Iowa Code 257.42 specifies that all public schools in Iowa must offer talented and gifted (TAG) programming; however, that same code does not specify what that programming must include (Iowa Department of Education, TAG FAQs). The Iowa Department of Education provides further guidance for how TAG monies cannot be spent but very little information on how to use TAG funds. Iowa schools have a lot of local control and discretion for what TAG programming occurs within their district. All districts have the challenge of providing effective programming for their TAG students. At the secondary level, this challenge is especially large considering the shifting resources, the structure of secondary schools, and teacher training. Despite this challenge, some secondary schools have found a way to offer effective programming for their TAG students. Acknowledging and overcoming the challenges facing secondary TAG programming is an important for building leaders.
In the wake of NCLB, districts have increasingly shifted TAG resources into other areas (Beisser, 2008). One way that this has happened is through financial support. The state of Iowa requires districts to provide 25% of the funding for TAG programming, and the remaining 75% comes from the state (Iowa Department of Education, TAG FAQs). In 2010, the Iowa Department of Education, like other state departments, faced a 10% across the board cut (Iowa Department of Education, 2009-2010 Budget Cuts), and the funding level for the 2011-2012 school year remains uncertain. Despite the desire to improve financial support for TAG programming, cuts to education directly affect monies allocated to TAG students.
Additionally, personnel resources have shifted away from TAG. In the age of accountability, schools have increasingly put their focus on low or underachieving students (Beisser, 2008). As long as TAG students remain proficient, districts see little incentive to invest in these students. More and more, gifted and talented coordinators serve larger numbers of students. For example, in one Iowa district, one TAG coordinator serves grades 6-12; however those same grade levels are served by nine special education teachers (Carlisle Community Schools, 2010). Beisser also gives examples of TAG programs losing physical space in schools to make room for additional classroom teachers or special education teachers (2008). Professional development initiatives in schools focus on struggling learners, and these students consume so much of the teachers’ efforts that little time is left for enrichment of TAG students. While other groups are making gains in standardized test, TAG students have made little or no progress compared to other student groups. Truly, it is difficult for a TAG program to be successful with inadequate funding or personnel resources.
Another challenge facing secondary TAG programming is the actual structure of the secondary schools. Often secondary schools try to serve their TAG students...