If someone asked you why your gifted program even exists, how well could you explain its purpose? Could you do it in 30 seconds? How about one sentence?
Do me a favor, open up the homepage for you district’s gifted program. This is the first place that parents, teachers, community leaders, even students would go to learn about your gifted program.
Read through the text. Is it clear? Could a person with only a high-school level of education understand it?
Testing District Program’s Websites
I ran this experiment with a dozen gifted programs’ websites. I pasted all of the text into Microsoft Word and calculated their Flesch Reading Ease score – a way of measuring a text’s complexity.
My findings: the explanations on these gifted programs’ homepages are so complicated that they would be illegal if they were insurance documents.
See, many states require insurance paperwork to be readable by regular humans. This means that, if you use Flesch Reading Ease, you need a score higher than 40. The average Flesch Reading Ease score of the gifted program homepages was 29. Text for 9th graders should be above 60.
As an example of a low-scoring paragraph, here’s the national gifted association’s “who are we” statement:
NAGC’s mission is to support those who enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building, and research. We aim to help parents and families, K-12 education professionals including support service personnel, and members of the research and higher education community who work to help gifted and talented children as they strive to achieve their personal best and contribute to their communities.
This paragraph’s Flesch Reading Ease score is about 20. And you can see why! Lots of words, but so very little meaning.
Recap: Text for 9th graders should score above 60. Insurance paperwork must score above 40. Gifted program homepages were below 30. NAGC’s mission statement is a 20.
Clarifying Our Message
This is a problem. And it speaks to a larger problem: our ability to communicate as educators.
Part of the problem is the reliance on jargon – fancy-sounding words that don’t really mean anything. I’ve written about this problem before.
Check your district’s homepage for words like differentiation, identification, asynchrony, rigor, acceleration, or proficiency. Those aren’t words that normal humans know – heck I don’t even know what some of them actually mean (hello “rigor”). Use real words!
Do you see a bunch of acronyms? Stop using them! I get email every week with sentences like, “I’m a AIL teacher in my district’s OCEE program and our students are working on their GTOL but I need some help.” (And that’s barely an exaggeration).
Another reason these homepages (and that NAGC paragraph) score so poorly is their overly complicated text structures. Break compound and complex sentences down into simple sentences. Trim away flabby words. Aim for clarity above all.
Exercises for the Reader
So here are your jobs:
- Test your program’s own webpage. How complicated is its message? The Spelling and Grammar checker in Microsoft Word includes a Flesch Reading Ease score test. You can also find them online. Remember, insurance paperwork is legally required to score above 40.
- Write a new paragraph that clearly explains your gifted program. Use simple words. Use simple sentences. Remove all acronyms. Remove all edu-jargon. Make it so that someone without a high school diploma can understand what your program does and why it’s important.
- Develop a ten-second verbal elevator pitch that clearly explains why your gifted program is so darn vital.
Finally, send me what you came up with: email@example.com!
Is this helpful? Want more information that’s specifically about running a gifted program? I’m building out a series on this topic. Sign up and I’ll let you know whenever there’s more.