Tag Archives: K-12 standards

Identifying Gifted Children

Having mulled over some of the issues about standards, we’re now going to look at a group of students that characteristically add spice to the standards discussion: students with special needs, and our survey this month will be on this topic. We’ll start with gifted children.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the New York Times published a “Room for Debate” topic titled “The Pitfalls in Identifying a Gifted Child.” Participants include university-level education academicians/researchers, a journalist, and a tutoring program founder and CEO. They specific prompt for the comments is the information that New York City school officials are looking for a gifted and talented test that can identify children as young as 3 in an attempt to respond to complaints that minorities are under-represented and parents are “gaming” the system.

• Professor Susan K. Johnsen, Educational Psychology, Baylor University, points out that two types of children should be identified: those who already demonstrate advanced development and those who may—through intervention—become advanced. She acknowledges that gifts may develop and be discernible over time, thus calling into question a one-point testing program for identification. In addition, students are not well-represented across all races, ethnicities, and income levels at the current time.

• Clara Hemphill, senior editor at Center for NYC Affairs at the New School objects to the labeling and segregation of gifted children when their is a good neighborhood school that might serve them well. She points out the being with and understanding the talents of others not (yet) so labeled is an important part of the gifted child’s education. She claims that the fundamentals of kindergarten are pretty similar for all children, regardless of giftedness, and that differentiated instruction is easy to achieve at this level. She adds that testing children prior to kindergarten is “ridiculous.”

• Joseph S. Renzulli, director of the National Research Center of the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) at University of Connecticut acknowledges that early childhood testing is unreliable and that parents have “gamed” the system. He suggests the use of a program by Dr. C. June Maker that identifies giftedness by watching children’s responses to specially designed activities that are performed in small groups (rather than individual, paper and pencil tests).

• Tonya R. Moon, associate professor at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia (also with NRC/GT ties) suggests multiple measures and multiple opportunities for identification. She says that nonverbal tests in particular, on which the most academically-gifted minority children are apt to score poorly, should not be used as a sole measure.

• Bige Doruk, founder and CEO of Bright Kids NYC (a tutoring service), states that no single test can guarantee better identification of gifted students than the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), which is currently used in NYC. She says that the fact that children identified by this test are thought by their teachers to be properly assigned to gifted programs indicates their reliability. She does not address the possibility that there are other children, who the test fails to identify, who may also belong. She does, however, point out that the younger the age of the child tested, the more influence home factors, such as home environment and parents’ educational attainment come into play, which would tend—she suggests—to skew results away from minorities. She also suggests that the top students from each district—regardless of exact score—should be placed in gifted and talented programs, including students to the point at which the program is full, and that NYC attend to a better calculation of matching supply to demand and transportation to facilitate the practical aspects of these programs.

For background on gifted children, please see our article “The Gifted Student.”

We also recommend you take a look at the comments readers have posted in response to the New York Times article.

National Standards Survey Final Results

Do you think the United States should have national standards for K–12 education?

• Yes, we need consistency.
• Yes, it would improve the standards in my state.
• No, setting the standards should be done at the state level.
• No, it would lessen the standards in my state.
• Other (please specify).

This month, along with some blog posts on standards, we asked you to consider your stance on the subject and vote in our survey. In conjunction with this, we switched to a one-question survey that provided four set answers as well as the choice to fill in an answer of your own.

By this morning, 186 people had answered the survey, so the number has more than doubled since the interim report on June 18, when there were 92 respondents. Today, I’m providing final results, but keep in mind that this is not a scientific survey.

Comparisons with Interim Report

On June 18, I reported that more than half of respondents favor national standards, either for consistency or because they feel it would be an improvement over their state standards. On June 30, the number who favor national standards approaches three-quarters.

On June 18, I reported that more people who do not want national standards chose that option because they thought that it is a task that belongs to the local level rather than because it would lower their own state’s standards. On June 30, the preference is even more pronounced, at a little less than 6 to 1.

On June 18, there were 12 responses that were ‘Other.’ On June 30, with more than twice as many respondents, the number has only increased to 16.

Final Stats

• The overall vote was 129 for ‘Yes’ and 41 for ‘No,’ with 16 entering an answer in ‘Other.’ In percentages, that’s 69.3% for ‘Yes,’ 22.1% for ‘No,’ and 8.6% for ‘Other.’

• The response with the absolute greatest number of responses was ‘Yes, we need consistency,’ which garnered 59.1% of all responses.

• The second-place response was ‘No, setting the standards should be done at the state level, with 18.3%.

• While 10.2% of respondents thought that national standards would improve the standards in their state, 3.8% felt that national standards would lessen standards in their state.

• 77.4% of respondents based their answer on the principle of where the standards should be set, while 14% based their answer on the practical results.

Some of the comments in ‘Other’ are difficult to add in. My best assessment is that there are 7 Yes’s—most of them conditional—and 4 No’s. If this is correct, it brings the overall tally to 136 ‘Yes’ and 45 ‘No.’

• The ‘Other’ responses specified some ways in which respondents think the national standards and local standards should interact, but there is not agreement on what that relationship will be (some responses have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar so as not to detract from content):

—”[W]e need national standards that … each state may choose to build up from but not down.

—”National Standards [should be treated as] a core so as not to negatively affect the standards in some states with more rigorous standards but … these core standards [should be] incorporated in every state’s curriculum.”

—”Yes, and [the national standards] should be higher than that of the state with the highest standards. America needs to catch up with the rest of the world.”

• ‘Other’ respondents also had some comments on testing. For example, one respondent said that if national standards would necessitate more testing, s/he would vote ‘No.’

• One ‘Other’ comment suggests that the business of education is better left to free enterprise than to the government at any level.

• One ‘Other’ response suggests that education decisions be made by educators, and specifically suggests that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is not qualified [n.b., Duncan worked in a tutoring program for inner city children (run by his mother) in Chicago and has administered education programs, helped start a school, and been CEO of the Chicago Public Schools; his college major was sociology, and he does not seem to have an education degree, or to have spent time as a classroom teacher, but his career has been focused on education.]

• One ‘Other’ response says that if there are going to be federal standards, there should be federal funding to go with.

• One ‘Other’ respondent points out—correctly, I might add—that constitutionally, the power to make decisions about education belongs to the states. From Cornell University Law School “Education Law: An Overview“:

“Each state is required by its state constitution to provide a school system whereby children may receive an education. State legislatures exercise power over schools in any manner consistent with the state’s constitution.” One special exception is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law covering special education.

These points raise some interesting questions . . . What do you think, now that the survey results are all in? Please comment!