School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Rebecca Harrison


gifted underachievement, systems theory, evaluation, communication, historically excluded populations




Learners who are gifted often underachieve due to various issues related to how they are served in their gifted programs. The purpose of this qualitative single-instrumental, embedded case study was to describe how the components of the gifted program of Eagle Public Schools, a small suburban school district in northern Virginia that recently implemented a new talent search approach in its gifted program, work together as a system to address the problem of underachieving gifted learners. The study sought to answer the central question: How do the components of Eagle Public Schools’ gifted program work together as a system? The conceptual framework guiding this study was systems theory, which stresses the importance of looking at not only the individual parts of a system but also the interaction between the parts when evaluating a system. Participants included parents, teachers, staff members from the gifted program, and administrators. Data from a document review and individual and focus group interviews of parents, teachers, gifted program staff, and administrators in the district were analyzed. The most significant finding of this research was that communication is a vital part of a system, and when it is lacking, the system cannot function well across all its components. This study holds many potential implications for policy and practice in Eagle Public Schools, particularly related to the need to provide professional development about the identification of students from historically excluded populations as gifted and to consolidate communication about the gifted program to one central location.

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