Exploring and assessing the identification criteria of gifted students

Educators have long used scales to identify gifted students to provide them with an enriched education that matches their needs. It dates to the pioneering studies conducted by Lewis Terman and his development of the Stanford Binet test in 1916. His inclusion of a single score known as “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ, allowed the scale to become widely used. Since the early 1950s, researchers in the area of giftedness shifted the paradigm of discussion from a unitary concept based on IQ measurement to a multidimensional concept (Braggett, 1994). They also used this multidimensional concept to develop various instruments of measure. For example, Renzulli’s (1976) three concept of giftedness defines this multidimensional concept as the intersection of above average ability, creativity and task commitment. Renzulli (2010) used this conceptual framework to develop four Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (SRBCSS). The four scales are used to identify and assess students’ ability, creativity and interest in four specific content area-namely mathematics, science, technology and reading. The mathematics scale contains 10 survey questions (also called items), the science scale contains seven items, the reading scale contains six items, and the technology scale contains seven items. The development of the four new scales also emphasizes the importance of identifying and encouraging gifted students to pursue careers in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Unfortunately, most gifted programs continue to use identification instruments that focus on measuring intellectual abilities and provide little information about other characteristics of giftedness (Johnson, 1986). Hoge (1986) points out that as the definition of giftedness expands to include various characteristics of cognitive and non-intellective competencies, the giftedness identification process becomes more difficult and complex. Thus, educators managing gifted programs often resort to instruments that are widely known and easy to use, whether or not those instruments capture various characteristics of giftedness. The purpose of my study is to bridge that gap and provide teachers in the area of STEM gifted education with well researched instruments of measure that identify students’ giftedness beyond the academic classroom abilities. More specifically, I use the SRBCSS mathematics, science and reading as my survey scales. I also use the 49ers STEM project and San Juan Unified School District International Baccalaureate (IB) program as the source of my data. I used my analysis of the data to establish the reliability and validity of the science, mathematics and reading scales. Teachers were not able to survey students using the SRBCSS technology scale because none of the two programs offered a dedicated technology classroom instruction. The results of my study helped me accomplish the three objectives of my study: 1) Testing the validity and reliability of the current SRBCSS mathematics and science scales. 2)Exploring the criteria used to identify and admit students to both programs. I will then compare those criteria to the variables contained in the SRBCSS mathematics, reading and science scales. 3) Using SRBCSS mathematics and science scales to assess students who attended the 49ers STEM program for one year and continue to develop their STEM giftedness within the program. Four teachers from both programs used the mathematics, reading and science scales to rate 180 students on a Likert scale. The scales contained ordinal values ranging from one (indicating that the student never exhibits the underlined characteristic of giftedness) to six (indicating that the student always exhibits the underlined characteristic of giftedness). Two mathematics teachers rated 90 students using the mathematics scale, one science teacher rated 30 students using the science scale, and one English teacher rated 60 students using the reading scale. I compute the total score of each student by adding the values of all items on the scale. I used the IBM Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to generate my statistical results. Objective 1: I evaluated Cronbach Alpha to establish the reliability of each scale. I evaluated the inter-item correlation and item/total score correlation to establish the internal consistency of each scale. I evaluated the correlation between students’ score on a specific scale and their corresponding classroom grades to establish the scales concurrent validity. Finally, to establish the discriminative validity of the scales, I used the t-test for independent means to compare the SRBCSS mean scores of students enrolled in gifted programs and students enrolled in regular classroom instruction. All three scales are reliable and valid. Objective 2: I used the archived data provided by the 49ers STEM project to explore and assess the criteria used by the program to identify and enroll students for enriched education. I then compared those criteria to the variables contained in the SRBCSS scales. The program relies heavily on academic performance (GPA) as the main criterion for student identification. Other criteria such student self-rating, student interview and parent commitment to the program are also used. In comparison to the SRBCSS variables, the program does not use creative and perseverance (grit) abilities as additional criteria for identification. Objective 3: I used the SRBCSS survey results as a diagnosis information to assess student enrolled in the 49ers STEM program to spent one year receiving enriched education. I also used the t-test for independent means to compare the SRBCSS mean scores of students in the upper 25th percentile and students in the lower 25th percentile. Overall, Students performed well in questions that emphasize academic and motivation abilities. However, most students scored lower in questions that emphasize leadership and communication abilities. The t-test evaluation revealed that the upper 25th percentile of students scored significantly higher than the lower 25th percentile of students. My study of the 49ers STEM project revealed the importance of a mutually beneficial partnership between resources strapped K-12 gifted programs and private institutions. My study also highlighted two challenges that the 49ers STEM program encountered since their inauguration in 2014: a lack of diversity in their student enrollment and students’ wavering commitment to the 6-year program. At the completion of my research, I intend to advise private institutions in the Sacramento Area and help promote partnerships like the 49ers STEM model. Gifted programs partnerships can greatly benefit from the best practices of such models. But there is room for improvement concerning the identification of gifted students. The results of my study established the reliability and validity of three SRBCSS scales and their ability to diagnose students as they receive enriched instructions and develop their talents.