How to identify students for participation in programs for the gifted and talented continues to be one of the most widely discussed and debated topics in the field of gifted education. This is not only testament to the fact that there are no easy answers or simple solutions to identification questions; this longstanding, healthy debate is also an indication of the far-reaching effects that decisions related to identification have on students, schools, and communities.
In her article "Myth: There Must be 'Winners' and 'Losers' in Identification and Programming!" Carolyn Callahan (1982) explains how identification processes are woven throughout the tapestry of planning and programming within a school:
The key issue is not whether a child is gifted or not gifted. Those labels are useful to us only in the sense that they (a) create an awareness that there exists a population of students whose exceptional abilities differentiate them from the rest of the student population and (b) suggest some characteristics which we should attend to in planning educational programs for those children. The label is also important in gaining recognition that these modifications may require additional expenditure of funds to train teachers in meeting the gifted child's needs, in providing special teachers as necessary, for additional materials, etc. From that point on, the issue of education of the gifted should revolve around the degree to which any child's needs are being met through the regular curriculum, the degree to which the curriculum should be enriched and/or accelerated, and who will be responsible for that modification in the program.
Developing a comprehensive and cohesive student identification process requires a thorough review and careful coordination of local demographics, goals, and procedures; however, it also demands attention to a larger view of the issue as well. As you access the resources below and contemplate your own role in designing and developing student identification procedures, keep these three recommendations in mind.
The way in which you define or conceptualize giftedness should provide a rationale for your identification process and the assessment tools that you select.
There should be a clear and purposeful relationship between the goals of your gifted program and how students are identified. For example, if a program is based on performance in accelerated mathematics courses, then it makes sense to use a review of mathematics aptitude tests and math grades as a central focus of the identification process.
Educators must be vigilant in their efforts to ensure that the diversity of the students identified to participate in a gifted program reflects the diversity of the total student population from which they are selected.
"The On-going Dilemma of Effective Identification Practices in Gifted Education" by Joyce VanTassel-Baska
"With the Eyes of a Teacher" by Mary Ruth Coleman
"Cultivating Otherwise Untapped Potential" by Deborah Smith
"Identifying and Nurturing the Gifted Poor" by Paul D. Slocumb and Ruby K. Payne
"Individual Intelligence Testing and Giftedness: A Primer for Parents" by Gregory R. Machek and Jonathan A. Plucker
"Assessing and Advocating for Gifted Students: Perspectives for School and Clinical Psychologists" by Nancy M. Robinson
"How One District Made It Work: Matching Student Needs with Gifted Services " by Ann Ducscher
"Strategies for Identifying the Talents of Diverse Students"
"The Identification of Students Who Are Gifted"
"Norm- and Criterion-Referenced Testing"
View "The role of non-verbal tests in Identifying Academically Gifted Students: An Aptitude Perspective," a powerpoint slide show with notes by Dr. David Lohman from the University of Iowa.
Gifted Children with Learning Disabilities: A Review of the Issues
Many administrators and educators often overlook the fact that a child can be both gifted and learning disabled - especially when developing identification practices and policies.
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