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Georgia's journey toward multiple-criteria identification of gifted students.

Krisel, Sally C.
Cowan, Ruth S.
Roeper Review. Dec97, Vol. 20 Issue 2, pA-1. 3p. 2 Charts.
The Journey
Educators, parents, and students across the state of Georgia have been on a journey -- one which has
taken us from a single IQ score to a rich profile of student's strengths and interest, from a strictly
psychometric identification rule to a multiple-criteria one. The journey has not always been easy, but it
has been rewarding, and we have learned abundantly along the way.
Our journey began in 1991 when six Georgia school districts were selected to participate in one of the
early projects of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), Multiple Criteria
Identification of Gifted Students from Economically Disadvantaged and Limited English Proficiency
Populations. Additionally, two Georgia school districts (Atlanta City Schools and Gwinnett Public Schools)
were recipients of Javits grants with objectives targeted at identifying gifted students from
underrepresented populations. A ripple effect began to spread across the state as educators
demonstrated that they could accurately nominate children from various cultural and economic
backgrounds who displayed the traits, aptitudes, and behaviors associated with giftedness. As teachers
embraced the concept of multiple criteria for identification, our hope was to use what we learned in our
work with children who historically had been underrepresented in programs for gifted students to
improve our identification and programming practices for all gifted students in the state.
In January 1994, the Georgia Association for Gifted Children (GAGC) hosted an Eggs 'n Issues Breakfast
for Georgia legislators to explain how the NRC/GT and Javits grant research was helping us address
equity issues in the identification of minority and economically disadvantaged children, while yielding
the diagnostic information needed to promote excellence in programming and curriculum for all gifted
students. Two months later, legislators, convinced of the fairness of this approach and impressed with
the high degree of confidence of the professionals, passed a bill requiring multiple-criteria identification
of gifted students in the state of Georgia. In March the governor signed HB 1768 into law.
A statewide taskforce of teachers, administrators, and psychologists worked from June 1994 until
February 1995, translating the new law and the research findings from the NRC/GT study and the two
Javits studies into a manageable process for identifying gifted students using a combination of

standardized tests and observational or performance data. Members of the taskforce debated the data
categories, the form assessment should take in each of the categories, who was qualified to serve on a
juried panel of evaluators, and what the standards should be. Because they believed in their mission,
these dedicated travelers persisted.
The first version of the multiple criteria eligibility rule was presented to the Georgia Board of Education
in June of 1995. The State Superintendent and Board members were deluged with phone calls and
letters in opposition to the multiple-criteria identification rule. Many parents and some teachers
believed that eligibility and programming standards would be lowered. Some educators were
uncomfortable giving up the security of mental ability tests and rigid cut-off scores. Some believed in the
principle of multiple-criteria but quarreled with the details of the rule. For six months the State Board
postponed action on the proposed rule in order to schedule hearings, respond to concerns, and allow
time for fine-tuning elements of the rule.
During these difficult months, supporters of the new rule wrote position papers, spoke out at public
heatings, and organized letter-writing campaigns. These leaders worked closely with the Office of Civil
Rights to make sure that the goal of a workable multiple-criteria rule was not lost in the storm. Finally, in
December 1995, Georgia's State Board of Education adopted a multiple-criteria rule which said all
children nominated for possible gifted program placement shall be assessed in the areas of mental
ability, achievement, creativity, and motivation, using a variety of standardized, observational, and
performance measures. Those children who demonstrate outstanding ability in any three of the four
categories shall be provided with gifted education services in their area(s) of strength.
Our real work was just beginning. School systems were desperate for staff development and other
technical assistance to help them get ready to implement the new rule in August 1996. By late spring it
was evident that most districts would not be ready, and many began asking for waivers. Consequently,
the State Board granted one last extension of the implementation date to January 1997. Some
leadership changes were made in the Department's Program for Gifted Students and the Department of
Education contracted with a gifted education consultant to begin two-day training sessions in each of
the state's 16 Regional Education Service Agencies. The newly hired Gifted Education Coordinator began
traveling the state to help district personnel develop local plans for the implementation of the multiplecriteria rule.
By January 1997, all systems had developed their local administrative plans and were beginning to
identify children using the new rule. Throughout the process we knew that multiple-criteria
identification was as much a programming issue as it was an assessment one. Through the years we had
identified gifted youngsters on the basis of a composite mental ability test score or possibly a mental
ability test and an achievement test score. We had grown content with "one-size-fits-all" gifted
programs. Of course, that was never good practice, as even the high-IQ group was a very diverse one.
Now that we were starting with a much richer profile of individual strengths, we were more acutely
aware of the need to offer a menu of gifted education services.

By spring of 1997 the emphasis turned to programming and curriculum. The Department of Education
sponsored a series of regional workshops on best practices in gifted education programming, asking
districts to look for ways to expand their gifted program offerings to better meet the needs of their
gifted students and to promote schoolwide excellence. A manual was provided for each workshop
In our second school year with the multiple-criteria rule, there is a growing sense of confidence. Fall '97
figures indicate that more students from underrepresented populations are being identified. School
districts are expanding their gifted program services to include a variety of delivery models. Gifted
educators are beginning to turn their attention to program evaluation to ensure the quality of our
programs. Based on lessons learned this first year, the multiple-criteria rule has gone back to the State
Board with proposed refinements.
Georgia's Multiple-Criteria Rule
A synopsis of Georgia's multiple criteria rule is found in the chart (see Figure 1). This chart shows the
four data categories, the elements of assessment for each, and the criterion for each type of measure.
The chart in Figure 1 reflects one of the major complexities of the rule adopted in December 1995. The
rule allowed multiple-criteria identification procedures while clinging to elements of the former rule,
which used only mental ability and achievement test data for determining program eligibility. Proposed
amendments presented to the Georgia Board of Education in November 1997 blend those two rules
rather than having two operative rules. However, with either rule, districts must collect assessment data
in all four categories represented in the multiple-criteria rule. To be eligible to receive gifted education
services, a student must meet criteria in three of the four categories. At least one of the criteria must be
met by a qualifying score on a nationally-normed standardized test. Data used in one category to
establish eligibility cannot be used in another category. In those categories with two or three elements,
local districts can choose which elements they wish to use, although all are encouraged to have a variety
of ways to document students' strengths.
What Has Been Learned?
There is a need to reflect on the lessons that have been learned so far. We have learned that:
You must have a vision. It was critical for us to envision the day when Georgia's identification process
would focus less on labeling and more on diagnosis of students' outstanding abilities. Courageous
leadership was a necessity. Leadership at the Department of Education, within our state advocacy
organization, at The University of Georgia, and at the Office of Civil Rights made this happen.
You must have a design. Just the desire for a more equitable and instructionally sound identification
procedure would not have been enough. This was a complex change process which required a
systematic approach to helping others (who were at widely varying levels of readiness) understand and
implement the new rule.

You must work together to build it and own it. We now realize that the years of struggle were
necessary steps to really embracing and committing ourselves to this effort. No one could have handed
us the perfect procedure and set of assessment tools. The relationships that were built across the state
and the networking helped us to grow as no ready-made rule ever could have.
Taking a broader view of giftedness required us to abandon some comfortable old notions. Sources of
resistance to the rule change were often surprising. Many veteran gifted program educators were wary
of the new assessment procedures which required professional judgment rather than depending solely
on a score from a standardized test. Some also resisted the need to abandon one-size-fits-all enrichment
programs. It was important to maintain the practices which had been proven effective. Standardized
tests were still important; we just wanted to look for additional ways for some children to demonstrate
their abilities. A need for enrichment activities persists; but some children also needed accelerated
academic instruction or a mentor or a powerful arts program.
The most important thing we learned during our journey from psychometrics to assessment of talent
was, "We can do it!" Many very fine educators worked tirelessly to do what is right for Georgia's gifted
students. Our struggle and our successes have empowered us to continue to work for excellence for all
our students, including those who are most able.
By Sally C. Krisel and Ruth S. Cowan
Sally C. Krisel is the Gifted Program Specialist at the Georgia Department of Education and a doctoral
candidate at The University of Georgia
Ruth S. Cowan is an educational consultant specializing in gifted programming and certification.

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