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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

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

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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?

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Kelly Watson's picture
Kelly Watson
2nd Grade Teacher from North Dakota

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.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

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.

David Wees's picture
David Wees
Formative Assessment Specialist for New Visions for Public Schools

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?

Katie Bess's picture

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.

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