IQ testing gifted education guide

Parents' Guide to IQ Testing
and Gifted Education

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"I wish I would have read this book when my older daughter was still in school. I'm recommending it to other parents."

"Dr. Palmer's book is a breath of fresh air, giving parents a valuable glimpse into how the 'system' of testing and evaluation really works!"

"... thorough and easy to understand. You answered all of our questions..."

"... showed me how to work with the school to find the program my child needed..."

Gifted Testing, Gate Testing, Gifted-Talented Testing FAQs

For Additional Information on Private Gate Testing, Learning Disability Assessment and IQ Testing for Educational Planning - Visit Dr. Palmer's Private Practice Site:

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"A great help to our family. Thanks to Parents' Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education and a consultation with Dr. Palmer, our bright and talented daughter is now back on track. Based on Dr. Palmer's recommendations, we were able to map out a better educational path, identify enrichment programs for her and find ways to connect with other gifted children. A year later, she has regained her love of learning. I highly recommend this book to any parent who suspects their child is gifted and who wants to make sure their child is getting the best education possible."

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Below are abbreviated excerpts from Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education, answering some common questions parents have when considering GATE testing and gifted programs for their child.

GATE testing, TAG testing, gifted testing – what’s the difference?
Why do most districts use IQ tests to select kids for gifted programs?
What type of IQ tests do schools use for Gifted and Talented programs?
At what age are children ususally tested for giftedness?
The GATE testing program at my daughter’s school includes an IQ test. How accurate are IQ tests?
What do IQ tests measure?

Q: GATE testing, TAG testing, gifted testing – what’s the difference?

A: There isn’t necessarily any difference. These are just different terms for gifted education program assessment.

PARENTS' GUIDE TO IQ TESTING AND GIFTED EDUCATION by David Palmer, Ph.D. is available online thru
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Gifted education programs are not federally mandated or regulated so states and individual districts have a lot of flexibility in how they run, and what they call their programs.

The two most common terms used are:

• Gifted and Talented programs – or GATE programs
• Talented and Gifted programs – or TAG programs.

Most districts use the term Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.

Just as districts have a lot of flexibility in what to call and how to run their programs, they may also differ in how they select students for these programs. However, most use IQ testing as one of the main selection criteria.

Chapter Three of Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education Looks at different types of gifted education program options and some of the teaching techniques used in GATE or TAG programs. Chapters One, Two, and Four look at how gifted kids are identified and answers the questions parents have most about gifted testing.

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Q: Why do most districts use IQ tests to select kids for gifted programs?

A: There are many ways to be gifted. And some school districts, typically the larger ones, will have special programs for students talented in areas not measured on IQ tests. Artistically gifted kids may qualify for magnet school programs which focus on the arts, for example, with entrance based on teacher recommendations, judged performances, or a portfolio review. And virtually all school districts will have programs for physically gifted students – varsity level sports teams, where those with exceptional talent in a particular sport compete against each other to be placed on a team with other students of similar ability.

Identifying gifted children for these programs is sometimes a difficult task. There is always some subjectivity in deciding who makes varsity, for example, or which dancer, painter, or musician is talented enough to be accepted into an arts magnet program. Identifying children who will benefit from a program for the intellectually gifted can also be difficult. One obstacle involves trying to distinguish bright, high-achieving students who may be best served in a traditional classroom from those who have such advanced abilities, and learn so differently, that they need a different kind of school experience to succeed.

This distinction would be easy if all gifted children acted the same. But, of course, they don’t. In fact, they are often more different from one another than they are from many of their average-ability peers. Using a limited approach to identification, such as teacher recommendation or a review of grades or achievement test scores, just won’t work. High-achieving children may be identified this way, but not the intellectually gifted. For this reason, most districts use a multifaceted approach to gifted assessment, basing the selection of gifted children on a variety of screening methods. Each district will have a specific person or team who determines what criteria to use. Some may rate children on a point scale in several areas, including how they score on an individual IQ test, and then offer gifted program services to those receiving a certain number of points. Others use multiple gifted assessment screening methods largely to select children for an individual IQ test and then use the score on that test as the final criterion on which selection is made.

Chapter One of Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education will help you understand what IQ tests measure and what the three common types of IQ scores mean so that you can better work with the school when making placement decisions for your child. This chapter also describes how IQ tests are administered and what the test experience is like for kids.

Chapter Two looks at some of the other criteria that districts may use when selecting kids for gifted programs or deciding who qualifies to take an individual IQ test. This chapter also offers some suggestions on how to work with the teacher to make sure your child’s learning needs are being met.

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Q: What type of IQ tests do schools use for Gifted and Talented programs?

A: There are two basic types of IQ tests that are used in gifted assessment – group tests and individually administered tests. Although both attempt to measure skills involved in school learning, there are some important differences in both format and content.

For example, because group tests are designed to be administered quickly and measure only a limited set of cognitive skills, they are not considered to be as reliable or as accurate as individually administered tests. Due to these limitations, group tests are often thought of as screening assessments and many (perhaps most) districts use them primarily to select students for further testing with an individually administered IQ test.

It’s also true that group tests may underestimate the IQ or ability level of some highly gifted children.

Chapters One and Four in Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education look further at the differences between individual and group IQ tests and at reasons why some kids may not do well in a group test setting.

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Q: At what age are children usually tested for giftedness?

A: Deciding when to test is really a matter of when the information is needed. There are IQ tests that go down to age two or earlier; however, testing for giftedness is not warranted at this age. Scores obtained before age 4 or so can be unstable. IQ scores become relatively stable after age 4 1/2 and continue to stabilize as children get older.

IQ tests are typically conducted in the schools from preschool age on when children are being evaluated for special education services. However, IQ testing for gifted programs usually doesn't occur in the schools until second grade, largely because gifted education programming tyically starts in this grade.

Most of the children I test in my private practice are in the 4 1/2 to 12 year old range. Many parents of precocious preschoolers who are considering school options seek private testing to get an objective view of their child's learning needs in order to make more informed decisions. Other parents seek private testing later in the school years when considering outside enrichment options - or if their child isn't being challenged or engaged by the school curriculum and they believe their child has been overlooked by the school's gifted education screening process. Many districts use a group IQ test to screen for gifted programs, and these tests often under identify gifted child. The administration of an individually administered comprehensive IQ test offers a more valid and reliable picture of a child's learning needs.

Other parents seek testing when their child is displaying behavioral issues, emotional signs, or social behaviors that are common to giftedness but could be misinterpreted by overzealous or misinformed professionals as ADHD, an emotional problem, or even a form of autism. While gifted kids can certainly have these conditions, the more information parents and others have, the better the chance to avoid potentially misleading or even harmful diagnoses.

See Chapters Four and Chapter Six in Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education for more on early testing and the potential emotional and social implications of giftedness.

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Q: The GATE testing program at my daughter’s school includes an IQ test. How accurate are IQ tests?

A: While all test scores contain some element of error, the score on a competently administered IQ test given after age four or so should be pretty accurate for most children. Yet, keep in mind that a person’s true ability can never be known, just estimated. In fact the score a child gets on an IQ test is not considered to be a "true score."

It’s also true that many bright or gifted kids don’t do well on IQ tests – sometimes due to some of the very traits of giftedness - such as perfectionism, inattentiveness, or "overly creative" thinking.

Chapter Four in Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education the looks at the question of test error further while Chapter Seven provides information on bright kids with learning disabilities – or twice exceptional kids – who are unlikely to shine on IQ tests.

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Q: What do IQ tests measure?

A: IQ tests don't tap into all, or even most, areas of intelligence. In fact, critics argue that the skills that are measured are so narrow, so limited when compared to the broad range of human abilities and talents that are important for success and happiness in life, that IQ scores can give us a very restricted and misleading view of a person’s true gifts and abilities. These tests are not designed to measure things like social skills, creativity, motivation, or self-esteem - all attributes which may be just as, or even more, important to your child’s achievement and satisfaction than her IQ. So then, just what are IQ tests and what are they good for?

Chapter One in Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education looks at this question. Back to top

Parents' Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education
by David Palmer, Ph.D.

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