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SCCGE Legislative Luncheon: “It’s time to bring our schools up to the national standard.&#8221

Article and photo courtesy of Florence School District One. Terri Abbott, the REACH Lead Teacher and member of the SCCGE Board of Directors, West Florence students Angelika Davis, Grant Billings and Representative Terry Alexander.

Two West Florence High School seniors received an invitation this past week to speak at the annual South Carolina Consortium for Gifted Education (SCCGE) Legislative Luncheon. The state Representatives and Senators received the opportunity to learn more about the state’s gifted programs and needs.

Grant Billings, a National Merit semi-finalist with an offer to attend Michigan State and major in Technical Writing, shared his experiences and frustrations with the limited number of Advanced Placement courses available. He urged the legislators to increase funding to help level the playing field for South Carolina’s high achieving students to compete nationally for admission to the nation’s top universities.

Angelika Davis, a gifted student who plans to attend USC Aiken and major in Early Childhood Education, spoke about her earliest experiences in a pullout elementary gifted program and how her exposure to gifted peers and teachers shaped her desire to give back to her state by becoming an educator. She emphasized the impact gifted programs have on students and the importance of funding these programs.

The following is the full transcript of Grant’s speech.

Good afternoon.

Grant Billings

For the past six months, I have spent hundreds of hours and made four trips throughout our state and nation seeking out an institution where I will continue my studies for the next four years. I’ve taken tours at around twenty different universities, from those in our region to ones as far away as away as the Midwest, and I have come to one singular conclusion near the close of my research:

Students in our state simply do not have access to the classes they need in order to become competitive on the national playing field.

For example, my school, West Florence High School in Florence School District One, has the most advanced placement offerings of any school in the district—at a mere seven classes in total, the number pales in comparison to the availability in other states. And it’s nearly impossible to secure a seat in seven classes. Even with careful planning, enrolling in freshman English and math in eighth grade, taking two foreign languages, filling my schedule for every semester, and taking dual-enrollment courses at a local technical college to free up space and resolve scheduling conflicts, I was able to make it into only four AP classes. Because my school employs a block schedule configuration, with four courses each semester, I had to decide upon which ones I would take. I took as many as my guidance counselor and I calculated that I could.

Four AP classes. This is the number I am going to graduate with, and honestly I am embarrassed to admit it. When I was touring out-of-state universities, the most significant component to a successful application was always a rigorous high school record. Rigorous, by the competitive standards set today by big name post-secondary institutions, includes successful completion of an IB curriculum or AT LEAST six AP courses.

Again, I’m graduating with four, and meeting barely half the expectation. As I talked to other families touring with me, many of them were worried about getting admitted having taken more than ten Advanced Placement classes. The AP program does much more than allow students to exempt out of classes once they start college. It gives them a means by which to show admissions that they’re serious about their education and prepared for what is to come. By supplying a standardized curriculum that is both challenging and completely inclusive, it provides teachers with the tools they need to gauge success as well as prepare their students for what classes will be like after graduation. In short, AP allows students to get a sneak-peak of what their futures may look like in college, sampling a wide variety of classes to give them an idea of what different areas of study entail.

I didn’t have the opportunity to utilize the AP program in its fullest sense. Sure, I took four dual-enrollment courses, but national universities disregard these course, likening them to regular college prep courses on a high school campus. In order to merit a chance at gaining admissions to big schools, students must rely upon factors such as exceedingly high standardized test score, class rank, impressive extracurricular involvement, and, a lot of the time, sheer luck. They have to try to make up for what they lack on their transcript.

I didn’t have the privilege of challenging myself as much as I would have liked to in high school, and it isn’t from a lack of effort. I honestly couldn’t make it any more difficult for myself within the parameters already set for me. Future South Carolinians should not have to fight the system in order to challenge themselves. Gifted students want to have an occasional struggle. We want to push ourselves to our limits and learn as much as we possibly can. When AP courses are not funded, when teachers do not get backing of their administration to get certified, and when teaching materials aren’t available to them, the students are the ones suffering.

Gifted and Talented education is important for early education, and my district’s REACH program was enriching in its own right, but continuing that trend through upper grades is equally imperative. The students who want to better themselves and get ready to face the dynamic national academic environment need the system to support them by adding advanced courses to the catalog and encouraging those same students to sign up.

Times have changed, and getting into college and succeeding there is completely dependent upon challenging, enriching secondary schools. It’s time to bring our schools up to the national standard.

Thank you.

#TerriAbbott #REACH #LegislativeLuncheon #RepresentativeTerryAlexander #FlorenceOne

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The South Carolina Consortium for Gifted Education promotes and supports the professional preparation of teachers and other professionals responsible for the education of gifted and talented students. 


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