BOOK REVIEW (Davidson Institute) - A review of Joyce VanTassel-Baska's book Alternative Assessments With Gifted and Talented Students, which provides an introduction to methods for identifying gifted students in the school setting.
Reviewed by The Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
The identification of gifted students is an imperfect practice; even the very definition of giftedness remains elusive and varies across states and programs. One significant challenge every program faces is the underrepresentation of particular groups of students. In Alternative Assessments With Gifted and Talented Students, published in 2008 by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the reader is presented with a compilation of arguments for best practices by some of the most well-known and well-respected experts in the field of gifted education, including Bruce Bracken, David Lohman, Joni Lakin, Jack Naglieri, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Marilynn Kulieke, Donna Ford, Nancy Robinson, Sylvia Rimm, and Joseph Renzulli.
In each chapter, the authors explore various methods for identifying students for gifted programs, as well as tracking students’ educational progress. Editor Joyce VanTassel-Baska cleanly ties the book together with introductory and closing chapters. One main agreement throughout is the need for identification practices to match services offered through gifted programming. Chapters 2 through 4 do require some familiarity with statistics and assessment. They are heavy in research regarding various tests, including The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT), Clinical Assessment of Behavior (CAB), Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), and the Wechsler Nonverbal Scale of Ability (WNV). Other options proposed include above-level testing; performance assessments which focus on challenging open-ended questions that require high-level thinking and problem solving; assessments based on successful intelligence, which looks at one’s ability to succeed in life given one’s sociocultural context, strengths, and weaknesses; portfolio assessment; and creativity tools and measures. Some readers may find just the right amount of information in the chapter conclusions, the Chapter 1 overview, and the Epilogue.
Not to be found in Alternative Assessments With Gifted and Talented Students is a clear, straightforward answer regarding the best way to identify gifted students or assess students’ learning. If only it were that easy. However, readers will gain an understanding of some of the key issues to consider and the options available for assessment. Teachers, administrators, and gifted program educators will find Alternative Assessments With Gifted and Talented Students to be a valuable tool in developing gifted programming in their school or district.