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Identifying Gifted Children From Diverse Populations

There has long been concern that high-ability students from underserved populations --  those who are limited English proficient, disabled, or from minority or low-income backgrounds -- are persistently underrepresented in advanced classes and in programs for students identified as gifted.   While many districts and states have made improvements in identifying and serving a broader range of advanced students, there remains much to be done to ensure that all high-ability students receive appropriate gifted education services to meet their needs.

Assessment Strategies  

Since the passage of the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act in 1988, grant-funded research projects and the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) have looked at some of the obstacles to identifying students from diverse backgrounds and have developed an arrany of strategies focused on improving our identification and assessment practices.  All high quality identification practices, which also ensure equitable participation, depend on the following  (from the NAGC Pre-K -Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards):

  • Assessments should be responsive to students’ economic conditions, gender, developmental differences, handicapping conditions,  and other factors that mitigate against fair assessment practices.
  • Assessments should be sensitive to all stages of talent development and should be provided in a language in which the student is most fluent, if available.
  • Student assessment data should come from multiple sources and include multiple assessment methods.
  • Instruments used for student eligibility for gifted education services must measure a range of abilities, talents, strengths, and needs in order to provide students an opportunity to demonstrate their strengths. 

Principles of Identification

According to researchers from the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), the major principles of  identification for underserved gifted students, based on available research, can be summarized as follows:

  1. Select a broad definition of giftedness with which to assess, going beyond cognitive abilities.
  2. Use a multiple criteria approach (performance assessment, portfolios, dynamic assessment, nominations)
  3. Use unique and appropriate identification strategies to identify different aspects of giftedness, making use of reliable instruments and strategies, while considering the reliability and validity data for the populations assessed, norms, and cultural bias in instrumentation.
  4. View each child as an individual and recognize limitations of a single score on any measure.
  5.  Recognize the serious limitations of matrices in the identification process.
  6.  Identify and place students based on student need rather than by a pre-determined program limit.
  7. Create a larger talent pool to allow more students to further develop their talents and abilities.
  8. Design an identification process that is varied, wide-reaching, and ongoing to ensure that students whose abilities are masked by environmental circumstances are part of the process.

Numerous monographs on identification are available from the NRC/GT.  Many of  the resources in the box to the right are linked to a monograph summary and conclusion. Complete monographs can be downloaded at no cost.  

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For More Information on Identification

Other links on the NAGC website

NAGC position statement on Identification 

Teaching for High Potential article on Project EXCITE.

NRC/GT Monographs

Issues and Practices 

Intelligence Testing

Identifying Talent Potential  

Staff Development

Latino Achievement 

Academically Talented Minority Students 

The DISCOVER Project 

Equity, Excellence, and Economy 

NAGC Publication

Alternative Assessments with Gifted and Talented Students, Edited by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D.