Gifted Education in PA: Chapter 16 of the School Code defines the rules and regulations concerning gifted education in Pennsylvania. Some sections of Chapter 16, Special Education for Gifted Students, are cited in order to draw a connection between the requirements for gifted education throughout the Commonwealth, and the operation of gifted education in the Deer Lakes School District.
Gifted Education is defined in §16.1 as follows:
Specially designed instruction to meet the needs of a gifted student that is:
• Conducted in an instructional setting.
• Provided in an instructional or skill area.
• Provided at no cost to the parents.
• Provided under the authority of a school district, by referral or by contract.
• Provided by an agency.
• Individualized to meet the educational needs of the student.
• Reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress.
• Provided in conformity with a GIEP.
Criteria for Eligibility
Chapter 16 provides further information about who is “mentally gifted”.
Each school district shall establish procedures to determine whether a student is mentally gifted (§16.21).
This term includes a person who has an IQ of 130 or higher OR when multiple criteria indicate gifted ability. Determination of gifted ability will not be based on IQ score alone.
Deficits in memory or processing speed, as indicated by testing, cannot be the sole basis upon which a student is determined to be ineligible for gifted special education. A person with an IQ score lower than 130 may be admitted to gifted programs when other educational criteria in the profile of a person strongly indicate gifted ability (§16.21).
Multiple criteria indicating gifted ability include:
- A year or more above grade achievement level for the normal age group in one or more subjects as measured by nationally normed and validated achievement tests able to accurately reflect gifted performance.
- An observed or measured rate of acquisition/retention of new academic content or skills that reflect gifted ability.
- Demonstrated achievement, performance or expertise in one or more academic areas as evidenced by excellence of products, portfolio or research, as well as criterion-referenced team judgment.
- Early and measured use of high level thinking skills, academic creativity, leadership skills, intense academic interest areas, communication skills, foreign language aptitude or technology expertise.
- Documented, observed, and validated or assessed evidence that intervening factors such as English as a second language, disabilities, gender, or race bias, or socio/cultural deprivation area masking gifted abilities (§16.21).
Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation
Chapter 16 defines the referral and evaluation process for determining if a student meets the criteria for mentally gifted and needs specially designed instruction (§16.22).
* Referral for a gifted multidisciplinary evaluation shall be made when teachers indicate that a student may be gifted and the student is not receiving an appropriate education under Chapter 4 (relating to academic standards and assessment) and one or more of the following apply:
A request for evaluation has been made by the student’s parents under subsection (c).
The student is thought to be gifted because the school district’s screening of the student indicates high potential consistent with the definition of mentally gifted or a performance level that exceeds that of other students in the classroom.
Teacher Referral - In addition to the screening, at any time, a teacher can refer a student for a gifted multidisciplinary evaluation by completing the Teacher Referral for Gifted Support Services and submitting it with evidence of exemplary performance to the Special Education Office.
Parent Referral - A parent is able to request, in writing, a gifted multidisciplinary evaluation, one time per year. Parents may request an evaluation in writing and address that request to their building principal or the Director of Special Education. If a child has received an individual IQ test after the age of 8 years, the IQ score from that test may be used in determining eligibility.
Chapter 16 describes the composition of the Gifted Multidisciplinary Team (GMDT), the information that must be included, and the sources of the information, as well as the protection in evaluation considerations for the assessment materials (§16.22).
* Multidisciplinary evaluations shall be conducted by GMDTs [Gifted Multidisciplinary Teams]. The GMDT shall be formed on the basis of the student’s needs and shall be comprised of the student’s parents, a certified school psychologist, persons familiar with the student’s educational experience and performance, one or more of the student’s current teachers, persons trained in the appropriate evaluation techniques and, when possible, persons familiar with the student’s cultural background. A single member of the GMDT may meet two or more of the qualifications specified in this subsection.
* Gifted multidisciplinary evaluations must be sufficient in scope and depth to investigate information relevant to the student’s suspected giftedness, including academic functioning, learning strengths and educational needs.
* The multidisciplinary evaluation process must include information from the parents or others who interact with the student on a regular basis, and may include information from the student if appropriate.
* The following protection-in-evaluation measures shall be considered when performing an evaluation of students suspected of being gifted:
- No one test or type of test may be used as the sole criterion for determining that a student is or is not gifted.
- Intelligence tests yielding an IQ score may not be used as the only measure of aptitude for students of limited English proficiency, or for students of racial-, linguistic-or ethnic-minority background.
- Tests and similar evaluation materials used in the determination of giftedness shall be:
- Selected and administered in a manner that is free from racial and cultural bias and bias based on disability.
- Selected and administered so that the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude, achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure.
- Professionally validated for the specific purpose for which they are used.
- Administered by certified school psychologists under instructions provided by the producer of the tests and sound professional practice.
- Selected and administered to assess specific areas of educational need and ability and not merely a single general IQ.
As a result of the Gifted Multidisciplinary Team Evaluation, the GMDT prepares a written report that brings together the information and findings from the evaluation or reevaluation concerning the student’s educational needs and strengths. The report 1.) makes recommendations as to whether the student is gifted and in need of specially designed instruction, 2.)indicates the basis for those recommendations, and 3.) includes recommendations for the student’s programming and indicates the names and positions of the members of the GMDT.
The initial evaluation must be completed and a copy of the evaluation report presented to parents no later than 60 calendar days after the agency receives written parental consent for evaluation, except that the calendar days when students are not in session during the summer.