Position Statement in response to study reported in the Hechinger Report

Position Statement

A recent article in the Hechinger Report reported on a study by Christopher Redding and Jason Grissom that has the potential to negatively impact students across our nation.. This study asks the question: Do Students in Gifted Programs Perform Better? Linking Gifted Program Participants to Achievement and Nonachievement Outcomes? The study looks at elementary students across the nation to determine if students receiving gifted services experienced significantly higher performance than they had prior to receiving services. A snapshot of the findings from the study can be found on the AERA website. An article posted on the Hechinger Report also discusses the implication of this study and attempts to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of gifted education.  

The study has several constraints: 

  • It makes no distinction between pull-out, enrichment, content-based, or accelerated gifted programs and services.
  • It does not look to see how students were identified and then matched with gifted services.  
  • There is no context as to the nature, scope, or duration of the services students received.  
  • To be a participant in the study, students only had to participate in gifted services for one year.
  • The study assumes that the end goals of gifted education programs are to solely increase student standardized achievement scores.

The study includes data from across the nation, however there is not a federal mandate or funding to identify or serve gifted students. State agencies and local school districts decide the programs and services for gifted students, which can range from only providing a gifted label with no services to providing full-time self-contained, accelerated services. This creates a severe inconsistency in and among the states and student opportunities. The Hechinger Report article acknowledges this limitation of the study:

Unfortunately, the federal data that the researchers relied upon didn’t document the type of gifted instruction or how many hours each student received. So the researchers weren’t able to see if higher dosage — or separate full-day classrooms for gifted students — generated better learning outcomes for high achievers. (Hechinger Report)

Noted in the most recent State of the States Report from NAGC, only 38 of 50 states have a legal mandate to serve gifted students. Additionally, only 50% of respondents in the NAGC survey reported a law mandating the identification of gifted students but they were not required to provide services after identification. Most reported inequities in the screening process, for example universal screening is often not state-mandated even though it is a key component in reducing equity gaps in gifted education.  Moreover, only three states responded that there was any required university level coursework related to gifted students for teachers earning their certification.

This study and article has garnered detailed responses from well-respected researchers in the field of gifted education.

WAETAG strongly believes the variability of services, identification, and professional learning opportunities across our nation make it impossible to broadly apply the results of this study to any one gifted education setting or experience. It also prevents access to gifted services for our traditionally marginalized and underrepresented populations. Furthermore, this study and the article in the Hechinger Report reconfirm the importance in aligning goals, identification, services, and evaluation for gifted students. The success of all students must be measured beyond a standardized test score. WAETAG strongly believes that the broad application of this study to gifted education will be detrimental to gifted students across the nation. 

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