Carolyn Callahan, Sara Moore, Cheryll Adams, and Paula Pizzat
The University of Virginia
The University of Virginia site continues to examine identification and evaluation practices in gifted programs. This project, which is now entering its third and final year, has several components which are useful to practitioners. Best practices in identification and evaluation have been compiled to provide models on which new or revised programs can be based. Reliability and validity studies on promising local instruments are underway to broaden the range of assessments available, and a series of databases is being set up to allow easy access to current literature and practices in identification and evaluation.
Sixteen databases, each focusing on a different aspect of identification or program evaluation, have been established. The databases include annotated bibliographies about specific issues in gifted student identification (such as identifying LD/gifted students), about the use of standardized tests in identifying gifted students, and about aspects of program evaluation. Other databases include abstracts of published reviews of standardized tests used in identification and program evaluation, reviews based on the Scale for the Evaluation of Gifted Identification Instruments (SEGII) and the Scale for the Evaluation of Program Evaluation Instruments (SEPEI), NRC/GT developed scales, and copies of locally developed identification and evaluation instruments. The identification databases are currently accessible to the public. The evaluation databases will be available this spring. The NRC/GT is in the process of obtaining permission from local school divisions to release their locally developed identification and evaluation instruments, and these will be available as soon as permissions are granted.
During the second year of the project, attention focused on reviewing identification instruments. The files were read to ensure that we had as complete a list as possible of standardized tests in use for identification and that we had an accurate assessment of the locally developed instruments we hold. Instruments which are published and/or standardized were reviewed using the Scale for the Evaluation of Gifted Identification Instruments (SEGII) which assesses the reliability, validity, and utility of tests. Each test was reviewed separately for each gifted construct for which it was used. Unpublished instruments were reviewed on a more basic form which looked at the utility aspects of the instruments (e.g., age group and respondent) and asked only general questions about reliability and validity.
Another facet of this project is the identification of locally developed instruments for further study. One instrument showing promise in the identification of students gifted in science is the Diet Cola Science Abilities Test. It is not a multiple-choice test nor is it specific to a particular curriculum. It is open-ended, process-oriented, and requires students to apply their knowledge. Because it deals with experimental design, students must also show their ability to “do science.” As they complete their design, students have the opportunity to demonstrate their competency in all of the basic and integrated process skills. Reliability was assessed initially since the consistency of the test scores needed to be established before any validity studies could be undertaken. Interrater reliability, intrarater reliability, equivalent forms reliability, and test-retest reliability were considered in the data collection for 1991-1992. Test sites were chosen from the list of Collaborative School Districts (CSDs) that expressed interest in participating in The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented’s reliability and validity studies in identification instruments. The results of the study show that the test is not gender or culturally biased. Because the reliability coefficients were sufficiently high, validity studies are currently underway
We are also beginning reliability studies on two other locally developed instruments. One is a peer referral instrument that is used to identify Hispanic students. The other is being used to identify talent in young children. Results from both of these studies should be available this spring.
A recent publication of the NRC/GT at the University of Virginia is the monograph, Contexts for Promise: Noteworthy Practices and Innovations in the Identification of Gifted Students. This 200-page document features some of the best practices in gifted identification currently in use across the country today. The monograph is a culmination project of research examining the reliability and validity of identification processes in the nation’s school systems. The contents of the monograph include eleven chapters describing a diverse selection of innovative practices written by educators currently involved in implementing new practices of identification. The cases highlighted represent exemplary models which other schools may use as a guide for developing methods suitable to their context, philosophy, and needs.
The sites for inclusion in the monograph were selected two years ago from the NRC/GT collection at the University of Virginia and from over 25 Javits projects. The cases were rated against criteria emphasizing defensible conceptions of a process to identify underserved gifted populations, models supported by the literature in gifted identification, and practices linking definitions of giftedness with instruments used and programs being implemented. A philosophy of inclusiveness is prevalent across the sites selected. There is an overall acceptance of intelligence as multifaceted and a pervasive theme of emphasizing students’ development over time. The variety of innovative practices included in the monograph describe model programs for locating and serving very young gifted minorities, processes for recognizing talent in the arts, and non-traditional assessment techniques coordinating with gifted programs. Contexts for Promise: Noteworthy Practices and Innovations in the Identification of Gifted Students presents the case studies in order to challenge educators to seek gifted students in all populations in effective and appropriate ways.