In an elementary school in rural Appalachian, most children are white and poor; Eligible for 90 percent free or low-cost lunches. Guess how many of the 800 students are talented? Answer: Three. At the very least, it is the determination of a widely used national intelligence test, on which a small number of students living in poverty score high.
School administrators wanted to increase the number of talented students and invited a team of researchers to come up with another way to find them. The researchers asked 16 teachers to rate their students, which could be much higher than their classroom average, if not race, and benefit from improved instruction.
In this 2021 test, when the research team raised the teacher ratings for 282 students, they were shocked. The different methods of creaming from the top 10 percent make students from completely different groups who will be identified as talented without almost any overlap. Each class gave a group of top 10 percent talented students. The school-wide top 10 percent gave another result. There were only six children in both groups.
Karen Rambo-Hernandez, an associate professor in the Department of Education at Texas A&M University, said, “It was inconsistent from classroom to classroom, which presented its unpublished results at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in April 2022. “Teachers may be making different judgment calls.”
Related: Gifted programs don’t give any academic boost, says new research
Despite the training teachers received to evaluate students by answering a list of 37 questions, some teachers tended to rate their students more generously than others. The definition of who is talented has changed as you walk across the hallway.
This test is important because many school systems in the country rely on this type of teacher’s checklist, often referred to as a “scale” or “instrument” in education, to identify who is talented. New trends are being created to further lean on these teacher ratings as school systems struggle to address the under-representation of black and Hispanic students in gifted education. Only 10 percent of the country’s most talented students were black, according to the latest data from the federal government, much less than their 15 percent of the school population. The gap is even wider for Hispanic students, who make up only 18 percent of gifted students but more than 25 percent of the school population.
In April 2022, New York City permanently dropped a talent test for four-year-olds, leaving only 16 percent of black and Hispanic children with a hefty allocation of gifted and gifted seats, compared to 63 percent of the city’s kindergartens. Population. The city is replacing tests with teacher assessments of students, which will involve judging traits such as perseverance and curiosity.
Related: Gifted classes may not help gifted students move faster
The advantage of teacher ratings is that they can evaluate important aspects of talent that tests cannot measure. A new HOPE scale of teacher ratings is explicitly designed to promote racial equality in the selection of gifted students, and includes questions of social behavior, such as whether a student is sympathetic to others.
The teacher rating scale used in the Appalachian test was created by education psychologist Joseph Renzuli. He theorized that the combination of creativity, inspiration and ability indicates a high potential for innovation and productivity that can be nurtured even if a student does not score high on the intelligence test.
Among the assessment questions used in the Appalachian school were how many times a student has “the ability to think imaginatively”, “the ability to think deeply about a subject for a long time”, “curiosity about the scientific process” and “interested” solve challenging math problems. An important indicator of intelligence.
All of these questions involve subjective judgment calls. For some, five minutes is a long time of concentration. For others, it’s half an hour. Some teachers may see exceptional curiosity when a child asks questions. Others may view the questions as normal behavior of the child.
In the Appalachian school, the emphasis was on math and science in each student’s question because the school wanted to create a gifted program for students in computational thinking and computer coding. Teachers’ math ratings were more consistent from classroom to classroom, but science scores were much higher in some classrooms than others. Throughout all 16 classes, teachers felt that girls were more creative than boys.
Rambo-Hernandez, an A&M professor in Texas who conducted the experiment, fears that the ratings of gifted teachers could ultimately benefit children from wealthy families whose more educated parents tend to be more verbal. Their imagination, curiosity and perseverance can be more visible to a teacher. Cool students can be ignored.
Pickles on the ground. Intelligence tests make it difficult for children in poverty. Attempts by schools to shift test scores to gifted schools, give less cutoffs to poor schools, do not move the needle as many had hoped, and do not improve racial balance in more integrated schools. Even lotteries for children above a certain threshold will benefit population groups that excel in testing. Now this test shows that teacher ratings on talent indicators are not a clear solution either
Related: What research tells us about gifted learning
Jonny Luckin, an associate professor of educational research at the University of Alabama who has created experiments to identify gifted children, praised the research. “I think we’re very determined about identification,” Luckin said. “I have lost faith in how we can identify students and solve the equity problem of the talented.”
Both Lakin and Rambo-Hernandez want to focus more on improving the services provided to gifted children in the field of gifted education. They point out that most schools have a kind of talent program that doesn’t necessarily help the many children in them.
“Children are diverse in their characteristics,” Lakin said. “Something creative. There are some inflexible but stick-to-attitudes. If you put them on the same services, they will not be served well. ”
The Appalachian Research Team is returning to the drawing board. Students will receive additional instruction in computational thinking next year. They are considering using other assessments that the school is already giving children. Progress is his work.
This story about talent identification Written by Jill Barshe and produced by The Hatching Report, a non-profit, independent news organization focusing on inequality in education and innovation. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.