Many parents want to deem their child as gifted, but there’s a big difference between a high-achieving student and one who is intellectually gifted. Here’s how to identify gifted children, and an overview of programs that serve them.
Cathy Ross knew her daughter Helen was a fast learner when she was a baby. Helen seemed to reach nearly every childhood milestone at an early age, including walking, identifying colors, and even
reading aloud a few words from the newspaper.
“Her favorite toys were those foam letters you use in the bath,” she says. “She would bring them to us for identifi cation. That’s how she started to learn. She’s a whirlwind
when she gets hold of something.”
Having always scored high on tests, Helen was identified as gifted and joined the Fort Thomas Independent School District’s
program QUEST (Questioning Understanding Evaluating
While many parents may feel their child is brilliant, in reality, identifying children as gifted takes a lot more than impressing mom and dad with clever sayings and outstanding skills. Defining the Gifted Child While many parents hope to hear their child is gifted, there are specifi c requirements children must meet before they can be formally identifi ed. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) defi nes gifted children as those who perform at exceptionally high levels of accomplishment when compared to other children of the same age or the same experience or environment. The ODE identifies giftedness in one or more of four categories: 1) superior cognitive ability; 2) specific academic ability (which includes superior skills in mathematics, science, social studies, and reading/writing); 3) creative thinking ability; and 4) visual and performing arts ability. In Kentucky, a gifted/talented child is defined as a student who shows the potential or demonstrated ability to perform at high levels in 1) general intellectual aptitude; 2) specific academic aptitude; 3) creative thinking; 4) leadership skills; and/or 5) visual or performing arts. “There is a difference between gifted kids and ‘teacher pleasers,’” says Betsy Singh, coordinator for the Gifted Programming Department at Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). A gifted child’s abilities are exceptional enough to warrant special services to meet his educational needs. In fact, giftedness is included within the U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Although it may seem strange to label giftedness as a disability, IDEA’s intentions are to serve all students whose academic success requires additional or special programming.
The Identification Process
According to Singh, giftedness can only be determined by tests as ruled by the ODE. Cincinnati Public Schools takes a three-step approach to identify gifted children. First is a pre-assessment, an evaluation of student work, observations from teachers, and parent nominations. All CPS students are pre-assessed in order to ensure equality. Step two involves a screening assessment during
which all student information is reviewed, including test scores, project displays, and/or performances. Students who meet or surpass a cutoff score set by the district move on to the third step, a test that will formally identify giftedness. Parents can appeal any step in the process with a written letter to the school administrator.
Identification of gifted students in Kentucky takes a slightly different approach, although the state does set forth standards in determining exceptional children. Children in grades K – 3 are selected for a Primary Talent Pool (PTP), an informal grouping for children with potential or who demonstrate exceptional skills, such as a Kindergartner that can read chapter books. “The primary talent pool is a more informal process,” says Rita Byrd, assistant superintendent for Student Services at Fort Thomas Independent Schools. She explains that the pool provides additional enrichment programs and aims to nurture talents further. For example, some PTP programs include “Marble-ous Discoveries,” “Days of Knights and Damsels,” and “Making Music — Mexico.” Children who participate in the PTP may be formally tested and identified as gifted by the fourth grade, but not all children in the pool may be deemed gifted. “We go by state guidelines,” says Byrd, “and that is that children must score at the 97th percentile or above to be considered academically or intellectually
gifted.” Children who show superior talents in the visual or performing arts may audition for QUEST and are judged by local experts in the arts.
Gifted … Now What?
Once identified as gifted by the ODE, a Written Education Plan (WEP) is put into place. The WEP details goals, evaluation methods, and the educational services and programs that will be provided to the student, including such options as:
• Differentiation — altering the classroom content to allow for special projects or more in-depth studying
• Acceleration — skipping a grade for a particular content area
• Mentorships — partnering students with a mentor in their area of interest
• Advanced Placement and Honors — higher level courses with opportunity for college credit
• Seminars and Academic Clubs
• Resource Rooms and Pullout Programs — a classroom used for instruction with a certified gifted teacher
• Distance Learning — coursework done over the Internet
The state of Kentucky requires each child identified as gifted to have a Gifted Student Service Plan (GSSP), which details additional or differentiated educational services from the core curriculum. The GSSP is developed with input from teachers, parents and the student. Services vary from district to district, but may include differentiation, pullout programs, grouping of gifted kids into a single classroom, mentorships, and independent study. For example, Ross’ daughter Helen spends her mornings pursuing algebra
and seventh-grade language arts, and gets a 30-minute break in the school library to study on her own. But she also gets to enjoy lunch and the rest of her core classes with her sixth-grade peers. It’s a program that seems to be working, according to Ross. “Right now, she is able to see her friends and be silly, but still be challenged each day as well.”
The key as a parent of a gifted child is to take an active role in locating
services for your child. “You have to keep looking for answers,” says Ross.
“You can find resources, they are out there and available.”
Ultimately, securing a challenging educational experience for your gifted
child is a matter of teamwork between you and your child’s school. Once you
have put a plan into place, be sure to review it often and make sure that your
child is still being challenged, but not overwhelmed, and is happy with where
they are. As Ross says of her daughter, “As long as she’s happy, that’s what
counts. She won’t learn anything if she’s unhappy.”
characteristics to look for
According to the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Web site (cps-k12.org), some common characteristics of
gifted children include:
• Ability to handle distractions and concentrate on one topic at length
• High level of energy and sense of commitment
• An independent learner who can make connections between wideranging information
• Multiple interests
• Able to learn new concepts quickly and generate original ideas
• Demonstrates a high degree of perfectionism
• Usually prefers the company of older children and adults; is highly sensitive
| BRIGHT CHILD
|| GIFTED LEARNER
• Ohio Association for Gifted Children | oagc.com
• Kentucky Association for Gifted Education | wku.edu/kage