San Diego Unified School Board Approves Overhaul of ‘Gifted’ Program

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Students testing for entrance into the ‘Gifted and Talented Education’ program at San Diego Unified Schools will soon see changes to what qualifies them to enter the program.

The SDUSD approved an overhaul of the long-used Raven Progressive Matrices program, a nonverbal, untimed multiple choice test, at their board meeting Tuesday night.

The district will now begin to transition to the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), which will alter the way students are selected as ‘gifted’. School officials will use the results from that test and take other factors, such as teacher and parent input as well as economic challenges and transiency.

At the meeting Tuesday night, officials said though the program will start to be implemented in the coming school year, the biggest change will happen the second year when the program begins to take shape.

The changes will more accurately decide which students are eligible to receive the special instruction in the ‘gifted’ program, which places students into special “seminar” classes taught by specialized instructors, school officials said.

“We do know that the current method we are using is compromised,” said Superintendent Cindy Martin.

Under the new testing system, officials at the meeting said the practical impact would likely mean fewer students entering the program.

The aim of implementing a new testing system is to be more accurate, Martin said, and not worry about having fewer students there.

Board Vice President John Lee Evans said during the meeting that as the program stood, third through fifth grade students scoring in the 99th percentile were placed in the seminar classes. Evans said roughly 10 to 20 times more students were in the program than should be expected. The same applied to the cluster classes, where 10 to 20 times more students were in the classes than should be.

He said he had seen cases where a student qualifies for a seminar class but would not perform well in the class because getting into the class is based on having particular skills and not being a high achiever.

“It’s a question of how do we measure those particular skills,” Evans said, adding that the program needs to be evaluated in the coming years.

SDUSD second graders will still be tested for the gifted programs, but the district plans to revise the rules for transfer students, mobile military students and others.

The money for the program will come from this fiscal year’s budget, Martin said.

The board said they will reexamine the program in one year’s time.

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