Education Week - April 11, 2018 - 8
Effort Helps Teachers Sift Out Overlooked Gifted Students
By Sarah D. Sparks
It can be easy for a teacher to overlook a student with strong academic
potential who doesn't fit stereotypes
about giftedness-because he is poor,
or has a disability, or simply isn't polite and eager in class.
That's one reason Tennessee has
partnered with the National Association for Gifted Children to pilot a new
credential aimed at training teachers
to recognize giftedness in students
from traditionally underrepresented
groups. The course-part of a larger
test by the state of quick-turnaround
microcredentials in place of professional-development workshops or college courses for teachers-is the first
formal certification in the country
focused on educating academically
advanced but underserved students.
"We know gifted children who are
living in poverty, who are from racial
and ethnic minorities, and students
learning English are [two and a half
times] less likely to be identified and
served by gifted programs, even when
they perform at the same level as
their peers who are already in gifted
education," said M. Rene Islas, the
executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children, which
helped develop the training.
"We are trying to help educators
open their eyes to the talents and
abilities of these students of color
and from underserved backgrounds,"
Students who are high-achieving
academically when they start school
often have different paths depending
on their family income: Prior studies have found that low-income students who initially show high marks
in reading have little more than a
50-50 chance of continuing to be
high-achieving throughout elementary school, compared with nearly 70
percent of students from families who
make more than the average income.
Yet states are under pressure to
find ways to improve those odds. The
Every Student Succeeds Act puts
new emphasis on advanced learners,
as districts now must report the percentage of students from different socioeconomic groups who meet not just
proficient, but also advanced levels on
Of all states, only Nevada requires
teachers to take preservice training
in gifted education, though it does not
focus on recognizing academic potential in poor or diverse students. But
NAGC is in talks with seven other
states to offer the microcredentials if
all goes well in Tennessee.
The Volunteer State has been looking for a way to build the expertise of
both its gifted specialists and general
education teachers as its schools fill
with rising numbers of both poor students and English-language learners, according to Nancy Williams, the
state's gifted education specialist.
There is no statewide screening for
gifted education in Tennessee. Students are placed in gifted education
based on a combination of teachers'
reports on their academic performance and creativity, and scores on a
recent year of federal data, and English-language learners in Tennessee
were 4 percentage points less likely to
State officials hope to increase
the number of regular classroom
teachers who can spot promising
"One of the misconceptions is that
you have to have a certain level of
We want to make sure that teachers know that
gifted students and advanced students can be
found in every school, every socioeconomic
level, every situation."
Tennessee state gifted education specialist
district-chosen intelligence test.
Studies have found relying mainly
on teacher referrals can lead to less
gifted identification of students in poverty, from racial or linguistic minorities, or "twice-exceptional" students
who have both high academic ability
and a learning disability. For example,
a recent Education Week Research
Center analysis found that only 2 percent of all Tennessee students were in
gifted education in 2013-14, the most
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mastery of English before we test
you for gifted [education]," Williams
said. "We want to make sure teachers know that gifted students and advanced students can be found in every
school, every socioeconomic level,
every situation. So there's no time you
should just dismiss a student; you really need to look for their strengths
and try to build on those strengths."
An initial cohort of 50 gifted and
general education teachers from
across the state last week started the
microcredential course, expected to
take about six weeks to complete.
Teachers will learn and practice a
protocol developed by the National
Research Center on the Gifted and
Talented to identify less traditional
markers of giftedness. Then they will
use it in observations of their own students, put together portfolios of potential gifted students, and submit them
to gifted education experts who will
give the teachers feedback and coaching on their selection process.
The gifted training is part of Tennessee's ongoing pilot project to provide microcertifications in various
topics. It so far offers 33 courses in
four "paths" of stackable credentials,
including school leadership and special education. During the next eight
months, the state will roll out three
other stackable microcredentials related to teaching gifted children from
Coverage of the experiences of lowincome, high-achieving students is
supported in part by a grant from the
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, at www.
jkcf.org. Education Week retains sole
editorial control over the content of this
Visit the INSIDE SCHOOL RESEARCH
blog, which tracks news and trends
on this issue.
what Happens when teachers talk less and
students talk more in the mathematics Classroom?
learn how to get students talking
more. Get practical strategies
for integrating mathematical
practices and discourse into K-8
classrooms, where teachers use
routines to empower students to
collaborate and solve problems.
* marK ellis, professor of education,
California state University, Fullerton
* danielle CUrran, product
director, mathematics, Curriculum
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8 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 11, 2018 | www.edweek.org