Assessment of students to identify if they are advanced in their learning of one or more subjects is complex, and often compounded by challenges students may face, such as speaking English as a second language, coming from disadvantaged families, or being twice-exceptional.

Evidence-based best practices show that what works is a combination of:

– traditional methods such as standardized test scores

– alternative strategies including:

— teacher checklists and rating scales
— social interaction in the classroom
— indicators of creativity
— problem-solving activities
— student portfolios
— provisional placement in gifted programs as a tryout period

The source for this is: Best Practices in Gifted Education: An Evidence-Based Guide, by Ann Robinson, Bruce M. Shore, and Donna L. Enersen, © 2007.

At the 17th annual New England Conference on Gifted and Talented Education in October 2011, CALA member Freedom Baird attended a breakout session titled: Best Practices for G/T: Your District’s Report Card. It was run by Linda Burdick, a consultant with 25+ years of experience working with advanced learners in grades k-12. Her work in the field has included developing an IEP for advanced learners in her school district, and serving as the president of the New Hampshire Association for Gifted Education. As a consultant, she is hired by school districts to conduct an audit of policy and programs for advanced learners, and make recommendations for improvement. Ms. Burdick highly recommended Best Practices in Gifted Education, mentioned above, as a tool for districts working to improve their programming for children in need of advanced learning.

Here’s the full excerpt from the book on how to assess disadvantaged children:

Identification of Low-Income Promising Learners

Despite an increased use of multiple criteria, the identification of gifted and talented students continues to be dominated by the use of standardized test scores. These are generally paper-and-pencil aptitude and achievement tests. High-scoring students are considered gifted and recommended for programs and services. Giftedness, therefore, is associated with a test score in practice, if not philosophically. Low-income promising learners can be identified through traditional test scores, but many of them are overlooked. To address the problem, numerous researchers have advocated alternative or extended ways of identifying them (Callahan, Tomlinson, Moon, Tomchin, & Plucker, 1995; Frasier et al., 1995; Passow & Frasier, 1996; Sarouphim, 1999). In a national survey of identification practices, Hunsaker (1994) found alternative strategies included teacher checklists and rating scales, social interaction in the classroom, indicators of creativity, problem-solving activities, student portfolios, and provisional placement in gifted programs as a tryout period.

. . .

Case studies of promising learners living in poverty also echo the necessary intensity and duration of school service required for low-income children and youth (Hebert, 2002). High expectations from their teachers, real-world problem solving opportunities, extracurricular activities, and the sustained involvement of caring adults were repeating themes in programs and services that made a a difference. In terms of the effective education of low-income promising learners, the evidence currently exists to guide schools, but resources and the collective will of society are needed to initiate and maintain the practices that work.

From: Best Practices in Gifted Education: An Evidence-Based Guide, by Ann Robinson, Bruce M. Shore, and Donna L. Enersen, © 2007.