Monday, December 04, 2006

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.


Anonymous said...

I looked over a gifted program application for selection for a school district that we considered moving into to accommodate our children who were quickly losing interest in school at a very young age. I liked the way they spelled out everything that was considered for acceptance to their program. Because the “rules” were clear from the start, I expect that they have fewer allegations of favoritism than the usual more arbitrary or subjective processes receive.

If I remember correctly, the individual I.Q. test (S.B. or WISC) was weighed at 40%. Grades and achievement test percentiles were worth 20% each. Points were assigned based on score ranges for all these areas. The last two areas of consideration were teacher and parent input.

If a child scored 160 on the I.Q. portion, they had enough points to reach the threshold number even before the other areas were considered. If they had a 119, but very high achievement test results and grades, they might squeak in.

Quiltsrwarm said...

I think our school system started to use something like this type of sorting the year before we pulled our kids, but it was largely based on teacher observations and seemed really wishy washy. I know for a fact that my daughter is gifted in written expression, however it was her art teacher who recommended her for advanced work in art. She never received any sort of advancement and attended the same art class as the rest of her classmates.

My son's high abilities were almost completely ignored, even though his teacher often made comments on them. I had to make the effort to get him accellerated in math, it was not the teacher's initiative and certainly not the result of any ability sorting.

If a teacher has 25 kids to assess on a regular basis, teaching won't happen, so it is unrealistic in a public school environment to expect accurrate ability sorting. To keep everyone sane, the use of quantitative data (i.e., intelligence tests given by a qualified psychologist) when placing children in classes should be higher on the list of priorities than the qualitative that GRS requires.

The only problem with this idea is that kids who don't test well, but who are obviously very bright to everyone around them, might have problems with the IQ tests and not score well enough to be accellerated. That, Laura, may be the problem with IQ tests -- at least in a small minority of gifted kids.

The Princess Mom said...

I've had the opportunity to look over the identification procedures for a couple district in my state. One of them uses the GRS, or something very similar. Everybody into the pool!

Another only kicks in when a student scores 97th%ile or above on the state standardized test. (In comparison, they can take part in a regional talent search program (MATS) at the 90th%ile.)

It's all based on budget, not what the students actually need. Tight budget leads to tighter restrictions on what constitutes gifted.

And I have to disagree that kids gifted with leadership abilities will always have good grades. I've known plenty of leaders who encouraged their fellow students to goof off or cause a commotion. :D

Anonymous said...

GRS is NOT takes the ratings and compares them to how teachers have rated other its different from subjective teacher evaluations day to day. Because it compares, and because results were compared to other quantitative measures (like IQ, etc) in its development...and because educators of the gifted and others were involved in helping pick and pare items......its actually very valid and very quantitative. If a teacher's scores are way out of whack, and that doesn't match other data or info, a complete screening process that is universal will make it stick out like a sore thumb

Anonymous said...

I meant to say too that the GRS gives what's called a standard score NOT a raw score or a cut off score, so it's again very objective. Standard scores take the raw score, and at a certain age or grade compares to a sample of kids that matches US kids in composition. PLUS its cool that they found that these were culture free items..

nbosch said...

Don't get me started....I teach in a state with a gifted mandate and gifted services fall under the special ed umbrella. Over the years we have moved away from IQ testing of all potentially gifted students to a RTI model. (response to intervention) I'm one of the dinosaurs who still gets a lot of imformation from the WISC or other individualized intelligence tests and i feel it made sure that the students we served were "gifted" and whose needs could not be met in the classroom. The GRS gives a score which represents how a teacher feels about a certain student and is only as reliable as the teachers' understanding of gifted kiddos. It also completely leaves out underachievers! I think it is a good addition of information from multiple sources but should not stand alone in identifying students for gifted services.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know, is the GRS score is coming directly from the the students current class teacher?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where to view a sample Gifted Rating Scale (kindergarten version) without buying it?