HISD moving forward with plan to identify gifted and talented kindergarten students

HISD’s work to identify gifted and talented kindergarten students will be completed on schedule, now that a testing company has addressed the district’s concerns about the credibility of one of the exams used in the G/T identification process.

HISD administrators began reviewing the G/T identification process earlier this month after being informed by the testing company of an anomaly in the scoring of the kindergarten Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The test — which places students on a national scale and shows how they compare with their peers across the country — is one of several factors used to identify students for HISD’s G/T Program. Other factors include report cards, teacher recommendations, and performance on the Cognitive Abilities Test.

In working with Iowa test makers, district administrators were able to verify that the test, itself, gives an accurate measure of student achievement. The anomaly was caused by the national pool of students to which HISD students were compared. Using that pool, HISD kindergarten students ranked, on average, in the 91st percentile nationally, which is not a credible result.

Relying on those elevated percentile rankings to help identify gifted and talented students would have resulted in the majority of kindergarten students being placed in the G/T program. Based on student performance on other tests, the district found the percentile ranking provided by the testing company to be non-credible.

The testing company now plans to re-normalize the scores using a pool of HISD students. District administrators, as well as the test makers, believe this is an acceptable solution for this year. HISD has asked the testing company to provide parents with revised scores. Families who have applied for Vanguard magnet programs for G/T students will be notified of the results at the end of March.

Additionally, the district is moving forward with a whole-sale review of how students at all grade levels are identified for the G/T program. Administrators are analyzing data and consulting with national experts as part of this review, which is designed to ensure all students have equal access to the G/T program.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier called on the district’s Equity Council to recommend improvements to the G/T identification process during his State of the Schools address earlier this month. More than 15 percent of HISD students are designated as G/T, which is about twice the state average. There also is inequity in the racial breakdown and socioeconomic status of gifted students. In HISD, 43 percent of Asian students and 36 percent of white students are identified as G/T, while just 14 percent of Hispanic students and 7 percent of African American students receive the same designation. Students from wealthy families are more than twice as likely to be labeled as G/T as those from low-income families.

The district’s goal is to bring forward a proposal to address these issues in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

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