Nurturing for a Bright Tomorrow
Wake County Schools
The purpose of this grant is to implement Project Bright IDEA (Interest Development Early Abilities) on a larger scale. Project Bright IDEA is a curriculum aimed at closing the achievement gap and increasing the number of gifted students from underrepresented populations via changing teachers’ dispositions and capacity to wisely use curricula tailored to teaching those students.
Bright IDEA was developed by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and Duke University to design a model K-2 program to nurture and promote eligibility for gifted programs for children from underrepresented populations. These populations include children who have limited English language experiences, economic disadvantages, educational disadvantages, disabilities, or factors that make it difficult to demonstrate potential on traditional identification measures of talented and gifted. They have historically been (and continue to be) underrepresented in gifted programs.
The Exceptional Children Division of NCDPI launched Bright IDEA 1 (2001-2004) as a collaborative pilot model with The American Association for Gifted Children at Duke University. The pilot was conducted in five Title 1 schools across five school districts in North Carolina and yielded significant results that became the basis for a Javits Grant (PR/Award #S206A040057) awarded by the U.S. Department of Education for Bright IDEA 2 (2004-2010). The results from Bright IDEA 2, which was implemented in 28 schools across 11 school districts in North Carolina, also yielded significant increases in the program objectives.
Funding has been awarded for the next 5 years to implement and evaluate Project Bright IDEA 3 on a larger scale in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) in North Carolina, which has made 32 schools available for this project. The aims of Bright IDEA 3 are as follows:
- To increase the number of students identified as Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) from underrepresented populations.
- To increase the achievement outcomes (scores on state assessments and grades) for students from underrepresented populations.
- To advance the quality of these students’ cognitive skills and use of gifted behaviors.
- To improve teachers’ disposition toward teaching gifted methodologies and strategies to all students.
- To accomplish these outcomes, researchers will employ an experimental design and use rigorous analytic methods with an outcome to provide credible information regarding how Bright IDEA can serve as a model that can be generalized and reproduced elsewhere.
A National Issue
The Jacob K. Javits program sheds light on a national issue: the need to continually nurture the country’s gifted and talented students. The highly capable students of today are likely to become the intellectual, cultural, technological, financial, social, and scientific leaders of tomorrow. Simply put, the nation cannot afford to forfeit a single gifted child. Nonetheless, the persistent academic achievement gap between white and Asian American students on one hand and black and Hispanic students on the other hand indicates that many potentially gifted children of particular backgrounds are left behind. Thus, addressing the achievement gap is critical in general and as a step for increasing the number of children identified as AIG and providing these students with opportunities to excel in advanced programs.
The achievement gap is large, persistent, and pervasive. For example, data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) consistently shows that more than twice the proportion of Asian/Pacific Islander and white students score at or above “Proficient” than black and Hispanic students in both reading and math. NAEP data also show that the achievement gap between white and Hispanic fourth graders in reading and math has remained unchanged since 1990. The same applies for the black-white and Hispanic-white gaps in both reading and math among eighth graders. An even more alarming trend is that by age 17 the average Hispanic and black student is four years behind the average white student; Hispanic and black twelfth graders score lower than white eighth graders in reading, math, U.S. history, and geography . Additionally, Hispanic and black students graduate from high school at substantially lower rates compared to their white and Asian-Americans counterparts . These points capture just some of the many facts indicative of the vast racial differences within the American school system.
Racial inequality exists even among high achievers. Hedges and Nowell  note that “blacks are hugely underrepresented in the upper tails of the achievement distributions, and this underrepresentation does not seem to be decreasing.” This is reflected in the number of students enrolled in AIG programs in North Carolina at the beginning of this century; when in 2000, over 80% of AIG students were white, compared to just 10% for Blacks and 1% for Hispanics. These data highlight that a gifted child left behind is likely to be a student of color.
Prior to the existence of Project Bright IDEA, research  documented the lack of diversity in North Carolina’s AIG programs and honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Like previous studies [c.f. 30], Darity and his colleagues pointed out that enrollment of underrepresented populations in more advanced courses in high school is highly linked to early identification and nurturing of those students as AIG. However, North Carolina’s elementary and middle school AIG programs have historically had disproportionally low representation of students from underrepresented populations. This has been linked to the lack of preparation of teachers in North Carolina for identifying and nurturing academic and intellectual potential among learners from disadvantaged populations .
The Intervention – K-2 Grades
The research-based instructional practices recognized and used on a national level by the Association for Curriculum and Instruction are integrated into Bright IDEA 3 professional development for educators and curriculum design for students. These instructional practices include: Parks and Black’s Building Thinking Skills ; Costa and Kallick’s Habits of Mind ; Frasier’s Traits, Aptitudes, and Behaviors , and Silver and colleagues’ Task Rotations  and Learning Styles . Teachers are trained to identify the “self-system” as critical for intrinsic motivation in Marzano’s New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives . Teachers unpack state standards and Common Core State Standards on Andersen’s revised Bloom’s Taxonomy  and align lessons and units of study with Create as the highest cognitive dimension. Phase 1 of McTighe and Wiggins’  Understanding by Design is important for the design of the Bright IDEA curriculum unit and training on Big Ideas. Sheffield’s strategies for teaching math  and Smutny and von Fremd’s  differentiating strategies for young children are integrated into the training and curriculum.
Teachers and principals are trained in how to differentiate gifted pedagogy for all students through tiered lessons for academic success. They focus on the importance of universal concepts, thinking skills, learning styles, habits of mind and behaviors for lifelong learning and integrate all of these into concept-based curriculum lessons and units. The Bright IDEA curricula is based on some universal concepts described by Kaplan  such as CHANGE; CHAOS; CONFLICT; EXPLORATION; PATTERNS; RELATIONSHIPS; SURVIVAL and SYSTEMS, (concepts are presented in capitalized form in Concept-Based Instructional Practice). These concepts are explored in units of study across state standards in STEM and social studies disciplines, as well as integrated with the Common Core State Standards in English and math. Educators are also trained to teach content through a conceptual and multicultural lens and to help students make connections within and between disciplines. Such connections are essential in establishing the conditions for innovation. All students, even kindergartners, can learn how to analyze theories, problems, assumptions and perspectives, a body of rules, paradoxes, and abstract ideas through engagement with the Bright IDEA concept-based curriculum and problems in the real world.
Bright IDEA’s Concept-Based Curriculum Template (Hargett) was developed to integrate a number of national researchers’ work on different facets of theory and practice (i.e., Black, Bloom, Costa, Erickson, Frasier, Kallick, Kaplan, Marzano, McTighe, Moirao, Parks, Silver, Strong and Wiggins).
The main focus for Bright IDEA 3 will be on training educators on Building Thinking Skills (Parks and Black); Gifted Intelligent Behaviors (Costa, Kallick, and Frasier); and Task Rotations and Learning Styles (Silver, Strong, and Moirao). Although focused on these three areas, the training will include a review of all of the aforementioned gifted and regular education pedagogy and concepts to culminate in creating rigorous and engaging lesson plans and adapting Bright IDEA units that will result in an impact student achievement and gifted potential.
Teachers will learn to create scholarly environments that engage all students actively and consistently in sophisticated investigations of materials and performance tasks and to understand and apply advanced critical and creative processes. As a result the classroom environment is changed into differentiated problem-solving centers to increase background knowledge for all students so they can meet performance tasks. Educators in the Javits research (Bright IDEA 2) changed their dispositions to believe that all students had traits, aptitudes and gifted behaviors that could be nurtured for potential creativity, scientific problem solving and academic and job skills needed in the 21st Century. Thus, Bight IDEA provides knowledge about learning, the non-cognitive skills required for work, and motivation for preparing all students to solve problems in a global society.
First Level of Training: K-2 Teachers, Principals and Lead AIG Teachers will be trained in Thinking Skills, (Parks and Black, 2014); Task Rotations and Learning Styles, (Silver, Strong, Moirao) and Habitd of Mind, (Costa and Kallick) and Gifted Behaviors, (Frasier).
Second Level of Training: K-2 Teachers, Principals and Lead AIG Teachers will be trained in concept-based curriculum that will integrate gifted methodologies and instructional strategies into units of study. Tiered lessons will be developed to engage all students in engaging and problem-based performance tasks.