If you’re a teacher looking for useful sessions that will immediately improve your classroom, you might wonder “Is NAGC’s conference worth it?”
I’d recommend that teachers avoid NAGC’s annual event and instead attend a state or local conference.
It’s just not worth the price if you’re a teacher.
It took me several years of attending to realize it, but NAGC is an organization by and for academics, even though the attendees are mostly teachers.
Leadership Doesn’t Match The Audience
It’s obvious once you look at the board. Most of them are employed by a university and/or hold a doctorate.
Now, that’s not a bad, thing, obviously, but it should be equally obvious that an organization run by academics will tilt towards the needs of academics – intentionally or not.
If you are on an academic track, maybe this is the perfect event for you! But, as a teacher, I wish I would have known that NAGC’s conference was planned for a different audience.
As a relatively new teacher who spent over $1000 to travel to my first NAGC conference, it was pretty disappointing to see session after session led by a person presenting a research paper.
In this way, NAGC is unlike any of the state gifted education conferences I’ve been to. And I’ve been to most of them! No other conference puts so many academics in front of teachers.
At NAGC, people affiliated with a university make up only 21% of conference attendees1 but more than half of the session leaders (yes I counted!) were affiliated with a university. And, since some of them spoke at up to 10 sessions (!), academics are even more over-represented on stage than that.
Despite being the majority of attendees, there are fewer teachers on stage than university-affiliated people. Now, it’s fine if a conference wants to be a place where people can present research, but that should be made clear so teachers can attend a different event that’s designed for them.
Take a look at NAGC’s 2021 at-a-glance sessions and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Academics simply dominate the stage.
So, why are so many sessions led by academics when the attendees are mostly teachers? NAGC’s session proposals favor people who are already writing about their topic. And that’s not teachers!
First, submissions are due in January for a conference in November. That’s only two months after the last event ended! What teachers have time to write proposals ten months before the event? On the other hand, folks who are already writing research papers are much more likely to have something ready to go.
Then, those proposals aren’t evaluated by a special group of experts, as you might expect. They’re evaluated by whoever will agree to do it! There’s no special qualification. I, myself, evaluated session proposals for NAGC just a few years into my teaching career. I had no idea what I was doing, so I’m sure that I chose the better-sounding session proposals.
And that means I probably picked academic writers over teachers.
If NAGC attendees are mostly teachers, but the board is mostly academics, then why don’t those teachers take control of the organization and remake the conference?
Well, that is perhaps the strangest thing about NAGC. Conference attendees don’t get the right to vote unless they pay *an additional $119 on top of the conference fee.
You can imagine how few teachers are going to shell out $119 just to vote for an association, right?
If you’re on an academic track, perhaps NAGC is the conference for you in 2021! The price might be totally worth it if you want to present research or see what your peers are up to.
But, if you’re a teacher or a program coordinator, I’d recommend supporting your state or local gifted conference rather than NAGC. Those events tend to be run by people who work for school districts and, thus, put teachers’ needs first.
And, hey, if you do have a hankering to travel to a larger gifted education conference, I’d recommend checking out Texas’ annual event. TAGT is a teacher-focused group that puts on a great event that, I think, gets better every time I’ve attended.
Maybe I’ll see you there!