Providing opportunity: Finding high ability using the Naglieri General Ability TestsMatthew Schmidt
In the context of giftedness assessment, tests are often the gatekeepers to opportunity. Historically, nonverbal tests were a student’s only means of demonstrating their ability while remaining largely free from knowledge acquired in an educational environment. Unfortunately, to be eligible for gifted and advanced programs, many states require proof of aptitude in verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative domains.
This requirement raises two questions:
“How can a gifted administrator find high ability across these multiple domains?” and “How can that be done fairly?”
While the continued use of nonverbal tests is encouraged, many assessments commonly used to provide evidence of verbal and/or quantitative ability may disadvantage students who have not had the opportunity to learn the material required to perform well. Consider a scenario where a test demands reasoning, but the test questions also require a) comprehension of English at a level the student is not at yet, b) familiarity with cultural references the student is not aware of, or c) knowledge of advanced mathematical concepts the student may not have had a chance to learn yet. In this scenario, if that student does not accurately answer the test questions, it is difficult to determine whether that is due to their reasoning ability or to some other extraneous factor such as those listed above.
How do the Naglieri General Ability Tests improve fairness and reduce bias?
Identifying students with high ability in a fair, equitable, and representative manner has been an ongoing challenge in the field of gifted and talented education. The tests and procedures used to help identify gifted and talented students who come from diverse cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds have played a part in underrepresentation.
The Naglieri General Ability Tests (Naglieri, Brulles, & Lansdowne, 2021) were expressly designed to reduce the influence of culture and language, as well as minimize academic knowledge required to perform well on the three tests (that is, the Naglieri–Nonverbal, Naglieri–Quantitative, and Naglieri–Verbal). These efforts result in a suite of tests that measure how well a student thinks versus measuring what a student knows. Building tests in this way is a great strategy to improve fairness and reduce bias. By extension, these tests can be used effectively as an opportunity for students of all backgrounds to put their abilities on display. Because the tests were designed to be inclusive and equitable, they can be a powerful opportunity to give students an equal chance to demonstrate their reasoning skills in multiple domains.
It is strongly recommended that all students eligible for consideration into a gifted program be tested with all three of the Naglieri General Ability Tests. This recommended testing experience lets students demonstrate their ability through verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative content while also leveling the playing field, such that students are not penalized for not having had the opportunity to learn key information, vital to strong test performance.
Please consider the following two case studies as examples of this recommendation (student names have been changed to protect their privacy).
Matthew was a second-grade student in consideration for admittance into a gifted program in the Western region of the United States. Matthew’s scores were in the average range on the Naglieri–NV (Naglieri, 2021) and the Naglieri–Q (Naglieri & Lansdowne, 2021) with standard scores of 106 (66th percentile) and 104 (61st percentile), respectively. However, Matthew demonstrated exceptional ability on the Naglieri–V (Naglieri & Brulles, 2021) with a standard score of 137, representing the 99th percentile.
Similarly, Joanna was a first-grade student in consideration for gifted education in the Southern region of the United States. Her performance on the Naglieri–V and Naglieri–NV were slightly below average, with standard scores of 86 (18th percentile) and 94 (34th percentile), respectively. However, it became apparent that Joanna possessed an exceedingly strong aptitude for quantitative problem-solving and was able to show that on the Naglieri–Q, where she received a standard score of 134 (99th percentile).
In these scenarios, using a conventional nonverbal test alone would fail to recognize the cognitive ability possessed by both these students. In fact, were it not for the administration of all three tests, these two highly able students would not have had the chance to demonstrate their ability and may have missed out on the opportunity to qualify for gifted programming.
The Naglieri General Ability Tests provide students the means to demonstrate their ability, while minimizing the influence of scholastic learning, which is a unique and important feature within the field of giftedness identification testing. Increasing opportunity through tests, such as what is demonstrated through the Naglieri General Ability Tests, permits a significant amount of high ability students the access to advanced programming that they deserve.
Learn more about how the Naglieri General Ability Tests are putting fairness, equity, and representation first in gifted and talented education, visit our Gifted and Talented Hub.