Established in 1987 by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) is celebrating 35 years of serving educators, students and families.
Since its inception, the CFGE has been meeting the needs of students and teachers through curriculum, research, professional development and programs for children. The center has produced curriculum units in language arts, math, science and social studies.
Each summer they host Camp Launch, a residential program for high-ability students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds that has served more than 700 students in the past 12 years. With support from the center, the W&M School of Education’s doctoral programs have trained many leaders and researchers in the field of gifted education.
Each year, the center brings in over $2 million from grants, curriculum materials and training sales, and programming for high-ability students. It has been a leader nationally in diversity, equity and inclusion since its earliest days. The CFGE has stayed relevant over the decades because of its adaptive nature. They have expanded the online availability of programs, enabling them to meet the needs of educators and reach an international audience.
“The Center for Gifted Education has always been led by academics and researchers who are prominent in the field, beginning with its founder, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, and for the past 15 years, Director Tracy L. Cross,” said Ashley Carpenter, assistant professor and director of professional development and publications. “This means at our core, we are academics who serve through curriculum, professional development and programs, while doing research in gifted education.”
The materials they produce use time-tested, research-based models for educators to use to help students develop critical thinking skills.
In 2022, Cross, an internationally renowned scholar in the field of gifted education and the psychology of gifted students, was inducted into the Legacy Archive of the National Association for Gifted Children. Legacy Archive honorees have made an impact beyond the local level on gifted individuals by informing gifted education practice, policy or scholarship, influencing thinking about topics of concern through teaching, publications or service, providing outstanding leadership or making other noteworthy contributions. Cross has made contributions in all these areas.
Expressing his pride in the growth of the CFGE, Cross remarked, “Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska created the Center, helping it to become the world leader in curriculum for gifted students. It has been reorganized and has expanded its reach, relevance and revenue, such that its materials are used in all 50 states and approximately 30 countries. The center trains more than 800 teachers a year, has helped more than 500 teachers obtain an endorsement in gifted education, and provides programming for more than 400 high-ability students annually.”
The center also includes the Institute for Research on the Suicide of Gifted Students, the only entity of its kind, founded to meet a critical need for prevention, support and resources for those in crisis. Its annual 2e @ WM: Twice Exceptional Conference provides resources for educators, leaders and families to empower students who are both high ability/gifted and have learning differences/disabilities.
The growth of Camp Launch, led by Center Director of Precollegiate Learner Programs Mihyeon Kim, is a testament to the center’s commitment to supporting students who are usually underrepresented in gifted education. Kim’s other programs designed to foster inclusive talent development include Focusing on the Future, a career development program for middle and high school students, and the Saturday/Summer Enrichment Program, which provides advanced enrichment classes to K-12 students on the William & Mary campus and online.
The School of Education has many distinguished gifted education alumni, including award winners and leaders across the country. They recently welcomed one of their accomplished alumnae, Chandra Floyd Ph.D. ’20, as the center’s new director of curriculum. As a student, Floyd was a Holmes Scholar. She received an award for her dissertation from the National Association for Gifted Children’s Research and Evaluation Network and is currently a principal investigator in a federal Javits-funded grant with the Detroit Public Schools.
Collaborations underpin much of the work of the center, from partnerships in professional development to research collaborations. Cross and Jennifer Riedl Cross, director of research at both CFGE and the Institute for Research on the Suicide of Gifted Students, have conducted research on the psycho-social development of high-ability or gifted students with the Centre for Talented Youth-Ireland for more than 10 years. They have produced numerous publications. Other collaborations include the Roeper Institute, the Detroit Public School Community District, Norfolk Public Schools, Arizona Public Schools, the Virginia Department of Education and more.
At the center’s conference last March, VanTassel-Baska returned to present the keynote speech. In her address, she discussed how to differentiate content for advanced learners, offered suggestions for acceleration, encouraged creativity and engaging in higher levels of thinking and recommended new ways of thinking about how to accommodate advanced learners.
“Being back at William & Mary was rewarding in seeing old colleagues and graduate students whom I had mentored,” said Van Tassel-Baska. “The trip was also satisfying to see how the center has continued to thrive under the leadership of Tracy Cross. He has found a new and different path to guide the center to even higher levels of greatness.
“Many of the staples of the center remain, such as the enrichment program for pre-collegiate learners, this annual conference to focus on curriculum and the continued effort to create new curriculum responsive to the needs of advanced learners. I only hope that the center can continue to thrive over the next 35 years.”