Monday, October 15, 2012

Identifying Gifted Children

This has always been an issue in the community.

For too long, a disproportionate number of gifted students have been white and wealthy; look in most schools, and the classrooms identified as gifted are generally filled with light-skinned children, even in schools that are majority minority.

New York City proposes to change this by heavily weighting a non-verbal test in their evaluation for gifted programs. The Naglieri NonVerbal Ability Test

"...relies on abstract spatial thinking and largely eliminates language, even from the instructions, an approach that officials said better captures intelligence, is more appropriate for the city's multilingual population and is less vulnerable to test preparation."

I believe this is a solid step in the right direction, but all of this starts with teacher training. When I was teaching the gifted endorsement, 100% of teachers in my classes said that if they spent any time at all looking at gifted students, it was the equivalent of a couple hours, spread over their coursework. They were never told characteristics of gifted children, potential discipline issues when bored or myths of the gifted. There was no mention of twice-exceptional students, and no instruction regarding differentiation beyond mentioning briefly Bloom's Taxonomy.

Many times the identification process starts with teachers recommending students; how many teachers would recognize gifted potential in a student who is failing their class or is disruptive? How many teachers would see that low-SES student in tutoring afterschool and think to have them evaluated? Or the student who is brilliant in the art room?

The focus on non-verbal ID is great, but we need more education for our teachers on how to spot kids who show signs of giftedness (not just hard work; highly motivated does not mean gifted!!), and we need to encourage parents to speak up for their children.

Beyond that, we need to incorporate gifted teaching techniques into regular classrooms. Baby steps, though.

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