On Jul 23, 2020
This spring’s school closures due to COVID-19 interrupted testing calendars across the nation. In addition to cancelling spring accountability testing, many districts missed the opportunity to complete their gifted and talented identification processes for fall program placement. Although it is expected that overall student achievement will be negatively affected by the pandemic, we can only speculate about how large and how lasting the effect will be. Students will have experienced school closures and the shift to remote learning differently, with varied levels of access to resources and support. Highly-able students are often more adaptable and capable autonomous learners, but these students’ home environments, supports, and motivation will also have affected their ability to learn.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) recently blogged about the impact of changes due to COVID gifted education, recognizing the effect of data limitations on standard identification procedures. In their post, NAGC suggests that the identification process be moved to the fall, including data collection such testing, recommendations, and observations. Given the differences in student experience due to COVID, obtaining multiple measures, considering educational opportunity, and collecting current data is important.
High achievement is one standard indicator for gifted and talented identification. However, evidence of a “summer slide” in fall achievement scores, which is already greater for students from low income families, may be further exacerbated this year with the addition of a “COVID slide.” As students’ remote learning experiences will be unequal, so will the effect of a prolonged separation from regular schoolwork on their achievement scores, further complicating G&T identification.
Evidence of high ability, such as those abilities measured by the Cognitive Abilities Test™ (CogAT®), is an often-used indicator for gifted and talented identification that may help educators assess potential. Student ability is fundamentally different from achievement, although the two are closely related. While not entirely innate, a student’s ability to learn continues to grow and change whether they are engaged in programmatic schooling or not. Ability scores are less likely than achievement scores to be affected substantially by this type of disrupted education.
According to NAGC, gifted children in poverty and from minority groups were already 2.5 times less likely to be identified for and enrolled in G&T programs in schools prior to COVID. Students living in poverty, students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and early grade students are all more likely to have experienced more pronounced negative impacts from e-learning and remote learning programs this spring due to fewer resources, less access, and a lack of coordinating differentiated programming specifically for these groups. More than ever, it will be critical to use multiple measures and cast a wide net for G&T identification this fall.
Among remedies to increase equity and representation in G&T programs are universal screening, multiple measures, and benchmarking with local norms. CogAT is uniquely suited to help your program address these needs for fairness:
- Universal screening is the practice of screening all students in a targeted grade level for identification, rather than relying on recommendations and referrals which may systematically overlook underrepresented groups.
- CogAT may be universally administered as the full form, which provides seven scores that can be used separately to identify students with high ability.
- The abbreviated CogAT Screening Form can be administered in a single class period as an initial measure. Those scoring in the top third or fourth may then be selected to complete the full CogAT using the Post-Screener as a further measure for identification.
- CogAT’s inclusion of three separate batteries - linguistic/semantic (Verbal), numeric (Quantitative), and figural (Nonverbal) - and instructions provided to students in multiple languages enables all students to access appropriate ability measures.
- CogAT’s picture-based item formats and Alternative-Verbal scale for grades K-2 substantially decrease the specific language load for primary grade students.
- CogAT offers two equivalent forms, including complete, Screening Form and Post-Screener, for when retesting is needed.
- Along with national grade and age normative comparison, CogAT provides local norms calculated for the tested population.
- Additionally, test results may be easily downloaded for further subgroup disaggregation and local norming.
- You may elect to review several sets of local norms to examine groups by district, building, program, and other categories.
- This sample spreadsheet shows how to easily calculate additional local norm sets. Watch for an upcoming issue of Cognitively Speaking on this topic.
As you plan for this fall’s Gifted and Talented identification and planned services, top-of-mind considerations will include issues of fairness, equity and access. Several resources are available from CogAT’s author, Dr. Joni Lakin, that provide greater details on best practices for equity in identification including:
- Cognitively Speaking: