By Elie Gaines
Recent calls or conversations, in the last few weeks especially, have intrigued me to write a blog addressing questions posed. I write here from my perspective, and from both my experience as a gifted cluster teacher and now as a consultant, or school advisor, having visited hundreds of Arizona schools in the last three years.
This is the time of year, in many schools in Arizona, where blanket gifted testing has been administered to Second Graders and the results have been, or will be, sent home to parents. It’s that moment of knowing whether your child is now eligible for gifted education for the following school year, or not. Unless, of course, your child was tested prior to Second Grade either by the school or privately and you’ve already gone through the decision-making process to decide whether the services provided will be accepted or declined by you.
Here are some basic “tips” for understanding gifted education in Arizona schools:
1. As parents, we know that each of our children has unique gifts and talents of their own. “Gifted (and sometimes ‘talented’) education” in the schools refers to services for students who have been identified as eligible for additional services given their test results on an assessment.
2.The list of Arizona State Department of Education approved tests for gifted eligibility can be found here.
3. To respect the integrity of the test results the same test may be administered to your child only once in a 12-month period. A different test could be used within a 12 month period to retest, or to confirm eligibility, in a school, district or State new to your family.
4. Each district and school has the ability to accept or decline the results of a different test, even if that test is on the approved State list, based on their own criteria for eligibility for a specific test and the comparison of those criteria with the criteria provided by other tests.
Confusing? Yes, it can be. Ask a staff member or Gifted Specialist at a school or district for clarification.
5. Eligibility is typically determined by performance levels on “the gifted test”. For example, if the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is the test used it may be that a student must perform within a 95th to 98th percentile range on one or more of the sub-tests to be eligible for gifted services in that school or district. The subtests measure (in general terms) verbal ability (reading/language), quantitative ability (math) and non-verbal (visual-spatial) abilities.
If a student proves to be eligible for “verbal giftedness” (if you will), then they may, for example, receive services to support reading or the language arts. If quantitatively gifted then they may be eligible for services in mathematics. It’s the non-verbal eligibility that often provides a gray area for services. Typically, but not always, if a student only proves to be eligible for non-verbal supports a school may not be able to provide services because they don’t have specific programming available to do so. (That means either curriculum or qualified staffing to provide the support.) And, a child may be even more uniquely gifted – perhaps twice exceptional (gifted with other learning challenges) or gifted in the superior range.
6. Every school district or school names their program for gifted education by a name unique to them, typically. If you don’t recognize the acronym used to describe a particular program, ask for clarification. We educators tend to use the acronym common to us, often forgetting that others have no idea what we’re talking about, even other educators!
7. Services vary but here is a nutshell version of what may be available in schools you’re considering, offered in “educator language”:
- self-contained: a classroom for gifted learners, only
- pull-out: gifted learners are pulled from the regular classroom to
receive gifted services in another room
- push-in: gifted learners stay in their regular classroom and services
are brought to them
- cluster: a number of gifted learners are grouped in the same regular
classroom to be with “like peers”
There is a lot more detail that goes with the above noted programming options, but this is an effort to keep it simple for you.
8 The bigger question would be for me, “How is your child gifted?” Meaning, a child is not gifted for only a certain number of hours in a day, week or month. When choosing a school for your gifted child be sure to ask how the school serves their gifted learners. Are the staff who are providing the services well-trained, educated or endorsed in gifted education and to what extent? If not in a self-contained gifted classroom or in a gifted cluster classroom, what are the other staff providing to meet their needs when not being pulled out or receiving push-in services? Have they received appropriate training to serve your gifted child’s needs?
9. And lastly, for now, accelerated learning opportunities are not the only factors to be consider when serving gifted learners. Gifted learners have many needs, it’s not just academic. Or, is it? (See #8 above.)
All Schools Consulting (ASC) is a PS- Grade 12 school search company serving the State of Arizona and based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. Elie Gaines is a School Search Consultant for ASC advising families on how to find the best school fit for their child and family- considering district, charter, private and home school options – in a State with one of the most flexible open enrollment policies in the United States. Call us at (602) 686-4480 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.