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IQ Tests, GT, AAP, and PC in Fairfax Co Schools

IQ Tests, GT, AAP, and PC in Fairfax Co Schools

Question by FCTA's Fred Costello -- 2015-08-07

I've been told that Fairfax County students used to be put into Gifted and Talented (GT) programs if their IQ was above 140. Now, students are allowed into Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) if their IQ is sufficient and if their teachers recommend them. Are these statements correct?

I'm also told that 6% of students in grades 3 to 8 were in GT, but now 20% are in AAP. Did the FCPS lower the IQ requirement for AAP vs. GT? At what age does the FCPS test the students to determine their IQ?

Answer by a knowledgeable FCPS source -- 2015-08-07

From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, kids were put into GT Centers only if they had a 140 IQ, with rare exceptions. And, I don't think every kid with a 140 IQ was admitted. The percentage started around 1% of second graders in the 1970s, and quickly rose to 5%, where it stayed for years.

Around 1995, FCPS got rid of the individual IQ tests, which FCPS had only given to kids who the teachers thought had the most potential. Instead, they substituted less accurate group ability tests (CogAT and OLSAT), which they gave to 100% of the 1st and 2nd grade students. They also emphasized the student's Gifted Behaviors Rating Scale (GBRS). In other words, they introduced subjectivity. The percentage of 2nd graders admitted crept up from 5% to about 8% by 2002.

Throughout those transitional years, the GT Center selection process still started by identifying 10% of the second graders with the highest scores on the CogAT and OLSAT. If kids were not in the 10% pool (as it was called) because they had lower scores, their parents or their teachers could still "refer" them for consideration. The real decisions, however, came when the central staff AAP Coordinator and the people she selected for the screening committees decided who was in or out. They started admitting more kids who were "referred" and higher percentages of kids in the pool, although they sometimes rejected kids with very high scores.

In 2002, FCPS decided to dramatically increase the percentage of second graders admitted to the GT Center. They started by lowering standards on the second round, in the subjective process. They tried to get more minorities into the second round, by substituting the NNAT for the OLSAT on the first round. They also expanded the "pool", so it was no longer just 10% of the second graders. And, they kept tweaking the GBRS form to emphasize factors that they hoped would lead to a more racially diverse group of identified students.

At the same time, central staff piloted "Local Level IV" classes in a growing number of elementary schools. A typical Local Level IV class would consist of zero to 3 kids who would have qualified for the old GT Center program before 2002, another handful who qualified for the post-2002 GT Center program, and a bunch of other kids who the principal put in the room. Usually, he'd start with the minorities in the Young Scholars program, then would add in some of the higher-achieving neighborhood kids who weren't in Young Scholars.

Between 2002 and 2012, the central staff AAP Coordinator used her discretion to continuously ramp up the percentage of kids being identified what was renamed the AAP Center program (and that she began calling Level IV). I believe they admitted over 20% of the second graders in 2011, to try and trigger a facilities crisis that they hoped to use to eliminate the Center program in 2012, and to replace the Centers with Local Level IV classes.

Although some School Board members and FCPS staffers say otherwise, FCPS has admitted far too many kids to the Center program who really should stay in their neighborhood schools. It's sort of like TJ admissions. In some of the schools that fed kids to Haycock's AAP Center, they admitted kids below grade level who had to work with the reading specialist. Experienced GT Center teachers said most Center students didn't belong in those classes, and they had to dumb down the curriculum. They saw lots of kids whose CogAT scores were under 120, and some who scored less than 100. The mean CogAT score dropped below 120, I believe. Parents of the kids who really needed something more challenging were bored stiff in their AAP Center classes.

If you blend together the percentages for all the 3rd through 8th graders, we may have about 20% of the kids in 5th through 8th grade who were admitted to the AAP Center program, although many of them -- especially in elementary school -- no longer bother attending the AAP Center and instead opt to stay in their neighborhood Local Level IV classes and neighborhood middle school honors classes. (Those aren't really honors any more, either. Part of the same effort to get diversity and close the achievement gap.)

However, the percentages are a little lower for the current 3rd and 4th graders. That's because after 2012, Karen Garza told the Dep't of Instructional Services to stop admitting so many kids to the AAP Center program. So they tightened standards. A little.

There are proposals in the Budget Task Force documents to save money by eliminating self-contained classes for highly gifted kids. There is another option suggested to the chair of that task force, which is FREE for elementary school kids and very cheap for middle school kids.