Gifted Opportunities for Advanced Learning
The Kinnelon Public School District is committed to providing opportunities that promote the growth of the skills, knowledge, and understanding necessary for all learners to reach their full potential. Inherent in that commitment is the recognition of the abilities, interests, and needs of students who may benefit from special educational considerations. Specific programs for the academically gifted can be viewed as a continuum from activities that can be arranged in regular classrooms to programs that are exclusively tailored to the needs of the gifted.
While there is no universal definition of giftedness, the State of New Jersey Department of Education in its administrative code (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1) defines gifted students as: Those students who possess or demonstrate high levels of ability, in one or more content areas, when compared to their chronological peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capabilities. The code requires that school districts identify students as to their potential with respect to giftedness. The regulations require that students be compared to their chronological peers in the local school district. New Jersey does not have state-level criteria such as mandated tests or assessments, grade point averages, or IQ scores. Local school districts must use multiple measures to identify students who may benefit from this type of program.
GOAL Selection Process
There are three stages to the selection process for GOAL:
- The Nomination Process: The nomination process for students in grades 1-5 is designed to identify a pool of candidates broad enough to include all students with demonstrated or potential giftedness. Nominations can come from a variety of sources.
- The Screening Process: The screening process is designed to collect additional information about each student including but not limited to Kinnelon benchmark assessments, classroom performance, and nominations scales completed by the appropriate adult(s). Students who are selected through the screening process will be eligible to sit for the CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test™). The CogAT® measures students’ reasoning abilities in the three areas: Verbal, NonVerbal, and Quantitative. This is the final step in the screening process.
- The Selection Process: During the selection process, a review committee determines which nominees qualify for GOAL. Students who were in the GOAL program in the prior year are automatically eligible for participation in GOAL and do not have to reenter the selection process.
Frequently Asked Questions About Testing
Why do we use published tests like PSAT and CogAT?
- Commercially published tests provide much important information about the pupils, which we cannot get from a teacher-made test. Of course, teachers get a great deal of information about their pupils by observing their day-to-day work in class and by testing their progress with teacher-made tests. Most commercially published tests cover a wide range of skills in one test. Perhaps the most important reason for using commercially published tests is that the school can use the results obtained from them to compare a pupil’s school progress with the school progress of other children throughout the country. These comparisons can be made because the tests are norm-referenced and standardized on a national population.
What does a norm-referenced mean?
- Knowing that a pupil got 40 questions right on a test doesn’t give you enough information by itself. How many questions were there? Were they easy or hard? Is 40 a "good," "average," or "poor" score? Often, what we really want to know is how this score compares with the scores of other pupils of the same age or in the same grade. This way of describing performance is called norm-referenced and the numbers that are used to give meaning to a pupil’s performance are called norms, or norm-referenced scores.
What does standardized mean?
- The test publisher develops the norms or norm-referenced scores by a process called standardization. In order to find out what scores are high, medium, or low, the test must be given to a large number of schoolchildren across the country. Once the test has been written and the standardization group has been selected, the test publisher must make sure that the test’s directions are so clear and so specific that the test can always be presented in the same way to all pupils. A test which has been written in this way and given to a carefully selected group of pupils in a controlled manner is said to be a standardized test.
How do you get norms from standardization?
- The norms are a way of summarizing how the pupils in the standardization group did on the test. In this sense, the pupils make the norms, not the test-maker. One way of doing this is by reporting, for each test, the average score in each grade. These are called grade equivalent norms. Another way is to report what percentage of the pupils in a grade scored at or below a certain score. These are called percentile rank norms. A third type of norm describes how far a pupil’s performance is above or below the average performance for that grade. These are called standard scores. (The most common standard score is a stanine.)
What is a percentile rank?
- A percentile rank tells you what percent of the pupils in the norm group got the same score or a lower score on the test. For example, if a score of 25 correct answers on a certain test for fourth graders has a percentile rank of 52, it means that 52 percent of the pupils in the norm group scored 25 or lower on the test. Since the norm group was representative of all fourth graders in the nation, it is estimated that a pupil scoring 25 on the test is performing at a level equal to or above 52% of all the fourth graders in the nation. For most standardized achievement tests, percentile ranks are developed separately for each grade and for a particular time of the year. A score of 25, for example, may have a percentile rank of 52 for a fourth grader in the fall of fourth grade and a percentile rank of 47 in the spring of fourth grade. A percentile rank is not in any sense a "percent correct." It is not the percent of questions the pupil answered correctly, but rather the percent of pupils in the norm group who scored at or below that score.
What is a stanine?
- A stanine is a score on a nine-unit scale from 1 to 9, where a score of 5 describes average performance. The highest stanine is 9; the lowest is 1. Stanines are based on the pattern of scores described earlier. Except for 1 and 9, they divide the baseline into equal amounts of the characteristic being measured. Stanine 8 is as far above average (5) as stanine 2 is below average. Remember, stanines, like all other norms, describe comparative, not absolute, performance.
If a child’s reading is "below the norm," does that means he is a poor reader?
- Not necessarily. It probably means he is not reading as well as the average American child in his grade, assuming that the test was well standardized. But it doesn’t tell you how well the average child reads. If most of the children in the norm group read "well," the norm or average represents good reading. If most children read poorly, the norm would represent "poor" reading. Whether the norm group reads well or poorly is a judgment the test cannot make. Such decisions must be made by schools and parents.
Are national norms valid for all children?
- Yes, national norms do have meaning and significance for all school systems. National norms represent one reality -- they represent the pattern of performance of all the nation’s schoolchildren. All kinds of schools in all parts of the country are represented in that total pattern.
Aren’t there other useful comparisons to be made?
- Of course! And there are other kinds of norm groups besides the national norm group. The group chosen for comparison should depend on what information the school needs. It is quite possible and often advisable to compare individual pupils with pupils in a district or city, with other pupils in similar communities nearby, with all pupils in the state, and so on. These regional or local norms are developed in a way similar to that for national norms. However, they describe the pattern of performance for some more narrowly defined group.
Why don’t you have tests that tell you whether or not a pupil has learned a skill, regardless of what other pupils know?
- Such tests do exist; they are called objective-referenced or criterion-referenced tests. In fact, the tests teachers use in their own classrooms are more like this kind of test than they are like norm-referenced tests. An objective-referenced or criterion-referenced test is a test which is used to determine whether or not an individual pupil has met an objective or a criterion of performance. Of course, it is not necessary to choose between these two kinds of tests or ways of interpreting test results. Each way of looking at a pupil’s performance provides useful information about what the schools are teaching and about what pupils are learning. Some tests are designed to offer both kinds of interpretation.
The GOAL curriculum changes each year to ensure that students don’t repeat a concept or topic.
- Start with skills: creative and critical thinking, affective, and communication.
- Add math, reading, writing, STEM, science, social studies, the Arts, and technology.
- Incorporate national, state and gifted standards.
- The result is cross-curricular units of study.
- Prior topics include: GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment), IIM: Independent Investigation Method for Research, and Simple Machines. Past units have included: Mythology, Designing Bridges, Architecture, Game Factory, Amazon Rainforest, Endangered Animals, Wonders of the World, Newspapers, Olympics, Defying Gravity, Dinosaurs, and Fantastic Flipped Fairy Tales.
Procedures for submitting a complaint
According to the 'Strengthening Gifted and Talented Education Act':
a. The Commissioner of Education shall develop a protocol pursuant to which an individual may submit a complaint alleging that a school district is not in compliance with the provisions of this act, and the executive county superintendent of schools shall investigate the complaint. The protocol shall also include procedures for remediating gifted and talented programs in school districts found to be in noncompliance.
b. A complaint submitted to the executive county superintendent pursuant to this section may only allege noncompliance that has occurred within one year prior to the date that the complaint is submitted. The complaint shall include:
(1) a statement that the identified school district is not in compliance with the provisions of this act, and the specific facts on which the allegation of noncompliance is based; and
(2) the name, address, and contact information of the complainant.
c. The executive county superintendent shall complete the investigation within 60 calendar days after receipt of the complaint and issue a written decision with proposed remediation, if necessary, to the complainant and the school district