Growing Gifted Students in the Desert: Using Alternative, Community-Based Assessment and an Enriched Curriculum
Belcher, Rebecca Newsom, Fletcher-Carter, R., Teaching Exceptional Children
I will always remember the unnatural silence as 21 pairs of eyes watched me open the envelope. I quickly scanned the typewritten pages and declared, "You have all won. We are all going to the State Bowl!" The silence turned to squeals of delight and surprise that echoed down the hallway of the school building. During the year of study and competition, the students, main fear was that not everyone would be selected to participate in the Future Problem Solvers State Bowl. As I watched the celebration, I saw the fear fade, the joy blossom, and pure delight reign on 21 young faces. This poignant moment reminded me of why I am a teacher.
-Special education teacher
Our elementary school is located in a poor, small, rural community in the Southwest United States. The student population of 820 is drawn from two small communities and the adjacent commercial agricultural land. The ethnic makeup of the student population is 96 % Hispanic, 3 % European American, and 1% other ethnic groups. One hundred percent of the students participate in the free breakfast and lunch program. Before 1992, the school had two students identified as gifted, but in 1993 the identification process began to change.
Culurally Different Potentially Gifted Students
Although more recent definitions of giftedness focus on a variety of abilities, the current ideal seems to favor highachieving, highly motivated students (Fischman as cited in Thomas & Grimes, 1985) who demonstrate an aptitude for schoolwork (Gallagher, 1966) combined with high intellectual capability. A limiting factor in selection procedures for culturally and linguistically different students is the requirement that both intellectual and academic superiority be demonstrated. Unfortunately, identification practices that emphasize such high achievement and high intellectual capability almost inevitably identify children with a background of high socioeconomic status and exclude culturally and linguistically different children (Fischman as cited in Thomas & Grimes). Culturally diverse, according to Clark (1983), is a label to describe children who are raised in a culture that has values and attitudes that differ significantly from those of the macroculture. Baldwin (1978) defined culturally different children as those who grow up in conditions of geographic isolation or socioeconomic deprivation or who are racially, ethnically, or linguistically different.
The students described in this article are culturally different and culturally diverse because they are ethnically and linguistically different from the majority culture, live in geographic isolation, are from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and are being raised in a culture that has values different from those of the macroculture of the United States.
Characteristics associated with cultural diversity may obscure giftedness and prevent identification. For example, Hispanic children may be less familiar with the English language. They may tend to be less competitive, and their families often place more emphasis on the family than on achievement and individual development (Clark, 1983).
A Norming-Samples Committee
Although identifying culturally different gifted children is a pressing demand, there are numerous problems with current methods (Herring, 1996). Identification usually places too much emphasis on intelligence and achievement tests. Minority children often lack an orientation to testing (Rosenfield, 1983), and their test performance may not adequately reflect their capability (Herring). Minorities often are inadequately represented on norming samples of many commonly used instruments (Bernal, 1979).
The problems associated with using norm-referenced, standardized measures to identify giftedness in culturally different populations have led to the development and use of alternative methods such as checklists, rating scales, and inventories (De Leon Argus-Clavo, 1997). …