Anything but IQ
New York City's public schools, according to a news release from Florida State University, recently decided to switch from using IQ tests to identify gifted students, to using something called the Gifted Rating Scale. The GRS was developed by FSU prof Steven Pfeiffer, who was the head of Duke's TIP program for awhile, and has written about gifted educaion. You can read about it here.
According to the article, about 400 school districts use the rating scale (so I'd love to know if any of your children's districts are among them). The scale measures children in six areas: intellectual ability, academic ability, creativity, artistic talent, leadership and motivation. Teachers evaluate the children on these scales.
Since Pfeiffer has spent so much time around gifted kids, I'm sure his GRS is meant to make the concept of giftedness and gifted education more palatable to school systems, not to undermine gifted education.
However, I have to admit I'm wary of it. Given how few teachers have extensive training in gifted education, basing the criteria on teacher observations seems prone to problems. Also, a highly motivated child, or a child who motivates others (and hence, is gifted in the leadership category) will certainly be a successful child -- but that's not what giftedness has traditionally meant. The traditional thinking is that gifted children need more advanced work than even a good grade-level class can provide in order to stretch their brains. Motivated children who are good leaders may not. Also, the "academic" scale seems designed to mollify people who complain about students who get straight A's and yet are not labeled gifted. But giftedness and good grades are not the same thing. That's one of the reasons that just using teacher evaluations is a problem.
Of course, I have not seen the scale in practice. I'd love to be proven wrong if anyone has seen it used to great effect. Either way, I do have a question. What's so horrible about IQ anyway? IQ tests may try to put a precise number on something that's hard to measure precisely, but we don't know exactly how many calories the human body needs per day, either. Yet we know that a starving person should be fed. Quibbling about definitions of giftedness, and how to measure it and identify it, can keep us from meeting kids' needs if we're not careful.