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RE: Request for Guidance on Servicing G/T Students in Remote Learning Environments

Dear Commissioner Morath,
 
The Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) appreciates the Texas Education Agency's work on behalf of Texas school districts in the time of COVID-19 and school disruption. The agency and our educators have worked tirelessly to adapt to this new reality in an unprecedented effort.
July 14, 2020
 
Mr. Mike Morath
Commissioner of Education
Texas Education Agency
1701 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701
 
RE: Request for Guidance on Servicing G/T Students in Remote Learning Environments
 
Dear Commissioner Morath,
 
The Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) appreciates the Texas Education Agency's work on behalf of Texas school districts in the time of COVID-19 and school disruption. The agency and our educators have worked tirelessly to adapt to this new reality in an unprecedented effort.
 
As TEA and Texas school districts work to prepare for the complicated year ahead, TAGT is deeply committed to ensuring that gifted and talented (G/T) student services are provided through all teaching modalities implemented by districts. As you are aware, 19 TAC §89.3 and House Bill 3 require districts to provide specific opportunities for students to be identified for and provided with G/T services in K-12 to avoid funding reductions.
 
To this end, TAGT respectfully requests that TEA revise its remote learning guidance and create FAQs to ensure G/T service requirements are reiterated in these documents and are included in all district remote learning plans and review rubrics. TAGT is deeply concerned that current guidance documents from TEA relating to remote instruction, asynchronous and synchronous instruction, rubrics, and “look fors” do not provide any requirements or guidance for serving G/T students in these environments. While there is specific mention of instructional materials and supports being required for students with disabilities and language learners, G/T learners are not included.
 
The attachment included here contains a list of questions TAGT has received from district leaders, educators, and parents regarding G/T services for the coming school year. TAGT asks that the Texas Education Commissioner's Advisory Council on the Education of Gifted Students be given the opportunity to assist TEA staff to create this additional guidance.
 
We appreciate the opportunity to work with Monica Brewer, Statewide Coordinator, Gifted/Talented Education and your office to meet these challenges. Thank you for your leadership and support during this unprecedented time and for your attention to this special population.
 
Sincerely,
Paulina van Eeden Hill, CAE
Executive Director
Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented
 
 
Stakeholder Questions for Serving G/T Students in 2020-2021 School Year
 
  • Per House Bill 3, Sec 29.124, each school district shall annually certify to the commissioner that the district has established a program for gifted and talented students, that the program is consistent with the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students, and the use of funds on the district's program for G/T students. How will this be implemented during the 2020-2021 school year?
  • In what section of the remote learning plan should districts include their remote learning plans for G/T services?
  • How will guidance documents ensure that in-person and remote students can continue to be pulled out from their classes for G/T services and/or clustered in like-ability groups for instruction? 
  • Will curriculum and lessons provided by Texas Home Learning 3.0 include G/T education strategies such as depth and complexity and higher-level questioning? Also, will the Texas Performance Standards Project and access to more challenging curriculum be easily accessible in this resource as an option for serving gifted students?
  • Per TEA guidance, many districts postponed or delayed G/T testing for identification during the spring 2020 semester. What guidance will be provided for ensuring equitable access to identification for services this year and for identification in spring 2021?
    • Can districts require in-person testing on school or non-school days?
    • The Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students allows for assessment modifications for student exceptionalities (Section 2.17). During COVID-19, can TEA clarify that remote learning constitutes a student exceptionality for the purposes of identifying students and providing assessment modifications?
  • In light of the flexibility parents have to move students between in-person and remote learning, how will districts keep track of which G/T students are served by in-person and/or remote services?

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