My last blog post questioned whether advocacy is necessary on behalf of happy, thriving pre-schoolers who are receiving a lot of enrichment from their teachers and parents. My conclusion was that if a child’s signs of giftedness are being recognized and accommodated, there is no need for parent advocacy.
But I’ve had second thoughts about that. In British Columbia, all parents have to be aware of the provincial legislation and school district policies that inform what happens in the classroom. Websites of a many school districts indicate that the preferred approach is differentiated instruction in a heterogeneous setting, which research shows is not the best environment for children described as gifted. This approach puts a lot of responsibility on the classroom teacher and, as the BC Teachers’ Federation has argued, teachers are already over-burdened with too many children of different abilities in their classes.
At a macro level, statistics show that the numbers of identified gifted children in British Columbia have fallen from approximately 23,000 in 1996 to just 5,000 in 2015. That doesn’t mean that there are fewer bright children in the province. It means that the schools are not routinely identifying the gifted, and without a formal assessment, the school does not have to provide programming. A shocking effect of the reduced programs for gifted is that fewer teachers specializing in giftedness are needed, and as a result of that, universities are cutting back on their teacher education courses for gifted.
In the face of all this comes BC’s new curriculum. After digging through numerous presentations and documents on the Ministry of Education website, I have been unable to find any references to programming for gifted children, or indeed any children with special needs. Additional funding is not provided for gifted children under current legislation and the BCTF website expresses concerns about whether funding for any special needs will be provided under the new curriculum. When I raised this at the VPAC conference a few weeks ago, I was told by a school vice-principal that I was misinformed, that there is documentation being prepared for special education. I’ll keep checking.
In the meantime, all parents and taxpayers and anyone who cares for the children of BC need to keep abreast of government policy, ask questions and challenge the decision-makers. Yes, advocacy needs to take place at every level. Even if your child is still in pre-school!