Identification of Gifted Learner



Spring 2007 Identification of Gifted Learners


IDENTIFICATION—Our job would be so much easier if only we didn’t have to identify students. We lament the difficulties of accurately and fairly identifying gifted learners, so why do it at all? It is a process that:
• is time consuming and labor intensive and therefore expensive
• labels children in a way that may lead to stereotypical expectations
• often involves parental dissatisfaction


The answer, of course, is that given the American school system as it now operates, we require that students be identified before we can provide services to them. And since we know that gifted children cannot “make it on their own,” despite what some still believe, we are obligated as educators and parents to identify gifted children in order to provide them with the academic challenge and affective support they require. So, accepting the fact that identification is an obligatory part of gifted education, is there anything new under the sun? Haven’t we hashed over all the pros and cons before? Many times before? Happily, there are new ideas and promising assessments available to assist us in carrying out this obligation.

Our lead feature article, “Bright Beyond Their Years: What’s A Parent To Do?” by Judy Galbraith, is a primer for parents on what to look for in their own children to help assess their giftedness. Coordinators and teachers may wish to distribute this article to parents, especially those with children who show promise in their classrooms.

Del Siegle at the University of Connecticut proposes a whole

new category of identification: technologically gifted learners. Our current students have grown up with computers and other technological advancements, and the future seems destined to include even more. As in other categories of giftedness, there are some students who excel in these activities far beyond the average. Siegle delineates three types of technologically gifted students: programmers, interfacers, and fixers. His suggestions will give districts a starting point in developing this new category of giftedness in local programs. A challenge that has plagued gifted education since its inception is the fact that not all groups of learners are equally represented in our programs: some racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups are few in number. Untold amounts of research, creation of “culture fair” assessments, and dollars have gone into the quest for equal representation. Barbara Clark, in her article, “Issues of Identification and Underrepresentation,” suggests that we may be focusing on the wrong issues. She maintains that it is poverty that cuts across all cultural groups and is the prime reason for unequal representation. She provides recommendations for ameliorating its consequences in the realm of gifted education. Linda Silverman, Director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, enthusiastically describes the changes in the two intelligence tests most frequently used in our schools: Stanford Binet and Wechsler. She tells us that not since the time of Terman and his colleagues at Stanford in the early years of the 20th century has the testing industry focused so specifically on gifted learners. Silverman contends that the changes seen in the new versions of these instruments—Stanford Binet 5 and WISC-IV— provide significant improvements over earlier versions.

Robert Sternberg, Dean of Arts and Letters at Tufts University, has long been in the forefront of new ideas regarding giftedness and how to assess it. His article, “New Ways of Identifying Gifted Children,” discusses two of his current projects: The Rainbow and Aurora Batteries. Both assessments are based on his theory of successful intelligence and include measures of creative and practical skills. Karen Rogers of St. Thomas University in Minnesota has been a Visiting Professor at the University of New South Wales for the past two years; furthermore, she has taught in the their Certificate of Gifted Education program since 2005. These experiences have provided an opportunity to compare the process of identification in both Australia and the United States. She shares her observations in her article, “Identification of the Gifted: An Issue All Over the World.”

With this issue we bid farewell to Jody Fickes Shapiro who has

penned the “Talking About Books” column since we began national distribution of GEC in the spring of 2001. She wishes to spend more time in the writing of children’s books; we wish to say congratulations for her second book, Family Lullaby, due to be published this spring. Throughout the six years she has written her column, she has provided us with provocative ideas, lively descriptions of new books for children, and suggestions for promoting children’s literature with our gifted children. Thank you Jody, for all you have given to us, and best wishes in your new endeavors.


Finally, we’d like you to give special consideration to the upcoming Summer 2007 issue of Gifted Education Communicator. We will focus on the the role of administrators in supporting programs for gifted children. We took the first step in addressing this important group of educator leaders by initiating the “Administrator Talk” department in the Fall 2006 issue. Now we are devoting an entire issue to their role. We depend on you to make sure this special issue is brought to the attention of your district administrators.  Best wishes for the final segment of the school year. Whether as parent or educator, you are making a difference for gifted children.

—Margaret Gosfield, Edito