What if YOUR advocacy made a difference in your community? It Can!

by Washington Coalition Secretary Marcia Holland

You can influence the laws, budgets, programs, and services that affect highly capable education. It just means SPEAKING UP! Highly capable children and their families are counting on you to do so. If you won’t, who will?

Highly Capable services are crucial “whole child” interventions that support the unique learning abilities and challenges of these students. Washington State has considered highly capable programs part of basic education since 2011. Beginning July 2023, school districts are required to universally screen every student in or before second grade and again in or before sixth grade to identify students who need “accelerated learning and enhanced instruction.”

Your support can occur at every level, every day with your family and friends, with your pediatrician, in your school district, with the state legislature, and with Congress. It starts with you gaining comfort talking about why you believe smart kids should be challenged in their learning every day. It starts with you understanding how smart kids’ brain development differs from other children.

Every day

You should have an “elevator speech” you share whenever it seems appropriate. It may sound something like, “If school is too easy, kids don’t learn how to work through frustration, develop perseverance, or recover from failure. These are crucial life skills.” Another bite-size comment is, “I am troubled that there is no class in any of our public universities that teaches teachers what highly capable kids need in the classroom.”

With your school district

Study your school district’s website description of its highly capable program. Join the parent support group for highly capable if there is one. Gather other parents of highly capable students and schedule an appointment with the highly capable program administrator. Prepare questions you want answered about the program. Ask what else you can do to help the district deliver a gold standard program. Meet with school board members and do the same. Don’t underestimate the importance of letting your school district know this issue is important to you.

With the state legislature

Step 1: Sign up for alerts about legislative actions that will affect highly capable education.

• Washington Coalition for Gifted Education https://wacoalition.com

• Northwest Gifted Child Association www.nwgca.org

• Washington Association for Educators of Gifted Education www.waetag.org

Step 2: When alerted to take action, send a simple message to your legislators at https://app.leg.wa.gov/MemberEmail/. It only takes about two minutes because you can use the information provided in the alert. Keep the message short, polite and to the point. Include a sentence or two about why you personally think the legislation is important. Your message should include your name, your home address (so they know you live in their legislative district), and the bill number or issue in the subject line of the email and in your message.

Most of all, help your child understand what it means to be smart and how to manage that uneasy gift.

The resources at nwgca.org/resources.html are a great place to start learning.