“I just wasn’t willing to wait all year for the school to do the testing.” This is the sentiment so many parents express when reaching out to me to test their children for giftedness. Sometimes they make that call due to a disputed score or concerns with a previous test, but 9 times out of 10, it comes down to one issue: Time.
Most psychologists at our public schools are very good at what they do and provide excellent gifted evaluations (though if I may sell myself for a moment, I look A LOT like Superman and exude great charm matched only by my modesty, but I digress). Several factors, most out of the hands of the school’s psychologist, contribute to excessive wait times during “the process” of having a child tested for gifted eligibility.
So why, specifically, does it takes so long to have that gifted test done at school? Below is a typical (read: no hyperbole needed) timeline of events that illustrate why a gifted evaluation takes so long to be completed.
The Screening Process Begins
November 4 – Ms. Waters requests that her son, Roger, be tested for the gifted program. Before he can be formally tested, she is told, Roger must be screened by the school counselor. Paperwork is signed, Roger is added to “the list,” and the wait begins.
December 15 – The school counselor is able to screen Roger using the KBIT-2, a brief IQ test. Ms. Waters is informed that her son’s KBIT-2 score of 125 has made the cutoff, and he will be given the full gifted evaluation by the school psychologist. Knowing how important the evaluation is for Ms. Waters, the counselor expedites getting paperwork ready to submit to the district so the next stage can begin before the Christmas break.
December 17 – Ms. Waters comes in to sign a consent form to allow Roger to be given the full IQ test. She is informed that the evaluation will take place within 90 school days of this date.
Ticking away. The moments that make up the dull day.
The Evaluation Clock Starts (Officially) Ticking
January 4 – When Roger returns to school after the holidays, he is officially on day three of the 90 school days that the evaluation must be completed within. He waits…
February 2 – Groundhog Day. Also, the 23rd school day since consent was signed. Ms. Waters, though eager, patiently waits…
February 22 – After the Rodeo Day Holiday (not a joke in Osceola County! But don’t worry, they make up for it by attending school on President’s Day), Ms. Waters’ calls the school psychologist to inquire when Roger may be evaluated. It is now day 36 towards the 90 day deadline. The psychologist offers genuine sympathy and understanding with Ms. Waters’ growing impatience and assures her that she will work with Roger as soon as she possibly can.
What the school psychologist does not share with Ms. Waters is that since that consent form was signed, she has been juggling two schools, so she is on campus only a day or two each week. Half of her time is spent in mandatory meetings (MTSS / RtI meetings, staffings, district trainings, etc.), and she is fortunate if she gets a full day at one of her schools to devote to testing. She currently has 28 referrals to evaluate other students, most of whom are struggling learners or students with significant behavior problems. For each evaluation she conducts, she writes a psychoeducational report, each of which take several hours to complete. Meetings are then scheduled to discuss the results of each evaluation. Because she is on the district crisis team, she missed two of her regularly scheduled school days last week to provide counseling at a school across the county that had a teacher unexpectedly pass away. Oh, and that scuttlebutt parents had heard about the kindergartener who bit the teacher and had run away from the class several times? That was true, and the school psychologist has been instructed to bump that youngster to the top of her evaluation list for safety reasons.
March 11 – Day 50. Still waiting…
March 14-18 – Spring Break.
April 15 – Day 70. Still waiting…
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking.
April 28 – After a week of FSA testing, and on the 78th day after having signed consent, Ms. Waters brilliant son is finally tested! The next day, an excited Ms. Waters calls the school psychologist to ask how Roger did. She is informed that the results cannot be shared at that time, but once the report is written, they will schedule a meeting to discuss the results and all program options.
May 6 – Day 84. The school psychologist completes Roger’s report and submits it for processing at the district office, six days ahead of the 90th day deadline.
May 11 – Roger’s school receives the processed report with his gifted evaluation results from the district office. Ms. Waters is contacted to set up a meeting to discuss the results. The meeting will need to be scheduled for the last week of May due to the large number of ESE meetings that are required to take place before summer vacation.
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older.
May 26 – Finally, the meeting to discuss Roger’s testing results takes place, and with his RIAS IQ of 134, he officially qualifies for the gifted program. His services will begin next year.
June 9 – School lets out for summer break.
The time is gone. The song is over. Thought I’d something more to say.
So why does it takes so long for a school to test a child like Roger for the gifted program? Well, here you have it. Run this article by your school’s psychologist or counselor and ask how realistic it all sounds and I bet you get at least a wink if not an affirmative grin. Site-based school psychologists or even psychologists who specialize in only gifted testing within districts would drastically speed up the process, so advocating for such things with your local school board and / or legislators may be a worthwhile endeavor to prevent wasted school years like the one Roger experienced. In the meantime, I hear that there are private evaluators out there who can bypass the screening process, administer the full IQ test, and provide results faster than a speeding bullet. Up, up and away!