EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF ELEMENTARY PRINCIPALS’ PERCEPTIONS OF GIFTED EDUCATION PROGRAMS
McLaughlin, Margaret J
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Gifted education programs are designed to meet the needs of students who have demonstrated a need for accelerated and enriched learning experiences. Without these authentic learning opportunities, gifted students many not reach their full academic potential and may lose the desire and motivation for learning. The purpose of the exploratory study was to examine elementary school principals’ perceptions of gifted education as related to leadership and instructional practices that are used in their schools. The study sought to identify any correlations between principals’ perceptions of gifted education with effective leadership and instructional practices that supported gifted students and programs. An online survey was used with adapted items from a state–level document that outlines the criteria for excellence in gifted education programs and items from an existing perceptions survey (McCoach & Siegel, 2007). The survey was distributed to 106 elementary school principals. Responses to individual items were collapsed to create three scores: (a) Perceptions (b) the Importance of Practices and (c) Practices Used of respondents’ reports of practices used in their schools. Analyses revealed that the three highest-rated items on the Perceptions scale were indicators of support for gifted education. On the Importance of Practices scale, analyses revealed that providing staff members differentiated professional development and ensuring that they understand the identification process for gifted students were rated as the most important practices. Using pre-assessments for student learning was rated the highest for the Practices Used scale. Pearson correlations for the three summary measures show a significant, but weak relationship between principals’’ Perceptions score and the ratings of the Important of Practice score. Additionally, the data revealed no statistically significant relationship between the Importance of Practices and Practices Used scores. This study enriches the literature on perceptions of elementary principals towards gifted education and the impact their perceptions may have on programs and student outcomes.