The Promise and Limitations of Universal Screening as a Strategy for Addressing Underrepresentation in Gifted Education

Dec 6, 2021 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM

This free event is brought to you by EdPolicy Works of UVA's School of Education & Human Development and open to the public.

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Jason Grissom
Professor, Tennessee Education Research Alliance


Professor Grissom's research uses large data sets and draws on the perspectives of political science, public administration, and economics to study the governance of K-12 education, including both its leadership/management and political dimensions. He is particularly interested in identifying the impacts of school and district leaders on teacher and student outcomes and has conducted research on principal effectiveness, human capital decision-making in schools, school board governance, and turnover among teachers, principals, and superintendents. He has also published a stream of articles on the implications of the race and gender composition of the public education workforce and the public bureaucracy more generally for the distribution of resources and outcomes among diverse groups. His work has appeared in such outlets as American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, Education Finance and Policy, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Politics, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Review, and Teachers College Record.


Scholars and advocates frequently cite universal screening as a promising strategy to increase representation of students of color and other historically marginalized groups in gifted programs. In 2017, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) implemented universal screening for giftedness among the district’s second graders using a standardized nonverbal assessment, the NNAT3. This study assesses whether this strategy increased representation among marginalized student populations and how patterns of representation under this system compares to what could be achieved under alternative identification procedures, such as identification via an alternative standardized achievement test and school-level norming. Universal screening with the NNAT3 increased representation of Hispanic students, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students, though the distribution of scores across students meant that identification still fell well short of proportionality. Moreover, use of the NNAT3 resulted in a more diverse gifted population than would be achieved choosing a similar fraction of students using a standardized achievement exam. Because of school segregation, employing school-specific cut scores for identifying students would make universal screening more effective at increasing representation of marginalized students in gifted education.