States with formal policies around gifted and talented programs tend to identify more English learners and students with disabilities for those programs, according to a new study from NWEA, a not-for-profit research and educational services organization serving K-12 students.
The study uses data from the 2017-2018 Civil Rights Data Collection, the Stanford Education Data Archive, and the researchers’ own coding of individual states’ policies toward gifted and talented education.
A number of key themes emerged:
- The study confirms that English learners and students with disabilities are identified at rates that are 1/8 to 1/6 of their representation in the overall student population.
- State mandates for schools to offer services, requirements for formal gifted education plans, and regular audits for compliance are correlated with much higher rates of gifted service availability and equity for English learners and students with disabilities.
- The top 5 percent of schools with the highest equity of English learners identified as gifted were relatively lower achieving and had higher enrollments of students from low-income families.
- The top 5 percent of schools with the highest equity of students with disabilities identified as gifted were similar in size, achievement, and SES to the overall sample, but were smaller than the average school in the sample and had smaller, if more equitable, gifted and talented enrollment.
“One of the clearest takeaways from examining these data is the correlation between state policies and the more-equitable identification of gifted and talented students,” said Dr. Scott Peters, senior research scientist at NWEA.
States that had specific policies and mandates had greater enrollment in gifted and talented programs by English learners and students with disabilities. For example, if schools were required to have and maintain formal plans for gifted services, they were 10 percentage points more likely to offer services. In addition, those same schools were 23 percentage points more likely to offer gifted services if their home state proactively conducted audits for compliance.
However, Peters added, “where the data got more complex and less clear is in the characteristics of schools who identify gifted and talented English learners and students with disabilities at higher rates.”
The findings challenged typical stereotypes of schools that had the most proportional rates for English learners and students with disabilities in gifted and talented programs. For English learners, these schools were smaller, had lower average socio-economic status, had more students eligible for the Free and Reduced Lunch program, were located in lower achieving districts, and were lower average achieving themselves. For students with disabilities, the characteristics were less clear, with the only standout being that the schools were smaller than the average school in the sample and had smaller, if more equitable, gifted and talented enrollment. In addition, equity went up in schools in states that had gifted and talented under the office of Special Education.
“These findings suggest there is much more that needs to be studied about how these schools found success identifying English learners and students with disabilities for GT programs at greater rates,” said Dr. Angela Johnson, research scientist at NWEA and co-author of the study.
This press release originally appeared online.