Achieving Equity within the District

In school districts where the student population is very homogeneous, districts may find that criteria used for identifying Gifted/Talented students on one campus works for all campuses in the district. For example, if each campus in the district has similar socioeconomic and racial/ethnic demographics, the same criteria may be used throughout the district. However, in districts in which the demographics are more diverse, a single set of criteria used on all campuses will tend to identify Gifted/Talented students on one campus to the exclusion of potentially eligible students on another campus. When the district’s population is more heterogeneous, each campus needs to be looked at separately, and yet the same process must be used on all campuses. Table 1 illustrates varying demographics among three campuses in one district.

Table 1: Three Campuses with Varying Demographics

Campus A Campus B Campus C

80% free and reduced lunch

35% Anglo
40% Hispanic
20% African American
5% Asian

40% free and reduced lunch

70% Anglo
20% Hispanic
10% African American
0% Asian

15% free and reduced lunch

80% Anglo
15% Hispanic
3% African American
2% Asian

If the district uses the same standardized intelligence and achievement measures on all three campuses, it will probably end up with more students coming from one campus to the exclusion of students from the other campuses, depending on the measure used. A measure that favors nonverbal students might identify more students on Campus A, with few being found on Campus C. Conversely, a measure that is more verbal might identify more students on Campus C than on Campus A. To avoid this situation and to achieve greater equity, the same process can be used on each campus with different instruments being used on each campus or even with different student groups on a campus.

Table 2 illustrates how the same process might be adapted for each campus. The instruments reflected in the following chart are examples, not recommendations.

Table 2. Adaptation of Identification Process for Three Campuses

Instrument Campus A Campus B Campus C
Achievement measure Sub-scores to identify areas of strength Composite and sub-scores to identify areas of strength Composite scores
Abilities measure Raven’s Progressive Matrices Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) and Cognitive Abilities Test (CoGAT) Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children – Revised (WISC-R)
Teacher perception inventory Locally developed teacher perception inventory or interview geared towards culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse (CLED) students Locally developed teacher perception inventory or interview geared towards culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse (CLED) students Renzulli-Hartman Rating Scale
Parent perception inventory Parent interview Parent interviews and locally developed parent inventory Locally developed parent inventory
Portfolio Activities that are less dependent on written language and reflect various cultural groups and interests, fine arts included A combination of activities that reflect varying degrees of dependency on written language Activities that make heavier use of written language

The process used on each of these campuses should be the same, but specific instruments will vary from campus to campus.

When populations are diverse, local campus norms can be very useful because you are trying to identify those students who fall outside the norm of that campus, those who deviate to a greater degree and dimension from the majority of the students. If the majority of the students are performing at the 60th percentile on a given instrument and a student scores at the 80th, he has deviated from the norm on that campus. That is when local campus norms will be helpful.

To develop local campus norms, all the students at given grade levels should be included in the sample. A spreadsheet is very helpful when developing local norms because scores for each student can be entered and easily rank listed. 

The following principles should be considered when selecting instruments and processes for identifying diverse Gifted/Talented populations:

  • Parent inventories typically do not work with parents from poverty or limited English speaking parents. Interviews work much better, though a home visit may be required. Parents from poverty may lack transportation and/or they may not trust the school.
  • Consent forms may not be returned to the school. Personal contact usually works better.
  • Schools that use the district-adopted instruments with all students do not have to get written permission from the parent. It falls under the same guidelines as administering an achievement test to all students that has been adopted and approved by the district.
  • Peer referrals that are specifically designed for culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse (CLED) students may be very helpful in identifying students who have talents that may not be reflected on traditional measures.
  • Student interviews may be used very effectively with CLED students. This is a time-consuming process but should certainly be considered when other tests are inconclusive or do not seem to match other kinds of observed performance.
  • Rubrics are used to measure the performance of students, especially when looking at classroom experiences or portfolios. (see Texas Student Portfolio Profile)
  • Districts/campuses should avoid the use of cut-off scores. Look for patterns in the data collected when identifying CLED students. Examine the patterns in the context of what giftedness looks like within each group.
  • Teacher perceptions are solicited and include both open-ended questions and checklists.
  • At least one instrument is used to consider all students at each grade level for possible additional screening for placement in the program for the Gifted/Talented. Screening only students who are “referred” by teachers and parents for inclusion in the Gifted/Talented program often overlooks CLED students. Use multiple criteria to look at all students and then seek the perceptions of teachers and parents where possible.
  • Identification procedures include the use of non-verbal instruments.
  • The placement procedures allow for students to be placed in the program based on observable behaviors and not solely on the basis of quantitative instruments.

Adapted from Slocumb and Olenchak. Equity in Gifted Education a State Initiative. (2006) Texas Education Agency. 

Additional Considerations