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How are we identifying gifted students? And is it working?

Betty Ray Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Edweek has a great article today about how we assess whether a student is gifted. Written by Walt Gardner, it touches on the craziness of the high-stakes test approach and how it favors the wealthiest families that can afford $145/hour tutors and test-prep sessions that start in toddlerhood.

Gardner also suggests that teachers (as those who spend so much more time with students directly) should be more involved in the assessment. He calls for training to help teachers identify giftedness, and urges the U.S. to stop "squandering one of its greatest assets at a time when other nations are nurturing theirs."

I'd love to hear your thoughts here. How could teachers play a more active role in assessing giftedness? Anyone know of any districts or schools where they're doing a better job of this?

Comments (14)

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2nd Grade Teacher from North Dakota

Identifying Gifted Students

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You have brought up a very valuable point. In our school district, when it comes time for our students to participate in the gifted program in our school, they mainly focus on the scores from our map test, which is our standardarized tests that we do twice a year. I also look at class performance, motivation, creativity and overall critical thinking skills. We have different units too, so it depends on the unit activities that we are working on. I still find it hard sometimes to decide which students should participate in the gifted program. I'm thankful that our map test scores are only one piece to the puzzle and we are able to use our own judgment as well.

Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Defining Gifted

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I think test scores are one measure, but I think we also have to consider that some students are bright and need enrichment with a more surgical approach as well. Our middle school does rough tracking, and then will give kids needing "more" projects, independent study and personal learning contracts when they are well ahead of the classroom curve for work. Some kids need this frequently, others, it changes unit by unit depending on background knowledge, etc.
I'm hoping as differentiated instruction and personalized learning start to catch on, the gifted kids needs will be met within regular classrooms as well as when needed in the academically talented tracks as well.

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I wonder. What is the purpose

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I wonder. What is the purpose of identifying gifted students?

My guess is that we identify gifted students so that we can give them challenges and more interesting curriculum to cover. We identify them so we can draw them out of the mainstream (and often dull) curriculum to give them some of the flashier fun stuff to do.

Why aren't we doing this for all students?

When I was in school, a

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When I was in school, a mapping test was given to all students in Kindergarten to see if they were considered gifted and talented. This was purely a test of creativity. We were to draw things and fill in shapes with what it made us think of, fill in a spider web with something caught in it. I do not remember having anything that determined intelligence. I was selected to be in a GT course and many of my friends were not. As the years went on, I felt I had become better organized and more of a self starter because of my GT classes.

Multi-age Second and third Grade Teacher from Minnesota

Thank you! David Wees

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Thank you! I agree with you-anything that we would do for anyone who is exceeding or in need of help would benefit everyone in our class. If we make an effort for one student-we should make the effort for all students.
The biggest problem I run into with this is parents. How do you respond when they ask you if their child is gifted-and why are they not in a special program?

Educator and School Counselor / Trinidad School District #1

In Colorado giftedness is

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In Colorado giftedness is defined by the need for something different from or in addition to the regular curriculum to meet the needs of a particular student. It is handled like an IEP, and a team, multiple measures, and a body of evidence should be used for identification. Each gifted student should have an Advanced Learning Plan that should be focused on meeting their special needs.

So, we have the IEP on the one hand, the ALP on the other, and those in the middle who are supposedly being adequately served without a personalized plan. This brings up the question of whether all students should have a personalized learning plan based on a portfolio containing multiple measures and a body of evidence.

IEP's and ALP's are symptoms of a factory one-size-fits-all education system. Differentiation is another symptom, or at least an attempt to compensate for the factory model (which, by the way, is only being exacerbated by standardization).

3-5th grade teacher, Minnesota

One of our intervention

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One of our intervention teachers is starting a gifted and talented program at our school this year. She discussed with me how she should determine which students are admitted to the program. It was decided that NWEA/MAP and MCA scores would be looked at. She wanted to go beyond just standardized test scores so she decided to require an essay and teacher evaluations. I am really excited to see how the program works.

first grade teacher in ND

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I, too, feel it is sometimes hard to determine who is qualified for the gifteed program. I agree that MAP scores should only be 1 factor. Teacher input/common sense seems to take a backseat to data scores these days. I don't always think that is fair.
I feel that so much time and effort is given to the interventions for lower level learners to bring them up to grade level that our gifted students are forgotten about and sit idle for most of the day. I work hard in my room to find challenging activities for these kiddos whether they are in the gifted program or just accelerated learners. I feel sometimes we are doing a disservice to our advanced students. This needs to change! They need just as much effort put into enrichment as our slower learners get for interventions.

fifth grade teacher from Fargo, North Dakota

I definitely agree with

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I definitely agree with Jamelle and the others who have posted on this question. Our school just this year started using the MAP test scores to help us as teachers group students in an objective way. These tests have REALLY excited me, because up until this school year, we really have not had another form of testing (other than the North Dakota State Assessments which are taken in the fall and scores do not come back until the spring) to evaluate students. As many other teachers were saying on this blog, I agree that these tests should only be one piece of the puzzle and other factors should definitely be considered to decided whether a student is gifted. The challenge that I see at times is that it is difficult to stretch our advanced/gifted learners. But like many have said, it is our job as teachers to find activities/projects that allow them opportunities to grow and flourish in the classroom. :)

parent of three highly gifted children

It has to be an individual assessment...

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I think that gifted students are being pigeon-holed as much as the non gifted. I have two very linear thinking gifted students who could pass any standardized test you throw at them with their eyes closed practically, but I also have a very gifted non-linear thinking student who can't pass a standardized to save his soul. He is just as gifted as his siblings, but because there is no way to assess the student who thinks "differently" in a "non- standardized" way, he gets labeled as the difficult child and probably ADHD. He is not difficult or ADHD he just thinks differently. Unfortunately, classrooms, teachers and tests are designed for the linear thinkers only, the assessments, classrooms, teachers, etc. are therefore lacking for the non linear gifted students. MAP tests are fine... for some, but teachers should have a larger say in who's "gifted" and other types of assessments should be considered for all gifted students.

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