A National Study of State Policy for Fostering Gifted Program Evaluation: Content Analysis and Recommendation for Policy Development

Date of Completion

January 2010


Education, Evaluation|Education, Gifted|Education, Policy|Education, Special




Individual state policy plays a pivotal role in the policies and practices related to gifted education at the local level. While little is known about the frequency with which local school personnel evaluate their gifted and talented programs, the policy documents of 31 states include language to suggest that schools should conduct evaluations of their gifted and talented programs. In this study, a content analysis of high-level state policy documents was conducted to identify three main policy approaches for fostering local gifted program evaluation: (a) policies to initiate the development of sub-policies to guide program evaluation practice, (b) policies directly calling for schools to evaluate their gifted programs, and (c) policies that designate technical assistance services to support program evaluations. Findings from the content analysis also indicate that the majority of these policies lack the comprehensiveness Trochim describes in his theoretical work, the Evaluation Policy Wheel (EPW). For example, of the eight EPW components described as part of comprehensive evaluation policy, the most comprehensive of all the state evaluation policies examined in this study contained only 5 of the 8 policy components. In fact, the majority of the state policies (n = 20) contained less than 30% of the policy components from the EPW. ^ An illustrative case example was also included in this study to explore how researchers and policymakers might examine the alignment of state evaluation policy with other influential sources of program evaluation advice. In this study, the policies from one state were explored for their alignment with Patton's Utilization-Focused Evaluation, the utilization strand from the Joint Committee's Program Evaluation Standards, and the National Association for Gifted Children's (NAGC) PreK-Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards. This process resulted in an analytic framework through which evaluation policy may be examined for consistency with best practices recommendations, aiding in the illumination of sources of consistency as well as areas for further policy development or improvement. ^