young children generally, and with minority children in particular (Meisels, 1987; Anastasi, 1988, Gandara, 2000). Thus, while many of the predictors of academic failure are well established even for the very young, there is currently no consensus regarding predictors of giftedness.
For elementary and secondary students, limited programs of identification and services for gifted and talented students have been carried out under the auspices of the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program. But the collection of data in the framework of any systematic research paradigm has been limited. Yet the importance of early identification and opportunity to learn is likely to be as critical to the success of students at the upper end of the achievement distribution as it is for those at the lower end. And the problem of disentangling the child’s abilities from the previous opportunities to learn strikes a clear parallel. Nevertheless, the existing research base provides too weak a foundation for proposing an alternative assessment approach similar to that proposed for special education.
Assessment in special education is guided by complex legal requirements that are responsible in part for the gap between current practices and the state of the art. Direct measures of skills in natural settings, along with the application of problem-solving methodologies, have the promise of significantly improving the outcomes for students in special education and for those considered for but not placed in special education. Traditional disability conceptions and classification criteria interfere with the implementation of systematic problem solving, functional assessment, formative evaluation, and accountability for outcomes. The system changes discussed here and in the recommendations were anticipated in the 1982 National Research Council report. Over the last two decades, significant system changes have become more feasible due to advances in assessment and intervention knowledge. It now is time to implement these changes more widely as a means to protect all children from inappropriate classification and placement, as well as from ineffective special education programs.
The proposed change would focus attention away from efforts to uncover unobservable child traits ,the identification of which gives little insight into instructional response, and toward the problems encountered in the classroom and appropriate responses. The role of instruction and classroom management in student performance is explicitly acknowledged, and effort is devoted first to ensuring the opportunity to succeed in general education.