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Fall Blog Series - Part 1



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Fall Blog Series!

Week One

By Teagan Taylor


As we are heading further into the fall season and beyond the “back to school” phase, this is the perfect time to replenish our gifted educational resource base! The fall months are often when we are finishing gifted assessments, introducing parents to the world of gifted, and even assisting teachers with gifted differentiation. Each post in this Fall Blog Series will touch on an important topic that is hopefully relevant to your environment, and can be implemented right away!


Topic: The Ins and Outs of Gifted Identification


To Ponder: “Tests are common assessment tools for identification, but should not serve as the sole source of identification. Tests often exclude underserved gifted students who are English Language Learners (ELLs), disabled, or from minority or low-income backgrounds. An identification strategy that includes multiple assessments—both objective and subjective—is the best way to ensure no gifted learner is overlooked.” (NAGC)


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Tidbits:

Do Research: Whether your school/district screens every student, or whether they require nomination forms, the pathway to gifted identification can be confusing and daunting at times. First things first, if you are interested in knowing how your school/district identifies giftedness and what assessment measures they use, go to the school’s website and do some digging. If the information there does not provide what you’re looking for, do not hesitate to reach out directly to the gifted specialist at your school and request a meeting. As an AIG teacher myself, I always respect when a parent or teacher reaches out to me; it shows that they are advocating for their child. Information is power!


The resources below are great for getting started in your research:


Definition of Giftedness: Every school district and every state has varying definitions of what "giftedness" means. This determines not only how they provide services to students, but also how they test and identify for giftedness. A district or school’s definition of giftedness and their mission statements for their gifted programs are really important in structuring their services, but they can also "hold back" a program from providing the best services possible based on current gifted educational research. As parents and stakeholders, it's important to know how your student's school, district and state views giftedness to see if this aligns to gifted identification best practices (see the next section for more info!)

Gifted Identification Best Practices & FYI’s:

  • Gifted education has been around for decades, formally starting with the development of the IQ test back in the early 1900's. Since then we have learned that giftedness expresses itself in multiple ways and gifted instruction is not "one size fits all"; it is a spectrum!

  • The research is still out on what precisely it means to be "gifted" and how best to identify students. There are also many layers to "giftedness". A child can be gifted in one area and not in others, they can be twice-exceptional, they can experience intense emotions, and they can come from all backgrounds. To learn more CLICK HERE!

  • Formal measures (tests, assessments etc.), should just be one of the testing tools used to identify giftedness. Other, more informal and subjective measures (student interviews, student work, teacher rating scales, etc.), should also be used as well! Having a matrix of measures to look at and analyze gives us a better picture of the whole child and their capabilities.

  • Let’s admit it, test taking is a skill that some students do well at, and others struggle with, especially if they have not been taught how to take a test or have not had a lot of experience with test taking. When a student is being tested for giftedness, we want to ensure that they are set up for success by considering their unique abilities and environment.

  • Screening and testing for giftedness can occur at any stage in school, even as young as Pre-K or as late into the game as middle school. Gifted assessments should be offered to students of any age so we do not miss anyone, but if a student is being identified in middle school, their previous school probably did not do a great job of screening for their potential. Oftentimes this is because there may be bias in the testing process, or a lack of understanding of all the different ways giftedness expresses. Providing students an equitable testing experience is key. Learn more HERE and HERE!


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Types of Gifted Assessments: When it comes to formal testing measures, each school, district and state uses different assessments. Some assessments have been deemed more reliable and “better” than others, but it really just depends on how your school/district defines “giftedness” and if they are using/interpreting the test results fairly.


There are two main types of gifted assessments, Achievement tests and Ability tests. Achievement tests show how much a student has already learned in the main subject areas, while Ability tests provide information on a student’s innate thinking skills and their intellectual potential. Ability tests can be anything from IQ tests to Cognitive Aptitude tests (these are different! For example the CogAT is NOT an IQ test). IQ tests (tests like the Stanford Binet) were for decades the exclusive way of identifying giftedness. And while they still are valid/reliable, IQ tests are not the only way to identify. Another test that some schools use is the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which are in it’s own category, but are sometimes a great measure to use in order to capture our more creative and innovative gifted students! See below for a list of types of assessments often used for identification:

  • Achievement Tests Examples

    • Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement

    • Iowa Assessments

    • SATs

    • American College Testing (ACTs)

    • Science Research Associates (SRA) tests

    • Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students (SAGES)

  • Ability Test Examples

    • Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ-IV Cog)

    • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V)

    • Stanford-Binet 5th edition (SB-5)

    • Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT-3)

    • Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI-2)

    • Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT 8)

    • Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Scale (UNIT-2)

    • Wechsler Preschool Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-IV)

    • Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)


The Testing Days: It is very important that on the days of gifted testing, your student should be well rested, have a good breakfast, and be ready to do their best. Oftentimes these tests can take place over a few days, for a few hours each day. It can be a marathon and requires resilience! As an AIG teacher, there are times when I go to the classrooms to pull students for testing, and some are not even aware they are being tested! Thus, make sure to have a conversation with your student about when and where they are testing (gifted students thrive on clear expectations), and answer any questions they have so that they feel comfortable and heard. Try not to make a big deal out of the testing and try not to use language that implies that giftedness is a “club to get into” or that it is “only for smart people”. Work to dispel common misconceptions/myths of giftedness before they test, so that students feel their best, are confident, and are not comparing themselves to others (our blog has a series on such myths!). When I pull students, I often give them a brief overview of each test they are taking and explain that AIG/gifted classes are not for everyone, and that is okay! Every student is different and is getting the support they need.


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After Testing: Be prepared to wait several weeks for test results to come in and for your AIG teacher to reach out to you. Sometimes it will be a short email, sometimes it will be a packet sent home, and sometimes it will be digital paperwork to look through. Try not to bug the AIG teacher too much; there are usually many steps they have to take before releasing scores (for compliance and accountability purposes).


When you do get the score report, there will be lots of numbers and figures (percentiles, raw scores, grade-equivalent scores, standard scores etc.). Hopefully your AIG teacher explains which ones they use to identify. In my district we look at APR (age percentile ranks), which means if a student scores in the 75th percentile, compared to other students their age in the nation, they scored better than 75% of them. Some districts use local norms, not national norms. And each district/school has different “cut off” scores. Usually students have to score at least in the 80th percentile or above. If a school is identifying for “highly gifted”, it might be in the 90th or even 95th percentile or above.


Oftentimes, scores are converted into points, and there may be multiple pathways to identifying. For example, in my district, if a student scores in the 97th percentile or above on the CogAT or Iowa, they automatically place (pathway 1 and 2), or they can qualify using our point system (pathway 3). Some schools use subscores, so as to capture students who may be gifted in one specific area (such as in the Nonverbal domain), or who may be twice-exceptional.


If there are any disagreements on scores/results, usually districts have a process for dealing with such claims, so be sure to ask to see that policy if you feel strongly about the results. If your student qualifies, you will typically meet with the AIG teacher, so feel free to ask all the questions you have on how they plan to meet your student’s needs. If your student does not qualify, do not stress! Hear out what the AIG teacher has to say, keep advocating for your student, and know that there is usually a chance each school year for testing.


To Extend: What are your thoughts on the current state of gifted identification? What areas of improvement are needed and how can communication be clearer between stakeholders? Share in the comment section below!






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