MOULTRIE, Ga. — Recently, Willie J. Williams Middle School students participated in the data collection process in the development of the Naglieri General Ability Tests, a new suite of general ability tests that aim to increase fairness and equity.
These new tests were created by Dr. Jack A. Naglieri, author of the commonly used Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), Dr. Dina M. Brulles, and Dr. Kimberly Lansdowne, in partnership with test developer MHS Inc. The students at Williams Middle School, by participating in this study, will help develop a solution to the racial and ethnic disparity often found in gifted education, according to a press release from the school system.
“This school system is a perfect fit for this study because we have almost every demographic covered here in Colquitt County, which makes Williams Middle School a microcosm of America,” explained Allen Edwards, director of K-12 gifted education and 3-12 ELA curriculum for Colquitt County Schools. “That and the relatively large number of English learners in our district will give the researchers the evidence they need to make comparisons across ethnic and linguistic lines.”
The Naglieri General Ability Tests are a suite of three separate tests that measure general intellectual ability in multiple ways: Naglieri General Ability Tests–Verbal (Naglieri–V; Naglieri & Brulles), Naglieri General Ability Test–Nonverbal (Naglieri–NV; Naglieri), and Naglieri General Ability Tests–Quantitative (Naglieri–Q; Naglieri & Lansdowne). All three tests are scheduled for release in the 2021-2022 school year.
For its efforts, the school will receive the results from all three of the Naglieri General Ability Tests at no cost to the school district. Jim Horne, principal of Williams Middle School, said that is what attracted him to the project.
“It is rare for us to get this level of information about our students, especially for free,” said Horne. “We hope this will uncover some hidden strengths and weaknesses about our students so that we are better able to prepare our students for their next steps.”
Students completed the assessment online over three days in their social studies classes. On average, students took 25 minutes to complete each test. Horne was appreciative of his school’s willingness to participate.
“Our administrators, clerical staff, and social studies teachers worked hard to make this a successful testing experience,” said Horne.
Underrepresentation of students of color in gifted education has been a well-known issue for decades. The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing states that if a person has had limited opportunities to learn the content used in, for example, an intelligence test, that test may be considered unfair because it penalizes students for not knowing the answers. This means that all students must have had an equal opportunity to learn the content of the questions on an intelligence test. The Naglieri General Ability Tests were constructed so that all students could respond to all the test questions.
Naglieri said the test developers are passionate about achieving equity for all students.
“We developed these three separate tests to measure general intellectual ability from different perspectives across verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative content areas,” he said. “Test directions are provided using language-free animated instructions and test items were carefully designed to allow students to solve problems regardless of the language they speak, significantly reduce the demand for advanced academic knowledge, eliminate the need for verbal responses to the test questions, and greatly reduce cultural influences, so the tests measure general ability as fairly and equitably as possible.”
Edwards said the school system was first informed about the normative study by Dr. Tarek Grantham, professor of educational psychology and the coordinator for the Gifted and Creative Education Graduate Program at the University of Georgia, who stressed the importance of examining assessment policies, practices, and instruments that consistently yield disparate outcomes for underrepresented groups.
“Research and best practice affirm that the use of non-verbal instruments can support equitable representation, particularly when augmented by the use of local norms,” said Grantham, whose research focuses on equity for under-represented students in advanced programs. “Through its Championing Equity and Social Justice statement, the National Association for Gifted Children encourages leaders in gifted and talented education programs to understand that implicit biases can stem from systemic racism and lull educators to overlook and accept the status quo in terms of how students from different racial groups are inequitably identified and served.”
Grantham acknowledged the school district leaders’ efforts and expressed hope that they can correct the long-time equity issue.
“Fortunately, gifted education leaders in Colquitt County recognize that underrepresentation is a problem, and they are proactively exploring innovative identification approaches that aim to promote greater equity,” said Grantham. “Many leaders across the state of Georgia are paying close attention to Colquitt County in hopes that their innovations with identification and assessment can provide a pathway for underrepresented groups with gifts and talents to gain greater access to gifted education services and close excellence gaps.”