Parents of gifted children seek support

September 28, 2010

By Laura Geggel

When Camber Charlot learned her 1-year-old daughter, Astor Tellman, loved language, she and her husband taught her to read and provided a supportive environment for their daughter filled with literature and math.

Tellman learned she qualified for MERLIN in elementary school, and now, at age 11, she is enrolled in classes available to high-achieving middle school students, including humanities-plus and higher-level math classes.

So, Charlot was alarmed last year when she learned the state Legislature might cut funding for highly capable programs, which would have cost Issaquah School District $147,000 for the 2010-11 school year, Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper said.

The district spends about four to five times on its gifted programming than the state provides, Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said.

When they learned of the potential budget cuts, Charlot and another parent, Cynthia Seidel, worked together to start the Issaquah Talented and Gifted Parent Association, or ITAG.

The two families drove down to Olympia for Gifted Education Day and spoke with state Rep. Glenn Anderson about the importance of funding gifted education.

In the end, the Legislature did not cut funding for gifted programming.

“Luckily, that scary budget didn’t go through,” Charlot said. But, “Every year we face that problem of keeping the gifted program in the budget.”

Since then, ITAG has grown to about 200 members, some of whom are planning to attend the Gifted Education Day in February.

Though ITAG primarily targets gifted elementary school children in the MERLIN or SAGE programs, organizers said they also welcomed parents of gifted middle school or high school students.

Brandi St. Pierre, whose daughter is in the MERLIN program, said gifted students need an advocate just like any other student group.

“A lot of people think gifted education is a good problem to have, you don’t need special funding, and to a certain extent that’s true,” St. Pierre said. “But for these kids to live up to their potential, they need more challenges. Going along with the same curriculum doesn’t work for them. They tune it out. They don’t necessarily learn in a linear way. They need special curriculum and special teacher training.”

St. Pierre said she and other ITAG parents hope to begin offering grants to gifted classroom teachers and organizing parent education seminars.

The district bases its gifted programming on best practices research, which puts gifted children in a self-contained program in third through fifth grades in the MERLIN program, Thiele said. Highly capable students are pulled out of the classroom and given more challenging material for two hours a week in the SAGE program.

In middle and high school, students can take higher-level classes, such as humanities-plus in middle school, or Advanced Placement in high school.

Get involved

ITAG general meeting

7 p.m. Sept. 30

Issaquah Middle School commons

400 First Ave. S.E.

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