Monday, September 8, 2014

Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?

Education policy makers have struggled for decades with the question 
of how to best serve high ability K‐12 students.  As in the debate
over selective college admissions, a key issue is targeting.  Should
 gifted and talented programs be allocated on the basis of cognitive
 ability, or a broader combination of ability and achievement? Should
 there be a single admission threshold, or a lower bar for
 disadvantaged students? 

This study uses data from a large urban school
district to study the impacts of assignment to separate gifted
 classrooms on three distinct groups of fourth grade students: 

non-disadvantaged students with IQ scores ≥130; 
subsidized lunch 
participants and English language learners with IQ scores ≥116; 
students who miss the IQ thresholds but scored highest among their
school/grade cohort in state-wide achievement tests in the previous

Regression discontinuity estimates based on the IQ thresholds
 for the first two groups show no effects on reading or math
 achievement at the end of fourth grade.  In contrast, estimates based 
on test score ranks for the third group show significant gains in 
reading and math, concentrated among lower-income and black and 
Hispanic students.  The math gains persist to fifth grade and are
 also reflected in fifth grade science scores. 

The findings suggest
t hat a separate classroom environment is more effective for students
selected on past achievement - particularly disadvantaged students
 who are often excluded from gifted and talented programs.

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