Author Q&A: Speirs Neumeister and Burney Talk Gifted Program Evaluation
Author Q&A: Speirs Neumeister and Burney Talk Gifted Program Evaluation
PUBLISHED: Thursday, September 12, 2019 by Andilynn Feddeler

Gifted Program Evaluation: A Handbook for Administrators and Coordinators (2nd ed.) is designed to assist administrators in designing, conducting, and reporting on an evaluation of their gifted programs. Written with the busy administrator in mind, this handbook includes an overview of evaluating programs to ensure that (1) the program structure is based on best practice, (2) students are achieving at levels commensurate with their abilities, and (3) the program develops skills that gifted students will need to be meaningful contributors in society, including higher level thinking, communication, and affective skills. Learn more about the book and the tools inside in this interview with the authors, Kristie Speirs Neumeister, Ph.D., and Virginia Hays Burney, Ph.D.

Q: What is your number one advice to educators who don’t know where to start when it comes to gifted program evaluation?

A: We would suggest that districts begin by framing the entire evaluation upon answering the simple question: Is your program effective in doing what it has purported to do? To answer that question, districts will need to consider the mission of the program, the district definition of a gifted student, and the services provided for these students. Districts can then determine the quantitative and qualitative data that needs to be collected to (1) demonstrate that these three elements are in alignment and (2) determine the extent to which the program is effective in accurately identifying the students who need gifted programming and offering services that effectively fulfill the mission. 


Q: Why should gifted programs be evaluated?

A: Gifted programs need to be evaluated to determine the extent to which they are effectively addressing the cognitive, social, and emotional development of gifted students. The results of the evaluation can provide districts with an understanding of the strengths of the program, the challenges, and recommendations for program improvement.


Q: How should those conducting evaluations get other stakeholders on board?

A: It is essential for stakeholders to be on board from the beginning for the program evaluation to be effective. Our advice would be to hold information meetings with each stakeholder group—parents, teachers, and administrators—prior to beginning the evaluation. During these meetings, district leadership teams can explain what the purpose IS and IS NOT for the evaluation. It is NOT to evaluate individual teachers, and it is NOT to dismantle the program. Rather, the purpose is to gain an understanding of the strengths and challenges of the current program and, based on these findings, devise a long-term plan for program improvement.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from your work?

A: We hope readers take away the importance of looking beyond achievement to determine the effectiveness of gifted programs. The most effective programs address all aspects of gifted children’s development, including cognitive, social, and emotional well-being. The only way to assess the effectiveness in addressing each of these areas is to conduct an in-depth evaluation with qualitative and quantitative data sources.

Kristie Speirs Neumeister, Ph.D., and Virginia Hays Burney, Ph.D., direct and teach licensure courses in gifted education at Ball State University. They have served as consultants and/or evaluators to several state departments of education as well as many individual districts throughout the country.