Q&A on Gifted Testing in Public Schools (Toronto and GTA)

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There seems to be a great deal of confusion among parents regarding gifted programs in the public school system, selection criteria, and the various routes of testing children for these programs.

Unfortunately, the school boards are not very communicative regarding these issues. This page is intended to provide answers for common questions about gifted programs; however, please keep in mind that each school board can have their own process / criteria and can change their procedures andregulations without notice.

(1) How are students selected for gifted programs? Typically, school boards select students for gifted

programs in grade 3, with the placement starting in Grade 4 (note: it is different in the Peel Region and

in YCDSB). The formation of gifted classes starts around March. The majority of school boards have a

multi-stage procedure: First, they administer a paper-and-pencil or computerized aptitude test to all

students (CCAT, etc.); then, students with a score above a certain cut-off point undergo an individual

assessment with the school psychologist (IQ test, typically WISC 4 or 5). Based on the results of the

individual assessment, those who scored in the top 2 percentiles are offered a place in a gifted class. The

York Region Public school board now has a different procedure where they administer a computerized

aptitude test to all students and select only on the basis of these results. Due to financial cut-backs,

some school boards base their decision solely on the CCAT results. Also, some schools can opt out from

gifted testing entirely at their discretion. In this case, the only option for parents is private testing.

(2) Can I prepare my child for the test? It is possible to prepare a child for the CCAT (e.g., you can use the

training for CogAT, it is very similar), but DO NOT try preparing your child specifically for the gifted test,

as it will only spoil the results. Familiarity with test questions and instructions will be noticeable, and

the examiner will have to mention it in the report, which invalidates the results. The IQ test taps into the

innate thinking potential of the child and, therefore, does not benefit from training.

(3) School screening test vs. IQ test. Aptitude tests used for screening are different from IQ tests,

therefore, some gifted students who do not pass the aptitude test will not be selected for the program.

Many children do not do as well when they have to work on a test independently (rather than

interactively), or when they are asked to write a test in a large group (30+ students), or they might

simply not care enough to try hard on this test. Also, it is known from the parents’ reports that some

school boards have a quota on the number of children selected for gifted testing from one school. This is

because the school psychologists are very busy and can test only a limited number of students. In this

unfortunate situation, some students who did well on the aptitude test will not have a chance to try an

IQ test.

(4) What if my child didn’t pass school screening? If your child did not pass the school screening you can

start by completing a free online gifted screening questionnaire (see www.psy-ed.com/online-gifted-

test). If the results of this questionnaire are high enough, it makes sense to have your child take a gifted

test through a private psychologist. If the child passed the gifted test privately through a licensed child

psychologist, the school board IS REQUIRED to place the child in the gifted program or the equivalent

program that is used by that school board and the results of the CCAT are disregarded. The IQ test

always supersedes the CCAT screening.

(5) What if my child didn’t pass the test with the school psychologist? If the child passed the screening, but

did not pass the gifted test at school, you must wait a year before attempting to do the test privately. If

the one year interval is not observed, the results of the subsequent test may be disregarded by the

school board. A child who passed gifted test can be placed in a gifted program in any grade.

(6) When can I test my child for giftedness? You can test for giftedness at any age (typically 5 years and

older), but the following strategy can be recommended depending on parents’ goals and situation: 1. In

Grade 2, have your child complete a Cognitive Profile Assessment (CPA) with a private child psychologist,

the results will be helpful whether the child is gifted or not. These results will give you a good indication

of whether your child is likely to be gifted. 2. Then wait a year and have the child complete the screening

at school. If the child did not pass the screening but did well on the CPA testing previously, go to a

private psychologist, and complete the gifted test.

(7) Do private schools screen students for giftedness? No, private schools don’t do gifted screening, the

only option for parents is private gifted testing.

(8) Is the gifted program a good choice for any gifted student? Gifted classes are highly specialized and

very competitive, so they might not be great for all students, especially if the child has some cognitive or

emotional weaknesses. Consider your child’s personality, cognitive abilities, and social-emotional

functioning prior to making this decision. Consult with a specialist if in doubt.

Promo for Richmond Hill Psychology Centre for psychological assessments and therapy: Our readers  receive a special discount for psychological assessments (incl. giftedness testing), please quote discount code 1610 and mention ‘Toronto Mommies’ when booking an appointment.

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