75th percentile. Yes, that is the Raven cut-off target being used by at least two MCPS elementary schools to determine giftedness. You can read it for yourself, here, in this MCPS document titled Montgomery County Assessment Program – Testing Schedule 2008-2009.
75th percentile. Why is this significant? The 75th percentile corresponds to an IQ of about 110. That’s barely above “average” in according to the WISC headings, which are comparable to the Ravens:
- >129 Very Superior (percentiles 98th+)
- 120-129 Superior (percentiles 91st-97th)
- 110-119 High Average (percentiles 75th-90th)
- 90-109 Average (percentiles 25th-74th)
Now we’ve known for a long time that something has been rotten in the state of MCPS when we have a GT identification rate of roughly 40%. Sure we’re smart…but 40%? We know that the identification rates have varied wildly within the county, among schools in the same zip code, with the similar demographic. And we also know that the county has pretty much disregarded the State of Maryland’s definition of giftedness:
THE ANNOTATED CODE OF THE PUBLIC GENERAL LAWS OF MARYLAND
Education: Title 8. Special Programs for Exceptional Children
Subtitle 2. Gifted and Talented Students§8-201. “Gifted and talented student” defined.
In this subtitle, “gifted and talented student” means an elementary or secondary student who is identified by professionally qualified individuals as:
(1) Having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment;
(2) Exhibiting high performance capability in intellectual, creative, or artistic areas;
(3) Possessing an unusual leadership capacity; or (4) Excelling in specific academic fields. [An. Code 1957, art. 77, §106F; 1978, ch. 22, §2; 1997, ch. 109; 2003, ch. 418.].
and operated under its own construction–”high levels of accomplishment”–instead. We also know that increasingly MCPS officials are speaking of “students who are ready to work above grade level.” But that’s not gifted. 75th percentile? A quick Google search on “Ravens” and “gifted” will show that most jurisdictions around the country use a cut-off of 90th percentile, 95th percentile. Now I can see if this were a two part process: 2nd grade being a “screen” where you cast the net wide, and then further testing in 3rd grade used for GT identification. But according to MCPS it’s not doing this. MCPS uses the multiple criteria garnered in 2nd grade–including the 75th percentile Ravens target–to identify students as gifted and talented.
How professionals tasked with providing appropriate educational opportunities to gifted students–a legally defined special population not unlike special ed students–can stand by this is beyond me. By totally debasing the definition of “giftedness,” by failing to address honestly and transparently the continuum of giftedness, MCPS has sown confusion and conflict in the parent community, leaving parents struggling, among other things, to explain why their child got into a Center Program or Magnet while their neighbor’s child didn’t. They’re all “gifted,” right? By equating giftedness with “ready for above grade level work”–and stating an expectation that 80% of MCPS students will reach these above grade level measures–it has robbed parents of children who don’t get into a program or choose not to apply for whatever reason of any effective means to advocate for appropriate challenge. “Well you child is getting William and Mary, no?” We’re with left one-size-fits-all.
The next question is Why are they doing this?… Why are we at this juncture?
[Note: I want to stress that I am no expert on things statistical. As always, Hoagies is a great starting point for understanding the intricacies of "norms" and "stanines" and "standard deviations" and such. Here's a page on Testing and Assessment: What Do the Tests Tell Us? to get you started. Also, check out Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate and Attorney for a good introduction to applied statistics.]
[UPDATE 2/10: There is some question as to what norms are being used by MCPS. National? Or local? Stay tuned. But in any case, MCPS should make all this public and as clear as day.]