Changes coming to Gifted Ed from State, City Elections, Appointments.

In the last week, there have been sweeping education-related changes in Chicago. While no one can fully predict the outcome of these changes, here’s what’s been happening:

Illinois Department of Education (ISBE):

  • There are 9 board members that govern ISBE. They are appointed by the governor.  On Monday, February 25, Governor Pritzker replaced 8 of the 9 board members

  • Pritzker kept Susan Morrison on the board. This might be good news for the gifted, as she was a part of the administration that passed the Accelerated Placement Act, and has previously served as a director of gifted education. 

  • The other good piece of news is that a new appointee, Cynthia Latimer is an ex special ed teacher. Hopefully this background means that she understand gifted and twice exceptional children. 

  • The state also now has a new Superintendent. It is unknown to us how she feels about gifted education. If you have experience with her in the area of gifted ed, please drop us a note!

  • Another dramatic change that could impact students that attend area private schools, including gifted, is Pritzker’s move to phase out the just recently created tax incentives for assistance to qualified low income families. Ironically, in Iowa, a state with much better gifted ed in the public sector, the opposite is on the legislative table - public funds to be given for private school and homeschool tuition.

  • In our state, gifted ed is an unfunded mandate. Terms such as 2e are not even defined in our state legislation. There are no exclusively gifted IEPs or 504s in the CPS district. Even if a child has other developmental or learning differences, none of the accommodations in their plan can be related to above-classroom average acceleration. It will be interesting to see how this new board perceives the underserved gifted population in the State of Illinois. It is too early to make predictions about any improvements to the state’s gifted plight.

  • If you are interested in learning more about gifted policy and advocacy at the state level, or to help make improvements, then you may be interested that our state’s gifted organization, IAGC, has a working committee for this. This committee gets credit for the passage of the Accelerated Placement Act. The implementation of this act was deferred by CPS. Anyone can get involved right now with the IAGC policy committee. The instructions to get involved are at the bottom of this page.  Their next meeting is on 4/13/2019: 

City of Chicago

In the mayoral run-off, there are two candidates, Toni Preckwinkle (1 year experience as a teacher) and Lori Lightfoot

  • Both candidates support a fully elected board. Would a fully elected board support more equitable gifted education? In a city where there is a huge achievement gap and many other challenges that are much greater than gifted equity, it is doubtful that there would be swift change for the gifted.

  • Both candidates support no more new charter school openings. In a way, this limits the opportunities available to engaged parents that are not happy at their neighborhood schools. The result will be that they will have to become active in their neighborhoods instead. 

With all those changes in the air, what will happen to the future of Charters and SEES programs, and Gifted Ed in the City of Chicago? Here are some things to consider:

  • First of all, are SEES and Charters even better than regular public schools? Or is it that parental engagement and innate academic performance of their attendees allow them to teach in mostly the same way but with better results?

  • What is the biggest predictor of academic success for an average student in those schools? 

  • The scariest question of all is would CPS eye closing SEES to pay for the revitalization of neighborhood programs, as the Accelerated Placement Act calls for changes for students in all schools anyway.

We will explore these questions and more in future installments.

Talent Search Testing

The 2019 winter Talent Search season is upon us here in Chicago. We wanted to share some brief information about talent searches with you.

What are Talent Searches?

Talent searches allow above grade precision achievement testing to determine what a student already learned and to plan their learning path for the future, including making decisions around coursework to support future college options.

When does my student actually need a Talent Search Test?

Your student needs the Talent Search when they need to become eligible for selective enrollment programs that require it, or when it is necessary for proper school planning and placement. If a student is in the top 5% on standardized school testing, they may be a candidate for a Talent Search.

When Is my student ready to take a Talent Search Test?

The answer varies by student. Many talent searches are lengthy, for example, a full length PSAT or ACT. Some are 4 hours long. Some children, regardless of age, will struggle with the demand of concentrating so long, and may become frustrated. Please take stamina into consideration when making your test selection.

The answer also varies by ability. It is fairly safe to generalize that when the tools used for grade level testing are no longer accurate because the child has knowledge above grade or is maxing the test out. Some HG-PG students will max the NWEA MAP tests for their grade. There is guidance on in the test documentation about when to transition the student to the next level of testing, but it has bands, K-2, 2-5, and 6+. A student maxes the 2-5 NWEA per their documentation when they reach 245 in mathematics, as an example. If they have had exposure to above-grade knowledge or instruction, they may need to move to the 6+ version. However, many schools will not allow a mid-year switch or have hard rules about grade-test associations. This is partially to preserve class-level average scores.

While the NWEA MAP Norms allow you to roughly triangulate your child’s approximate instructional grade need, the result doesn’t give specific recommendations like, “your child now needs pre-algebra”. The talent search test results will say that very specifically, though the output they provide varies. Schools, in our experience, listen to the college board testing a lot more than their own NWEA here in Chicago, and are much more likely to act on the numbers than they are to believe outside standard academic testing by a psychologist. If a child is showing above grade by NWEA Norms, or prematurely maxed their band, it may be time for talent search. The PSAT becomes available in 3rd grade through Talent Searches like Northwestern CTD. The SCAT, which has several bands and administers a test 1-2 years ahead of grade level, can be available starting with 2nd grade students through the Talent Search at Johns Hopkins. Belin Blank has developed the BESTS Talent Search for students in the 95% or higher, in grades 4-9.

After the test:

  • Many Talent Searches come with various levels of recognition for completion and achievement, which look good on CVs for elite programs, another reason many top students take them.

  • If your student scores high, for example in the top 90% on a talent search or another standardized test, they may be eligible for Talent Search programming such as College of DuPage talent search programs.

The nuances for the extra-young:

A younger homeschooler who is grade accelerated to the appropriate entry grade may be able to take the test, though this varies by program. But, they may be penalized for being young, in terms of treatment for honors.

How do I support my student for the actual test?

Make sure they get some exercise the night before the test, are well hydrated and have a healthy meal, and then get an early, good night’s sleep. The next day, have a decent breakfast, ideally with some protein, if the test is long. Aim to arrive at the opening of the entrance window, so that traffic or parking don’t make you miss the start.

Pack the following:

  • Entry ticket, if one is required

  • 2 #2 pencils. Sharpen!

  • Water bottle

  • State ID or equivalent document (see your test’s requirements)

  • Appropriate calculator if allowed or needed for the test. Check batteries!

  • SNACKS!!!

Would you like even more information?

A great article about talent searches and why they are helpful is from Duke TIP. Duke TIP says, “for students who achieve very high scores on grade-level tests, accurately assessing what they already know is difficult. Scores on many grade-level tests do not measure how far students have mastered material beyond their grade level.” This summary is perfectly aligned with our school’s educational philosophy. Davidson Institute also has a well put together publication about university based talent searches, their benefits and necessity for gifted students.

Would you like to know what other locals do?

Come meet others with similar children and learn about how can MAGE can support your gifted student, regardless of their age, grade level, or achievement. You might want to stop by our next coffee. Check our calendar, or email us to RSVP for the upcoming February 10th coffee at 10:30 AM.

Good luck to everyone who is testing this weekend!

IAGC Conference

Today’s annual Parent Saturday of the IAGC conference was well-organized and well-attended. Midwest Academy for Gifted Education enjoyed meeting all the parents and businesses that came. Parents go to the IAGC conference, our state’s main gifted event with people who understand the local gifted conditions, because they want to learn how to better support their gifted children both emotionally and academically. They also sometimes go because they are feeling that their children are not being supported at all in the school. We heard quite a few of those tales today. We hear you and we are here to help.

MAGE booth @IAGC

MAGE booth @IAGC

We also met many new local professional members of the CGCC, the Chicago Gifted Community Center that have recently been added in the area. Area gifted parents should consider the benefits of being a member of the CGCC, to support the local gifted community as a whole, and to learn about resources out there. CGCC can also point you in the right direction, if you are not sure of the best resource to help with your unique challenges.

We list many useful things that can be of interest to gifted families on our Gifted Resource page, but we don’t aggregate them the same exact way as CGCC. CGCC and IAGC between them have the metro area and state resources, where we aggregate items the closest to or in Chicago city proper, that we are directly familiar with (not always all gifted, sometimes they are just gifted-friendly). So, please check out all three lists regularly and keep them in your bookmarks, as they all are constantly changing.

One organization that we wanted to highlight from the conference is Davidson Institute. Davidson exists to support children that are HG+, and they do much of this for free. They have a free school for HG+ in Utah, and they also launched an online high school (this bit is not free, but they do work with families to help make it affordable), two years ago, with middle school options available as well. Their young scholars program is stellar, free, and we would highly recommend it to all the gifted families that qualify. There is a wonderful and active local Davidson community, and that alone is a compelling reason to submit a free application. Generally, submitting all the required records by the first of the month will result in a decision by the start of the following month. So, what are you waiting for?

Did you miss the live IAGC conference? Is there a topic of interest that you wish to hear more about? Drop us a note by clicking on the button below! We are planning our free parent education panel discussions now, each with several different takes on the topic from teachers, parents and mental health professionals that work with gifted children and are our area’s top experts.

In addition, there is still one more free day in the Bright and Quirky Virtual Conference remaining. If there is a gifted topic for which you could use some help, especially if you have a 2e child, please click here for your free registration for the last live day Sunday day, or to buy a pass to watch the whole conference again later. Here’s the line up and schedule for the last day:


Sunday, February 3, 2019. Begins at 10 am ET/7 am PT

SESSION 1: Debbie Reber | Raising Your Differently Wired Child

SESSION 2: Kate Arms & Jen Merrill | How to Avoid Burnout When Raising a 2e Child

SESSION 3: Nicole Tetreault PhD | Helping Your Uniquely Bright Child Flourish

SESSION 4: Olivia Martinez Hauge MFTA, OTR | When Parents Feel Like They’re Not Doing Enough

SESSION 5: Dan Siegel MD | Deep Mechanisms of the 2e Brain: Prequel to the Talk in Day 1 of the Summit


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State Non Profit Approval

MAGE had incorporated as a 501.c.3 organization in March of 2018. However, there are several legal components before an organization can become a true not for profit and be eligible for government and corporate grants. We are pleased to announce that we had gained the state approval to be a 501.c.3 in December. Now, only the federal designation remains, and is expected by 2020.

Upcoming Gifted Events

We wanted to highlight 2 conferences for parents of gifted children that are happening in the next 3 weeks.

Feb 2: Parent Saturday at the IAGC Conference

Feb 2: Parent Saturday at the IAGC Conference

IAGC Parent Saturday

(IAGC is Illinois Association for Gifted Children)

February 2, 2019  
9:00 AM - 12:30 AM followed by a parent lunch through CGCC. 
Chicago Marriott Naperville, Naperville, IL

A great local annual event, the conference starts with a keynote by Dr. Michele Kane. Dr. Kane is one of the world’s top experts on gifted education and social emotional issues and is the head of our state's only gifted endorsement program for educators. After the keynote, the event continues with a presentation from Eric Calvert and Carolyn Welch, IAGC Advocacy Co-chairs, on all things gifted education policy in Illinois followed by many options for breakout sessions. If you are an educator, the preceding 2 days of the conference are just for you. 

We hope to see you there! Please stop by our table to say hi. The event is not suitable for children, and no childcare is provided. The registration is $60. 

The event is followed by a parent lunch put together by a separate gifted organization, CGCC, Chicago Gifted Community Center. The link  below is to register just for lunch and does not require the registration for the actual conference.

Can't make an in-person event, but want to attend a gifted topic conference? Do it remotely! This is a free 2e Online Summit that starts on Monday, January 28th and runs for 7 days. It is called Bright & Quirky Child Online Summit. You will be able to choose what interests you the most and will have 24 hrs to watch the presentations available each day of the conference on your own schedule. Great for those hours when your child is asleep. 

An example, a fabulous speaker, is Michelle Garcia Winner, an SLP that developed Social Thinking, a social skills curriculum that works well for many gifted children for whom communications are sometimes tricky.

Day 1: Understand your bright & quirky child
Day 2: Manage emotional intensity, meltdowns & behavior
Day 3: Navigate school and learning challenges
Day 4: Manage social challenges and build community
Day 5: Increase focus, motivation and executive function
Day 6: Calm stress, anxiety and perfectionism
Day 7: Parent complex bright & quirky kids

Interested in a Family-Friendly Gifted-Themed Event in the City of Chicago? We host at least one per month! Please subscribe to our newsletter or check our events calendar often to learn about more events. But don't forget, you are also a part of a local community that could help brainstorm ideas for your specific needs, such as finding intellectual peers for play, or resources on a topic around your child's interests.

Admissions Coffee

Please join us for one of our upcoming Admissions Coffee! Or, if you've been to one of these before, come just to socialize with other gifted families during that time.

Admissions Coffee
Sundays, January 20 and February 10
10:30AM-11:30AM or by appointment.

If you would like to help us in our success, please consider sharing our Web site, on social media, or follow us on FB, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Rock the Pizza Play Date!

In December, we hosted a fluorescence and phosphorescence-themed play date following our Admissions Coffee. We had a blast!

Several guests brought a sample from their collection, and everyone enjoyed sharing the stories behind how the piece was acquired from those that received it from a special relative or found it themselves, and what it was. A geologist joined with his own samples, and helped identify and discover the pieces further. The children especially enjoyed learning from him and looking at his super cool samples. They also enjoyed the rock climbing wall and jumping equipment and the opportunity to play and make new friends.

Lot’s of collaboration and discussion.

Lot’s of collaboration and discussion.

One of the children brought a dinosaur tooth to pass around. It didn’t produce any visible fluorescence and phosphorescence but was very much enjoyed anyway.

We looked at a number of local and exotic rocks and fossils. This includes our state rock, and a sample we collected ourselves from a Silurian outcrop just south of Chicago this fall.


We discovered that our classroom floor marble is unintentionally fluorescent.

In an extension of the activity, children enjoyed drawing with light on the floor and on our intentionally fluorescent walls as well as a craft project using photosensitive beads. 

Here’s a sample of various rocks and minerals with regular light.

Here’s a sample of various rocks and minerals with regular light.

And here’s that same collection under a UV light.

And here’s that same collection under a UV light.

If you have a gifted child and would like to be informed of our events, please sign up to be on our distribution list, or follow us on FB, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Admissions Coffee is monthly and is coming up on Sundays, January 20th and February 10th, 10:30 AM. Please drop us an email to RSVP.

Free College tuition in IL for top students

In case you haven't yet seen it, here’s some interesting news about UIC offering free tuition to attract high-achieving Illinois students: This is a very thought-provoking article. If the state is concerned that the brightest students are leaving, they should consider that many leave the state – and especially the City of Chicago – long before college due to a lack of gifted academic options, teacher training, and radical acceleration. It’s equally important to understand that gifted students are not always high achievers. And not all gifted students will be college-bound. Understanding your child's individual profile and strengths is critical to making long term educational plans.

Have you started the long-term conversation about options? What are your thoughts about the “pipeline” and opportunities for top academically talented and/or gifted students. What big picture things should we, as a state, or as a city, be doing, to support our brightest minds?

Does this put additional pressure on our top students? Are they going to be more likely to stay for scholarships? What about on the urgency to get students into selective enrollment public schools? Will some people instead try to stay at a weak school, in order to get a scholarship by having an easy chance at a valedictorian title? Just some thought-provoking questions about what this change means for the gifted/talented population. Drop us a note, we would love to hear your thoughts.

If you don’t want to miss our news, please consider subscribing to our mailing list, or follow us on FB, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Accelerated Placement Act and the City of Chicago, part 1

On July 1, 2018, a new law, the Accelerated Placement Act (click here for the complete text of the law) went into effect in Illinois. This law is a huge win for Illinois families. However, what will now be different? We will be exploring this issue and posting updates as they become available. Click here for a great article about the change.

For for updated information about CPS and Accelerated Placement act, please read Part 2 - Forums, and Part 3, New Policy Draft. Part 4, policy update and analysis, is coming soon.  Contact us to be put on our mailing list to not miss our analysis of this policy - Part 4 and other news.

Briefly, the law gives the framework to grade skip into K and 1st grade, for example, and then the ability to receive acceleration. We at MAGE hope these changes become available to all Illinois students. In the meantime, we are here, as we believe that there is a long road ahead. Similar laws already exist in other states, and yet private gifted schools also abound in those states - we do not think that any change in Illinois policy will make us obsolete, though we would love it if they did. 

We will start with sharing some information about how you can be a part of the solution here in Illinois. The amazing organization responsible for making the law happen is IAGC - Illinois Association for Gifted Children. If you have a gifted child and you live in Illinois, we would like to encourage you to join IAGC as a member, so that you can be a part of the solution for Illinois children by supporting the organization and by sharing in the dialogue. Every person that joins helps strengthen our state's commitment to gifted interests.  The next policy committee meeting is August 10@10AM @IMSA. Join the conversation!

In the next few weeks, we will be exploring additional topics:

Chicago Public Schools, CPS. What is the timeline for the policy change? Currently, office of OAE, Office of Access and Enrollment which controls the City's public gifted programming and fields the calls about the act, nebulously says that the policy change will be implemented next year. We are waiting on more details. There will be no changes for this year or in time for fall SEES applications for the next academic year as far as we understand at this time. 

What changes will public/charter, private, and parochial schools in Chicago make to comply with the new law? For example, the Archdiocese of Chicago is one of the largest networks outside of the public network. Would be interesting to understand their planned changes. We will be reaching out to the existing schools to find out their plans. Please share information with us and we will be happy to post it, as it becomes available. 

What are the benefits and consequences for any school to be compliant or not compliant with this new law? Is there a cost to implement the new law? What is the long term economic impact of this law on each school?

What policy changes would be relevant in Illinois? In our opinion, it would be helpful if academic differences were recognized as a special need.

-For example, if a student is more than 1-2 standard deviations off in ability to academic performance, many other states have laws with regard to considering that student as having learning differences. In Illinois, such learning differences are not recognized legally. A student is only recognized with a learning difference if they perform to specific measures below average levels of attainment, not as compared to their own potential.

-If a student needs acceleration and the school is not providing it, it would be interesting if they had the ability to transfer to a school that would provide the academic services needed, much in the same way that a student with behavioral issues can tuition out into a specialized program designed to meet their needs. Since giftedness is not recognized as a special need in Illinois, and since academic accommodation is not a part of our IEP in our state, legislative changes to support these sorts of processes might be helpful. Funding around supporting programs and endeavors would also be interesting. 

This article is an opinion article, and has not been peer reviewed or thoroughly researched beyond included links. 

CPS accidentally leaks massive gifted student personal data

If your child has applied to a CPS selective enrollment school, you should be aware that there was a large data breach on June 15th, 2018. A simple mistake by an employee resulted in a mass email of a database file containing student names, application numbers, and contact info to over 3700 families. This is a violation of the trust parents put in CPS, as well as a security liability for those families. If you've sought enrollment in a CPS SEES school, you should double check their announcement to see if your data was compromised. You can check your inbox for an email sent on June 15, 2018, titled "CPS - OAE - Supplemental Application Opportunity". If you received this email, chances are, your child's data was in it. We believe the families who were impacted by this breach were those whose child had high enough scores for a SEES (Regional gifted or classical selective enrollment) seat but did not yet select one.

This is not a first time that sensitive student data was leaked by CPS.  Since this affects the Chicago gifted population specifically, we thought it would be newsworthy for us to share with our audience in case they are impacted. CPS promised to punish the employee accidentally causing the leak, and they said they will investigate. We hope that this new leak finally results in changes to the storage and sharing protocols of student data in CPS, not just an elimination of one employee.

At MAGE, we take privacy and data security very seriously and have policy in place to prevent a similar event from occurring. We are also still accepting fall applications.

Here is the CPS email following the leak:

Good evening,

Earlier today, in an unacceptable breach of both student information and your trust, we mistakenly included your private student and family information in an email to you and more than 3700 other families who were invited to submit supplemental applications to selective enrollment schools.

We sincerely apologize for this unintended disclosure and ask that you please delete the information in question.

We are taking this matter very seriously, and a review of this incident is underway to determine how this breach occurred and ensure a similar matter does not occur again. Additionally, we will be removing the responsible employee from their position because violating your privacy is unacceptable to the district.

If you would like to speak with someone regarding this matter, please contact (773) 553-2060.


Tony Howard

Executive Director

CPS Office of Access and Enrollment




Four Year Old Program

We have received a lot of interest in a four-year-olds program from the gifted community. While we always planned on adding this age group next year, we are now considering adding this option for the Fall of 2018. The Executive Board has formed a committee to make this determination in the next few weeks. Please drop us a note or stay tuned to this space if interested in this age group. 

Midwest Academy for Gifted Education issues first Press Release, 4.10.18

Chicago is missing something. Of the top five cities in the U.S., Chicago is the only one without a private school option for gifted students. Several exist in the suburbs, but there is no option for families who want to stay in the city. 

That changes this fall with MAGE, the Midwest Academy for Gifted Education. Parents and educators are launching the not-for-profit for elementary through high school. It meets a need for greater flexibility and individuality than Chicago Public Schools currently offer with their gifted programs. And parents whose children have already tested into those CPS programs can easily apply to MAGE.

How is MAGE different? Because we are new and independent, we can apply the best advances in teaching gifted learners.

·     Students are grouped by ability, not age, but still with plenty of age-appropriate social peer interaction.

·     There are no grades received for classes, and homework is rare. 

·     Teaching is centered around student inquiries, heavy on project work, collaboration, and real life experience instead of worksheets.

·     At every grade level, this includes immersive studies in STEAM (adding Arts to the now-standard blend of Science, Technology and Math) as well as civics, global citizenship, design, and exposure to trades and handcrafts

·     Social and emotional education is built into the school day.

·     And of course, low teacher - student ratios of 1:8 or 2:20.


The Chicago Public Schools gifted and classical program students usually find themselves in classes at least 28 to one teacher, from kindergarten on. CPS aims to accommodate children who are 1-1.5 years ahead of grade level. But there is little support for those who are farther ahead, or not uniformly at this level. MAGE is designed to be a more flexible alternative for the highly gifted and the asynchronous learner. 

Here’s an important addition: MAGE also accepts siblings of gifted students even if they do not meet the same criteria, in order to help families with quality of life. Right now, many parents spend hours driving to multiple schools, or have to move across town, if one child is accepted to a CPS gifted school and others are not. With MAGE, parents can focus on education rather than transportation.

MAGE has worked hard to make admissions easy for many Chicago families. If their children have taken an NWEA (MAP) or CPS selective enrollment test in the last 3 years and scored in the top 2%, they may already have the documentation required in order to submit an application for consideration. MAGE has a part time program at every grade level, supporting young children that need to go home and nap, homeschoolers, and many other diverse needs. Chicago is full of wonderful schools, accommodating diverse needs - and now, even more so, because of MAGE.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Irene Gottlieb at or (312) 600-5571. Additional information about MAGE can also be found on the web at