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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sigh...Okay Let's Talk about Gifted Students

So how did we get to the need for a separate thread on gifted programming? The lead-off was this post under the thread about the program at Garfield to help students who need guidance on higher level classes and getting into college (I have edited it slightly).

"No matter how many feel good articles there are, Garfield is segregated because of the APP program. The testing to qualify still reflects the qualitifies (verbal acuity) that come from parental influence and a higher econoimic status. Seattle's APP program does not reflect true intellectual giftedness, although some in the program are truly gifted. A true gifted program should be a place for those students that can not operate socially, because of their intellect, to receive help. The SPS program is a place/pathway for high acheiving but generally not gifted students to jump ahead. The SPS program reflects the power of parents to influence the system."

So Charlie answered later (again edited for length):

"Anonymous is incorrect about the purpose of a "true gifted program". It is not for students who cannot operate socially. That very idea is absurd. The bulk of the students in APP, like the bulk of all SPS students, are as socially adept as is developmentally appropriate. That's not why they cannot be well served in general education classes. They cannot be reliably well-served in general education classrooms because the teachers in those classrooms cannot adequately differentiate instruction to include material and assignments that would be challenging for the APP students while also meeting the academic needs of students working at and below grade level."

My proposal for this thread is that we just talk about gifted students (versus bright or regular ed or low achievers). We can have another thread about SPS programs. Clear? We're not going to talk about APP or Spectrum or Advanced Learning but what gifted means and why high achieving kids have their own special needs. See Charlie's post for talking about APP, Spectrum, etc.

First, characteristics of gifted children. Here's a list I've seen frequently. We could debate, a lot, about severely gifted (yes, that is an actual term), highly gifted, gifted, bright, etc. I know that many people roll their eyes because they perceive that either those parents think their child is "precious" and has to be handled carefully or deserves more or those parents are trying to push their child to prop up their own egos. I've met a few of those parents in my years here but only a few. Mostly, they are parents, like all parents, who want their child's academic needs met.

So bright versus gifted? Gifted is NOT about making good grades. It helps but any student who can read and do math and has the discipline, support and determination to succeed can make good grades. Bright kids cannot pass most gifted testing easily. Bright kids can be a spark in the classroom and a role model to other students precisely because they don't exhibit some of the characteristics that gifted kids have that seem to turn off or confuse other students.

Second, resources. One is the National Center for the Gifted and Talented. I'm providing a link to their research page. It has a plethora of articles on all sorts of issues on this topic. Another is KidsSource. Here's a great FAQ page from the National Center for Gifted Children that covers many legal topics. Also from the NCGC is a glossary page of frequently used terms in gifted education. Also from NCGC is a page about Washington State gifted education policies.

From Brainy Child.com about giftedness:
"Q: What are the causes of mentally gifted child?

A: Although this only a one line question, a whole essay can be written just on this question alone! This is a "nature" vs "nurture" question.

As a matter of fact, it has been widely agreed that both genetics and environment play a role in determining giftedness, but their relative importance is still being debated. Some believe that giftedness may be due to some innate process independent which is independent from the environmental effects. This means that regardless of where the child is raised, a gifted child will demonstrate the gifts at some point. For example, there are accounts of children with extraordinary gifts that could have an innate basis, such as the musically gifted. No particular environment appears to have stimulated the gift.

This is linked to the biological claim such as the brain or a chromosome that people believe scientists have yet to find. Psychologically, giftedness is believed to be an gift that has a genetic origin and is at least partly innate which may not be clear at an early stage but rather an inclination that the child may possess the gift.

Studies have indicated that individuals with extremely high mathematical abilities have frontal lobes of the brain which are more differentiated compared to average students. Neuropsychological studies claim that in information processing, gifted individuals have enhanced brain activity localized in the right hemisphere. This does show to a certain extent that the physical characteristics of the brain may be associated to an innate process in which certain people obtain high levels of gifts and capabilities in different areas.

Many studies have proved that demonstrated giftedness is subjected to biological (nature) and sociological (nurture) factors. These are again all linked to several other external factors outside of the child's physiological makeup. In short, to be considered gifted, a child need to have the right biological make up (genes, brain structure) and environment (education, exposure, diet, emotional security, etc.) to enhance and bring out the gifts."

From a legal standpoint, here's a quick synopsis from an article by Frances Karnes and Ronald Marquardt called Know Your Legal Rights in Gifted Education:

"Gifted preschool, elementary, and secondary school children have very limited protections under state and federal laws. By contrast, children and adults with disabilities have, under federal statute and in turn under state law accepting federal provisions, comprehensive protections in the following areas not yet applicable to the gifted: identification for screening and program admission or eligibility purposes, educational or other institutional and related services, employment policies and practices, architectural barriers in and about public buildings and transportation facilities, and other civil rights protections.

Parents, educators, and other concerned adults involved with gifted children should know the legal framework in which the education and related services are set forth. The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Act of 1994 was not established by Congress to protect the legal rights of gifted children, but rather to provide for model programs and projects. In contrast, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 does give extensive legal rights to persons with disabilities.

Without a federal law to protect the legal rights of gifted children, the responsibility for such mandates rests with the states. Approximately 30 states have a mandate to serve gifted children, while the remaining ones have permissive legislation (Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted, 1994). The National Association for Gifted Children has written a position paper supporting the concept that each state should mandate by law educational opportunities for gifted children.

For quick and authentic references, advocates for these students must have on hand the appropriate state and local statutes and regulations. State law usually defines the types of gifted children who must or may be served with state funds, and the educational provisions allowable. In a few states, the state boards of education enacted a state definition and the kinds and types of services to be provided with state revenues. Usually, the function of this body is to approve the rules and regulations or standards written by the state department of education based on the implementation of the law passed by the legislature.

In addition, the local, county, or parish school board may have passed specific implementations within its jurisdiction. To assure services to all eligible students and to maximize the probability that a dispute will be resolved productively, there are channels to follow: negotiation, mediation, due process, and court cases (Karnes & Marquardt, 1993). Parents of gifted children have, in personal success stories, documented these processes with a variety of educational issues (Karnes & Marquardt, 1991)."

What do these kids look like to teachers?

"When asked this question, most teachers will respond by citing three observations. First, gifted youngsters tend to get their work done quickly and may seek further assignments or direction. Second, they ask probing questions that tend to differ from their classmates in depth of understanding and frequency. Finally, they have interests in areas that are unusual or more like the interests of older students. In fact, these observations define the characteristics that challenge regular classroom teachers the most as they attempt to bring full instructional service to gifted and talented students. These students potentially differ from their classmates on three key dimensions (Maker, 1982): (1) the pace at which they learn; (2) the depth of their understanding; and (3) the interests that they hold. In order to develop instructional programs that will meet the needs of gifted students in regular classroom settings, it is necessary to address and accommodate these defining characteristics."

Okay, both my kids, according to SPS are gifted. A lot of their abilities, I believe, came because my husband and I invested huge amounts of time with them when they were little, reading and trying to stimulate their brains. Something connected. Are they profoundly gifted? No but their abilities go beyond being bright. Just like many areas of child development, there is a spectrum to giftedness.

However, if you read the literature on giftedness you'll learn of a couple of sidebars to gifted kids. One is that many gifted kids have some sort of disability (learning or other). Check on that for me. Another is lack of motivation despite ability. Check again on the other one for me. Everyone, even parents of bright children, has challenges with their children as students.

I have heard from teachers that bright kids should help "tutor" the class. No one's child is there to be a teacher. One of my son's friends, when he heard me talking about bright kids, rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, I'm always the one picked to "start the conversation" when we have discussions in class even if I don't raise my hand. I'm tired of it. There are other kids in class besides me." But teachers have said if you take the bright kids out, there goes the spark for the class and their job is harder. I appreciate that but no child is in the classroom to help the teacher. Not sit on their hands and wait. Not do an extra worksheet.

The key to this is differentiation both in curriculum and teaching. I am not convinced that this district has done anywhere near the training to help teachers do that and I would not be willing to give up Spectrum until it was true. And, if you are talking of classes 26+, it doesn't matter what training the teacher has, it is almost impossible (or a near feat of teaching).

The feds (if you read one of the links above) allot a modest $9M per year for gifted students in all 50 states (I believe the last figure I read for gifted kids was 3 million although many are missed/overlooked). That's not a huge pot of money by anyone's measure.

The irony is that we have a president who talks about education but has done little to better it in this country. Who makes jokes about his own mediocre performance. Who sneers at "university elites" when he graduated from Princeston. Other districts and other states do not seem to have this problem with gifted programming. Our district seems embarrassed by these kids. You can dislike parents who want gifted programming. But I ask you - who is going to win the next Nobel prize that may lead to a cure for any number of diseases? Who is going to get us to Mars? Who is going to engineer bridges - secure ones - for the 21st century? If you ignore these kids now, they will not be successful later and it could cost us all.

Every single kid in every single class deserves to be challenged and have their educational needs met.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hate those kinds of lists ("definitions of gifted children", and find them more than useless for addressing the needs of different learners.

I too have super-capable kids; they're not identified by the SPS because they aren't in the SPS system, but they have been tested by different assessment instruments (wisc, early toddler development). Do I think they have educational needs? yes.

Do I think those educational needs are different from those of other children? I really don't know. I think there might be differences between my children and those who need extra help (special needs?). But, when I see other kids I do honestly think I see wide ranges of abilities in a wide range of skills (ones that matter in school).

But, to get back to your list. When I see a list like that one, I really have to wonder -- are there parents who read through that list and don't see their child? All the children I know (yes, perhaps a skewed sample) are inquiring minds who are eager to learn. Are the things done in a classroom for gifted children not good for children who aren't identified as gifted, too? And, that's the subtext of those who are "re-testing" their kids for the spectrum program, or are concerned because their kid could do spectrum level work, but doesn't have access. Those kids are smart, they just don't meet the arbitrary cutoffs.

That's what one needs to convince me of in order for me to believe in gifted education, rather than just individualized education for each child and high level of work available for everyone.

(and, since we often seem to think these opinions depend on people's own status, I'll reiterate that my kids are high IQ & high achievement, for what that's worth. I have every reason to believe that they'd meet the required cutoffs for SPS).

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I agree with a whole lot of what you think and say on things, and have a huge amount of respect for your motivation to research, share, and make better, but your passage beginning "I have heard from teachers that bright kids should help "tutor" the class. No one's child is there to be a teacher..." which you repeat, gives me great pause.

It makes it feel as if this is all some great race that everyone is in for himself (or his child), and that having to be part of a classroom with lesser/different-abled children (that a scholastically-gifted child might have to help by doing things like leading by example or leading the discussion) is like having to turn back and lose your lead in the race. I say this most respectfully - that doesn't sound very gracious.

I know that the state has the responsibility to educate every child and the very scholastically-abled are entitled to an education that challenges them and nourishes them just as much as a lesser-abled child - and you and other parents of gifted kids probably have horror stories of the teacher leaving the room and expecting them to teach the rest of the kids - but when you already have the child who's very abled, and he's already getting a wealth of support at home and with peers, at some point doesn't it feel like an embarrassment of riches? And make you wonder, "how much is enough?"

And don't kids gain emotional intelligence and social skills from having a leadership/mentoring/guiding role in the classroom - that are a different but equally important kind of "gift"?

Anonymous said...

"And don't kids gain emotional intelligence and social skills from having a leadership/mentoring/guiding role in the classroom - "

It depends on the teacher and the classroom. From my experience, very few teachers have the skill set to make this a positive experience for the intellectually gifted kid and the rest of the classroom. While emotional intelligence and social skills are very important, I am always amazed that the intellectually gifted are seen as mentors for other kids. Being the parent of one highly gifted child and one wonderfully average child, I can tell you that their academic and social/emotional needs are very different. I cannot imagine my highly gifted kid being a mentor or seen as a classroom leader. More often than not this child is viewed as weird and awkward. It does not help a child to be ridiculed or seen as the teacher's pet. Believe me on this one. Being a natural leader is a "gift," that does not necessarily equate with intellectual giftedness. I would much rather my socially savvy average kid be in the position to mentor or be a leader. I don't mean to strike a hostile tone, but this is a sore subject with me.

Roy Smith said...

ouch said . . . And don't kids gain emotional intelligence and social skills from having a leadership/mentoring/guiding role in the classroom - that are a different but equally important kind of "gift"?

For a little bit different perspective on students tutoring or mentoring other students, I will share what I understand of how AS#1 does this in multi-grade classrooms, and maybe also shed some light on the potential advantages of multi-grade classrooms, even those with a large age range.

In AS#1, older kids in the classroom are generally encouraged to take a role in helping younger students learn skills and concepts. This is seen as being valuable not only for the younger child to learn, but also for reinforcing the skill or concept for the older child. That also corresponds with my own observation that for myself, sometimes the way that I most thoroughly learn something is by being expected to master it thoroughly enough to be able to teach it to someone else.

This being an elementary school, the teacher still closely monitors the teaching and learning process, but students are expected to take leadership roles far more than would have ever happened when I was in elementary school. Successfully making this teaching method work is also not something every teacher can do; whether that is simply due to lack of training, or some other factor, I am not sure.

The key difference between this model and the idea of having "gifted" children be the leaders or mentors in the classroom is that at AS#1, the older children in the classroom are encouraged to take this role and develop this kind of ability to teach, irrespective of their "giftedness". I think it is at least as valuable for a less academically talented student to help teach others because it not only reinforces the concepts for the student doing the teaching, it also helps their self-confidence in a concrete way by letting them achieve and help other students achieve tangible accomplishments.

When I was in school, I was classified as a "gifted" child, and I think I can definitively say that if I had been consistently expected to tutor or teach or otherwise lead other children, and this was not something that was expected of the "average" students, that would have been a perfectly miserable experience for me. On the other hand, if I had been in an environment where every student was expected to teach others skills that they have mastered, it would have been helpful for keeping me and my classmates more fully engaged in our learning.

Charlie Mas said...

I have often heard the perspective voiced eloquently and graciously by ouch. I certainly appreciate how ouch voiced it as a question rather than an accusation. The answer to the question, I think, has to do with reciprocity.

Unlike the AS#1 example cited by roy smith, the typical situation has the bright student - or students - ALWAYS being the one to start, being the one to teach, being the one to provide the example. If we are, in fact, all in this together, then why does one kid always have to walk point?

Second, the concern, and it is a legitimate concern, is one of equity. Doesn't the bright child deserve an equal opportunity to learn something new in school?

Some of this turns on your perception of academic achievement. If you believe that the Standards represent academic achievement, then academic achievement for every student means that every student is taught to the Standards. This essentially makes the Standards into the finish line. And what do people do when they get to the finish line? They stop. So teachers teach to the Standards - to the Standards and not beyond.

This leads to a vision of equity which reminds me of Soviet-era vision of equity ("No one should own two cows until everyone owns one cow"). It says: "We don't support any student work BEYOND Standards until every student is working AT Standards." Since we will never get there, then we never support student work beyond Standards and the Standards become a ceiling rather than a floor.

This Vision of equity has a lot of subscribers in SPS - some of them very high ranking and responsible for Equity.

There is another vision of equity, however, that defines equity as every student being taught at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills. All students getting what they need to take the next step. All students achieving every day.

This Vision sees education as a journey rather than a destination. That is more real-life. In this paradigm, ouch's race analogy doesn't make sense because there is no finish line, it is not a competition, and every student should be allowed to run for the joy of running.

I think that families of gifted students want for their children the same things that other families want. More than anything else, I desperately want to my kids to be spared from becoming de-motivated. I want them to love school and find it a rewarding experience. If they never learn anything new there because the teacher says that they have learned enough, then why should they go? While it isn't all about what's in it for them, it is, to some extent about that. My kids are not a public resource and neither is my family. We have to derive some academic benefit from the experience as well.

Let me pose it this way. Suppose there was a short, emotionally immature third-grader assigned to a first grade classroom. It's not a mixed-grade class, it's a regular third-grade student who, upon first impression, appears to be a first grader, in a regular first-grade classroom. What academic benefit could be arranged for that student in that class? How much would you expect the teacher to differentiate instruction for that student? On the other hand, how much of that student's day would be essentially wasted on material the student had already mastered? How much would that kid come to love school? Would that child ever really be challenged? Regardless of the benefit the child provided to the class (something I might dispute), would you want that student to remain in that classroom or would you want that student someplace else where they would be taught at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills? Why in the world would you condemn that child to that classroom? Would you want that done to your child?

Anonymous said...

"If we are, in fact, all in this together, then why does one kid always have to walk point?"

"My kids are not a public resource and neither is my family. We have to derive some academic benefit from the experience as well."

I don't have experience within the system, but, like Ouch's comment to Melissa, these comments trouble me. Yes, I agree that children who have mastered the material being taught to the class average (and those who haven't) should have their educational needs met.

But, those educational needs can be met in the context of interacting with children who haven't mastered the material. I do strongly believe that teaching is an important part of learning. I also think this is a life skill, explaining your understanding of a subject to others, so it's not just in the context of class that this skill needs to be learned.

In addition, these kind of statements do make school into a race, where one looses by stopping to help the stumbling racer along the way.

That being said, an environment where the capable child only gets an opportunity to teach is a bad one, but I would need to hear a pretty detailed explanation of why they aren't getting an opportunity to learn in a particular classroom before concluding that the fault lies in the classroom. I remain convinced that if the needs of "average" advanced learners (and I classify this as anyone under 3 STD beyond the mean) aren't met in a classroom, that the classroom isn't working for the "average" either.

For those who are 3STD above the mean, they may have "special needs", but I don't know how much resources SPS can invest in their reaching their "full potential" as opposed to meeting & exceeding standards.

Anonymous said...

"And don't kids gain emotional intelligence and social skills from having a leadership/mentoring/guiding role in the classroom"

I don't think anyone would disagree with this statement.

I do think, however, that a good education gives all kids a chance to occupy a lot of different roles. Just as never having a chance to be a leader is undesirable, spending thirteen years in an artificial environment in which you are always signled out as the "most able" is also a poor preparation for life.

Anonymous said...

The year I felt one of my daughters was most severely underchallenged in math happened to be the same year she was asked to spend significant portions of math time helping another child. The kid in question was bright but had difficulty with certain specific, basic tasks, leading me to believe that she probably had a learning disability. I would have had trouble knowing how to help her, and I don't think my nine-year-old had a clue. It was a very poor situation for both kids, in my opinion.

On the other hand, my daughter's relationship with her kindergarten buddy, where the age difference made it natural for her to be a mentor and teacher, was one of the best aspects of her elementary school experience. I don't know how much academic benefit it had for her, and don't care, as the social and emotional benefits were obvious. I *don't* think she got that kind of benefit from a situation where her help was really worse than useless.

I would have been unhappy even about the kindergarten buddy program, had it been made to *substitute* for academic instruction at her own level.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

It just occurred to me that many readers may not be familiar with the military expression to "walk point".

The Wikipedia entry fails to provide the exceptionally short life expectancy of a solidier walking point.

I was glad to read that gifted kids too acknowledged "that children who have mastered the material being taught to the class average (and those who haven't) should have their educational needs met."

That's all anyone is saying. Sure, students should spend some time teaching other students or working in teams, but every student should take a fair turn in the teaching role - for all that it provides - and no student should be relegated to that role.

I honestly don't see how writing
"We have to derive some academic benefit from the experience as well." turns education into a competition. It's not all about serving ourselves, but it is not all about serving others either. I think the statement reflects a reasonable, just, and equitable expectation. There needs to be a moderate path. That's all I or anyone else is advocating.

I'm all for periodically stopping to help others along the way. The objection comes when one or two children are expected to carry others on their backs all the time.

I think that the usual definition of gifted comes at cognitive ability two standard deviations above the mean. Research has indicated that students in that range not only think faster and clearer, but actually think differently than their contemporaries. Of course, there is no hard and fast line and assessments can certainly vary from day to day for any student.

Two standard deviations above the mean - in a normal distribution - refers to the top 2.27%, or 227 out of 10,000. Three standard deviations above the mean would include only the top 0.13% or 13 out of 10,000. There may be no more than 100 students like that in all of Seattle Public Schools.

The students who are two standard deviations beyond the mean are APP-eligible. Given the lack of precision, rounding results in the use of the 98th percentile as the standard for APP eligibility.

Since the question is likely, there are 1300 APP students in SPS. This represents about 2.8% of the total population. Given that Seattle is one of the most affluent and educated cities in America, and given both the nature and nuture factors attributed for creating giftedness, an increased occurance of giftedness in the local schoolage population doesn't seem out of line.

Anonymous said...

"Are the things done in a classroom for gifted children not good for children who aren't identified as gifted, too?"

There will of course be overlap, but if *no* intervention is made for gifted learners that wouldn't be appropriate for more average learners, then the gifted kids are being severely underserved. The same would be true of a fifth-grade classroom where nothing was taught that would not be beneficial (yet) for the average third grader.

If you don't differentiate, you don't have a gifted classroom. You have Club Gifted, all label, no program.

I'm one who skated through public school learning no proper study skills, no methods of attacking material I didn't already three-quarters know. (Bear in mind that the public schools in Seattle in the 1960s and 1970s were in many respects worse than those of today.) The only accommodation I got was being allowed to read when I was through with worksheets. Well, naturally, I didn't put a whole lot of energy into those worksheets!

Despite educated parents and a rich home environment, I was not "ahead" in all respects scholastically -- I actually had to work much harder for my grades than other people when I got into a tougher school.

So much of what children learn in school is supposed to be taught them almost automatically by virtue of the curriculum being at the right level, pace, and depth to force them to learn study skills and what not. Unchallenged children don't learn those things. (Unfortunately, given low general expectations, many kids who wouldn't qualify as gifted are also underchallenged in regular classrooms. That problem, while certainly related, isn't quite the same thing.)

I recovered, got through high school with a decent grade point average, and got through college with honors. But the whole process would have been vastly easier and less ulcer-inducing if I'd been appropriately educated from the beginning.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I really can't leave Charlie's assertion that it's reasonable to have 1300 kids currently enrolled in Seattle's APP unchallenged.

True, that number is 2.8% of enrollment, but (1)not everyone tests, (2)many kids who qualify for APP don't enroll (I have two of them myself) and (3)while it's nice to believe that Seattle is like Lake Woebegone it's probably just as or more likely that the public school kids in Seattle (given FRL levels and the correlation of private school attendence with wealth and thus education level of parents) would have a smaller incidence of giftedness than the average.

I think that it is vitally important for Seattle to offer an appropriate education for ALL of its children. Something like an APP deserves our support, but the numbers make me question how the program is being administered.

My children are really very bright, and to me they are in every way exceptional, but they have both functioned very well in their (non Spectrum, non ALO) school. APP must be available for children who cannot achieve (academically or socially) in a neighborhood or alternative school, but I fear that the current system debases the real standard of accelerated or gifted education.

Charlie Mas said...

maureen raises a valid point. You all may be interested to know that there are a number of people within the APP community - families and teachers - who believe that recent changes to liberalize the eligibility criteria - specifically as an effort to make the program more racially and economically diverse - have expanded the criteria further than it should go. Some are concerned that the teachers are getting stretched too far.

I know that it sounds weird for folks who don't work with numbers a lot, but the nominal difference between the 98th and the 99th percentile is just as much as the difference between the 98th and the 64th - one standard deviation. So it creates a broad range of skills and abilities that the teacher has to challenge in a single classroom.

If students at the lower end (or off the lower end) of that band are admitted, the resources to serve the most severely gifted (no kidding, that's the jargon) can be diminished.

As APP buildings have become overcrowded, many more people are beginning to question the wisdom of how the District has chosen to expand the program. This is particularly true when we see that the changes have not resulted in a more diverse program.

When it started, APP (then called IPP) was for kids who went to college after the 8th grade. Some still do.

Anonymous said...

"When it started, APP (then called IPP) was for kids who went to college after the 8th grade. Some still do."

That's the kind of kid I expect to be in APP as well. The kids that absolutely can't get what they need in grade-level honors courses. I had one of those kids in my highschool chemistry class. He was in 6th grade and knew more than anyone else in the class. It's obvious to everyone that he was 'gifted'. He had a hard time socially because of his immaturity (as compared to highschool students). He would have benefited from an APP program that grouped him with other gifted students around his age.

Charlie, from your experience in APP, do you have a ballpark guess for how many of the current participants fit that profile? I know lots of students that have gotten into APP and not one of them in my mind does.

Charlie Mas said...

I honestly couldn't say how many APP students are ready for college after the eighth grade.

Anonymous said...

"I know that it sounds weird for folks who don't work with numbers a lot, but the nominal difference between the 98th and the 99th percentile is just as much as the difference between the 98th and the 64th - one standard deviation."

Actually that's not quite right -- it's the difference between 98th and 99.9th percentile that is one standard deviation (and it's the same as the difference between the 50th and 84th percentiles, or the 84th and 98th percentiles -- not the difference between the 65th and 98th). The difference between 98th and 99.9th is easier to see if you think of it as twenty out of a thousand versus one in a thousand.

The thing is, the tests that are currently used in Seattle ABSOLUTELY CANNOT distinguish reliably between 98th and 99.9th percentile kids. Here's a CogAT example for a first-grader:
Verbal 40 out of 48 correct 130 SAS
(132 would be 98th percentile -- I'm pretty sure the CogAT has a standard deviation of 16 -- 148 would be a standard deviation higher. Top score possible 150.)

Quant 44 out of 48 correct 126 SAS

Missing just four questions out of forty-eight brought a child from 99.9th percentile down to 95th on the quantitative.

That's the kind of ceiling effect you run into with grade level testing. They ought to be testing children on the version for a couple of grade levels up, which would also be a fairer assessment of who really needs the out-of-level work. That's what the publisher recommends for gifted identification.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Does the district have a reason for why they don't follow the publisher's recommendations?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why the district doesn't follow the recommendation of the publisher, but it probably has something to do with money ... they put off buying the latest version of the CogAT for years and years (maybe still haven't bought it) for that reason, I know.

It's not because they don't know about the recommendation, as there were Advanced Learning staff members in the audience when David Lohman (co-author of the latest version of the CogAT) came and spoke in Seattle in 2005, and covered this topic.

Helen Schinske