Equitable assessment of gifted students using the Naglieri General Ability Tests

Equitable assessment of gifted students using the Naglieri General Ability Tests

Jack A. Naglieri, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and Senior Research Scientist at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. Dr. Naglieri has focused his efforts on theoretical and practical issues concerning equitable assessment of intelligence, diagnosis of learning disabilities, academic interventions, and social emotional competence.

We spoke with Dr. Naglieri about his work and with a particular focus on equitable identification of gifted students from diverse populations.

How did you become interested in equitable assessment and especially the identification of gifted students?

In 1979 I accepted my first faculty position at Northern Arizona University, which is in Flagstaff, not far from Second Mesa, the home to members of the Hopi Tribe. It was my first exposure to the complexities of measuring intelligence for these students who have unique linguistic and socio-cultural experiences. What stood out to me was the absurdity of measuring intelligence using test questions that required knowledge of English, arithmetic word problems, comprehension of verbal instructions, and verbal expression. This led to my first publication on fair assessment (Naglieri, 1982) entitled “Does the WISC-R Measure Verbal Intelligence for non-English Speaking Children?” The answer: definitely not! Since then, I have published many research papers and tests with an emphasis on equity. The most important are the Cognitive Assessment System and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Tests.

What did your research on the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test reveal?

The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, now in its third edition (NNAT3), is a measure of general ability that yields small differences across race, ethnicity, and gender. I have published several research papers showing that males and females get remarkably similar scores on the NNAT. In addition, Dr. Donna Ford and I found that similar proportions of Black, White, and Hispanic students earned scores high enough to be considered for gifted educational programs, which could address the under-representation of Black and Hispanic identifying students. I have also found that NNAT scores are strongly correlated with achievement. Although the NNAT is the third most widely used tool for identifying gifted students, professionals in the field have also asked for verbal and quantitative tests of general ability.

So, what did you do to address this concern?

I had the great fortune to partner with two extraordinary experts in gifted education to create verbal (with Dr. Dina Brulles) and quantitative (with Dr. Kim Lansdowne) tests to accompany a new nonverbal test which I authored with the express goal of equitable assessment of general ability.

Tell us a bit about the new suite of tests you have developed for identification of gifted students.

Researchers have found that students of historically marginalized groups are under-identified by about 50% in gifted programs. To quantify that percentage, I analyzed the total number of students in public education and the number of students in gifted education programs by race and ethnicity (grades K-12). The results revealed that nearly 875,000 Black, Hispanic, Native American, and students of two or more races who are smart enough to be considered gifted (92nd percentile and above in ability) were not identified. This is a problem that could be addressed using ability tests that were designed and validated to be equitable for all students. The suite of tests we have created are referred to as the Naglieri General Ability Tests: Verbal, Nonverbal, and Quantitative. These tests were developed to address the need for equitable assessment of gifted students from diverse cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds and those with limited educational experiences. The way in which we choose to measure general ability was carefully considered.

First, we devised a way to measure general ability using verbal questions that can be solved using any language. Second, we created animated instructions so that the students could see the demands of the tests rather than comprehend verbal instructions provided by the examiner. Third, a multiple-choice format was used to eliminate the need for a verbal response.

The three Naglieri General Ability Tests all measure how well a student can think to solve problems in a way that is not confounded by levels of academic knowledge. The verbal test that Dr. Dina Brulles and I created (Naglieri-V; Naglieri & Brulles, 2021) measures general ability with questions requiring a child to recognize a verbal concept using pictures rather than words represent that concept. This test was modeled after the neuropsychological work of A. R. Luria. The nonverbal test (Naglieri-NV; Naglieri, 2021) is like those I have published in the past but with new items. The Naglieri-NV measures general ability using questions that require a student to carefully examine shapes presented in a matrix where sequences, spatial orientations, and other distinguishing characteristics must be analyzed to determine the answer. The Quantitative test which Dr. Kim Lansdowne and I created (Naglieri-Q; Naglieri & Lansdowne, 2021) measures general ability using questions that require a student to closely examine the relationships among the numbers and/or symbols using basic math concepts. All three of these tests measure what is referred to as general ability, which is sometimes designated by the letter g.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the Naglieri General Ability Tests is how we have structured the student’s interaction and the test. For example, we inform the students about the demands of each of the three tests without using oral or written directions using an animated video of an avatar in front of a computer. As the video plays, the character moves the mouse, and the cursor moves accordingly. The video illustrates how to examine the item, select and change an answer, and then how to advance to the next item. This format is used when the test is administered online, and a four-frame pictorial version of the video is used when the test is administered on paper.

Making the test questions for all three tests accessible regardless of what language the student speaks was accomplished by using pictures and diagrams to measure general ability within verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative contexts. To eliminate the need for the student to verbally explain the answers (as is typically done on traditional measures of IQ), the student selects a picture that indicates their response. These procedures allow students to solve the test questions regardless of what language(s) they know.

Is there any evidence that your goal of equitable assessment was achieved?

Based on a research paper currently under review for publication entitled “Achieving Equity: Race, Ethnic, Gender, and Parental Education Level Differences on Verbal, Nonverbal, and Quantitative Naglieri General Ability Tests” by Selvamenan, Paolozza, Solomon, Naglieri, and Schmidt (2020) the answer is an affirmative YES! In this manuscript submitted for publication (January 2022) we reported little to no differences across race, ethnicity, gender, and parental education on the Verbal (N = 2,482), Nonverbal (N = 3,488), and Quantitative (N = 2,440) tests for public and private school students in Pre-K through Grade 12. The results support our expectation that the confounding impact of language and knowledge, particularly in the directions, test content, and response format, can be minimized to achieve an equitable way of assessing diverse populations of students for gifted education programs.

How can I learn more about this new product?

Webinars and handouts about The Naglieri General Ability Tests are available on my website (https://naglierigiftedtests.com/). These resources describe why the tests were developed, the need that they address, what the items look like, how the tests can be used to identify a wide variety of gifted students and how to interpret the scores.

For more information about the upcoming release of this product visit MHS’ Gifted and Talented Hub.

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