States

States Seen Renewing Focus on Education Of Gifted

By Christina A. Samuels — April 06, 2007 3 min read

Florida and Wisconsin are among the states considering changes to the system they use to identify gifted children, part of what experts in the field say is a national trend of reaching out to children traditionally underrepresented in academically advanced classrooms.

Advocates for the gifted hope that the attention in those states—as well as Indiana’s recent move to mandate education for students of “high ability”—indicates a renewed concentration on gifted education, amid the focus on underachieving children prompted by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Federal policy requires all students to score at proficient levels on state tests by 2014.

“The optimist in me has said, maybe the pendulum has swung as far as it’s going to go,” said Jane Clarenbach, the director of public education for the National Association of Gifted Children, or NAGC, in Washington. “There are a number of states that are grappling with this.” The group estimates that about 3 million U.S. children are gifted.

In Indiana, the state legislature passed a bill March 15 that would require districts to provide such services, though it leaves the specific definition of “high ability” up to the districts. The bill, awaiting the governor’s signature, includes specific language to ensure that “multifaceted assessments” are used to include groups typically underrepresented in programs for the gifted, such as minorities, the poor, and students with disabilities.

‘A Patchwork Quilt’

“The main issue has to do with the rather rigid cutoff criteria that has been in use before,” said Joseph S. Renzulli, the director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “My philosophy is much more flexible than, ‘You’re gifted or not gifted.’ ”

But the complex nature of identifying gifted students remains a challenge for many states and districts.

First, there are competing definitions of what makes a student gifted. And, unlike in special education, there is no federal policy that oversees how states should handle gifted education. Some states mandate education for the gifted and provide full funding for it. Others mandate it, with partial funding coming from the state and the remainder for local districts. And in still other states, there is no state funding for gifted education, and no mandate from the state that it must be provided, though individual districts may choose to do so.

“It’s a patchwork quilt,” Ms. Clarenbach said.

A West Virginia proposal would allow students to be considered gifted if they score in the 97th percentile on a “comprehensive test of intellectual ability.” Currently, state regulations require a score in the 98th percentile. West Virginia has a student enrollment of about 280,000 students.

The National Association of Gifted Children estimates that about 6 percent of children are academically gifted, but only 2 percent are identified as such in West Virginia.

Wisconsin’s proposal has not yet been introduced, though the state hopes to make changes by the end of the calendar year.

Chrystyna V. Mursky, the educational consultant who oversees gifted and talented education for Wisconsin, said the state is hoping to adopt the “exemplary” identification practices advocated by the NAGC. Teachers would gather a portfolio of information on each student, rather than relying on a single measure or test. The profile could be used to guide student instruction, Ms. Mursky said.

The state now uses multiple measures, but adopting the NAGC standards would allow the state to recommend practices that most closely follow the research in the gifted education field, she said.

Florida’s proposal, which was first introduced late last year and is under consideration by the state board of education, would eliminate the current policy’s definition of giftedness as “measured by an intelligence quotient of two standard deviations above the mean,” which is an iq of 130.

Instead, the state would use the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the standardized test given to students in grades 3 through 11, as another measure of giftedness.

But Lauri Kirsch, the supervisor of gifted education in the 191,000-student Hillsborough County district, which includes Tampa, said the proposed change would result in fewer students in underidentified groups being identified as gifted, rather than more.

The proposal, unlike the current regulations, makes no specific mention of trying to reach underrepresented groups.

“If the intent is to have the program be more representative of the general population, this would not do that,” said Ms. Kirsch, whose district has 13,000 students identified as gifted. “Anytime we have change, we have to look at the larger picture. There is no silver bullet on identification.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week as States Seen Renewing Focus on Education of Gifted

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States 8 States Debate Bills to Restrict How Teachers Discuss Racism, Sexism
Proposed bills in several states aim to ban "divisive concepts."
8 min read
Messed up puzzle pieces of an American flag on a dark blue background
iStock/Getty Images Plus
States How to Talk About Next School Year Presents a Big Test for Education Leaders
State K-12 officials must clearly communicate plans for safety, academics, and mental health, while mixing urgency with nuance.
12 min read
Woman applying "Welcome Back" sign to the school entrance
Leo Patrizi/E+/Getty Images
States Two More States Pass Restrictions on Transgender Students. Will Others Follow?
States have considered dozens of bills on the rights of transgender students. They cover everything from sports to pronouns used in schools.
4 min read
Advocates for transgender people march from the South Dakota governor's mansion to the Capitol in Pierre, S.D., on March 11, 2021, to protest a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues.
Advocates for transgender people march from the South Dakota governor's mansion to the Capitol in Pierre to protest a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues.
Stephen Groves/AP
States Vaccine Access Speeds Up for Teachers After Biden's Declaration
The vaccine landscape for teachers shifted dramatically after President Joe Biden directed states to prioritize the K-12 workforce.
7 min read
030321 Vaccine Breaking AP BS
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is held by a pharmacist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut on March.
Jessica Hill