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Do your schools have more gifted students than you thought?

Study found 25 and 45 percent of students in three states performed above grade level
Most students perform either above or below grade level—rather than on it. (Click to enlarge)
Most students perform either above or below grade level—rather than on it. (Click to enlarge)

A leading gifted-and-talented expert once believed the number of students who performed above grade level was between 5 and 15 percent. But a new study shows the number is much higher, says the expert, Jonathan Plucker, a National Association for Gifted Children board member.

The analysis, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, revealed that between 25 and 45 percent of students in three states performed above grade level in English and math.

Florida, Wisconsin and California were chosen to be assessed because: Florida opted out of the Common Core State Standards; Wisconsin uses Common Core but does not use the adaptive features of the assessments; and California adopted the standards completely.

Results showed 45 percent of eighth- graders in Wisconsin scored above grade level in English. One-third of eighth- graders also scored at or above the grade 11 proficiency level in the subject.

The numbers generally increase as students age. Twenty-one percent of California third-graders tested a year above grade level in English compared to 37 percent of eighth-graders. In math, the number increased from 19 to 34 percent in the same grades.

The report has implications for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which goes into effect for the 2017-18 school year. “Getting good data in the hands of policymakers at state and district levels is critically important right now,” Plucker says. “There is a six- to 12-month window when we can really help.”

Most students perform either above or below grade level—rather than on it, Plucker adds.

Advanced learning lessons

To enhance gifted instruction, San Antonio ISD created an advanced learning academy, which opened for the 2016-17 school year and will be housed in two local buildings.

The program, which is funded by local nonprofit City Education Partners, initially includes 550 students from pre-K through grade 10 and will expand in the next two years to include 1,600 students in grades 11 and 12.

The academy takes a non-traditional approach to instruction. Students could spend weeks completing a project across multiple subjects. Work is sometimes done in groups of students in different grades. Instead of grades, teachers give students regular feedback on progress reports given by students.

Initially accepting applications on a first-come, first-serve basis, students do not have to pass a test to be admitted. However, the school does conduct interviews before acceptance.