t show up in the high school dropout data down the road (http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/01/theyre_all_rich.php ). It could mean that we finally close that particular achievement gap.
    To learn more about g/t services in the MMSD, go to http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/tag/ .

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