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GTi- Assessment and Identification

October 17, 2013

This summer as we embarked on the journey of transforming our gifted and talented services one of our action teams was charged with making recommendations regarding our assessment and identification of gifted and talented learners.  These educators from both the elementary and secondary levels grappled with the questions, “What is giftedness?” and “How can we best identify learners in our school system who exhibit gifted characteristics?”  Using The Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students as a starting place and knowing that it is our goal to become an exemplary model for gifted education (as outlined in that document), the Action Team made several recommendations for transforming our assessment practices for gifted learners.

The biggest change in our assessment practice is the utilization of multiple measures of identification for all learners.  Our district philosophy has never subscribed to the notion that a single test score (or other measure) can paint the picture of the whole learner and our gifted services have always been designed to meet a broad definition of giftedness.  Therefore, in addition to the Cognitive Abilities exam utilized as a universal screening tool for eligibility for gifted services, we are also gathering achievement test data (MAP testing) and at least one qualitative measure such as an interview, work sample, or teacher observation form for all learners.  This information is presented to the Gifted and Talented Committee (GTC) who makes decisions regarding appropriate gifted services for all learners.

For the 2013-2014 school year, we are continuing our practice of universally screening all Kindergartners and third graders during the fall semester.  Campuses have selected dates in a window for each grade level.  We have also added a universal screening utilizing the Cogat exam for all fifth graders to provide them with additional data points as they begin making choices for their secondary educational careers.

This summer the assessment action team recommended researching alternate, more developmentally appropriate tools for the universal screening of Kindergarten learners, and after consulting with several experts in assessment as well as other school districts in the North Texas Consortium of High Performing Schools, we are actively pursuing alternatives.  If we discover a tool that meets our needs, we will look to implement a change in Kindergarten assessment during the 2014-2015 school year.

At the secondary level, our assessment practices mirror those in place in the elementary schools.  We are utilizing at least three data points as learners are screened for gifted services.

In an attempt to decrease potentially unnecessary assessment at all levels, we have revised our transfer procedures as well as our practices when learners are nominated for assessment by either parents or educators.

When learners transfer to CISD from another district and can document that they have received gifted services in their previous district, they are automatically served by our GT services for one full semester.  At the end of that semester, the Gifted and Talented Committee (GTC) reviews their classroom performance and determines whether they will continue to be served or if a different instructional placement is a better choice for that learner.

When learners are nominated by parents or educators for gifted services, we gather three data points as outlined in the description of elementary and secondary assessment.  Where our previous practice has been modified, however, is in whether we administer a Cogat exam to the nominated learner.  If we have a Cogat score on file from either a universal screening year or a previous nomination, we do not administer that exam again.  Instead, we use the existing Cogat score and additional data points such as MAP data and the interview or teacher questionnaire to determine whether additional testing or services are required.  Again, all decisions are made through the campus GTC.

As a district, we strive to identify and serve our learners in all areas of giftedness as outlined by the state plan.  We have been challenged to identify learners in creativity, leadership and fine arts and our action team continues to research tools we can utilize to meet those learners specific needs.

This is an exciting time to be in education and a thrilling time to work with gifted learners.  More information regarding our gifted services practices will soon be available on the CISD website.  Continue to check the “State of Gifted Education” tab under the Gifted and Talented Program menu for updates.

– Deana Harrell (Director of Advanced Academics)

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