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A Survey Of Gifted Program Administration In Rural Alaska

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Purpose. The purpose of this study was to describe the administration of gifted education programs in rural Alaskan school districts for grades K-6. A secondary purpose was to extrapolate from the survey data successful programs and procedures currently adopted in rural Alaskan schools for gifted and talented education. Procedures. A survey instrument was developed and mailed to a sample of 47 rural Alaskan school superintendents. Findings. In 94% of the schools sampled, gifted education programs existed, and served approximately 7% of the school population. Intellectual ability and specific academic ability were the definitions most utilized. All the districts used multiple identification criteria, with individual IQ tests, achievement test scores, general aptitude tests, and teacher nomination as the most utilized methods. Math, language arts, and computers were the most highly implemented curricular options with 74% of the districts providing programs in those areas. Half of the districts provided for curricula in the fine and performing arts. Although Native children comprised over 50% of the districts population, they were only 19.5% of the gifted program. One-fifth of the program provided special definitions of giftedness that were culturally relevant, 40% provided special identification methods for Native children. Special programs incorporating the Native culture were provided by 26% of the districts. The community was active in gifted programs primarily through the use of mentors. Planning, assessment, evaluation, and support were engaged in by about one-fifth of the communities. Successful programs, as reported by the respondents, appear to be those which combine both the traditional, academically oriented curricula and the more non-traditional offerings related to leadership, arts, and Native cultural and linguistic areas. Community mentors, interested teachers, and use of outside resources such as the fine arts and computer camps offered within the state are the means to accomplish such a diversity of programs in small schools. Recommendations. The commitment to gifted education as evidenced by the survey should continue. Gifted programs should be expanded to include those elements of a successful program as indicated by the survey respondents--academically oriented curricula as well as inclusion of leadership, the arts, and Native cultural and linguistic areas.

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