Purdue team to use grant to study how clustering gifted students affects student achievement and teacher practices

October 6, 2014  

Marcia Gentry

Marcia Gentry 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University team has received a $2.2 million grant to study what happens to the achievement and identification of all elementary students when gifted students are clustered together.

The team is led by Marcia Gentry, a professor of educational studies and director of the College of Education's Gifted Education Resource Institute.

Gentry has developed a concept called Total School Cluster Grouping (TSCG), which takes gifted students from regular classrooms and places them together.

What she has found is that the achievement levels of the other students go up as do those of the gifted students. 

"When the high-achieving students are clustered together in one class, students in the other classes grow academically - gaining confidence, receiving more teacher attention and participating more frequently in class," Gentry said. "Students traditionally underserved in gifted programs, namely those who come from culturally and linguistically diverse or low-income families, grow academically in this model and may be identified as gifted over time."

Gentry has observed this phenomenon consistently in previous studies using the TSCG intervention. Unlike the traditional model that divides students by grades or achievement scores, in TSCG, the achievement levels of all students are identified yearly and instruction is adjusted to promote optimal growth, focusing on student strengths, interests and talents.

The grant from the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program in the U.S. Department of Education will allow Gentry and her team to conduct a national, experimental study to confirm the earlier results.

Gentry said TSCG helps teachers improve student achievement in mathematics, language arts, and science; recognize and develop talent among students from underrepresented populations; and use strategies routinely found only in gifted programs for all students.

The team anticipates that by providing enriched and differentiated educational experiences in classrooms in which teachers have TSCG training and time to attend to individual needs, the project will result in identifying significantly more students from low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse families as gifted while increasing achievement among all students.

The project will focus on students from low-income families from multiple settings, including urban and rural schools and Native American reservations.

TSCG will be tested only at sites with at least 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.  

Participating schools have been tentatively identified in Indiana, Arizona, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and South Carolina. Final selection will be based on demographics and the schools' willingness to meet the conditions of the research plan.

Gentry's research team includes Jennifer Richardson and Rachel Kenney, associate professors of curriculum and instruction, and Yukiko Maeda and Kristina Ayers Paul, assistant professors of educational studies, all in the Purdue College of Education, and Scott J. Peters, a Purdue alumnus and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Also assisting the team from Purdue are Ala Samarapungavan, head of the Department of Educational Studies; professor Emerita Jean Peterson; and C. Matthew Fugate, a postdoctoral researcher. 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Source: Marcia Gentry, 765-496-3721, mgentry@purdue.edu

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