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Finding High Potential among Culturally, Linguistically and Economically
Diverse Students: Two New Scales for Equitable Identification

By
Maggie Smith-Peterson, Minneapolis Public Schools
Kelly Stewart, Minneapolis Public Schools
Karen Westberg, University of St. Thomas

Introduction

In the 2007 report, Overlooked Gems: A National Perspective on Low-Income Promising Learners (Stambaugh & VanTassel-Baska), demographer Harold Hodgkinson explained that within a decade, no single ethnic group in the U.S. will predominate among public school students. In other words, schools in the U.S. are becoming more racially, culturally and linguistically diverse every year. Given this fact, it is alarming to note that many public school districts across the country underrepresent students of color, English learners (EL), and students qualifying for free or reduced lunch plans among their identified gifted population (Callahan et al., 2014). Furthermore, gifted and advanced learners who are culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse (CLED) consistently perform below their white, middle- and upper-class peers (Plucker et al., 2010). The use of standardized tests to identify gifted CLED students will clearly fail to produce an equitable result. In a recent national survey, fifty-one percent of elementary programs reported having a plan in place to develop talent among traditionally underidentified groups (Callahan et al., 2014). Yet, when it comes to useful tools to accurately and efficiently identify high potential CLED students, the field is at a loss: very few tools have been created that specifically target the identification of gifted CLED students, and among those that do exist, even fewer have the sufficient research to prove their efficacy.

The use of teacher rating scales to identify gifted learners is a long-standing practice. Whereas much evidence shows that teacher bias limits the participation of CLED students in gifted programs (Bruch, 1975; Deslonde, 1977; de Wet & Gubbins, 2010; Ford & Grantham, 2003), other studies have shown that teacher rating scales can improve accurate identification of talent, especially when paired with quality training (Frasier et al., 1995; Hoge & Cudmore, 1986; Frank, 2007; Swanson, 2006). While a few tools, such as the HOPE Scale (Gentry & Peters, 2010) have demonstrated both reliability and validity evidence in identifying low income students, we saw a need to develop teacher rating scales that specifically addressed aspects of language and culture. Additionally, the Scales for Rating Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (otherwise currently known as the Renzulli Scales) address more universal characteristics of giftedness, and therefore, we sought to create teacher rating scales for CLED students that were not redundant with these more generalizable items. These new scales are called the High Potential Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Scale and the High Potential Culturally and Economically Diverse Scale.

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