Over the last six decades, the identification of a phenomenon called "giftedness" has preoccupied some of the best minds in educational psychology. Out of this preoccupation have emerged several operative models which have come to be accepted by educators working with gifted students within the context of schools. Still, the most prevalent model appears to be one based upon scores from intelligence tests (Alvino, McDonnel, Richert, 1981). Use of the individual intelligence testing model has been widely supported by early research, (Terman, 1925) and by knowledgeable practitioners (Martinson, 1974). Regulations in several states require the use of the IQ model with a specific minimum score, usually 132 or above. With the expanded definition of giftedness emanating from the federal level in the seventies (Marland report, 1972), a second type of identification model became popular. This model might be called the "multiple criteria" model because it focuses on the use of at least three criteria in the identification process, and seeks to open up the identification of gifted students into categories other than intellectual. Use of this model has also been very prevalent across the country (Gallagher, 1975). More recent models have focused on nonbiased assessment issues in the identification of minority students (Meeker, 1978; Mercer, & Lewis, 1978; Baldwin, 1978; Frasier, 1983). The revolving door identification model (Renzulli, Reis, & Smith, 1980) has recently enjoyed popularity as it seeks to create a larger talent pool of students for program consideration. Also, with the advent of more early childhood programs for the gifted, identification models that place strong emphasis on the role of parents in the process have gained acceptance (Roedell, Jackson, & Robinson, 1980; Ehrlich, 1982; Karnes, & Bertchi, 1979).
Of all the models for identification currently being used, however, only the Talent Search Identification Model offers a standardized approach, on a national basis, that systematically addresses the procedures of screening, verification, and placement, seen to be crucial to the development of an identification technology (Foster, 1979). It also is the only model in which students and parents have equal access to testing regardless of local program standards, and where the most cost-efficient approach to testing is employed.
The state of Illinois, having utilized the model on a statewide basis since 1978, credits the talent search with having the greatest impact on program development and articulation of any single effort in gifted education (Stanley, & Benbow, 1983). Similarly, over the last two years, the state of Indiana has experienced direct program growth as a result of the talent search model (VanTassel-Baska & Prentice, in press). Efficacy of the model in respect to the appropriateness of the instrumentation has also been aptly demonstrated (Stanley, George, & Solano, 1977; Stanley, & Benbow, 1981, 1983). In addition, case study follow-up work has shown the predictive validity of the model for finding students who can perform well in advanced academic settings (Stanley, Keating, & Fox, 1974; Keating, 19Th Benbow, & Stanley, 1983).
In keeping with its research promise, the Talent Search Identification Model has now expanded to national and international dimensions. The model has stood the test of time, being utilized over a 12-year period, experience wide-spread usage in all parts of this country and abroad. Five talent search programs utilizing the model operation across the United States at Johns Hopkins, Duke, Arizona State, Denver, and Northwestern Universities. Over 80,000 students are tested annually through these projects. The identification protocol itself is very simple and, perhaps because of that simplicity, very effective. Basically, the model (developed by Julian Stanley and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University) utilizes a two-step protocol.
The model also provides insight into three key issues in identifying gifted youth: (a) establishing a talent pool (b) combating "ceiling effect" on tests, thus providing good score discrimination; and (c) providing effective data for program planning at the school district, university, and state levels.
Establishing a Talent PoolSome in the field of the education of the gifted would argue that too few criteria are used for selecting students according to the talent search model. Many state regulations, for example, mandate the use of a minimum of three criteria for selecting students who may be deemed gifted and talented. It seems important to point out that the talent search model does employ a minimum of three criteria for selection, in that there exists "a hidden step" represented by student interest, motivation, and persistence. While it is true that students must be at least at the 95th percentile or higher on an ingrade, standardized achievement test to qualify for the SAT testing, they also must possess the necessary motivation to take the responsibility for signing up for the testing, to follow through and devote a Saturday of their own time to participate in the testing, and then follow up from there in terms of urging schools to provide special programs and services. So, in addition to the testing protocol of achievement coupled with aptitude testing, the talent search also uses this third criterion of student motivation and interest. That does not differ significantly in kind from efforts that are frequently employed in schools where student interest inventories or student nomination forms are included as part of the identification system.
The use of second-level testing in the talent search model employs an important mechanism for selection purposes. In recent years school districts have focused on the idea of a "talent pool" as a way of describing the larger group from whom students would be selected for programming purposes. In the talent search model, the size of the talent pool in any given year comprises a standardized-tested group in the upper 5% nationally which may translate to as many as 20% within a local school district setting or as few as 1%, depending on the local situation. And that pool, in essence, is narrowed significantly and systematically by sophisticated instrumentation at the second level. The appropriateness of that instrumentation has been shown over the last 12 years of research (Stanley, Keating, & Fox, 1974; Stanley, & Benbow, 1983). Thus, the use of the SAT would seem to offer not only the most predictive instrument for academic work for students ready to go on to an advanced level, but also provides the best discriminator yet found for discerning degrees of giftedness in terms of academic potential within the larger gifted and talented population.
Score Discrimination Among Gifted PopulationsThe off-level or out-of-level testing phenomenon the talent search model embodies is an important principle in the identification of the gifted. It can be utilized in order to discriminate well among gifted students, particularly for offering diverse program options on a mild-to-intensive intervention system. It also is important to avoid "ceiling effect," defined as the tendency for gifted students to cluster together at the top level of a test (Keating, 1975). While educators may know that there are many gifted students or whom special programming is desirable, prior to the talent search identification model, they have not known the degree of giftedness many of these students possess. Consequently, the nature of the program alternatives offered has not necessarily been appropriate or well-matched to tested ability. The talent search model does provide that kind of information for direct and systematic follow-up intervention. The following recommendations show the nature of program intervention that may be desirable, given the spread of scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test for Talent Search participants. These recommendations are also portrayed graphically in Figure 1.*
Specific Recommendations for Students Scoring 200-390 on SAT-V and SAT-MEven though a student may not score at a level considered appropriate for placement in a special, fast-paced class or program, there are still many opportunities that can and should be provided for these students who take the test. It is important to remember that each student who participates in a Talent Search project would probably be identified as gifted and talented within his own school district and, therefore, should be entitled to the following kinds of special opportunities:
For example, the Chicago Public Schools offer an enrichment series of eight lectures to all search participants and their parents, held on Saturday mornings at the Museum of Science and Industry, Another example would be the special courses which are offered at Purdue University and Northwestern University on Saturdays during the academic year.
Specific Recommendations for Students Scoring 400-520 on SAT-V and/or SAT-MStudents scoring at these levels on the SAT can profit from special accelerated coursework at the seventh- and/or eighth-grade level in each respective area of aptitude. For example, a seventh grader scoring SAT-M ≥ 400 can handle Algebra I. In the verbal area, an SAT-V ≥ 400 for a seventh grader would indicate ability to handle an intensive writing skills program, a special critical reading program, or a high school foreign language offering (e.g., Latin I) in less time than even other able students of their age. Thus, the following recommendations are made:
Specific Recommendations for Students Scoring 530-650 on SAT-V and/or SAT-MStudents scoring at these very high levels on the test should be encouraged to participate in as many academically appropriate educational alternatives as possible. These include but are not limited to the following:
Specific Recommendations for Students Scoring 650-800 on SAT-V and/or SAT-MStudents scoring at the highest range on the test are operating at levels better than 80% of college-bound seniors on the same test and, therefore, need to have additional opportunities and a more intensive program. Recommendations for this group would include all of those listed for the preceding range (530-650 SAT-M or V) and the following additional ones:
Figure 1* summarizes recommended program opportunities for all students who participate in a talent search program. Cooperative planning across school districts with universities and other regional entities, is desirable in meeting the needs of many of these students effectively.
The Talent Search as a Diagnostic Tool for Program PlanningFrequently the testing phase of the program has been perceived as being the major focus of talent search projects and the major purpose, to merely identify students who are very precocious in the mathematics area or in the verb area. In reality, the talent search identification model provides excellent diagnostic information for purposes of placement and program in the two critical areas of mathematical reasoning ability and verbal reasoning ability. The five universities utilizing the model have all systematically employed the information from the SAT for specific diagnostic -prescriptive purposes in summer programs, correspondence work, and commuter programs that specifically address the academic level of students as discerned by their score ranges on the SAT instrument. For example the Northwestern model is shown below in terms of score ranges and program options available:
In addition to providing good assessment information the most highly gifted students who participate in the search for purposes of university intervention, the talent search identification model also provides excellent assessment information for schools and parents, as they try to provide appropriate program strategies at the local level. The score information can be useful in terms of forming advanced classes at the junior high level. It can be useful for school districts considering the acceleration of a gifted student, or set of students in a content area, or grade acceleration in all areas of the curriculum. It can be useful in terms of working out a continuous progress program for gifted students, since it provides more precise information on the level of performance capacity than other tests given by the school.
Many school districts have also found the information useful for purposes of honoring their own students at an awards assembly given in the spring of the year or creating an honors day specifically for the academically able. Because the information comes from a tool that is secure and highly credible for selecting academically able students or college admission purposes, the drama associated with younger students scoring very high on the SAT instrument s perceived as a very noteworthy accomplishment. Consequently, school districts have become more interested in honoring academic excellence as a result of the use of the talent search identification model.
A third area where local programs have benefited from the diagnostic information is in the development of a multilevel service delivery network wherein local, regional, and state organizations work to provide an array of programs and services for the academically able. Let us cite an example of how such a system works. Student A scored 700 on the mathematics portion of the SAT. He is a seventh-grade student in a local district that is willing to shove him into high school honors coursework but unable to work it out from a scheduling perspective. The district then turns to other sources in the community that might provide appropriate mathematics programming. There is junior college nearby where Student A can take high level mathematics in the evening. There is also a retired university professor in the community from whom he can receive individual tutorial help in precalculus. Or he can take a correspondence course from a university, such as Northwestern. Each option represents a different level of program opportunity that can supplement the efforts of the local school. Over time, a resource bank of options for their students at similar levels of ability may be developed and tapped as necessary. Thus, a cooperative network of program services can be available to assist the academically advanced in all geographic areas.
It might be useful to point out some specific reasons why the talent search identification model has become popular and has been more widely adopted than any other identification system. The following points might provide some insight:
In conclusion then, the talent search model carefully researched by Julian Stanley and others at The Johns Hopkins University, now implemented in all fifty states and internationally recognized, represents a systematic way of identifying high level academic talent at a particular point in time in a student's life. It attempts to provide appropriate strategies and program intervention for that talent from the point of identification right on through graduate school.
Furthermore, the talent search model embodies some of the most basic and important principles of good identification of the gifted which should be adhered to for insuring fair and appropriate placement in programs. These principles include:
The talent search identification model, then, is not only consonant with solid principles of identification of the gifted, but also provides an exemplum for educators working in the field to find equally effective models for use with younger populations and those with talents other than academic.
* Please see original for Figure 1. Ranges of Performance on the SAT.
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