Using local norms for more equitable representation in gifted and talented programs

From: “Effect of Local Norms on Racial and Ethnic Representation in Gifted Education,” Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, Matthew C. Makel, Michael S. Matthews, Jonathan A. Plucker. AERA Open, April-June 2019.

Back in December 2018 our blog post, “Using local norms in GT identification”, described a new idea that was beginning to circulate among scholars and researchers in the field of gifted and talented education; could local norms be used to identify students for accelerated learning and would this increase representation among students who have been traditionally underrepresented in GT programs? That post has the second most view of any of our published posts and for good reason — interest in this has remained very high, particularly as researchers have found that moving from national norms to school building norms for the purpose of identifying students for advanced learning opportunities resulted in a 157% to 300% increase in the proportionality of Black and Latinx students in gifted education. (See: “Effect of Local Norms on Racial and Ethnic Representation in Gifted Education,” Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, Matthew C. Makel, Michael S. Matthews, Jonathan A. Plucker. AERA Open, April-June 2019. and “Optimal Gifted and Talented Student Identification: Maximizing Efficacy, Efficiency, and Equity”

“The research team looked at third graders’ test scores across ten states over ten years, changing the limit for what constitutes “gifted” and observing how it would change student demographics in gifted programs. They began by comparing students across their entire ten-state population as if they were using a national standard, in which only the top 5 or 15% of all students qualified for gifted services. Then they stepped the geographic boundaries down to compare students by state, then by school-districts, then by individual schools, where the top 5% or 15% of every school would be eligible for gifted education services. They found that the smaller the geographic comparison got, the more racially representative the gifted programs would be. By their calculations, going from national averages to school-specific averages quadrupled African American representation, nearly tripled Hispanic representation, and consistently improved the likelihood for both demographics to be identified as gifted. But even with those massive improvements, the number of students identified as gifted was still not proportional to the actual number of African American and Hispanic students in the overall population.”

With a focus on equity and representation, many public elementary and high schools are reckoning with biases seen in their gifted learning programs. Utilizing local norms holds promise for finding more proportional numbers of high potential students than have previously been recognized and in a cost-effective way. The goal is for more students from diverse backgrounds to have their needs met and to be able to develop and use their talents to benefit their communities and the world. This begins by school principals looking within their own schools and asking “who are my highest-performing students and how can I best accommodate their learning needs?”

Using local norms forces a change in thinking at the individual school level. If the average achievement level is a D in a particular school or in a particular classroom, but there is a student who’s performing at a B level, then that student would need different resources than their peers and would trigger school personnel to consider that student for accelerated learning options. If that same student moves to a different school where the achievement is at an A level, then that student may need a different type of support. This variation across school districts serves as an opportunity to use local norms as a means to make a dent in the national “excellence gap”, which currently separates Hispanic and Black students from their Asian American and white peers.

“In some high poverty schools, using national norms may

result in the identification of few or no high ability students,

yet talent exists in every zip code. Using local norms helps

find these students and sends the implicit message that every

school in every neighborhood has talented children.”

Plucker, J. A., & Peters, S. J. (2016)

The use of local norms, while fairly new, is being adopted by multiple states, from Kentucky:

to New Jersey:

to Connecticut:

“A district can use a locally normed cut-score to identify students for consideration by a PPT for the gifted and talented classification. In this approach, the district may convene a group PPT to review the cases of the students who meet or exceed the established cut score. The use of local norms over state/national norms has the advantage of potentially being more informative of a child’s standing with respect to the general education program of a school. Objective measures such as these also allow for the possible identification of students as gifted and talented who are members of historically underrepresented populations.”

to Illinois:

to Texas


to Maryland:

Indeed, right here in Baltimore County, Maryland, the school system is considering how they might use local norms to improve representation of Black, Hispanic, and students receiving special services in the Advanced Academics program as outlined in The Compass’ Key Initiative 3: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Advanced Academics and Gifted and Talented (GT), and Special Education Programming and Supports :

“English learners continue to struggle to demonstrate proficiency, and achievement gaps continue to widen. There is a rapid increase in English learner enrollment in BCPS and an increase in the number of students waiving these services. The needs of this growing population require a deepening of general educator and content teacher understanding in strategies that work best for English learners. In Advanced Academics and Gifted and Talented programming, students identified as African American, Hispanic and students receiving special services are underrepresented. Baltimore County Public Schools conducts universal screening in Grades 3 and 5. In Grade 3, universal screening results in students being provided access to advanced curricula in English language arts and mathematics. In Grade 5, universal screening results in students being placed in Gifted and Talented courses in Grade 6 in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. Although screening processes are in place, there is underrepresentation for some racial student groups and for students receiving special services. As a result, staff within BCPS need professional learning in equitable identification strategies in order to close this gap by identifying the potential talents of students in underrepresented groups.”

This was the focus of discussion at the September 16, 2021 BCPS equity committee meeting and demonstrates the focus the district has on more equitably identifying students for advanced learning and how using local norms may help in reaching this goal.


Talent development in gifted learners

Common thinking used to be that people were born with a fixed, non-malleable intelligence and that one-size-fits-all programming would meet the needs of all gifted and talented individuals. However, over time, and with new research around the concept of intelligence, there is now a much better understanding about approaches to identifying and developing giftedness in young people which better acknowledges an individual’s strengths and potential and the malleability of giftedness.

Researcher and psychology professor Françoys Gagné was at the forefront of developing a talent development model in the 1980s and 1990s that was focused on differentiating clearly between gifts (or natural abilities) and talents (those thing that systematically developed from gifts). He contended that any natural abilities a person is born with could be developed into talents through “catalysts”, like school, family, maturity, motivation, or chance. As the child interacts with these catalysts and participates in learning, training, and practice, talents can emerge from these experiences. For example, a person may be musically gifted, but would need training to fully develop their musical potential.

Not every researcher and educator makes this type of distinction between giftedness and talent and some use these terms differently while others use them interchangeably. However, the field of gifted education is moving towards a greater focus on developing talent within varied domains. Schools are in a unique position to identify and develop the talents of students in four major domains: 1) the academic domain, including science, math, English, social studies, and languages, 2) the artistic domain, including dance, music, drama, photography, and graphic arts, 3) the vocational-technical domain, including home economics, trade-industrial, business-office, agriculture, and computers-technology and 4) the personal-social domain, including leadership, care-giving, and human services. Scholars and teachers also recognize that talent and paths to excellence differ depending on the domain and that understanding what is necessary for development will enable educators and parents to identify more talented children and ensure they have the opportunities they need to develop their potential to the fullest degree possible.

The process of recognizing and developing talents should not be seen as a one-time determination with tests and rating scales labeling students as “talented” or “untalented”, but as a long-range process where development of the talents continues to be facilitated.

According to John Feldhusen, in “Talent Development in Gifted Education”, strategies for teachers to recognize and continue to develop and talent include:

  • Being alert to signs of talent, pointing out strengths to the student and parents, and testing to verify possible emerging talent.
  • Structuring learning activities that will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their talent potential.
  • Helping students who have talent in particular areas set learning goals in that area.
  • Locating resources in the school and community that can help foster the student’s talents.
  • Enlisting parents in identifying and nurturing their children’s talents by providing resources and experiences, and encouraging goal-setting behavior.

“The ultimate goal of talent recognition and development is to help students understand their own talent strengths and potentials, to know how to pursue and engage in the best talent development activities, and to commit themselves to the development of their talents.”

Gifted English language learners

In the 2016-17 school year, the United States reported almost 5 million emergent bilingual students, which represented approximately ten percent of the total number of students in public schools. Eighty-five percent of these English language learners (ELLs) were U.S. citizens and were born in the United States while 15% of these students were foreign born. (See “6 steps to a culturally responsive classroom” and “English Language Learners: How Your State Is Doing“.) The number of ELL students is only projected to grow:

English Language Learners: A Growing Population. Kathleen Fynn and Jane Hill. December 2005, Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning.

However, even given the larger, and growing, number of ELLs, these students are also the least represented subgroup in gifted education programs. NPR, in their “English Language Learners: How Your State Is Doing” reported that only 2 percent of ELLs are enrolled in gifted programs, compared with 7.3 percent of gifted non-ELL students. These students have historically been underrepresented and underserved in U.S. gifted and talented (GT) programs.

That ELL students come to the classroom with limited skills and abilities is a common misconception. According to Dr. Eugenia Moras-Flores, in her keynote address entitled “Meaningful Engagement for Gifted English Learners” to the Maryland Educators of Gifted Students conference in October 2020, English learners actually have some heightened cognitive skills that they bring to their learning experiences. The bilingual brain is used to handling two languages at the same time which, in turn, develops skills for functions such as inhibition (a cognitive mechanism that discards irrelevant stimuli), attention, and working memory. These are all part of the brain’s executive control system which allow for high-level thought, multi-tasking, and sustained attention. Because ELLs are used to switching between languages, they are also better at switching between tasks, even if they aren’t language related.

Gifted English language learners may:

acquire a second language rapidly;

display a mature sense of diverse cultures and languages;

code switch easily (think/translate in both languages);

demonstrate an advanced awareness of American expressions;

show an aptitude for negotiating between cultures;

successfully navigate appropriate behaviors within both cultures;

display inventive leadership and/or imaginative qualities;

assume adult responsibilities at a young age;

problem solve in creative, non-conforming ways;

see Identifying Gifted and Talented English Language Learners and “Identifying and Supporting Gifted ELLs

In traditional GT screening, gifted and talented ELL students may not be discovered because screening protocols are often not designed to detect them. Conventional markers for giftedness are usually based in assessment data and previous high academic achievement which can be especially inequitable for ELLs, whose language output and cultural orientation may mask exceptional promise. To more equitably identify ELLs for gifted services, Dr. Eugenia Moras-Flores is finding that standardized assessments cannot be solely relied upon — research is showing that these assessments don’t necessarily reveal a student’s gifts, especially if their English language proficiency is still lacking. She also finds that testing in the student’s native language doesn’t solve the problem, especially if that child has not been educated in their primary language. She believes a range of measures must be used, starting with training teachers to utilize a variety of activities in the classroom that would reveal potential for gifted education. Teachers must support English language learning students so that they are able to connect their thinking and language in a way that results in cross linguistic transfer; what we know, or understand in any language that can be used to understand, access, interpret, and/or produce new language and finding the common underlying proficiencies.

At a minimum, a more inclusive framework should include three vital components:

1. A comprehensive definition of exceptional ability that encompasses a spectrum of cognitive, social and emotional, artistic, linguistic, and logical-reasoning capabilities,

2. Multiple avenues and entry points—such as student interviews, performance-based evaluations, or nonverbal instruments—that reach beyond standardized assessment data for GT identification, and

3. A system for mindfully growing the exceptional talents and gifts of all learners, including ELLs.

Identifying and Supporting Gifted ELLs



Intense desire to be perfect in all things.

Rigid adherence to standards and the placement of an irrational importance on attaining impossibly high standards.

Fear of imperfection and the emotional conviction that mistakes are a sign of personal defects.

One of the most common concerns among parents and teachers of gifted students is perfectionism. Understanding how perfectionism can manifest in both healthy and unhealthy ways can also help parents better understand how perfectionism presents and strategies to help students overcome these tendencies.

In a healthy exhibit of perfectionism, a person may have high expectations for work, show dedication to their academic performance, achieve at high levels, be motivated to complete tasks, and be highly self-confident in their ability to reach their goals. In unhealthy perfectionism, however, a person may show signs of stress, have unyielding expectations, and demonstrate risk-avoidant behavior.  Unhealthy perfectionism is also associated with increased depression, anxiety, substance abuse, violence, and eating disorders.

Three dimensions of perfectionism:

Self-oriented perfectionism: Perfectionistic expectations that students place on themselves.


Other-oriented perfectionism: Perfectionistic expectations that students place on other people’s behavior.


Socially prescribed perfectionism: Perfectionistic expectations that students feel other people place on their life.


It is not uncommon for gifted students to have a heightened sense of emotion in regards to their learning and they may have more negative reactions to failures than their peers.  Facing unchallenging school work in their early years, students may have found they were able to achieve perfect (or near-perfect) scores on their assignments with relatively little effort.  This can lead to expectations of mistake-free work that can become reinforced by parents, teachers, and peer groups. Students can then become highly motivated to avoid failure which can, in turn, lead to expressions of unhealthy perfectionism.

Generally speaking, parents can help children move away from unhealthy perfectionism by fostering process-based (rather than performance-based) home learning environments.  Try  encouraging and modeling participation in fun activities (like karaoke or dancing) that may fall outside of traditional areas of strength to help students build capacity in making mistakes or not being perfect at something as part of the learning experience.  Help illustrate the idea that learning happens through failure and success and not always on the first attempt. Work with teachers to make sure that students are provided consistent, but attainable challenges.  And always, clearly communicate and partner with teachers!

Perfectionistic profiles

Academic Achievers primarily are characterized by high expectations for their academic performance, with a strong focus on external evaluations, such as grades. Academic Achievers are often emotionally upset with grades that are less than the highest performance levels. They may engage in dichotomous thinking—for example, equating an 89% on a spelling test with “failing.” They also often generalize poor performance on one assignment or in one class to their overall level of intelligence or self-worth—for example, “I got a B on my math homework; I must not be very smart.” How to help: de-emphasize grades and other forms of external evaluation. Focus on growth, learning, and satisfaction first.

Aggravated Accuracy Assessors focus on mistakes and often spend inordinate amounts of time attempting to create “perfect” work. They often spend time on their homework to the detriment of other activities, such as socializing with friends and family, extracurriculars, and sleep. How to help: Model mistakes. Provide examples of imperfections in role models from books and movies. Limit time spent on assignments.

Risk Evaders often will choose to disengage when faced with the possibility of not being successful or the best. For example, a high school student might choose to avoid Advanced Placement classes, hesitant they might not be able to achieve high grades in more challenging classes. At younger ages, Risk Evaders may avoid answering questions in class or completing assignments. How to help: Provide safe environments for risk taking. Praise efforts, not outcomes.

Controlling Image Managers focus on the perceptions of others and attempting to preserve the appearance of perfection or high levels of success. For instance, they might intentionally not study so that they can say they would have done well if they had just put in the effort. This easily can create conflicts with peers when students quit playing or “throw” games when it appears that they may lose. How to help: Model good sportsmanship. Praise process and effort vs. the final product.

Procrastinating Perfectionists often will delay beginning their work when faced with looming expectations and the fear of not meeting them. Children may fall into this profile’s behaviors as a way to avoid risk or preserve their image. If they wait until the last minute and then rush through their work, then they have an excuse for lesser quality. Other children may procrastinate due to anxiety, paralyzed by fear that their performance will not live up to their expectations. How to help: Communicate timelines. Work with children to divide large tasks into manageable sub-goals and smaller deadlines.

from Letting Go of Perfect and Perfectionism: Helping Gifted Children Learn Healthy Strategies and Create Realistic Expectations.



Young and gifted

” . . . For example, one day when assessing a four-year-old boy for an early entrance to kindergarten program in our district, I received a request from another clinician to use my office for a group meeting. I moved with the youngster into our audiologist’s room. Imagine my surprise when the little fellow, observing and reading from a piece of equipment, asked: “Impedance audiometer. What’s that?” I didn’t know the answer, but I did know I had come face to face with something pretty special. A four-year-old girl being considered for the same program produced a startling signed self-portrait, complete with detailed hair, eyebrows, fingers, and high-heeled shoes. A kindergarten boy, one year older, answered all the items on one segment of a popular IQ test – he knew that silica is the main material used to make glass, that Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, that hieroglyphics are a form of Egyptian picture writing, and that turpentine is made from the sap of fir trees. And a nine-year-old girl I was working with on a project wrote: “What is life? Does it end at death or begin anew for eternity? Eternal life is a tantalizing thought, but maybe an unrealistic one. Is death to be feared or welcomed? … My mother says I’m not to worry my pretty little head about such things … but these ever-intruding thoughts cannot be willed away.” Rather powerful stuff.”

From “The Importance of Being Early: A Case for Preschool Enrichment” by Ken W. McKluskey from Parenting for High Potential, 2000.

As a parent to a gifted child, you may be used to watching your child and wondering to what degree they are performing at more advanced levels than their peers. Watching your child’s capacity to learn and be inquisitive, you may begin to have questions. Is my child advanced? What can I do to nurture their potential? What happens when my child enters school? What should I do to make sure their school meets their needs?

If you are interested in ways to nurture your child’s potential from home, the NAGC, in their “Nurturing Early Interests and Strengths” publication gives some great suggestions including using pretend play to encourage creativity, “scaffolding” by using easier tasks that gradually become harder, and reading books together regularly. The goal is to keep the focus on the love and excitement of learning new things, especially through play and hands-on learning opportunities.

If your child is preschool age, then it is entirely likely that you are already seeing patterns of gifted behaviors and advanced performance. Researchers, though, have found that these children can be difficult to define or assess. Because of their varied and uneven physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth, identifying their strengths, skills, and interests can be challenging. Teachers, in general, often lack formal training in the identification of gifted students or how to accelerate or differentiate curriculum and/or instruction for them, and this is even more true among preschool teachers. It is rare to see preschool and early elementary classrooms equipped to handle gifted learners and this may be intensified among culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse students.

Potential Stumbling Blocks per National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) “Young Bright Children”:

  • Young gifted learners are a heterogeneous group where each child develops skills and abilities at different rates; so while one 4 year old may be able to add and subtract numbers, he may struggle to draw a recognizable house or take turns on the swing.
  • Teachers and schools are not trained to recognize advanced ability or be able to differentiate to serve this population of young children.
  • There are few opportunities for outside enrichment during the early years, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

Selecting the right program for your young gifted child can be daunting. According to Leigh Ann Fish in her article, “Selecting the right early childhood program for your precocious preschooler” in the September 2017 Parenting for High Potential journal, it can come down to learning about your options, prioritizing what you want the school to provide, and talking to staff. Some options that might be available to you include:

  1. Head Start, is a federally-funded, free program for children who are considered at risk or are from a low-income household. It is a comprehensive program that strives to meet both the child and the family’s needs through providing education to the child and supporting the family with health, nutrition, and community resources. Preschool age children are usually placed in mixed-age groups, with students ranging from 3 to 5 years old. It is designed to promote readiness for kindergarten and works with families to emphasize parent education and involvement.
  2. Montessori preschools, which may be public or private. Any school can legally use the name Montessori and may incorporate different variations on the original philosophy. The idea in Montessori classrooms is to allow children to learn at their own pace, using hands-on materials and real-world experiences. Classrooms are designed to be calm and uncluttered. The curriculum is divided into five main areas: language arts, mathematics, cultural studies, practical life, and sensorial (utilizing the senses). Students have freedom to work with specially designed Montessori materials either on their own, or with small groups, with their teacher as a guide.
  3. Reggio Emilia schools, which use a child-centered approach and view children as curious and capable learners.  The curriculum is not preplanned, but emerges out of a child’s own questions and interests. Students are encouraged to do hands on, in-depth investigations into things that are of interest to them. Music, art and movement are emphasized and incorporated into project work.
  4. Waldorf schools, which aim to educate the whole child by nurturing the mind, body, and spirit so that children are inspired as thoughtful, creative, and humane individuals. Classrooms are mixed-age and cooperation is encouraged. The classroom is designed to use natural light, soft colors, simple designs, and toys that are hand-made or from natural materials. Early learning is focused on imaginative play and creativity, rather than academics.

The NAGC has also published a position paper on early childhood as well as web page on preschool and kindergarten programs for further guidance.

A final option for some children may be early entrance to kindergarten. Most school districts have rigid, age-based cutoffs that dictate when children should start kindergarten, but some districts also offer the option for early entrance. Students may be required to be evaluated for their kindergarten readiness through individual testing and/or through discussions with the school district.

Typically, parents consider early kindergarten when they see that their child is highly verbal, socially mature, and/or are academically and developmentally advanced well beyond other children their age. They may be very early readers, advanced in math, more independent than most children their age, and already interact well with older peers.

Most research indicates that acceleration is beneficial for gifted students. The NAGC offers guidelines for districts on developing policies for early kindergarten entry.

Most gifted children who skip kindergarten or first grade adapt easily to this transition. They grasp material quickly, and many already are advanced compared with their peers in terms of reading and math skills. School districts sometimes refuse to endorse acceleration due to claims that it could negatively impact a child’s later social adjustment. While concerns about later problematic social adjustment may be something to consider, most research debunks these concerns: see “Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Adjustment of Accelerated Students, Students in Gifted Classes, and Regular Students in Eighth Grade“, “Skip A Grade? Start Kindergarten Early? It’s Not So Easy“,Early Entrance to Kindergarten for Academically Talented 4-Year-Olds: Information and Resources” and “Academic acceleration in gifted youth and fruitless concerns regarding psychological well-being: A 35-year longitudinal study“.




Have you ever known a gifted and talented student who had great academic potential but didn’t always perform at the level that was expected? Someone where there was a discrepancy between their ability and their achievement? Then you may know a gifted underachiever.

Underachievement in gifted and talented students has been prevalent and persistent, with up to 52% of academically gifted K-12 students underachieving at some point in their school career, according to the July, 2019 Washington Post article “What exactly is an ‘underachiever’ and why are there so many of them in our schools?” by Valerie Strauss.  From the article:

“In a more nuanced fashion, underachievement manifests as high-achieving students failing to maintain on the top over time. A 2011 study by Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students,” shed some light on this. This study found that, among a group of students who scored at the highest level on the Measures of Academic Progress™ of the Northwest Evaluation Association™, about 30 to 50 percent of initial high flyers “lost altitude” at varied points over the course of K-12 education.”

This problem of underachievement can be magnified for students who are typically underrepresented in GT education (Black students, students whose primary language is not English, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds). Lack of identification and opportunity can keep these students out of educational programs and services that are tailored to gifted learners, leaving them even more behind.

What might influence a gifted and talented student to underachieve?

According to Sara Hooks, EdD, and Dr. Stephen Schroth, PhD, both of Towson University, in their presentation, “Identifying Gifted Learners who Under-Perform and Crafting Strategies to Support Them” at the 2019 Maryland State Conference on Gifted and Talented Education, there can be a number of environmental factors:

  • Unchallenging, slow-moving classroom experiences in which students regularly find they already know the material that is being covered;
  • Peer pressure to conform to regular norms and be like “everyone else”;
  • Isolation and loneliness from classmates and the educational system;
  • Family dynamics in which parents may have either too high, too low, or variable expectations; and
  • Classrooms that are structured so that autonomy and creativity are not allowed.

Underachieving students may be suffering from depression and anxiety, have perfectionistic tendencies (which can lead to academic burnout), be failure-avoidant, or have low self-esteem. What this looks like in the classroom can range from rebelliousness and nonconformity to irritability and anger. Students may be inattentive, have low motivation, be disorganized, anxious, unable to  self-regulate, or show signs of social immaturity.

Some of these students are also twice-exceptional, or “2e”. They are gifted and talented while also having a physical disability, a learning disability, ADHD, or be on the autism spectrum. Often with 2e students, their giftedness can mask their disability or vice versa. The National Education Association estimated in 2006 that 6% of students with disabilities are also gifted, but are not identified as such:

It is important that schools be able to recognize and be able to catch students who are under-performing.  Again, according to Sara Hooks and Dr. Stephen Schroth, some of the things schools can do include the following:

  • Measure observable differences in achievement and ability over time.
  • Understand that short-term challenges may not indicate long-term problems.
  • Investigate when a student’s performance drops suddenly.
  • Use test data over time, including IQ test scores, achievement percentile scores, and declining grades.
  • Use longitudinal data to detect trends (although it may be too late for effective intervention).
  • Not rely exclusively on standardized assessments, since these often fail to catch non-traditional gifts such as exceptional creativity, leadership skills, or aptitude in the performing arts or in physical endeavors.

Understanding factors that influence gifted students and their performance and how successful interventions might be structured are critically important, and likely more so in the landscape of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It goes beyond helping a few smart kids to understanding what must be done to make schools a better place to learn for students of all capacities.

More reading on the topic:

Do High Flyers Maintain their Altitude? Performance trends of Top Students:

The Effectiveness of Current Interventions to Reverse the Underachievement of Gifted Students: Findings of a Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review:

Gifted Students’ Adjustment and Underachievement in University: An Exploration From the Self-Determination Theory Perspective:

Giftedness and High School Dropouts: Personal, Family, and School-Related Factors. Research Monograph Series:

Gifted Underachievement and Achievement Motivation: The Promise of Breaking Silos:

Telling a Tale: How Underachievement Develops in Gifted Girls:

Underachievement in Gifted and Talented Students with Special Needs:

Why do we know so little about the factors associated with gifted underachievement? A systematic literature review:


The impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 and GT students

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools  have closed and are now using some sort of virtual learning in place of face-to-face instruction. Some students prefer online learning while other children hate it, all while parents are trying to figure out if their child’s educational needs are being met. How is this working for GT students?

Clearly, it will take awhile for research to answer this question. However, back in 2018, researcher Jessica Potts looked at how profoundly gifted students perceived virtual learning  and posed thought-provoking narrative:

“The potential for virtual classrooms to meet the needs of gifted and high-achieving students has made online learning a topic of great interest in gifted education (Adams & Cross, 2000; Olszewski-Kubilius & Corwith, 2010; Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee, 2004; Wallace, 2009). While most virtual schools serve students with a wide range of abilities, virtual schools that are designed specifically for gifted students have the potential to reach precocious young learners from across the country who can work together at a pace and level of rigor that is appropriate for their abilities (Ng & Nicholas, 2007). Studies have repeatedly shown that homogeneously grouping gifted students results in intellectual growth and higher student satisfaction (Kulik & Kulik, 1992; Rogers, 2007; Shields, 2002; Vogl & Preckel, 2014). While gifted students are often successful in heterogeneously grouped classrooms, these findings suggest that discovering methods to bring gifted students together in educational settings is a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunately, there is little funding for educational programs that cater solely to gifted students, in part because the percentage of gifted students in individual schools is relatively low. Only 6.7% of all students nationwide are identified as gifted, making it challenging to bring enough students together in a single place to warrant a separate class (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010). Virtual classrooms offer a “fix” to this geographical conundrum (and perhaps to the issue of funding), hence the interest in the gifted community in developing online programs that can meet the needs of these unique learners.

While virtual classrooms appear to be an elegant solution to the problems of isolation and funding, it is possible that the potential offered by online programs might be lost on gifted students who do not see them as effective educational spaces. Gifted students often report being bored in school, even in classes that are designed to be challenging (Lubinski & Benbow, 2006; Lubinski, Webb, Morelock, & Benbow, 2001; Preckel, Götz, & Frenzel, 2010). Thus, it is important to discover what gifted students think about online education, especially in terms of curricular rigor and support from instructional staff. This case study seeks to understand the perceptions of students enrolled in an online educational setting in a public school designed for profoundly gifted children.”

Among her small sample size, Potts’ most important finding was that the participants all desired social interactions with their peers and preferred interactive groups to self-directed, individualized programs. All the students also had a preference for an instructor-led learning environment rather than more autonomous online learning systems. An issue that was brought up regularly by the participants was the propensity for distraction in an online environment, potentially impacting the ability to get work done. No concerns were mentioned about the actual content of the learning or its delivery.

In September, 2020, researcher Zamira Duraku published The impact of COVID-19, school closure, and social isolation on gifted students’ wellbeing and attitudes toward remote (online) learning. Students reported negatively on online learning, finding it to be inadequate and lacking interaction. Duraku also broadly found that the school closures and the social isolation experienced by gifted children led to changes in the childrens’ psychological well-being, made them feel as if they were doing nothing meaningful, and that they had increased issues with sleep, sadness, lonliness, anger, and motivation.

Beyond issues with virtual learning and social-emotional health, other issues with GT students could also be problematic. Julia Roberts and Jonathan Plucker, writing on the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) blog, point to potential problems with GT identification efforts. From not having the usual spring data points that are used to help assist in identificaton measures, to problematic teacher recommendations, to finding ways to examine the potential for advanced learning vs. advanced performance, programmatic GT issues will certainly arise.

Finally, parents of gifted and talented children may need to provide more to their children then what traditional school is providing. The TAGT (Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented) has put together a list of resources for teaching GT kids at home.


GT Discover!

Have you heard about GT Discover yet?

Mission:  GT Discover builds the capacity of schools, communities, and parents to identify and serve more gifted and talented students, especially those who are historically underrepresented, serving as a repository of resources, learning opportunities, and a collaborative community for stakeholders.

GT Discover is a new website developed by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the IDEALS Institute at Johns Hopkins University and is free resource dedicated to the world of gifted and talented education. It aims to provide high-quality content to help advance the learning of gifted and talented students — a one-stop shop for gifted and talented education information and resources for educators and families.

This website offers tabs for educators, families, policies, research, events, as well as Maryland-centric information and they have also added a special section of Online Learning Resources dedicated to at-home learning for families, students, and educators to help bridge the gap when home learning is required.

Go to to take a look!




By proclamation, February is Gifted and Talented month in Maryland.  Annually, the Maryland  State Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented Education sponsors an awards celebration to honor those who receive awards for their work in the gifted and talented education. It is a great time to recognize those who have done outstanding work in the field and there are many across the state of Maryland!

Winners in Baltimore County included:

  • Jennifer Madrid, teacher at Loch Raven High School
  • Sara McShane, teacher at Hereford Middle School
  • Amey Sanders, resource teacher with the Office of Advanced Academics
  • Two students, one from Western Technical School and one from Dumbarton Middle School

Winning accolades for hard work is a great feeling  — and we’d love for more BCPS administration and teachers to be rewarded for their exemplary work in gifted and talented education!

So what teacher or administrator do you know who is really working hard to make gifted and talented education work? Think about what would happen if you showed the principal or the teacher the application that needs to be filled out (in November) for the awards that are presented in February? What would happen if that teacher or administrator knew that you were intending to nominate them for an award?

Isn’t is possible that the principal or teacher might start thinking about professional development opportunities they could become involved in over the remainder of the school year or over the summer that would up their GT game? Isn’t it likely that would put best practices in GT instructional strategies in the forefront of their minds? Wouldn’t they perhaps wonder how they might show leadership in GT educational services? Wouldn’t it be a great way to show pride in your school and demonstrate that you are in their corner and rooting for them to get the recognition they deserve?

Here are the nomination forms from this year. Take a look at them now so you will know what is being asked of the nominees. Then go advocate for a winner and help that student, teacher, or administrator turn that advocacy into an award!

Outstanding Student Accomplishment: 

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Teacher as Leader: 

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Outstanding School Administrator: 

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(Full application can be found at:

State Delegate Cathi Forbes presenting Jennifer Madrid and Amey Sanders citations from the Maryland General Assembly at the GT awards night ceremony on February 11, 2020 at North County High School.

What does the new COMAR mean? Identification

Maryland legislators have recently made changes to COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations) 13A.04.07, the regulation that governs how school systems across the state are to approach gifted and talented education.

One of the major changes to COMAR is how it moves away from the wording in the regulation of “shall consider” to “will”.  This ties in nicely with the Maryland ESSA plan which has designated GT students as an accountability group.  This set of students will now begin receiving closer scrutiny than they have in the past — having stronger regulations in place will likely improve processes around who is identified, how they are identified, what areas they are identified in, and when they are identified for GT programs and services.

Some of the other biggest takeaways regarding identification of GT students in the revised regulation?

  • Schools and districts will have to equitably identify a significant number of students, as early as possible, along with additional identification in grades 3-5 and grades 6-9 for participation in GT programs and services.  At least 10% of students in each local school system will have to be identified for GT programs and services no later than grade 3.
  • Schools will have to screen every child for GT identification purposes (universal screening) using multiple indicators of potentially potential, ability, and achievement from an annually reviewed Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) approved list of assessments and checklists:
  • Professional learning for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel must be provided regarding identification of gifted and talented students.
  • MSDE must approve each school system’s identification process.

Potential positive impacts of these changes include:

      1. Earlier identification of gifted and talented students.
      2. Better identification of typically underrepresented students in GT programs, including Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, non-native English speakers, and students from low socioeconomic situations.
      3. Better objectivity in identification processes.
      4. Better understanding among school personnel about appropriate identification processes and procedures.
      5. A degree of standardization across Maryland regarding identification of GT students.

For comparison purposes, below you will find the COMAR section related to identification (.02) with all the new revisions in bold italics.  Anything in brackets was something in the old version that no longer appears in the new version:

.02 Identification of Gifted and Talented Students.

A. Each local school system shall establish [a] an equitable process for identifying gifted and talented students as they are defined in Education Article, §8-201, Annotated Code of Maryland.

B. The identification pool for gifted and talented students shall encompass all students. (text unchanged)

C. The identification process shall use universal screening and multiple indicators of potential, [aptitude] ability, and achievement from an annually reviewed Maryland State Department of Education approved list of assessments and checklists.

D. [The identification process shall be used to identify students for participation in the programs and services described in Regulation .03 of this chapter.]  A universal screening process shall be used to identify a significant number of students in every school and at least 10 percent in each local school system, as early as possible, but no later than Grade 3. Additional identification shall occur at the 3—5 and 6—9 grade bands for participation in the programs and services described in Regulation .03 of this chapter.

[E. Each school system shall review the effectiveness of its identification process.]

[F.] E. Each school system shall [consider implementing an identification process that]:

(1) [Documents] Document early evidence of advanced learning behaviors, PreK—2;

(2) [Includes procedures] Develop equitable policies for identification and a process for appeals that are clearly stated in writing, made public, and consistently implemented systemwide; [and]

(3) Review the effectiveness of its identification process; and

[(3)] (4) [Provides] Provide ongoing professional [development] learning for [school staff] teachers, administrators, and other personnel in the identification procedures, characteristics, academic, and social-emotional needs of gifted and talented students.

F. The Department shall:

(1) Review and approve each school system’s identification process to ensure compliance with this regulation; and

(2) Provide a Maryland’s Model of Gifted and Talented Education: Maryland Gifted and Talented Student Identification Requirements document that includes available State-mandated achievement assessments for gifted and talented screening for adoption by school systems without an approved identification process.

For further reading, click here to read the 2019-2020 “Maryland Model of Gifted and Talented Education: Gifted and Talented Definitions and Implementation Guidelines” and a summary of COMAR 13A.04.07.