Thursday, September 18, 2014

What makes a gifted program a success?

Much of education is focused on data these days. Reformers want to move to a world in which teachers and schools are held accountable for helping students achieve gains on tests.

It raises the question for me: How would you define an effective gifted program? What would be a metric that would show it is successful?

I was thinking of this while reading some new research on how different kids perform in gifted programs. In a working paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research, David Card and Laura Giuliano looked at what happened when children were placed in self-contained gifted classes after achieving certain criteria. You could be a "non-disadvantaged student" with the standard selection criteria of IQ>130. You could be a student receiving subsidized lunch, or an English language learner, with an IQ>116. Or you could have missed these IQ cut-offs, but scored very high on grade level achievement tests.

The researchers then looked at test scores at the end of the year. The first two groups (those selected by IQ) had not seen improvement in scores. The latter group did, with the gains most concentrated among lower income black and Hispanic students.

The conclusion is that separate, self-contained classrooms are most effective for children chosen on the basis of past achievement, "particularly disadvantaged students who are often excluded from gifted and talented programs."

Past performance on achievement tests could certainly be a criteria for gifted programs. Frankly, I'm thrilled to see any separate classes aimed at high-achievers, no matter how participants are chosen. So many schools fail to create any such environments where kids' minds can be stretched, and they can learn with their intellectual peers. It's also great to find that self-contained classes are effective at raising scores among disadvantaged students who are already doing well. Again, many schools do nothing for such children because teachers have limited time, and must concentrate their attention on kids who need a lot more help to pass grade level tests.

That said, this brings us back to the question of what makes a gifted program effective. Should it be the criteria from this study: that children's test scores on achievement tests rise over the year? What kind of tests? Grade level tests? On those, gifted kids often max out anyway, so we'd need to be looking at out-of-level tests or those without ceilings. Or should it be something else, and if so, what? Ability to create an intense, independent project? Being more satisfied with school?

I don't really know. I'm curious what Gifted Exchange readers think.


'Nother Barb said...

My son was had high test scores, showed advancement on the MAPs...usually. In second grade he showed almost no progress in reading levels, it was it was already well above grade level. But, he was miserable in 2nd grade, he said he just wanted to learn, and it wasn't happening. So, was it an effective standard-level program? The school would say yes, look at his scores. DS and I would say no, learning didn't happen in the schoolroom for him.

The next year, he was in the gifted program for math and LA. Scores still high, MAP progress across the board, and happy boy, if a little bored in math. Was it an effective program? The school would say yes, look at his scores, and look where he is now in high school. I would say yes and no, because he was mostly happy. The biggest factor was that he was in a class of kids who like to learn, and who were on the same level academically. But he wanted more, like a deeper science class and compacted world language class, and more more more in math.

Anonymous said...

This could be the problem: "Nevertheless, all students in the District cover the same curriculum and write the same statewide achievement tests each year." The results are worthless.

segh said...

Two thoughts come right off the top of my head, based on my own K-through-college experiences and my kids' experiences through 7th grade. 1) A successful program needs to have enough kids for them to inspire and challenge each other. 2) Even within a gifted program, there needs to be differentiation. All gifted kids are not equally talented across all subjects. One child may be a savant in math but be "merely" above grade level in writing, and vice versa.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Any thoughts on Duke's TIP program, the online classes, etc.? I did a google search on the site and it looks like it was last addressed in 2006 (though I didn't look that hard).

TAGK22 said...

Should the purpose of a successful gifted class be to raise test scores? The tests are generally designed to test the average, so it makes sense that advanced classes for high achievers may raise scores. But for gifted children--many who get high scores without work--will more work raise scores? I'd rather see gifted classes that accentuate the gifts--e.g., creativity, original thought, ability to make intellectual connections--and works on the deficiencies--e.g., perfectionism, inattention to detail--and doesn't focus on tested topics at all!

Vera Gooch said...

I was in a great gifted progeam when I was in the 8th grade, when the program was new and actually had funding. In every class when we finished the work we were allowed to go tothe gifted classroom, which was an outdoor buiding, We were required to do alot of work in the gifted class,a project and then an oral reports to classrooms, a research paper, reading and math SRA's, our math teacher gave each of us our own math book and we worked thru it on our own, we went on field trips to librairy for the research etc. Now they do nothing.

Anonymous said...

1. the right teachers,
2. materials that are at least two grade levels ahead,
3. time during the day for the students to talk (necessary for the more verbal and beneficial, hopefully, for the less verbal)
4. topics that are interesting to the students,
5. balance,
6. less emphasis on grades, more focus on challenge and / or progress, and
7. special projects, including science fair.