New Guidance Released to Help Schools Identify a More Diverse Pipeline of Gifted and Talented Students

The new guide was developed by NWEA’s Dr. Scott Peters National expert and researcher in gifted and talented programs and policies

Portland, Ore. — Oct. 3, 2023 — K-12 assessment and research organization NWEA announced today new guidance for gifted-and-talented service identification and placement developed by a national expert on the topic: Dr. Scott Peters. The comprehensive guide focuses on appropriately using data from such assessments as NWEA’s MAP Growth, and provides broader considerations for school districts to use in evaluating and determining their gifted-and-talented service placement criteria.

“There are advanced learners — those who are underchallenged and could do more — in every school. Effective placement criteria should catch all the students who would benefit from advanced opportunities, avoid considering factors that are irrelevant to readiness or success, and do so all while balancing cost with sensitivity,” said Peters, senior research scientist at NWEA and author of the guide. “This new guide is a reference for schools on how to appropriately utilize data as well as other inputs toward a more equitable approach.”

The guide highlights a two-phase identification system and recommends that one of the phases use a universal screener that yields highly reliable data, such as MAP Growth. This is not the common approach in today’s schools where the first phase is often a referral from a teacher or a parent that initiates the identification process. Peters notes that this is a subjective, lengthy approach that can miss students who would benefit from advanced learning opportunities.

Peters adds, “That’s particularly concerning for students of color and those from low-income families. Based on research, they are less likely to be referred and, therefore, most likely to benefit from a universal screening system that does not rely on such referrals.”

In addition, he emphasized in the guide that well-designed identification systems can be more effective, more equitable, as well as cost less and save time than those commonly practiced around the country now. The guide uses an example where a district moved from subjective teacher referrals to a universal screener. As a result, fewer students are missed simply because they didn’t receive the referral, fewer teachers need to complete referrals, and the population of students identified becomes more diverse as a result.

The guide also provides recommendations and approaches for using any assessment, including MAP Growth, for the second phase of the identification process. But Peters cautions, “In deciding which data points should contribute to placement decisions, schools should consider the principle of alignment which poses the following question: How well aligned are the content, skills, and dispositions measured by a given assessment with those that will be fostered in the resulting service? The best data points for informing placement in a program or service are those that measure the prerequisite skills necessary to benefit from that program or service.”

Gifted-and-talented services have a long history of under-identifying students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and those from low-income families. The guidelines presented in this new document can help the field move toward greater equity of identification by leveraging assessment data many already have on hand.

Read the full guide at:

About NWEA

NWEA® (a division of HMH) is a mission-driven organization that supports students and educators in more than 146 countries through research, assessment solutions, policy and advocacy services, professional learning and school improvement services that fight for equity, drive classroom impact and push for systemic change in our educational communities. Visit to learn more about how we’re partnering with educators to help all kids learn.

Contact: Simona Beattie, Sr. Manager, Public Relations, or 971.361.9526