Partners in gifted education: A New York tale of collaboration

The High Flyer (Blog Banner)-NAGC.pngTwelve teachers who work in some of the lowest-performing schools in New York City are now certified in gifted education thanks to a laudable inter-agency partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the New-York Historical Society (NYHS), and Hunter College’s (HC) Advanced Certificate Program in Gifted Education. The partnership was launched in 2016, and the selected teachers are called “The Hunter College, New-York Historical Society Gifted and Talented Scholars.

Each partner got something worthwhile out of the collaboration. The New York Department of Education’s impetus was to raise the bar of teaching in some of its lowest performing schools. It believed that certifying more teachers in gifted education and pairing them with supportive principals would lead to better grassroots, classroom-level implementation of best practices that would ripple organically throughout the city and benefit all students and professionals.

The New York Historical Society’s motivation was to have teachers more effectively utilize the museum within the classroom through the study of social studies—and use it more broadly to ensure that a cohort of teachers knew how to use museums to enhance K–12 education.

Hunter College sought to increase enrollment, maintain course integrity and outcome standards, and certify more teachers in the country’s largest school district in gifted education.

To make all this happen, the three entities first selected the city’s lowest-performing schools and sent emails to their principals, who then disseminated it to their teachers, and also recommended specific educators who displayed an interest in applying for the program.

Prospective teachers had to meet Hunter College’s requirements for admissions, program progress, and exit standards. The three partners then collaboratively selected from this competitive pool of applicants. And the New-York Historical Society paid full fellowships that covered tuition and fees.

The cohort of accepted teachers went through intensive, graduate-level gifted education training, meeting all day, every day for eight weeks during the summer, earning twelve credits via four courses.

Most importantly, the program is already showing signs of success. The graduates report that they’ve become more reflective in their teaching. Many say they’ve internalized what they learned and are able to put that theory and research into daily practice. They’re better able to differentiate in ways that benefit high achievers, assess student growth more authentically, and advocate for all types of gifted learners—as well as pass along these skills to their colleagues, emerging as teacher-leaders in their schools.

Due to the success of, enthusiasm for, and commitment to this partnership, the program will continue and serve another cohort next summer. It’s a model that can and ought to be utilized by urban, suburban, and rural school districts alike. It’s but one example of how inter-agency partnerships can be beneficial for everyone involved—including gifted students and their teachers.

Elissa F. Brown, Ph.D., is Acting Admissions Director of the Hunter College Campus Schools and Director of the Hunter College Gifted Center.