Best Practice in Identifying Gifted Learners
Recognizing gifted potential is not a reward for students.
It is an awareness of need so instruction
can be differentiated to match readiness.
Recognizing that some students have gifted potentials
does not make them more important or more valuable.
Every student is equally valuable by the nature of being human.
Yet every student is different,
and many have dramatically diverse learning needs,
rates of learning, and readiness levels.
To ensure quality programming,
student assessment for gifted identification
must be an organized, systematic, reciprocal process
that seeks to identify student needs for purposes
of matching students to programming options.
Current research in education supports an obligation to identify gifted learners. From leading authors in the field of gifted education, to senior scholars and early career researchers representing a range of experience levels studying giftedness, the common message is that gifted children, because of their unique intellectual development and abilities, often require different educational services to meet their unique needs (Plucker & Callahan, 2008).
As early as 1971, Former U. S. Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr., in his August report to Congress, stated:
Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society.
Consistent with current research on criteria for identification of gifted children, the State of Missouri requires state approved gifted programs to have in place an identification plan, and within that plan the use of multiple assessment tools to ensure equitable identification within and across a diverse gifted learner population. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) set guidelines for the identification of gifted students in their General Administrative Procedures for Gifted Programs document. To qualify for state funding of gifted programming, school districts must use three of the four following criteria:
- general mental ability,
- academic ability as demonstrated through nationally normed assessments,
- creativity, reasoning and problem-solving ability and
- "other" which must be "documented evidence of exceptional performance in a general academic area" (General Administrative Procedures for Gifted Programs. 2007).
Renzulli and Delcourt note that predetermined criterion for giftedness, high IQ scores, have remained essentially the same over the years (2004, p. 74). It is generally agreed that IQ tests do measure certain skills that are important to school learning, and that IQ scores are highly correlated to school achievement (Palmer, 2006, p. 4). Palmer continues,
"An individual IQ test is usually only given when it appears that a child is out of sync with the typical learner (p. 27). Best practices dictate that tests used for identification must meet educational testing standards with consideration for cultural fairness. Most districts use a multifaceted approach to identification, basing the selection of gifted learners on a variety of screening methods. Not all bright children are gifted, and not all gifted children are so different from their peers that they need special support" (Palmer, 2006, p. 27).
"Once gifted students are identified, a program of study matched to their unique abilities must be developed" (Best practices of schools that nurture excellence. 2004).
Consequently, there needs to be an alignment between the identification process and the gifted services provided.
(McCaw. 1997. p.34, Clarenbach. 2007, Capurro. 2003, Silverman. 1997-2007, Dimensions of giftedness. 2002, Meisels & Atkins-Burnett. 2004, A place to start: is my child gifted? 2004, Reis & Purcell. 2003, Renzulli. 2004. p. 54, & Purcell & Eckert. 2006. p. 51 & 120)