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WILD Conversation: Gifted Education in Minnesota Reveals a Disparate Impact on Underrepresented Students
Tuesday, July 25, 2023, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CDT
Category: Community Events

WILD Conversation: Gifted Education in Minnesota Reveals a Disparate Impact on Underrepresented Students

Gifted Education, sometimes known as Gifted and Talented Programming, provides unique and challenging educational programs or services beyond those provided in the general school program. Students are identified at preschool, elementary, and secondary levels, and are considered to be capable of high performance and /or have outstanding abilities.

Hosted by WILD and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services’ Education Law Advocacy Project, we dive into how Gifted Education in Minnesota reveals a disparate impact on low-income and students of color. This eye-opening discussion will include a personal narrative as well as a panel of education leaders who will discuss how inequities in identification for gifted services can occur, misconceptions about what it means to be “gifted” and identify policies and solutions that have worked to increase opportunities for talented students from underrepresented groups.  

Three experts from different roles within education will discuss some misconceptions about what it means to be gifted, identify policies and solutions that have worked to increase the representation of underrepresented groups, and answer your questions. Join us to learn more about their vision for more equitable public education system. This event is open to the public, and will be hosted live on Zoom.


Lilian Ejebe | Lead Attorney, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

Lilian Ejebe is the lead attorney of the Education Law Advocacy Project (ELAP) of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Inc. (SMRLS) www.smrls.org.

Lilian has headed ELAP since its inception in 1995. ELAP began as an innovative pilot project to enforce the educational rights of and improve the education outcomes for low-income and minority students and families who face many systemic barriers. Today ELAP continues to provide legal advocacy for students with disabilities, English Learners, students experiencing homelessness, students facing discrimination in school, and any student facing any issue which negatively impacts their right to equal educational opportunities in public schools. Ms. Ejebe has obtained for students the educational services they need through ELAP’s collaborative approach model, which includes a wide variety of dispute resolution processes ranging from resolving matters amicably with school districts, to representing families in the court systems. In many instances, the efforts of ELAP have also prompted school districts to change their policies for the benefit of all students. Recently, Ms. Ejebe authored the first of its kind “Children’s Education Rights: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Minnesota Students.” https://www.smrls.org/files/7516/6266/3549/Childrens_Education_Rights_Handbook.pdf

Ms. Ejebe’s longstanding dedication in sustaining this important work has enabled SMRLS to be in the forefront in the area of education law advocacy.

Before leading ELAP, Ms. Ejebe was a staff attorney at SMRLS for four years, first in the Public Benefits Unit and then the Family Law unit. Prior to working at SMRLS, she was a magistrate in Nigeria handling civil and criminal matters with limited jurisdiction. Ms. Ejebe is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law (J. D. 1990) and the University of Nigeria (B.L. 1978; LL. B. 1977) She was also a member of William Mitchell Law Review and published an article titled “Set-Aside Programs in Minnesota: The Effects of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.” William Mitchell Law Review Volume 17, No. 2 (1991).

She has four children who all went through the Minnesota Public Education System.

Wendy Behrens | Gifted and Talented Education Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

Wendy A. Behrens is the Gifted and Talented Education Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, and is an author and consultant. Behrens has focused her professional life on creating equitable systems of support for gifted and talented learners. She presents frequently on the identification of underserved populations, acceleration, comprehensive service design, and policies that support gifted and advanced learners. During her tenure at the state, legislation and funding for gifted and talented education has been enacted to mandate procedures for identification of students, and acceleration to better align curricula with students’ needs. Funding for gifted education has remained stable and restricted.

With a strong commitment to professional learning, Behrens created the popular, annual Hormel Gifted and Talented Education Symposium, as well as the Gifted and Talented series for coordinators and specialists. Each of the two Jacob K. Javits grants she has directed has been grounded in evidenced-based practices, and has resulted in the creation of professional learning modules of lasting value.

Behrens is a recipient of the National Association for Gifted Children President’s Award, and is a past-president of the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted. She currently serves as the President of CEC-TAG, The Association for the Gifted. She is as an adviser for the Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education, and for The Grayson School. In addition, she serves on editorial boards for Gifted Child Today and Teaching for High Potential.

Behrens is a founding member of the Educational Insights Group, an international collaboration between researchers conducting a study to develop a better understanding of teacher motivation.

Behrens has authored and co-authored books and chapters on a variety of topics including acceleration, twice exceptionality, underserved populations, culturally-responsive instruction and policies that support gifted learners. Her most recent publications include Understanding Twice-Exceptional Learners: Connecting Research to Practice (Prufrock Press, 2021), and Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education: Building Cultural Competence and Serving Diverse Student Populations (Prufrock Press, 2021). 

Dr. Joy Lawson Davis | Career Education, Author

Dr. Joy Lawson Davis is a career educator with a distinguished record of scholarship in the field of Gifted and Advanced Learner programming. Her specific expertise is diversity, access and equity in programming for students from underrepresented populations and culturally diverse students with multiple exceptionalities. Dr. Davis is a highly sought out speaker, professional learning trainer, and consultant to school districts and organizations across the United States, the Middle East, South Africa and the Caribbean, sharing numerous presentations at with her message of equity, access and excellence. Dr. Davis is also an adjunct professor at Bridges Graduate School for Cognitive Diversity in California and Johns Hopkins University, School of Education in Maryland teaching graduate coursework in cultural diversity and gifted education, respectively.

Dr. Davis is an award-winning author of six books, her most recent books include Bright Talented & Black: A guide for Families of Black gifted learners, 2nd Edition”; “Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students: Perspectives from the Field” and “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education: Building Cultural Competence and Serving Diverse populations”. Davis served for five years on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children, serves on the editorial boards of two professional journals, and on the Board of Trustees for The Roeper School in Michigan. Dr. Davis also served for five years as the State Specialist for K-12 gifted programming in Virginia. As one of the nation’s premier experts in diversity & gifted education, Dr. Davis is frequently called upon for interviews, podcasts, to serve on expert panels and Advisory Councils to advocate for increased equity in gifted education services. Davis is the recipient of the 2022 Honorary Member of the Colorado Academy of Educators of the Gifted; 2020 New Jersey Hall of Fame Award from the NJ Association for Gifted Children; the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted; and the 2019 Alexinia Baldwin Special Populations Award from the National Association for Gifted Children.

 Dr. Scott Peters | Senior Research Scientist, Center for School and Student Progress, NWEA

Scott J. Peters, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA. Prior to joining NWEA he served as a Professor of Assessment and Research Methodology at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater for 13 years. His research work focuses on educational assessment and data use, gifted and talented student identification, equity within advanced educational opportunities, and educational policy. His scholarly work has appeared in the Australian Educational Researcher, AERA Open, Teaching for High Potential, the British Journal of Educational Psychology, Exceptional Children, Gifted Child Quarterly, the Journal of Advanced Academics, Gifted and Talented International, the Journal of Career and Technical Education Research, Ed Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, Gifted Child Today, and Pedagogies. He is the first author of Beyond Gifted Education: Designing and Implementing Advanced Academic Programs and Designing Gifted Education Programs and Services: From Purpose to Implementation, both from Prufrock Press, and the co-author (along with Jonathan Plucker) of Excellence Gaps in Education: Expanding Opportunities for Talented Students, published by Harvard Education Press.

Sarvesh Desai | Attorney, Henson Efron (Moderator)

I have a broad spectrum of experience working with companies: small and large, local and international, start-ups and established entities. I am well-versed and able to deal with the legal issues surrounding mergers and acquisitions, contracting, intellectual property, and licensing, among other things. Prior to law school, I worked as an engineer in a pharmaceutical company’s manufacturing plant. That experience has helped me better relate to my clients’ legal and business needs.

As part of the Business Law Practice group at Henson Efron, I focus on the following areas:

  • mergers and acquisitions
  • intellectual property
  • licensing
  • privacy
  • entity formation and organization
  • securities

My greatest strength is my analytical approach. I truly enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together to restore order. By asking a lot of questions, I can better understand the context within the big picture and deliver effective solutions for my clients. In many ways, my engineering background serves me well in business law. I know how to go beyond the surface, look at the data, assess obstacles and determine the best path forward.

Contact: [email protected]