At Top of Class, but Tested Poorly

One "bad day" out of a series of testing days can throw off the composite result.
My son is the "leader" of his first-grade class and is far above the rest of the students. He is currently reading and comprehending at a fifth-grade level. He is emotional, verbal, and a good thinker. The school district tested him for the gifted program, but their tests showed he is not "gifted."

How much faith should a parent put in a test that identifies whether or not a child is gifted? My wife and I feel he should be placed in a different class since the regular class is too easy for him. What should we do? Is he gifted or not?

Without knowing specifically what happened at the testing and what tests they used, I can only speculate about what occurred in your son's case. If they used a group achievement test given to all the students to screen for the gifted class, those tests are administered over several days. One "bad day" out of a series of testing days can throw off the composite result. Little children are especially susceptible to having falsely lowered scores due to fatigue, distraction, oncoming illness, etc. If your son received an individually administered IQ test, these scores can also be adversely affected if the young child is anxious or upset in any way during the testing, has a short attention span, or if the examiner fails to develop a good rapport with the child.

I think you should talk to the school and have them go over the test scores with you. It will then be more evident if there was a problem in the testing, or if your son has weaker areas in his academic skills. He does have advanced reading and vocabulary skills, but perhaps his mathematical ability is not as advanced. In IQ tests (such as the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and the Wechsler Intelligence Test (WISC), the Verbal and Performance (or Qualitative and Quantitative) scores are combined in a composite score. Perhaps your son's composite score did not make the cutoff for the gifted classroom. Generally an IQ score of 130 and up is considered in the gifted range.

Recent research has indicated that parents are often very accurate in identifying giftedness in their child. Some districts are including parent identification checklists in their assessment for giftedness. Obviously your son "looked gifted" to the school in some way, or they would not have tested him. Again, I suggest you talk with the school about exactly what the scores were and how the testing went. (By the way, the examiner would have taken notes on the child's behavior during the individual testing indicating if there was a problem. These are found on the original testing protocol). If he does not qualify as fully gifted, it is quite possible he is sufficiently advanced in a certain subject, such as reading, to be subject skipped. That means he could take reading or language arts with the grade above his. If the testing results do not warrant gifted placement, the school can at least discuss with you how they plan to challenge your bright little guy in the coming year. Re-testing with the same test is not considered to be valid if it is done sooner than within two to three years.

You are right to ask questions. If a parent does not advocate for their child's educational needs, who will? I hope you find this data helpful. Good luck.

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

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