Purpose: Many policymakers, educators, and parents want assurance that the nationís gifted and talented students receive instruction that is sufficiently challenging and that will allow these students to reach their full potential. Recent studies of gifted and talented programs indicate that the extent and quality of services available to gifted students varies from state to state, district to district, and even from school to school within school districts. Overall, the field knows little about how gifted and talented programs are implemented in schools, how long students participate and at what level of intensity, and whether these programs are effective in improving studentsí academic outcomes. In addition, students of particular racial and ethnic backgrounds (i.e., African American, Hispanic or Latino, and Native American), students from lower income families, and students from small-town or rural communities are disproportionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. These students are less likely to be identified as gifted and talented in early elementary school, and those who are identified are less likely to have access to or persist in programs or activities for gifted and talented students as they progress through the K-12 system.
With funding authorized through the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, the Institute launched the National Center for Research on Gifted Education to address these issues. Specifically, the Center will examine the extent of gifted programming and student participation in three states; identify districts and schools that show high achievement growth rates among gifted students, including those from underserved groups; and explore how these sites successfully identify, serve, and retain students from underrepresented groups in gifted programs.
The Center will work collaboratively with the Institute to plan and carry out the work in two phases. The first, exploratory phase will focus on identifying gifted and talented programs that have a strong commitment to identifying and serving students from underrepresented groups and that show promise for improving student outcomes. The second phase is conditional on successful completion of the first phase and will be devoted to conducting an impact evaluation of a gifted and talented program that has been identified as promising during Phase 1. The Centerís work will extend over a total of five years (approximately two years for Phase 1, and three years for Phase 2).
Focused Program of Research:
In Phase 1, the Center will conduct an exploratory study of gifted programs in three states Ė Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina Ė by collecting data from four sources: 1) state administrative data, 2) district and school surveys, 3) district gifted education plans, and 4) school site visits. These states were chosen because they provide funding for gifted and talented programs and can track the progress of gifted and talented students in their data systems. State administrative data will be collected for grades 3-5 for the Years 2012, 2013, and 2014 and will include student reading and math achievement as measured on standardized state tests, gifted status, free/reduced price lunch status, English Language learner (ELL) status, special education status, race/ethnicity, birthdate, grade, and the school that the student attended during each school year.
The Center will survey all districts in the three states and all schools that have a 5th grade and no fewer than 10 students per grade in the three states. The surveys will ask for information about current gifted education practices, including district policies, program objectives, identification policies and procedures, instructional approaches, program curricula and content, student contact time and duration of services, qualifications of teachers, existing professional development, student assessment practices, and parent and community involvement. District plans for gifted and talented programming will also be collected and coded for key program features.
The data obtained from these four sources (administrative data, district surveys, school surveys, and district plans) will be merged, and secondary data analyses will be conducted to examine the relationships between program practices and program success at the district level. Specifically, the Center will use multilevel and growth curve modeling: Empirical Bayes (EB) estimates of the school- and district-level random effects will be used to identify schools and districts that appear to have particularly effective gifted programs. A separate set of analyses will add school and district level programmatic variables as moderators of growth rates. These analyses will help identify which observable characteristics of schools and districts are useful for predicting high achievement growth rates among gifted students, especially those from traditionally underserved groups.
Using latent profile analysis based on the EB estimates, four schools in each state will be selected that clearly appear to be the most effective at identifying and serving gifted students from underrepresented groups. Four additional schools per state will be selected that look similar in demographic composition and reported programming but appear to be less successful at identifying or servicing underserved gifted students.
The Center will conduct site visits to each of these 24 schools to identify components within programs that are most related to positive outcomes among traditionally underserved students in terms of identification, persistence in gifted and talented programs, and improving academic achievement. The site visits will include document review, interviews and focus groups, and structured observations of classrooms with The William and Mary Classroom Observation Scales, Revised (Part 2) Teacher Observation. Using the results of the secondary data analyses and the onsite visits, the Center will identify key program implementation components that are associated with the inclusion of traditionally underserved students and high rates of student academic growth (overall and by underserved group).
Based on the findings from Phase 1, the Center will develop a plan to rigorously evaluate, using a multisite cluster randomized trial, the impact of a gifted program identified from the site visits as being the most successful at recruiting and serving traditionally underserved students and potentially having the greatest impact on student achievement. The plan will undergo scientific peer review, and if approved, the Center will implement it during Phase 2 with up to $3,000,000 in additional funding.
Leadership and Outreach Activities
During Phase I, the Center will engage in leadership and outreach activities designed to engage policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in discussion of strategies and review of evidence on how best to meet the needs of and improve outcomes for gifted and talented students from traditionally underserved groups. Researchers also plan to disseminate the Centerís research to the wider public and create a center website.
In addition, leadership and outreach activities will include convening an advisory group of policymakers, practitioners, and other researchers to provide input into the Centerís work; forming partnerships with state or school district officials in the study sites to make sure their questions are being addressed and to report back on the findings from the exploratory study; and holding conferences and/or small workshops to discuss research methodology, measurement, and critical research gaps.
Key Personnel, Phase 1:
Del Siegle, PI: Professor, University of Connecticut
Betsy McCoach: Professor, University of Connecticut
Carolyn Callahan: Professor, University of Virginia
Frank Worrell: Professor, University of California, Berkeley
E. Jean Gubbins: Professor in Residence, University of Connecticut
Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead: Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut
Catherine Little: Associate Professor, University of Connecticut
Christopher Rhoads: Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut
Jonathan Plucker: Professor, University of Connecticut
Joseph Renzulli: Professor, University of Connecticut
Yaacov Petscher: Research Associate, Florida State University
IES Program Contact: Corinne Alfeld
Phone: (202) 208-2321