Thursday, February 01, 2007

Scaling up "Gifted"

The state of Florida does better than most when it comes to providing funding for gifted education. But anytime something is perceived as an educational reward bestowed upon a favored group, politics come into play, and that's precisely what's happening in Florida right now. The state Department of Education is in the midst of changing the way it defines "gifted" in order to be more inclusive. You can read about one county's experience with the change here.

For starters, the state wants to expand the number of children screened for giftedness to all of them. Not a bad idea. Currently, many districts only screen for giftedness among children whose parents or teachers request it. But some parents may not know much about gifted education, or how to navigate the school system. Few teachers have training in gifted education, and so may assume that "gifted" means "doing well in class." Not always the case.

But administering IQ tests is time consuming. Doing the full deal requires at least 2 hours one-on-one with a psychologist. So Florida districts may have to use quicker, slightly rougher versions of IQ tests for mass screening. But then the 130 cut-off seems even more arbitrary. So why not add in achievement test scores? That's what the state is proposing, in addition to lowering the IQ bar to 120. School officials say this may double or triple the number of children identified as gifted, and thus make the programs more inclusive.

I'm all in favor of inclusiveness if it means screening more children. But the move toward labeling more children as gifted -- which school districts across the country are trying -- strikes me as problematic for gifted education in general. In recent posts we've talked about the problems of positioning gifted education as some sort of reward. Attempts to pack more children into the definition buy into this thinking. If a district defines "gifted" as "good student," and as a seal of approval that the kid is going places in life, then why not choose everyone who has good grades and reasonable test scores?

Proponents of gifted education are on our most solid footing when we define gifted education as an educational intervention for students who need it. If 10% or more of a class suddenly needs an intervention, maybe it could just be taken care of by more differentiation in reading groups, math groups, and the like. I'd like to see true educational interventions (grade skipping, distance learning, early enrollment at college, magnet schools for the highly gifted, including boarding schools) focused on a smaller percentage of students. That means raising the cut-off IQ bar, not lowering it. If any districts are going that direction, please let me know. I'd love to hear about them.


Quiltsrwarm said...

Administering IQ tests should be done by a QUALIFIED psychologist, too, not just any ol' yahoo with a "PhD" on the end of his/her name. A psychologist with experience and training in gifted issues is very important in identifying true giftedness or the whole concept of being gifted will get watered down through sheer ignorance. I have a story to tell about our experience with a school psychologist, but I'll save it for later...

The trend to educate to the lowest common denominator also applies to gifted programs, so if more kids are included in those programs, what happens to the kids on the higher end of the gifted spectrum? They suffer, just as they would in a school system that doesn't even acknowledge giftedness as an issue.

I wonder if the described trend to artificially increase the gifted population is tied to an increase in gifted funding in those regions in which the trend occurs? The more gifteds you identify, the more money the school gets, right? Where does gifted program money come from, now - the Federal Gov?

This situation sounds familiar. In our old school district, kids could have an IQ test done with a score above 130 being an automatic "in," a score above 95%ile in any given subject area on a standardized test would also qualify a child, or that child could be recommended by a teacher. I would say that at any given time the number of gifteds in my children's classes ran at about 25-30% of the kids. Can we say: "Show me the money?"

I like the idea of calling gifted education an "intervention" of sorts -- a much more accurate term, IMHO. Keep up the good work, Laura... :)

Linda Manci said...

Our local Florida Middle School decided to "share the wealth" by no longer offering gifted classes. They "fused" gifted students into a regular classroom. The gifted teacher came in and did "enrichment". I was told "That way all the children could benefit from gifted education funds".
This same year they was a huge exodus of these families who decided to homeschool, private school, or sell their homes and move one school boundary away to a more gifted friendly school. The schools are paid a bonus based of FCAT test scores. So many high scorers left - the school had to change this policy 3 years later. Too late for us. We LOVE the prep school our daughter attends now and would nver go back to public school again. We would have never even considered private school if they hadn't consolidated their gifted program. The new head of the district is proclaiming how gifted friendly they are!!! They would never have changed if families had not made it clear they would not accept it.

Anonymous said...

I too have just encountered this in my county in Florida. My child is currently enrolled in a fantastic private school as has just about bent over backwards to keep up my my daughter's thirst for knowledge. She skipped kindergarten (big whoop some may say) into 1st grade and takes math and language arts with the 2nd/3rd graders. Although stimulated by the different depth of the content, she is still not challenged and is starting to be shy around the older kids (6 and 9 year old diff is a new challenge)although she knows them very well because they do not understand her reaction to harder work and excitement over tests (aka "the geek backlash") and disinterest in boy-chasing. We looked into a public magnet school that exclusively caters to "profoundly gifted" students and thought it would be a better place where she could be among peers that think in a similar way that she does. Unfortunately, with the lowering of the criteria for the gifted ranking I fear that those that are truly gifted and score in the 150+ on all the standard IQ tests will be gipped by the school being forced to cater to the kids in the lower end of the spectrum. Additionally, I was appalled when one of the parents told me that she was given a sample test ahead of time to "help her child with the stress"...that is bogus. I hope that the state is seriously looking at this change and leveraging multiple criteria to assess and meet the needs of the truly gifted,

Anonymous said...

The state of Fl claims to be gifted friendly, and even supports acceleration. You can find a printout on Acceleration in the FLDOE website after digging for the gifted area of special education. However, afer trickling down to each individual school, it ultimately comes down to how educated in gifted and supportive the principal and faculty (guidance counselors and asst principals) truly are, along with districts that are educated and motivated to a) continue education for teachers, faculty, staff b) encourage and support acceleration policies per child and in "gifted classes" c)develop consistent programs that arent individualized to each school.
Florida does not allow "out-of-grade-level" testing and does not allow dual-enrollment until 9th grade therefore it holds back gifted students, even in gifted classrooms that do provide differentiation or even subject acceleration. It enforces the message - we know you can do more, but you have to stay here. Why? Because those students scores on the FCAT will bring the money to the school, year after year. Regardless of the impact on the individual student.

Anonymous said...

There is currently a bill in Florida's Senate to eliminate funding for high school gifted.
Also please be aware that the Gifted Specialist has moved from the ESE Department to Innovative
Instruction. Procedural safeguards
of the gifted are to be revised.
Each of these statements could be
sirens for parents to heed. It is time to learn and stand up for your child's right to LEARN.

Anonymous said...

Need some advice, not sure where to daughter attends a Hernando county public school and is in the 4th grade. Through our suggestion she is being tested for our "gifted program". During the initial testing she tested 134, with more intense testing she was scored a 120, 91st percentile. She is a straight "A" student with alot of "common sense", and just a little shy at times. She has an older sister who is in 7th grade in the "gifted program" and is aware of this fact. Her test scores for FCAT for last year were a 4 in math and a 5 in Reading. The school has left it up to us if we wanted to pursue further testing, and if so would administer the WISC test. I'm not sure which test was just given, the only thing the tester said was that the one she took had longer "timing"times so most people like it better thsn WISC. Do you think we should pursue this for my daughter? Do you think the IQ scores will change enough to get her in? If she does not get in this year could does Florida have rules on testing again or privately, or do you think that would be a waste of time? She is a very mellow little girl and although she says it would not bother her if she didn't get in to the"Quest" program I think since we didn't tell her the testing is not over yet she still thinks there is a chance.Thank you for any advice you can give!!!

Anonymous said...

We have to remember that when looking to label a child for a specific program, the incentive behind the label is funding for the district. In Florida, the gifted program is state funded, not federal (as funds for disabled students are) and funds are limited. In addition, funds for disabled students just decreased by one third, and since gifted students get the left overs, I really can't figure how anything would be left in the pot at all for advanced education, when funds at the state level are already limited and federal funds for disabled are decreasing and the state will have to pick up the slack for all of these mandated programs. Speaking of advanced education, also keep in mind that the gifted program focuses on academics and the state already offers advanced placement courses and IB programs under the general curriculum. Each student labeled gifted is entitled to a level of funding in addition to the FTE funds (federal funds for full time education enrollment in public schools in which they are entitled to without a label). My experience with the gifted program is that my son excelled well academically on his own and indeed needed (and needs) more of a challenge. In elementary school, the gifted program offered a great deal of support to him but in middle school the social/emotional/behavioral support ended and it is completely up to me to accommodate (this includes spending money) these needs, meanwhile, the district still receives the funding for him. My son gets no services under gifted that would warrant the district receiving extra funds for him. I believe in more cases than not, special education programs exploit children and offer as little service as possible. My son is very intelligent, however, has moderate anxiety and an organizational deficit. He is at risk of dropping out of school if his social/emotional needs are not met. This is a very common issue in gifted children but I am told by the School District of Hillsborough County that there are no services for these needs under gifted. My son is in classes he would be in regardless of a label...general curriculum (advanced) classes. Remember, all students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), label or none.

Anonymous said...

This whole issue of the Gifted Program seems to be nothing more than a political joke. I have a truely gifted son who far exceeds every other child I have ever met. He is now in high school and was never identified. And yes I live in Hillsborough county and there is nothing for gifted children after elementary. It does not matter what the state laws say. The county has their own interpretation of those laws. I did not know anything about gifted and my son breezed through school. Now I have a daughter in elementary school and found myself having to supplement her education at home because her needs were not being met. I placed my daughter in a Magnet IB school thinking that they are teaching at a higher level and this would meet her needs. What I found was that they were lacking in the core curriculm. No one would listen to my daughter when she expressed that she was bored. After several months her behavior changed as she felt no one cared that she wanted more. I finally stepped up and began having meetings myself to get her more challenging work. What I was told is that all their classes are taught at a higher level then public schools and that my daughter needed to learn to do her work to the best of her ability even if she thinks it is too easy. My daughter was also told to go home and challenge herself but was given no direction as to what she was to challenge herself in. Another words her education was still my responsibility. To make matters worse because of my addressing her needs with the school they began to harrass me everytime I entered the school to the point that my children felt threatened. Apparently if you do not fit the norm they do not want you in their school. I did pull her from the IB magnet school and placed her back in the regular public school near my home. Surprise they were doing things in the core curriculum that my daughter had not seen. Luckily she is bright so she caught up quickly. Now we are back to our homeschooling curriculum. I have her is school for the social aspect of it and it supplements what I teach her.

What the schools should really do is treat each child like an idividual and met their needs. I believe that it is possible to met children's needs if you take the time to listen to THEM. Children at an early age are very keenly aware of their needs and are thirsting to let everyone know. When do we stop and listen.

Anonymous said...

So, I guess the idea is that very bright children, who do really well in school and on standardized tests, , yet score ONLY in the 90% or so on the IQ tests(what dolts!) shouldn't be given extra opportunities to learn along with your beloved higher IQ children.

And your reasoning is? The concept of gifted being watered down? What a bunch of snobs! You want to feel like your children belong to a very exclusive club, (no non-brilliant children in our club, that would make us feel less special)! Do you think your children will be "dragged down" by these intelligent and high achieving students? Nonsense! The proof is in the ACTIONS of these students. Look at their PERFORMANCE! And look at yourselves, and ask yourself what your motivations REALLY are in this matter.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie D. Georgiades, M.A.
President, GACH, Inc.
Phone: (813) 334-7315

July 23, 2007


Parents of Gifted Students Launch Advocacy and Support Group

(Tampa, FL) – A small group of parents has big plans for Gifted Education in Hillsborough County. “We won’t be small for long,” states GACH, Inc. President Stephanie Georgiades. The Gifted Advocacy Council of Hillsborough, Inc. (GACH, Inc.) is a nonprofit organization, founded in 2007 to support the education of Gifted children and provide a forum for sharing information about Best Practices in Gifted education “We know there are many parents out there who need a network and additional resources to help them meet the educational needs of their Gifted students. We have a website,, designed just for them – to equip them with the knowledge and contacts they need to pursue Excellence in Education for their children,” said Georgiades.

“There are approximately 14,000 gifted students, defined as children whose IQ’s exceed 130 on a formally administered intelligence test, in the District. There may be many more who are not yet identified. The law entitles these students to a differentiated curriculum that meets their emotional and educational needs,” Georgiades continued. “Our Board of Directors is comprised of parents and teachers of the Gifted, and as our membership grows we expect to develop a strong partnership with local schools, the School District of Hillsborough County and state lawmakers to ensure our teachers receive the training and resources necessary to support a relevant and rigorous gifted curriculum and our students receive gifted services through graduation.”

“The GACH website,, will inform the public of legislation, policies and programs affecting Gifted students,” explained GACH, Inc., Vice President Dr. Michael Matthews, Assistant Professor of Gifted Education at the University of South Florida’s Graduate School of Education. ”We also plan to hold quarterly meetings featuring speakers and topics of broad interest to the members. Our first general meeting is currently scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2007, and GACH is pleased to announce that Terry Wilson, founder of the Florida Gifted Network and longtime advocate for Gifted learners, will discuss legislation and policies affecting Gifted Education.”

Membership in GACH, Inc. is open to anyone interested in issues surrounding Gifted Education. The Membership Form, as well as meeting topics, times and locations, can be downloaded from the GACH website,, or by contacting Stephanie Georgiades, at (813) 334-7315.

Anonymous said...

I read most of these posts with interest and some degree of agreement on many issues. I was, however, a bit offended by the anonymous poster who felt that only 'truly' gifted children in the 150+ range should be included in gifted programs, as anyone of lower IQ, and I guess not truly gifted, would drag these children down. That did smack of snobbery. It happens that my daughter, in 6th grade in Pasco County, scored a deplorable 135 on her Stanford Binet V test at the beginning of 3rd grade. She also has always scored in the 95th to 99th percentile on every FCAT norm-referenced test she has ever taken. She happens to outperform just about all the other gifted kids she associates with, and she has many gifted friends. This year, she is actually in gifted classes for the first time, with everyone else in her age group who is either gifted or deemed to be high achieving. One of her closest friends is another girl who scored in the high 140's on her IQ test. I have to say that, if anything, both girls are very good influences upon each other, but my daughter tends to outperform her higher IQ friend academically on a regular basis. Believe me, she holds no one back. Regardless of IQ level, most of the kids in her class are racing to keep up with her. So much for your fear that her 'type' would hold your child back.

Anonymous said...

To clarify some of the arguments made previously. There is a spectrum of giftedness. Actually gifted students can be categorized into four to five groups. To qualify at the lowest level of gifted, the IQ (depending on which test is administered) begins in the 120-130 IQ range. Average range is 100 to 120. So if a student scored 140, 150, or 160+ there is a substantial difference in the abilities of these gifted groups. The needs of these children should not be confused with "snobbishness" of the parents. Not having an education which meets a child's needs is the problem. Gifted education is not a one size fits all endeavor. A student who is 10 points above average and one that is 20-30 points above average have different needs. My daughter with an IQ of 162 never had her needs met with the "gifted" program. And even gifted teachers can want to hold their students back in order to conform to what they want to give rather than what is needed. If a parent with a very high IQ child wants to meet their needs, they will have to seek ways to individualize their education through many avenues. Family planned enrichment and home school, as well as community gifted groups and mentors starting at a young age, in addition to dual enrollment or auditing of college courses are some options. There are students under the age of 10 who are taking college courses, they are not pushed by their parents, they want to be there and to be challenged. Parents should not feel slighted if gifted guidelines separate gifted students and especially gifted and non-gifted. If what parents want is more enriched classes for their children, they need to fight for that. But pushing students into groups they do not qualify for is not the solution.

For those who want a more complete assesment, the WISC-IV, WPPSI-III,

The Wechsler intelligence tests were not designed to differentiate scores above 130 (WISC-R and WISC-III) or 145 (WISC-IV): WISC-III was created for near-average intelligence testing, clinical patients who score between 70 and 130, and is not accurate beyond that.

Given the much lower scores resulting from the newest generation of tests (WISC-IV, SB-5 and WJ-III cognitive), professionals who work with the gifted are suggesting a new set of scores and descriptive levels of giftedness, beginning at 120 to 125 for "moderately" gifted, and progressing to 142 to 145+ for "profoundly" gifted. But these levels are still under investigation.

Anonymous said...

Gifted is the power of the pen only (the school psycologist pickes and chooses who gets to be gifted). Every student learns is all about what a person likes and dislikes in this world. Take from me a 99 percentile who wants the truth out there.