Tag Archives: advantages of standardized testing

Definition of a Gifted Child

Federal Definition

Were you aware that there is a Federal definition of a gifted child, albeit, one that can be over-ruled by local preference. It is in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and it reads:

The term ‘gifted and talented,’ when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities. [minor changes made to correct punctuation errors]

The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, acting to ” build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students,” carries out scientifically-based research and provides grants.

It should be noted that the program has a particular emphasis on “serving students traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs, particularly economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient (LEP), and disabled students, to help reduce the serious gap in achievement among certain groups of students at the highest levels of achievement.”

This emphasis is reflected in the grant priorities, which are first are foremost to develop models for underrepresented students and second to improve services for all gifted and talented students.

Local Definitions

Let’s take a look at how this plays out locally.

In the Sulphur Springs School District in California, the 2005–2006 “G.A.T.E. Handbook,” has this to say:

“The program serves exceptional students qualifying in one or more of the
following areas:

• Intellectual Ability
• Specific Academic Ability
• Reading or Math

To determine eligibility, students must undergo a screening and identification process. STAR test data are first reviewed. Students are then administered the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the RAVEN, a non-verbal assessment. Once identified, students may be placed in the GATE program. English Learners may be identified through the use of non-verbal assessments, and rapid growth on the CELDT may be used as one of the standardized test criteria.”

In the Coweta County School System in Georgia, the state definition of giftedness is used, and it defines gifted students like this:

“A gifted student is one who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability(ies), exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation and/or excels in specific academic field(s) and needs special instruction and/or ancillary services to achieve at levels commensurate with his or her abilities.”

In the “Gifted Education Parent’s Handbook” provided by the Austin Independent School District in Texas, the following is offered as a definition of being gifted:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive
abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and
awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony
increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted
renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parent-
ing, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (The
Columbus Group, 1991, in Morelock, 1992) Asynchrony means being out
of sync, both internally and externally. Asynchronous development means
that gifted children develop cognitively at a much faster rate than they
develop physically and emotionally, posing some interesting problems.
For example, ideas forged by 8-year-old minds may be difficult to produce
with 5-year-old hands. Further, advanced cognition often makes gifted
children aware of information that they are not yet emotionally ready to
handle. They tend to experience all of life with greater intensity, render-
ing them emotionally complex. These children usually do not fit the
developmental norms for their age; they have more advanced play
interests and often are academically far ahead of their age peers. The
brighter the child, the greater the asynchrony and potential vulnerability.
Therefore, parents who are aware of the inherent developmental differ-
ences of their children can prepare themselves to act as their advocates.”

As you can see, these three definitions offer rather different ways of conceptualizing giftedness. Is it conceivable that a child identified as gifted by one set of criteria would not meet the criteria in another location? It seems so. Certainly the highly motivated child in Georgia might not fit the criteria in the other locations. Certainly, based on this comparison, some interesting questions are raised about gifted and talented children and how their instruction should be differentiated.

For more background, we invite you to read our article, “Gifted Education.”

And please vote in our survey on students with special needs (included gifted students) and national standards.

Teacher Effectiveness and Evaluation

Many people are to oversee the level of teaching that goes on in our schools. States depend on great teacher preparation and then they must implement and support further professional development. It isn’t enough for our teachers to just get a degree and then just continue teaching without further skills learned or being kept current on new teaching methods and ideas. States have the responsibility to make sure that their is plenty of teacher evaluation and then to have programs set in place to step in where a teacher lacks.

Everyone, including fine educators, has a difference of opinion about what makes a quality teacher. Not only should teachers have a thorough understanding of the topics they are teaching but of the best way to present these subjects for the needs of the children at their respective grade levels. Evaluation also must take into account the teachers relationship with students and their parents as well as their role in the school as a whole.
In years past a teachers performance was more based on their past performance. They were more judged on their courses taken, grades or scores received and other accolades rather than the quality of teaching that they perform daily in a classroom. Recent developments in evaluation have evolved to show what teachers actually do in the classroom.
Some policy makers want to attach a teachers salary and promotions to the student test results. There are other policy makers that will argue that a single test cannot possibly be the deciding factor for the quality of a teacher. Portfolios that take in an assessment of the teacher as a whole are becoming more and more popular.
There is a debate among policy makers about whether teachers should be held individually accountable for their effectiveness or if the school as a whole should be accountable. The fear with individual accountability is that if you attach school teacher salary or promotions to performance it can create a spirit of unhealthy competitiveness among teachers instead of a cohesive unit. Both sides have their pros and cons so it will be impossible to please everyone in this respect.

Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

What are standardized tests?

Standardized tests are tests that are given to every student and consist of the same questions. They are then tested and scored in exactly the same manner.
Advantages or pros of standardized testing:
If you take human scoring out of the question the results are easy to assess and document. However, if a test has essay questions or something other than multiple choice or true/false answering you have to have humans score the results. If computer scoring is used the results are very clear. Another pro is that these tests are economical to make, give and score.
Another advantage or pro of standardized testing is that while scoring of the individual may not be completely perfect it does give a good indicator of the school or class average. This helps school administrators know better what is working and what isn’t within their curriculum framework.
Disadvantages or cons of standardized testing:
While there can be a need to assess knowledge of certain facts, standardized testing leads to problems within the schools curriculum. If teachers are only giving out information to “teach to the test”, certain crucial information may be left out, a huge con to standardized testing. It is hard to say from standardized test scoring what the child knows about an overall subject, it only shows what the test chooses to measure.
This is where the problem with basing your curriculum around a standardized test comes into play. This keeps teachers from teaching kids a wide variety of things in each subject because they have to be worried about the test results and how it makes them look. While this may be good for teachers who are only teaching for health benefits, this would be very limiting to a teacher who truly loves to share knowledge and ideas with children. Another con, these tests also leave very little time for students to have hands on learning time and creative thinking sessions. They are too busy trying to retain facts so that they can score well.
Another debate is the trend of test preparation. This is a huge market for companies that produce test helpers, test preparation books, or offer tutoring for testing. While this may be a needed thing, it costs a lot of money. This then brings the problem of families with money having better test scores than those that don’t. This does not bring about a correct assessment of the teacher but of the parent’s ability to get the child the right help to score well.
While standardized testing may have a place in school systems it is greatly flawed. There is just no good way of measuring a humans intelligence. Intelligence takes in too many factors such as critical thinking, creative thinking, conceptual thinking, application of knowledge and more.