Why test? Frequently asked questions about Gifted Education Program

Why test?
You should test to answer a question. Tests can provide detailed information about a child’s learning needs. They help with educational planning as well as gifted identification for program participation. Tests can also offer information for early intervention of learning issues. You should test when you need an answer to a particular question.

What test does the Fowler School District use?

The Fowler Elementary School District uses the Cognitive Abilities Test to identify students who qualify for gifted services. The scores must be at or above the 97th percentile in the area of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and/or nonverbal reasoning to qualify for services. Other tests from the Arizona State List of Tests may also be used.

What is the test like?
The Cognitive Abilities Test for students in K-2 is an untimed, multiple choice test that is hand-scored. The students make their answer selections in the test booklet. There are three sections, one each for verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal. Beginning at the third grade level, the CogAT is a timed, multiple choice test with an electronically or hand-scored answer sheet on which students select their choices.  For more information, please see the Gifted Testing Page.

How is the test scored?
Scores are reported out using National Percentile (NP) for verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and/or nonverbal reasoning. Please remember that a percentile rank is not the same as the percent correct. Percentile ranks provide a comparison of the student’s performance to that of a national sample of students of the same age. Percentile ranks are used to rank students on a scale of 1 to 99.  If a student has a percentile of 71, this means the student scored higher than 70 of every 100 students that took the same test.

It is important to remember that the Cognitive Abilities Test measures a student’s reasoning ability and is not indicative of student achievement.  Scores in the 25th percentile to 75th percentile range are considered average scores. If the student scores below the 97th percentile, the regular curriculum is appropriate. If the student scores at or above the 97th percentile, state law requires that special services be provided.
 
If my child qualified in a previous district, does he/she automatically qualify in Fowler?
Not necessarily. Students transferring from other school districts must meet the same criteria required by currently enrolled Fowler students. Obtain from the school office on your campus the form titled “Release of Confidential Information.” Mail it to the former school district, and they will send the records directly to our district. Gifted records are not sent with your child’s regular file. Hand carried official copies are also acceptable. If the data completes the requirement for Fowler’s program, the student will be eligible. Often additional testing becomes necessary.

When is the next testing period? 
Testing is offered at least three times per year. During each school year, testing is done in the fall, winter, and spring. Retesting using Cognitive Abilities Test is available one calendar year after previous testing. Contact your individual school Gifted Resource Specialist for more information regarding testing dates.

How do I request testing for my child? 
Teachers or parents make referrals for students in grades 5-8. Contact your child’s school. Classroom teachers for students will be allowed time to familiarize themselves with the student’s academic ability and work habits.  If a parent requests testing for 5-8 students it is suggested that a Child Study Team consisting of parent, regular education teacher, gifted teacher, and administrator meet to discuss the academic and behavioral characteristics of the student.

Do qualified students have to retake the test each year?
Students who are already qualified for services and doing well do not need to re-qualify each year.

How do I find out my child’s scores?
The test results will be mailed directly to you usually within thirty days. Your child’s school site will identify the specific time table at the onset of each test cycle. If you do not receive the scores, please contact your school.

What if I have a question about the test or the test scores?
Please contact the Gifted Resource Specialist at your child’s school.

Can you test too much?
Of course. While it is acceptable to give an individual IQ test after initial testing is done with a screening measure or group ability test, there is rarely a need for multiple individual IQ tests. Sometimes retesting may be done around age 8 or 9 if the child was first tested at a very young age. Taking the same test (IQ, ability, or achievement) within 12 months is not recommended, and, in many cases, is unethical. Achievement tests might be used more often (though no more than annually), to determine academic placement in educational planning. At younger ages (grades K-2), individual achievement tests may be used. As the child approaches upper elementary grades, Curriculum Based Assessments (such as AIMS and nationally normed achievement tests) may be better for determining the child’s placement within the program’s curriculum. Testing the gifted child, like any other psycho-educational decision, is complex. Often children reflect parental attitudes towards testing. Viewing testing as a high stakes situation could affect the child’s attitude and performance. Consider why you are testing, what tests are necessary, and what answers you are looking for from the testing so that an informed decision can be made.

What if I would like a second assessment?
There are some options:

1.           Wait twelve months and have your child retested on the Cognitive Abilities Test at your child’s school.

2.           Contact a member of the Child Study Team at your child’s school for options available based on your child’s educational profile.

3.           Although the Child Study Team does not recommend the necessity of this option, you might personally choose to take your child to a licensed psychologist at any time for evaluation with one of the tests approved by the State of Arizona on the Arizona State List of Tests for identification of giftedness. If the scores are at or above the 97th percentile, bring official copies of them into the school office.  Scores from the same test taken within the previous 12 months will not be accepted.  You are responsible for paying any outside testing fees.

Can you recommend a psychologist?
This is a referral that should could from a physician or non-school related personnel. School employees are not permitted to recommend a psychologist.

If my child qualifies for services, when will services begin?
First, you will receive a letter with your child’s scores and notification to the next contact by your child’s Gifted Resource Specialist. Services will begin after the Child Study Team (CST) has determined the service start date and you have been given the CST’s programming recommendations. You will be able to decline services if you so desire.

What if my child does not qualify?
Not every student who is referred for testing will qualify for gifted services. In some instances additional testing may be recommended. Fowler makes every effort to meet each child’s needs. Please be assured that every effort will be made to insure your child’s program is matched to his/her abilities.

What do I tell my child?
As far as scores, sharing the specific scores are probably not in your child’s best interest. There have been times when parents, meaning to be kind, tell their child they “just missed it by one” or “just missed it by a little.” These generalizations, while meant to reassure, can also cause frustration in the child. Always congratulate him/her on his/her effort. Remind your child of the strengths and talents he/she has and how proud we all are of your child. Focus on things that can be celebrated, and help your child with a new goal to create a plan for developing strengths and weaknesses. If your child qualifies, refrain from details about service until you have conferenced with the Gifted Resource Specialist at your child’s school.

Do high scores on this test predict future success in school?
It is interesting to note that simply having high scores on this test is not necessarily a singularly reliable predictor of future academic success. There are many variables that can affect the relationship between a child’s ability and actual performance. Achievement scores, such as those on the Terra Nova, AIMS, or Fowler’s Benchmarks tend to be better predictors because they identify how well the child is actually using his/her potential. In order to achieve academic success, a child should use effective learning strategies, demonstrate perseverance, and develop a positive attitude toward learning. Research studies have shown that parents are excellent identifiers of “giftedness.” It is important that you trust your own instincts and be your child’s best advocate in evaluating your child’s potential talents. Regardless of the scores or whether or not your child qualifies for gifted services, continue to support your child in identifying and exploring high interest areas. Often these are not even academic areas. Help them develop a positive attitude towards learning, learn self discipline and good work habits, and nurture strong realistic beliefs in his/her own unique human potential. Many students who are successful in high school and college did not qualify for gifted services in the elementary years. Some students who did qualify for gifted services in elementary school are not as successful in high school or college. The results of any intelligence or ability test are always a snapshot of the child at the time of the test. Current brain research indicates that intelligence is not a fixed measurable phenomenon, but instead, multifaceted and changeable. Please keep this in mind as you support your child’s interests and talents.

How is the Gifted curriculum different from the regular classroom?
The Fowler Gifted Resource Program uses the same quality curricular standards as the regular classrooms. However, the differentiated curriculum is varied in content, process, and product as well as is the learning environment. You can read more about differentiation for gifted learners here.


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