In yesterday’s column (“The AIM Puzzle: The Problem of Identification”), we presented some of the concerns about the AIM identification process as laid out by people who spoke with the Vanguard, as well what was laid out by Tobin White and Scott Carrell in their respective reports. However, some have argued that this is neither a full nor accurate picture of the AIM identification process or what is going on.
A key component that was missing from analysis presented yesterday is the search and serve process. The Vanguard was referred to the GATE Master Plan, which was unfortunately last updated back in 2008. Since that time, budget cuts resulted in the loss of the GATE counselor who was used to help evaluate students for identification purposes.
The main instrument that the district uses is the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test), which attempts to assess “examinees’ ability to cope with school learning tasks, to suggest their possible placement for school learning functions, and to evaluate their achievement in relation to the talents they bring to school learning situations.”
If the student does not qualify based on the minimum OLSAT scores at the 96th percentile, there are a set of specific criteria for triggering the Search and Serve Process for re-screening. Yesterday, we wrote that the district is not “enforcing the rule that retesting for the TONI [Test of Nonverbal Intelligence] occur with students within five standard errors of the 96th percentile.”
But if you read the Gate Master Plan, you see that this is only one criterion for retesting. As was pointed out to me, if you believe that the OLSAT is problematic for low-SES (socioeconomic status) kids and kids with other learning impairments, then you wouldn’t want simply to rely on those who are near-misses to fill the program.
Instead, there are several assessments that trigger the Search and Serve process. These include risk factors such as: socioeconomic status, language, health, designated special education, etc. There are also work sample assessments and parent or teacher indicators of gifted characteristics.
The point was made to the Vanguard that one reason you have a higher rate of acceptance on retesting than the general population is that, while the OLSAT is administered to every student, the TONI or other retesting methods are only administered to those students who are believed to have been missed by the OLSAT.
In other words, Tobin White noted that just 3 percent of students score at the 99th-percentile through the OLSAT, while 28 percent do so through TONI. He found that students administered the TONI were six times more likely to qualify than those taking only the OLSAT and nine times more likely to score in the 99th percentile.
However, Tobin White may not be making an apples to apples comparison if the OLSAT is administered to everyone but the TONI is administered only to those believed to be strong candidates for the program.
Accordingly, the WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) Verbal is administered to those students “who appear highly verbal and who meet criteria (as laid out above).” The TONI “is administered to those students who appear nonverbally/spatially advanced, who have limited English, who benefit from more structured test environment without time constraints, and who meet the criteria (as laid out above).” The Structure of Intellect Learning Abilities Test (SOI-LA) or the Slossen Intelligence Test (SOI) “may be administered as an alternative for those students who have taken the above named tests within a 12 month period and who meet the criteria (as laid out above).”
Finally, “Administration of re-screening methods will be available in the student’s primary language if the primary language is English or Spanish; it may be available in other languages whenever appropriate for the student and feasible for the district.”
One person the Vanguard talked to noted that one year the use of the TONI was replaced with Slossen, but the results were identical. They also told the Vanguard they were looking for ways to expand the options for testing and retesting.
Yesterday, we noted from the Tobin White report that 331 of the 492 retested through TONI “had no risk factors at all.” This number is in dispute, but the Vanguard would like to see documentation to verify or invalidate this claim.
The Master Plan is admittedly outdated. The Vanguard was told that the AIM Advisory Committee was precluded from updating it. However, at least based on the Master Plan, the claim that retesting is only for those who score within five points of the qualification score appears false and there appear to be good reasons not to do that.
That being the case, the graphics presented show a changing GATE/AIM population over the last decade, but perhaps not a larger one.
We will also further examine the claim that the TONI is being misused outside of those with specific disabilities or risk factors.
The Vanguard‘s purpose here is not to assert a stance on GATE/AIM, but rather to evaluate the competing claims, and as much as possible move from the realm of opinion into hard data that can be used to assess the critical issues facing the AIM program.
—David M. Greenwald reporting