Op-Ed: Building a B.R.I.D.G.E.

B.R.I.D.G.E Committee: (l-r) Susan D'Andrea, Katie Williams, Corrine Harney

Op-Ed by Corrine Harney, a Bloomfield mother and one of the organizers of the B.R.I.D.G.E Committee for families of gifted children.

Like most parents, my husband and I have enjoyed watching our daughters and son grow and develop into unique and talented children. Upon entering kindergarten, we were elated to see they performed very well academically. We were eager to see what that “meant” for them in their school experiences. We found that this equated to some differentiated instruction in their classroom…. okay….and of course plenty of preparation for state testing (ugh).

In third grade, our oldest daughter started “enrichment” once, every other week during school hours. She would come home telling us all about the fun she had playing a detective, solving problems with her peers and so on. She obviously remembered every detail because the experience incorporated a meaningful style and level of learning she wasn’t receiving elsewhere.  Soon our son was enjoying the program with similar positive responses. As time went on, enrichment class was conducted during lunchtime (in lieu of getting outside when possible) and met once a month. Once in middle school, we learned the only enrichment available was as an elective and the honors courses which were once available were no longer offered. It wasn’t long before we sadly learned that an array of after-school enrichment opportunities might be facing the chopping block. But by far the saddest commentary comes from my once enthusiastic threesome. Now, more often than not, my daily question of, “How was your day?” is simply answered, “Boring.”

The New Jersey Department of Education,  N.J.A.C. 6A: 8, Standards and Assessment for Student Achievement defines gifted as:

Those students who possess or demonstrate high levels of ability, in one or more content areas, when compared to their chronological peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capabilities.

Some key points under this regulation include:

  • It is mandatory for all public schools to have a board-approved gifted and talented program
  • Students are to be compared with peers in their local district
  • The identification process, which should begin in kindergarten, should be comprised of a multitude of measures
  • District boards of education must develop appropriate curricular and instructional modifications for gifted students.

With a weak economy, high-unemployment and major reductions in state education funding to local districts, Gifted and Talented instructors and programs are commonly one of the first areas cut. According to the National Association for Gifted Children,  32% of teachers say that advanced students are a low priority in their schools and 73% of teachers agree that “too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school; we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive.”

My husband and I were not the only frustrated parents in town. As friends of ours sat in our home discussing their own tales of Gifted Woe, it was evident there was a need for a grass-roots movement to change the current trend in gifted education. From this, B.R.I.D.G.E. (Bloomfield Residents Interested in Gifted Education) was created.  The goal of B.R.I.D.G.E. is to assist parents, the Bloomfield Schools and the community in better understanding the needs of gifted children and how to successfully meet those needs. We are inviting all Bloomfield residents who are interested in learning more about BR.I.D.G.E. to attend our meeting May 18th at 7  p.m at the Bloomfield Civic Center.

B.R.I.D.G.E Meeting
Who: Bloomfield parents of gifted children and those interested in Gifted Education.
What: A meeting and group to discuss Gifted Education.

Where: Bloomfield Civic Center, 84 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ
When: Friday, May 18 at 7 pm
Cost: Free

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  1. We will be there.

    Bloomfield had only two elementary teachers for the Academically Talented program this year, and the wonderful budget just passed cut that to one. To me that’s pretty indicative of Bloomfield’s committment to gifted kids. It’s sad, and getting sadder.

    I’ve expressed to Super Bing and the BOE members who will listen that this may be the straw that get’s my family and others to leave the district. I really hope something changes and AT funding is restored.

  2. I love that you are working on this. I don’t live in New Jersey, but we are trying to figure out how to address gifted education (or the lack thereof) up here in Vermont. Do you know what the history of getting the legislation you mention passed? We are so far away from that here! In fact, I recently started a petition here to try to get something changed. I’d love more information on what your B.R.I.D.G.E. group is doing to make a change in your area. (To read my petition to our state’s commissioner of education, see here: https://www.change.org/petitions/vermont-commissioner-of-education-provide-adequate-public-education-options-for-gifted-children)

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