Exploring Methods for Identifying Gifted Children

There were 3.6 million gifted children in the United States in 2019. At first glance this seems like a good statistic. However, the methods used to pinpoint these students are sometimes controversial.

Defining Gifted and Talented


Individual districts determine policies and procedures. Generally speaking, a gifted student is defined as one who performs above average in one or more educational areas. A common myth is that each gifted student excels in every subject. Actually, some shine in one specific subject such as literature. 

There is no “one size fits all” approach to identifying intelligent children. However, the most widely used method in the United States is testing.

Illustration of a pair of hands holding a wrapped gift box surrounded by happy kids or people
Illustration of a pair of hands holding a wrapped gift box surrounded by happy kids or people. By DeRosia Price-Webb

Test Types


There are two kinds of gifted and talented tests: ability and achievement. Ability tests intend to measure analytical intelligence. These include:

  • Stanford-Binet, Form L-M (This test measures general knowledge, reasoning, visual-spatial processing, etc. A professional such as a psychologist should administer it.)
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (This test shows how much a child can learn and can sometimes identify learning disabilities such as ADHD.)
  • Otis-Lennon (This is a group test measuring “a student’s verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative ability.”)
  • Hemmon-Nelson (This is a group gifted and talented IQ test.)

Achievement tests may measure a pupil’s knowledge in a certain subject like history or math and may also be standardized. The National Association for Gifted Children, or NAGC, notes that achievement tests which are specifically for gifted students include:

  • Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students (This is for pupils in Kindergarten through eighth grade. This test has two levels, and each level comprises four subtests: nonverbal reasoning, verbal reasoning, History/Language Arts, and Mathematics/Science.)
  • TOMAGS (This measures mathematical ability.)

Parents have mixed reactions about these tests. Some do not like them because of the “cookie cutter” approach. Others believe they are good because they include groups such as disabled children.


Unequal Representation


It is important not to overlook minorities. According to the NAGC, Its estimated that African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students are underrepresented by at least 50% in programs for the gifted.” Administrators and teachers must consider their needs. For instance, a Hispanic Kindergartener might need a good bilingual teacher. 

Funding and resources are also vital. Some teachers buy their own classroom supplies and impoverished schools are less likely to have resources like computer labs. 


There is a great debate about the methods used to identify gifted children. The major issues include lack of access to testing, lack of money, and lack of understanding other cultures. If educators want to ensure everyone reaches their full potential, they must evolve and listen.



  1. Becton Loveless, “Guide on Identifying Gifted Children,” Identifying Gifted Children: The Definitive Guide, accessed June 22, 2020, https://www.educationcorner.com/identifying-gifted-children.html.
  2.  “Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales,” Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, accessed June 22, 2020, http://www.healthofchildren.com/S/Stanford-Binet-Intelligence-Scales.html.
  3. Robert Kennedy, “Learn More About Wechsler Intelligence Tests,” ThoughtCo, January 19, 2020, accessed June 23, 2020, https://www.thoughtco.com/explanation-of-wechsler-tests-2774691.
  4. “Tests & Assessments,” National Association for Gifted Children, accessed June 23, 2020, https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/gifted-education-practices/identification/tests-assessments.
  5.  “SAGES3 Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary and Middle School Students Third Edition Complete Kit,” PRO ED, accessed June 29, 2020, https://www.proedinc.com/Products/14765/sages3-screening-assessment-for-gifted-elementary-and-middle-school-studentsthird-edition-complete-kit.aspx.



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