Gifted Student Drop Out: Assessment, Prediction, and Services

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1 Gifted Student Drop Out: Assessment, Prediction, and Services Summary of Research Gifted and talented students are often overlooked when school drop out is considered. This may occur because the terms gifted and dropout are defined broadly and often vaguely in research. The Improving America s Schools Act of 1994 defined gifted and talented students as those that, give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. The definition of dropout varies by research study; two common definitions of dropouts are students that are not attending school and students that fail to graduate on time. These definitions contribute to the difficulty in identifying and assessing gifted students and interpreting research that examines these topics together; the estimates of gifted students dropping out is highly debated and has ranged from 18% to 25% (Marland, 1972 as cited in Irvine, 1987; Renzulli & Park, 2002). The current report created by Key Data Systems addresses (1) issues related to identifying and assessing gifted students, (2) reasons for gifted students dropping out, and (3) approaches that may reduce gifted student drop out rates. Identifying and Assessing Giftedness Giftedness is assessed in multiple ways, making it difficult or impossible to identify students as gifted (Johnsen, 2009). Intelligence is one traditional measurement used to identify gifted students. Using intelligence and other traditional methods to assess giftedness often neglects students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic minority groups, limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities (Borland, 2004; Gubbins, 1995). Rather than identifying students by one characteristic, researchers suggest that students should be identified and assessed holistically. Key Findings To serve gifted students from economicallydisadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic minority groups, individuals of limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities, schools should assess students using multiple methods and observers. Students that are gifted, drop out for similar reasons as non-gifted students (e.g., boredom, child-rearing, low SES). Creating relevant and engaging curriculum for all students will help increase all students achievement. Provide support services such as counseling for those with individual needs. 1

2 Holistic assessments use traditional and nontraditional tools that measure students emotional, social, cognitive, and physical features (Betts & Neihart, 1988; Gubbins, 1995). Some of these methods include: Focusing on proficiency rather than deficiency: provide challenging activities that can nurture gifts rather than skill-based activities that focus on students weaknesses (Gubbins, 1995; Johnsen, 2009). Using multiple performance assessments: provide a variety of opportunities, in addition to standard intelligence tests, for students to exhibit their gifts (see Borland, 2004 for a review; Gubbins, 1995; Johnsen, 2009). Creating student portfolios: collect samples of students work over time that include teacher, parent, peer, and self checklists, examples of work and performance measures, student background information, and individual and group tests (Coleman, 1994; Gubbins, 1995). Encouraging involvement: have multiple people (e.g., parents, teachers, and peers) help observe students and encourage the development of gifts in gifted students (Johnsen, 2009). Predictors of Gifted Student Drop Out Predictors of gifted high school student drop out, according to a national study (NELS: 88; Renzulli& Park, 2000, 2002) include: Low academic performance (i.e., failing school) Low academic engagement (i.e., not liking school) Low academic motivation (i.e., lower desire to finish college) Having personal issues (i.e., pregnancy or child-rearing, working while in school) Gender (males are three times more likely than females to drop out) Lower levels of parent education (father s education is more strongly related to drop out than mother s education) Lower SES (lowest 25% more likely to drop out) Racial/ethnicity minority group status (i.e., Hispanic and Native American ethnicities are associated with higher drop out rates than white) Many of the factors that predict drop out rates for gifted students also predict drop out rates for non-gifted students (e.g., see Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, & Pagani, 2008; Hunt & Hopko, 2009; Kaplan, Peck, & Kaplan 1995). Thus, strategies that reduce drop out for students in general may reduce drop out for gifted students as well (Borland, 2004). 2

3 Relevant Curriculum for Gifted Students To increase the development of students gifts, schools should worry less about identifying students as gifted and more about creating curriculum and instruction from which all students can excel (Borland, 2004). Providing relevant curriculum is thought to increase student engagement and therefore increase retention of gifted students (Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, & Pagani, 2009). Curriculum should include hands-on learning opportunities of interest to students (Gubbins, 1995) that address students individual learning styles (Hennessey, 2004). Giving students an opportunity to choose their activities, at least in part, can increase academic motivation, which is related to lower drop out (Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997). Additionally, having individual education plans or specific programs created for gifted students (e.g., pull-out, separate class) is associated with higher academic achievement (Gubbins, 1997). Many of these programs require training teachers to be flexible, positive, and creative (Bhaerman & Kopp, 1988). Online Gifted Education Resources The National Association for Gifted Children: The National Society for the Gifted and Talented: National Research Center for the Gifted and Talented: Center for Gifted Education Policy at the American Psychological Association: The Gifted Child Society: Gifted Students Institute: The Council for Exceptional Children: The California Association for the Gifted: Support Services for Gifted Students Although many of the feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that lead gifted students to drop out of school (e.g., failing school, pregnancy) can be addressed in counseling, few parents report seeking outside counseling (9.5%) including calling school counselors (22.8%), or calling children s teachers (26.1%; Renzulli & Park, 2000, 2002). According to profiles of the gifted and talented, gifted students can get bored, frustrated, have low self-esteem, can be uncertain about their social roles, have poor self-control, may not be supported in their creativity, and can be quiet or shy (Betts & Neihart, 1988). 3

4 Programs that address these needs include those that: Provide college and career information and planning. Teach nontraditional study skills. Build self-esteem. Build communication skills. In addition to multiple types of programs, the involvement of multiple people within these programs is required (e.g., parents, school, and community) to increase the potential for positive outcomes. Conclusion We found that identifying and assessing gifted students is difficult, that methods vary, and that students who are gifted drop out for similar reasons as non-gifted students. For this reason, educators should spend more time on creating relevant and engaging curriculum for all students in addition to providing support services that attend to gifted students individual needs. 4

5 References Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Fallu, J.-S., & Pagani, L. Student engagement and its relationship with early high school dropout. Journal of Adolescence 32 (2009): Betts, G. T., & Neihart, M. Profiles of the gifted and talented. Gifted Child Quarterly 32 (1988): Bhaerman, R.D., & Kopp, K.A. The School s Choice: Guidelines for dropout prevention at the middle and junior high school [Dropout Prevention Series]. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, National Center for Research in Vocation Education, Borland, J.H. Issues and practices in the identification and education of gifted students from under-represented groups. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Coleman, L.J. Portfolio assessment: A key to identifying hidden talents and empowering teachers of young children. Gifted Child Quarterly 38 (1994): Gubbins, E.J. Reaching the Destination [Presentation Guidebook]. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Gubbins, E. J. Research Should Inform Practice. The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented Newsletter, Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, Spring 1997, (March 11, 2010). Hennessey, B.A. Developing creativity in gifted children: The central importance of motivation and classroom climate. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Hunt, M.K., & Hopko, D.R. Predicting high school truancy among students in the Appalachian South. Journal of Primary Prevention 30 (2009): Irvine, D.J. What research doesn t show about gifted dropouts. Educational Leadership 44 (1987): Johnsen, S.K. Practices for identifying gifted students. Principal 88 (2009): Kaplan, D.S., Peck, B. M., & Kaplan, H.B. A structural model of dropout behavior: A longitudinal analysis. Applied Behavioral Science Review 3 (1995): Marland, S.P., Jr. Education of the gifted and talented: Report to the Congress of the United States by the U.S. Commissioner of Education. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, Renzulli, J.S., & Park, S. Gifted dropouts: The who and the why. Gifted Child Quarterly 44 (2000): Renzulli, J. S., & Park, S. Giftedness and high school dropouts: Personal, family, and school-related factors (Report No. RM02168). Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Vallerand, R.J., Fortier, M.S., & Guay, F. Self-determination and persistence in a real-life setting: Toward a motivational model of high school dropout. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72 (1997):

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