The National Association for Gifted Children is dedicated to developing high potential in our nation’s youth. NAGC provides a range of publications and information, on state and local organizations, parent and teacher training programs, academic and legislative advocacy and general information on gifted education. In addition, they have developed standards and guidelines for seven areas of gifted education which are reflective of the needs of gifted students nationwide. These include Student Identification, Program Design, Curriculum and Instruction, Socio-Emotional Counseling and Guidance, Program Administration and Management, Professional Development, and Program Evaluation .
The five guiding principles delineated for Student Identification in Gifted Education Programming are aligned with Oregon Statutes and Administrative Rules, and are summarized below. These include:
a comprehensive and cohesive process for student nomination;[OAR 581-22-1310]
use of instruments that measure diverse abilities, talents, strengths, and needs;
[OAR 581-22-1310 (2) (6)]
development of a student assessment profile for planning appropriate intervention; [OAR 581-22-1310 (2) (3)]
selecting assessment instruments and identification procedures based on current theory and research; [OAR 581-22-1310 (4)]
developing written procedures that include informed consent, student retention, student reassessment, student exiting, and appeals procedures; [OAR 581-022-1320]
Districts should review the entire population of enrolled students as the initial screening pool for identification as talented and gifted. Ideally, every student is included in the screening for consideration as talented and gifted. Since Oregon school districts are required to assess academic achievement at the benchmark years, this information can be used as part of the initial referral pool for academic talent. Students scoring at or above the 97%ile on district administered tests of academic and intellectual ability should be considered for immediate referral. Additionally, many district administer testing in the off-benchmark years. However, this does not cover intellectual giftedness and may also overlook students in grades K, 1 and 2. In the event that off grade testing and/or primary grade testing is not provided, districts need to make provision for assessment of intellectual ability and academic achievement on a case-by-case basis. Student referrals can come from teachers, parents, other students, self, or others familiar with the student.
A comprehensive school district policy and procedure would allow for testing of intellectual ability at specific grade levels, for all newly transferred students whose intellectual ability has not yet been documented, and for those students referred by specific individuals for re-evaluation as talented/gifted. It must be emphasized that talented/gifted services are to benefit all students, K – 12. Kindergarten, first and second grades must not be overlooked in the identification process. Teachers at all grade levels should be encouraged to watch for signs of talented / gifted behaviors. Non-benchmark years (e.g. grades 4, 6, and 9) is one option for providing grade-level assessment of intellectual ability. A list of generally accepted assessments and checklists for intellectual giftedness and academic talent are included in the Appendix II of this Tool Kit.
Continual Referral Process
It is important to mention that the timeline for nomination should be continuous and ongoing, both throughout the school year and throughout the career of the student. Districts need to evaluate whether the nominations they receive come from a wide distribution of grade levels. In particular, nominations from primary, middle school, high school grades are often out of proportion to the student body population. Opportunity for referral and identification as talented and/or gifted must be available equally throughout the career of the student. District policy should both prescribe and delineate the procedure for equitable nomination, K – 12.
One way to accomplish more equitable referrals across the grade levels is to have a year by year monitoring of assessment results. Those students whose scores fall within the standard range of error of the required 97%ile (94-96%) or who fall within a percentile range specifically determined by the district on state assessments for total reading or total math should be referred for TAG evaluation. Students who consistently show exemplary work in class should also be considered.
Oregon Administrative Rules
OAR 581-22-1310 states “each school district shall have local district policies and procedures for the identification of talented and gifted students as defined in ORS 343.395 (7) (a) and (b)”. Special attention should be paid to the following:
Districts should demonstrate effort to identify from special populations: students from ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and students who are culturally different or economically disadvantaged.
Many districts choose to have a checkpoint on the initial referral where staff can indicate evidence of any of the above conditions. Written policy should describe the availability of assessment tools that are culturally fair, allowances for assessment in the home language of the student, and efforts made to nominate from populations that are culturally or economically disadvantaged (free/reduced lunch). Written procedure should also be in place for referral from Special Education programs for students with documented physical handicaps, behavioral problems, or learning disabilities. It should be noted that identification for the above-mentioned populations requires the use of appropriate assessment tools rather than a change in criteria. For students with certified learning disabilities, scores at the 89%ile or at the 97%ile on performance or verbal subtests from an individual intellectual test such as the WISC III can also be used to determine identification as intellectual giftedness.
Policies and procedures must prescribe use and documentation of a team decision for nomination and identification.
Each district determines who makes up the team for determining identification as talented or gifted. Generally this may include: TAG Facilitator (building or district level), building principal, classroom teacher of the nominated student, building counselor. Other personnel can participate as needed, specifically the Building Team Coordinator or Special Education teacher, previous year’s classroom teacher, other building specialist. Parents may not be included in this team determination.
The data used to determine eligibility must include behavioral, learning and/or performance criteria, as well as scores from nationally normed standardized tests.
Both the data collected and the process of determining identification becomes part of the education record. In discussing the process of team determination, the OAR definition for “case study” speaks to this collection of data as a confidential behavioral record, and it should be treated as such. Data considered in the identification process should be documented, objective, and representative in more than one piece of information.
4. No single test measure or score is to be used as sole criteria for identification.
The caution here is to make sure that you have supporting data from other areas - not just one test score. The documentation of reasoning for identification applies to all grade levels, including K-1-2. Oregon teachers are familiar with work samples, reading records, and other informal means for determining the level at which a student demonstrates mastery. Title I programs often screen entire grade populations for entry-level readiness in reading and math, providing a basis for comparison in the early grades. These may be used as evidence or as lack of evidence in support of identification.
Academically Talented/Intellectually Gifted
5. Identification is based on performance at the 97th percentile and above on a nationally standardized test of mental ability, academic talent in reading, and /or academic talent in math.
Around the state different nationally standardized assessment tools are used. The following is a list of tests that are generally readily accepted for the areas in which Oregon is required to identify:
Intelligence: Group tests: Raven’s Coloured (suitable for grades K - 2) , Standard (suitable for ages 6 – 15), and Advanced (suitable for ages 16 and up) Progressive Matrices; Naglieri Nonverbal Assessment, Cognitive Abilities Test, Otis Lenon School Ability Test (OLSAT); Individual tests: WISC-R or WISC III, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test (WAIT), K-ABC;
Academic: Group tests: Oregon State Assessment Test (OSAT), Oregon Plus Assessment, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Northwest Evaluation Association Computerized Adaptative Test (NWEACAT), Consortium Off –Grade Test (COG), California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), Stanford Achievement Test (SAT); Individual tests: Woodcock-Johnson.
Tests of mental ability should be used to determine intellectual giftedness. Total reading scores from tests of academic achievement should be used to determine academic talent in reading and total math scores from tests of academic achievement should be used to determine academic talent in math. For a more comprehensive list of appropriate assessments, contact the State TAG Department at Oregon Department of Education.
Potential to Perform
6. School districts shall have written policies and procedures whereby they can identify based on demonstration of “potential to perform at the 97th percentile”.
Determination of “potential to perform” has been left up to individual districts across the state. Many districts use a policy that is tied to “range”, or standard error of measure from the 97%ile. Determination of potential can also include such factors as repeated referral, exemplary performance in specific areas, consistently high classroom achievement, use of test scores within the range of the standard error of measure, etc.
The most important factor is that a district develops a written policy and procedure which is culturally fair [OAR 581-22-1310 (1)], includes a variety of data [OAR 581-22-1310 (2) and (3)], is documented [OAR 581-22-1310 (2)], and can be followed consistently. Check with your Regional Planning Group to find those districts who have developed credible “potential to perform” policies and procedures.
Other Areas of Identification
7. Schools may choose to identify from other areas of recognized talent/ giftedness. If a district chooses to identify and serve other areas, written policies and procedures should be developed for determination of the same.
Nation-wide identification practices vary. Three of the more widely used categories of identification are talent in leadership, creativity, and giftedness in performing and/or visual arts. In Oregon the academic areas of math and reading, and general intellectual giftedness are mandated, and while other areas of giftedness or talent are allowed, the district is bound only by their written policy in regards to these areas. Specific mention in Oregon Administrative Rules is given to the areas of creativity, leadership, and visual or performing arts. These are the listed “may serve” categories. If a district chooses to identify and serve in one or more of these areas, it is important that identification procedures and tools match the specific area of giftedness, i.e. creativity tests for identification as creatively gifted. Once again, consistency is the key here. Districts should consider carefully what they are able to offer consistently and equally to students in the non-mandated areas of identification.
Studies done at the University of New Mexico have indicated that approximately 7 – 9% of students identified with learning disabilities could also be considered as having intellectual giftedness or academic talent. In Oregon a student who has been certified as having a learning disability may be identified with a total score of 89%ile on an individual intelligence test, such as the WISC III, or a 97%ile on either the verbal or performance subtests on an individual intelligence test such as the WISC III. A list of characteristics of the LD/Gifted population is included in Appendix II of this Tool Kit. District policies and procedures should reflect this possibility and prescribe procedures for determining LD/Gifted status. It is important to work with your district Special Education Department to identify and serve these students appropriately.
Use of a non-verbal test of mental ability (e.g., Raven, Naglieri) is appropriate for students suspected of being gifted underachievers. Staff should receive instruction in recognizing the characteristics of underachieving gifted. A behavioral checklist for UA/Gifted characteristics is included in Appendix II of this Tool Kit.
Communication to Parents
Parent communication is mandated at the time of referral to get permission for individual testing. It is recommended that parent permission be sought for grade level testing for the specific intent of determining candidacy for talented/gifted services. Permission for school- or grade-wide testing can be determined by asking parents to respond only if they wish to exclude their child from the testing process. All parents should have access to information about the district’s referral process for evaluation as talented and gifted.
Parents must also receive information regarding the results of the identification process. In the case of a “no”, communication includes a letter stating the results of the process and an invitation to personally walk through the data used for determining identification status. Time should be taken to discuss their concerns and questions, share parent rights as stated in OAR 581-022-1320 and their right to appeal the results of the identification process (OAR 581-022-1940). All nomination data, including a summary of the team’s reason for determination and a list of members on the team, should be kept in the student’s locked confidential file as documentation of the process and for future reference as needed.
When a student has been identified as talented/gifted, parents should be given an opportunity to review the documents used to determine identification. It is mandated that parents be involved in the development of programs and services for their child, as well as being made aware of their parental rights in accordance with OAR 581-022-1320. This is also a good opportunity to give a parent survey, in order to better access their talents and abilities throughout the career of their child in TAG. Other points of discussion could include student strengths and weaknesses, “swollen head” syndrome, and future program options. Parent newsletters or advocacy groups could also be mentioned at this time.
State Suggested Timelines for Identification Procedure
The Oregon Department of Education TAG office has determined a reasonable length of time from referral to decision regarding identification status as being 30 working days (6 weeks). Any deviation from this timeline should be documented, with the reason clearly stated. Decisions on end-of-year referrals may be held over to the beginning of the following school year to facilitate involvement of a building team. Parents should be notified of any delay in the established timeline.