School Screenings vs Professional Assessment
The short answer to the above question is, usually, “No.” The majority of schools use group screening instruments (such as the CogAT) to test students for inclusion in gifted enrichment programs. While these group measures are economical and can do a good job of identifying advanced ability in many gifted students, it is important to note that they are *screening* tools and there can be disadvantages for some children of being tested in a group setting. For example, the multiple choice format of these screening tests can be difficult for gifted children, who often overthink such questions, and the end result is that the group screener may end up not identifying a gifted child as such. Group administration of tests also eliminates the crucial observations by the examiner of how a child approaches various tasks. As a result, distractible children will obtain lower scores on these tests. Additionally, at the current time, only children who are recommended by parents and teachers are included in the screening process. There are a number of factors that can mask a child’s gifted potential, leaving them at risk for not being identified through the current gifted identification process in schools.
Even when a group screening such as the CogAT has identified a child as qualifying for gifted services, the measures do not provide individualized information about a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Similar to hearing and vision screenings, these group testing measures are best viewed as a means for identifying students who need additional services in order to best serve their needs. Obtaining a clearer and more comprehensive picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you create an educational plan that will directly address his or her true needs.