ERIC Identifier: ED296810
Publication Date: 1988-03-00
Author: Florey, Janice - Tafoya, Nancy
Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.
Identifying Gifted and Talented American Indian Students: An
Overview. ERIC Digest.
Gifted and talented youngsters exist within any racial group or
cultural setting. In this country, however, the processes and instruments for
identifying gifted American Indians are little suited to the task. Giftedness is
often defined by tests which reflect Euro-American middle-class standards, with
virtually no attention to expectations and values of American Indian culture.
But identification of gifted and talented Indians can be achieved if educators
define a broader perspective than that currently used.
WHO ARE THE GIFTED AND TALENTED?
Unfortunately there is no set of widely used, standard definitional criteria
by which gifted and talented students can be identified; however, many states
continue to use the federal definition established by the now repealed Gifted
and Talented Children's Act of 1978. The act, known as Public Law 95-561,
contains four components critical to defining and serving these students. First,
the act addresses the multidimensional areas of giftedness, which include
general intellectual abilities, specific academic aptitudes, visual and
performing arts talents, leadership, and creative and productive thinking.
Second, the act calls for an increased age range of children served. Third,
children who have the potential for giftedness must also be considered. Finally,
those identified as gifted or potentially gifted need to receive differentiated
Although not all states use the federal definition set forth by P.L. 95-561,
a study conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children for the U.S. Office of
Education reported that 39 states have legislation which mentions or defines
gifted and talented children (Zettel, 1980). These states generally define
giftedness in terms of intellectual ability, but 75% also consider creativity,
67% include leadership, and 67% artistic talent.
HOW ARE THE GIFTED IDENTIFIED?
Procedures for admitting children to gifted programs generally follow four
basic steps: (1) referral, (2) assessment, (3) selection, and (4) placement.
Referrals are based on teacher judgment, parent nominations, grades, group test
scores, or any combination of these. Assessment involves determining the
referred child's level of abilities on a battery of tests, which generally
include measures of intelligence, achievement, or problem solving. Selection
occurs only after the child has been assessed as potentially gifted and his or
her ability levels are determined. The decision on placement is based on this
information, the needs of the child, and program options available.
WHY ARE AMERICAN INDIAN CHILDREN DISPROPORTIONATELY IDENTIFIED AS GIFTED AND
Although gifted and talented students are found in all racial, cultural,
social, and economic segments of society, there are "factors that tend to veil
the talent potential of gifted groups, hindering true readings and proper
identification" (Khatena, 1982, p. 238). American Indian students are
underrepresented in gifted classrooms. In fact, one 1982 study by the U.S.
Department of Education revealed that American Indians comprise .8% of public
school students, but only .3% of those in gifted programs, whereas the
respective white figures are 73.3% and 82%.
Mitchell (1984) has reported that most states select gifted and talented
students through multiple criteria. However, many school districts still use
intelligence tests as the primary identifier, with cutoffs ranging from 1.5 to
2.0 standard deviations above the mean. The measurement instruments draw heavily
on one racial or economic group for which they have been normed and
The use of standardized instruments to identify culturally diverse children
is inappropriate. Such measures have a frame of reference that is uniquely white
middle class in terms of test items and group norms. In general, culturally
diverse groups do not perform well on such instruments. In the widely used
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised Edition (WISC-R), the verbal
section is biased against American Indian language systems, which rely on
nonverbal communication, undetailed verbal accounts, noncompetitiveness, soft
speech patterns, and mythology, rather than science (Florey, 1986; Connelly,
1985). Because of these language characteristics, American Indians appear to be
weak in understanding oral language, and as a result, their actual language
ability is underestimated.
Efforts to correct for assessment biases in verbal language tests have been
made by the use of measures that are more performance-oriented than the WISC-R.
In 1984, the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (WISC-R) began to be used
as an assessment device that was more culturally fair than the WISC-R or
Stanford Binet, because it relied heavily on nonverbal skills and keys on
information processing rather than pure information (Kaufman and Kaufman, 1983).
The performance section of the K-ABC contains subtests involving block design,
object assembly, and coding. These are more fair than other tests for American
Indians, who work well with symbolic and visual images. Nevertheless, timed
tasks that require rapid, organized thought are incongruent with the Indian
concept of a continuous present.
American Indian values which encourage interdependence, collective decision
making, and group cohesiveness are not reflected in current assessment
instruments. Intelligence and achievement measures analyze individual
performance without reference to the group process. Moreover, the form of test
administration--in which students cannot communicate--and the emphasis placed on
performance scores encourage competition between individuals.
Many factors contribute to the inappropriateness of assessment practices for
American Indians. Bruch and Curry (1978, cited in Masten, 1981) list the
following: --neglect of subcultural values, abilities, and knowledge in
assessment instruments and procedures; --use of exclusive training in
application of middle class measurement instruments; --belief that object
measurement is the only way to conduct assessment; --inadequate attention to
problems of motivation and negative reactions to the examiner; --failure to
include sufficient numbers of minority students in
e several vital considerations for identifying American Indian students as
gifted. Bruch (1970, cited in Faas, 1982) contends that educators must consider
whether the child: --exhibits outstanding powers in one or more abilities valued
by the child's culture; --measures at a bright average level in national norms
in ability and achievement; --demonstrates creativity; and --shows leadership
Educators must also: --assess verbal and nonverbal responses; --provide
adequate time for students to answer; --develop questioning procedures to elicit
multiple responses on items giving credit for such responses; --assess a wide
range of abilities; and --use a matrix rather than one factor for making
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY IN THE IDENTIFICATION OF AMERICAN
INDIAN GIFTED STUDENTS?
Florey, Janice E., and others. IDENTIFICATION OF GIFTED CHILDREN AMONG THE
AMERICAN INDIAN POPULATION: AN INSERVICE MODEL. Minden, NV: Douglas County
School District, 1986. ED 273 399.
Frasier, M. ASSESSMENT PROFILE SHEET UNPUBLISHED FORM (RESEARCH EDITION).
Athens: University of Georgia, 1984.
Julien, Paul D. and Bruce A. Ostertag. BEHAVIORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF GIFTED
NAVAJO STUDENTS AS CORRELATED WITH INTELLECTUAL ABILITY AND CREATIVITY.
Flagstaff and Sacramento: Northern Arizona University and California State
University, 1982. ED 214 713.
Kaufman, A. S. and N. L. Kaufman. KAUFMAN ASSESSMENT BATTERY FOR CHILDREN
(K-ABC): ADMINISTRATION AND SCORING MANUAL. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance
Khatena, Joseph. EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE GIFTED. New York: Wiley, 1982.
Kitano, Margie K. and Darrell F. Kirby. GIFTED EDUCATION: A COMPREHENSIVE
VIEW. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.
Masten, William G. APPROACHES TO IDENTIFICATION OF GIFTED MINORITY STUDENTS.
Mississippi State University, 1981. ED 234 578.
Mitchell, B. "An Update on Gifted and Talented Education in the U.S." ROPER
REVIEW 6 (1984): 161-163.
Perrone, P. A. and N. Aleman. "Educating the Talented Child in a Pluralistic
Society." In D. R. Omark and J. G. Erikson (Eds.), THE BILINGUAL EXCEPTIONAL
CHILD. San Diego: College-Hill Press, 1983.
U.S. Department of Education. INCREASING MINORITY PARTICIPATION IN GIFTED
PROGRAMS. Washington: Mid-Atlantic Center for Race Equity, 1983.
Zettel, Jeffrey. GIFTED AND TALENTED EDUCATION FROM A NATIONWIDE PERSPECTIVE.
Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1980.