Many gifted programs rely on more than one assessment when identifying eligible students. However, multiple criteria for identification can be a double-edged sword. Although it may sound like more criteria should automatically lead to more students being identified as gifted, this is not necessarily the case. If multiple criteria actually provide different pathways to be identified as gifted, then more students will be identified as gifted. However, if using multiple criteria means that all criteria must be met, then fewer students will be identified as gifted. McBee, Peters, and Waterman (2014) mathematically examined how different applications of multiple criteria can create different levels of exclusivity.
The three possible implementations of multiple criteria for identification that they analyzed were: “and,” “or,” and “mean” rules. The “and” rule of multiple criteria means that students have to meet the qualification threshold for all criteria. For example, a gifted program might require a student to have a certain level of classroom performance along with a high score on a state standardized test and placing in the upper percentiles of performance on an intelligence test. In contrast, the “or” rule means that a student only had to meet one of those criteria to be identified as gifted. A middle ground between these rules is the “mean” rule. This entails averaging relative performance on the different measures and comparing that to a requisite composite score.
For example, imagine a child takes three different tests and gets scores of 95 on the first, 92 on the second, and 100 on the third. If the school that the child attends requires a 95 for entrance into the gifted program, then eligibility will vary based on the combination rule used. If this is a school that employs the “or” rule, the student is given entrance into the program because she has a score at or above 95. If the school uses the “and” rule, the student is not given entrance into the program because she has one score below 95. Finally, at a school with the “mean” rule, the student is given entrance, since her average is 95.7.
It can be jarring for parents to realize that their child’s entrance into a program can be determined through the adoption of different identification rules. In the end, the authors conclude that the most important thing when schools determine how to implement multiple criteria is the underlying philosophy of the gifted program. This philosophy must guide the decision. For example, if the gifted program is an enrichment program where the stakes (e.g., an ungraded course) are low and the goal is to expose students to new content and ideas, then incorrectly identifying a student as gifted is not necessarily detrimental. Having an open and inclusive identification process is appropriate (i.e., many qualifying criteria using the “or” rule). On the other hand, if the gifted program is rigorous with higher stakes, such as grade skipping or early entrance to college, then the identification procedure may want to rely on more exclusive criteria combined with the “and” rule. In such a case, a student incorrectly identified risks failure and discouragement.
Educators should make certain that their identification procedure is aligned with their gifted services. Low-stakes programs may be better suited with using an “or” rule with multiple criteria. On the other hand, high-stakes rigorous programs that rely on multiple skill sets may benefit from relying on an “and” rule with multiple criteria.
McBee, M. T., Peters, S. J., & Waterman, C. (2014). Combining scores in multiple-criteria
assessment systems: The impact of combination rule. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(1), 69-89.