In an effort to include more underrepresented groups in gifted programs, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) has released a proposal to change the state definition of giftedness and the criteria for gifted identification and eligibility. This proposal would eliminate the necessity of an IQ test and would consider other factors such as high performance in the arts and athletics.
Tim Gissal, Head School Psychologist for Sarasota County, said “[the proposal] is just the start of the process.” According to Gissal, the FLDOE will hear commentary about the changes and then make a final decision later. He said, “Every district will be weighing in. These are topics that impact all of Florida.” According to Admissions Liaison Linda Lyons, the FLDOE will hold a webinar Feb. 12 to answer questions concerning the changes. Lyons said that all questions need to be submitted in advance.
The current definition of giftedness is “one who has superior intellectual development and is capable of high performance.” The proposal released by the FLDOE would change this definition to “a student who has exceptional reasoning ability, complex thought processes, facility with abstraction, and social and emotional characteristics and needs that made additional support in the academic setting necessary. A gifted student demonstrates superior intellectual ability, subject matter aptitude or achievement, creativity or thinking ability.”
The proposal also makes changes to the factors considered for gifted identification and eligibility. For identification, the proposal states that districts should have an identification process that “ensures equitable access to gifted services. Some of these criteria include “students who were referred for subject or grade level acceleration due to early mastery of at least one subject” and “students who have had rapid language acquisition of a second language.”
The FLDOE’s criteria for gifted eligibility was changed so that students either need superior intellectual ability or subject matter aptitude. Determining superior intellectual ability would involve an IQ test while subject matter aptitude, which include subjects such as math, language arts and athletics, would necessitate performance in the top fifth percentile of national or local norms. However, for both qualifications, a student also needs to demonstrate creativity or critical thinking and gifted characteristics. To determine gifted characteristics, the student must score in the top 10 percent on a gifted rating scale.
However, Lyons is unsure if students will still be required to take the standard gifted math and reading tests that Sarasota County issues. Because these tests are specific to the district, she is uncertain how they will be affected by the proposal.
According to Lyons and Gissal, the proposal does not indicate a start date for implementation and does not specify additional funding for districts to make these changes. “We have to apply these changes in a reliable and valid fashion,” Gissal said. “Who’s going to be trained to be measure creative thinking in a fair and consistent fashion?”
According to Lyons, these changes make screening for giftedness “a wider door to come through.”
Gissal said that students who test gifted based on subject matter aptitude may have a hard time thriving at gifted programs geared toward academics. He said, “They may not do well in the same environment.”
“Personally I feel like the changes being proposed are interesting,” twelfth-grader Samantha Ennis said. “If there was additional funding to create facilities for kids who are gifted in different areas such as music or athletics, that would be great as they’re important, however it would make more sense to have those skills be reached in a place other than Pine View since it would change the dynamic of the school, taking away the focus from high academic achievement.”
“We need to make sure to get the right match. I want to meet the needs of all the students,” Gissal said.
To comment or leave a question for the webinar, go to https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx and file the comment under the tab “Special Instructional Programs for Students who are Gifted.” All comments must be made before Feb. 12. To access the webinar, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9157152121895012866.