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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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Educator and School Counselor / Trinidad School District #1

Try the Naglieri or NNAT

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We use the Naglieri, a nonverbal screen. Many students who do not perform well on standardized tests demonstrate their intelligence with this simple tool. It is nationally standardized, but there is no reading or math involved. We use it in part to see if we have students who we are maybe overlooking because they do not score well on MAP or state assessments. Plus, giftedness should include the categories of leadership, performance, creativity, problem solving, and the arts, in addition to academic and cognitive measures. A student can be a gifted artist, but otherwise illiterate. A student can be "twice exceptional" with a learning disability and a gift simultaneously. Because of this, assessment scores are only used to red flag students who may qualify in the cognitive or academic areas. We use other screens like the Gifted Evaluation Scale and The Gifted Planner, and a body of evidence is compiled for any student suspected of giftedness in any area. The body of evidence is a mandate from the Colorado Department of Education. We also define giftedness in relation to the student having special needs because of their gifts or talents, and that an advanced learning plan should be designed to meet those needs when the regular curriculum is inadequate.

What IS Gifted?

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Is Gifted the ability to think outside the box? (Box, what box?) Is it the ability to answer standardized questions perfectly? Is it the ability to sit still for 6 hours, smiling at the teacher and keeping a tidy desk?

The Gifted "Tests" are only as good as the person giving them. When my son was 5 years old, the teacher asked a question of all the students: Name three things about dinosaurs. Most of the answers were "They laid eggs, they were big, some flew." My son responded "Some people think that dinosaurs became extinct when a comet hit the Earth, causing massive destruction and possibly an extreme drought." No joke. But when he was tested to "Giftedness" the first time, he came up not QUITE gifted. Because he missed one page on the test. (He is dyslexic). The test overseer did not consider it pertinent to check that the children with different abilities actually saw each of the pages. (Second test, he came up "Gifted", go figure.)

The worst of all of this is that the children who are not identified as "Gifted" are treated differently. My son's dyslexia caused him no end of grief in a classroom, and all the teachers said he just wasn't very smart UNTIL he was retested three years later for "Giftedness", he didn't miss any pages, came up highly "Gifted" and they ran several other intelligence tests. Suddenly, he was now smart and the teachers started treating him differently. The damage had already been done-he thinks he is not smart.

Bottom line-treat every child as "Gifted" because each one is in their own way. The teacher's attitude to the kids makes more of a difference than the child's intelligence. Believe they can learn and most will, one way or another.


Educator and School Counselor / Trinidad School District #1


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I agree with Ghostwheel. We have the IEP, the ILP, the ALP, but what we really need is a PLP (personalized learning plan) for each individual whether they are "special needs" or not.

Elementary Music Teacher, PEI, Canada

I often think that we do a

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I often think that we do a disservice to our gifted students when so much time and effort is given to those who are struggling. This is not to say we shouldn’t give that effort for those students in need, it would be negligent not to, but often the case is that there is little time or effort left over to devote to the gifted. They are sometimes left with extra-curricular activities to meet their challenge, or even extra stimulation from outside school. In my school, the guidance counsellor often is the person runs clubs for gifted students.

I think when discussing gifted students Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence certainly comes into play. While a student may be average or even struggling in one area, he may be gifted in another.
Someone may be gifted in math, or language, while someone else may be gifted in music. Identifying and challenging these students to thrive in their area of strength and to push them beyond where they would naturally develop themselves is certainly a challenge.

Of course, with anything in education, we are doing the best we can with the limited resources we are given.

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