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Sydney Erin Geyer

B.Ed., Seton Hill University, 2016

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Seton Hill University

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

Master of Education

Greensburg, Pennsylvania

August 5, 2017
Sydney Geyer
Seton Hill University 2017

This study was an attempt to determine that students who are twice exceptional (gifted

and some other physical, mental or emotional disability) benefit academically and motivationally

from self-contained classrooms when compared to students who are twice exceptional receiving

only pullout enrichment and support for gifted and special education. This study took place in a

private school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in grades six, seven and eight. Students who are

Twice Exceptional attended school in one of two environments for three years. Environment

One was a general education classroom in which students that are Twice Exceptional received

weekly gifted enrichment in a resource classroom and pullout special education support as

needed based upon individual needs. Environment Two was a self-contained classroom thats

population was only comprised of students that are Twice Exceptional. This environment was

instructed by a Special Education certified teacher. The teacher in Environment Two also

received coursework on Twice Exceptionality, allowing her this knowledge when instructing the

self-contained classroom. Students in both of the environments were pretested to have a

baseline of academic ability and motivation. Qualitative data was collected from previous

teachers, parents and the students to better understand academic motivation. Quantitative data

was collected from each individuals test scores, Individualized Education Plan and Gifted

Individualized Education Plan. Students academic achievement and motivation was measured

at the start of the project, one year later and at the close of the project. The Pennsylvania State

Standardized Assessment (PSSA) scores were used to measure growth in academic

achievement. The Childrens Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory was used to measure

growth in individual and group motivation.

I. Introduction 4

A. General Statement & Historical Background of Twice Exceptional Students 4

II. Statement of the Problem .. 5

A. Research Questions .. 5

B. Deliminations .. 5

C. Rationale . 6

D. Definition of Terms . 6

E. Assumptions .. 6

III. Related Research .. 8

IV. Design of the Study 13

A. Methodology to Complete Study 13

B. Subjects . 14

C. Instruments 14

D. Procedures 14

E. Scoring & Analysis 15

F. Recommendations for Future Research 15

V. Bibliography 16


Table Page

1. 8


A. General Statement & Historical Background of Twice Exceptional Students

Historically, Special Education has a timeline that dates back to between the late

eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This was an era where students with special needs

were placed in asylums and institutions. As time went on, public schools started having classes

for students who were not deemed fit for the general education classroom in the 1920s. The

development of research facilities such as one at the University of Illinois opened in 1951. In

1930 counseling services became a common resource in urban schools and by 1950 nearly

every urban school had some sort of special education program. By 1975, The Education for All

Handicapped Children Act was passed. Although this marks a major turning point for special

education in the school, this is clearly not where it all began (

Gifted and Talented Education came into fruition in the 1920s. Many research studies

were conducted in the twenties and thirties by Lewis Terman and Leta Hollingworth to further

the understanding of students that are diagnosed, today, as gifted and talented. The definition of

gifted as well as the available programming changed for the better in the 1970s moving towards

the programming that there is today. In 1990, The National Research Center on the Gifted and

Talented was started at the University of Connecticut. Not until 1998 were there standards

published for teachers of gifted students. These standards were altered in 2006 and again in

2013 (

Twice exceptional students are students who possess qualities of both special needs as

well as gifted and talented. As early as the seventies, studies were being done to determine

what Twice Exceptional truly means. In 1981, Johns Hopkins University brought together

professionals from both fields- learning disabilities and giftedness. This meeting provided most

of what we currently have established for identifying students who are Twice Exceptional


From the eighties and nineties to today, thousands of research studies have been

conducted to find what means are deemed best to meet the needs of students who are Twice

Exceptional. All of these studies have come to one reasonable conclusion- 2e students require

a unique combination of educational programs, enrichment, and counseling support.

(Bracamonte, 2010, para. 2).


A. Research Questions

This study is intended to address the following research questions:

1. Will middle level students who are Twice Exceptional show higher academic

achievement and motivation when learning in a self-contained classroom over a

three year period of time?

2. Will middle level students who are Twice Exceptional show higher academic

achievement and motivation when learning in the general education classroom

and receiving pullout services for gifted and special education over a three year

period of time?

B. Deliminations

1. The study is delimited to the middle level grades (sixth through eighth grade) in a private

school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2. The instruction is delimited to students that are Twice Exceptional in one middle level

private school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

C. Rationale

This study is being completed as an effort to further confirm the need for differentiation of

previous methods for meeting the needs of students who are Twice Exceptional. Research

supports the hypothesis that pulling students out of the general education classroom to receive

enrichment services in a resource classroom infrequently, especially when these students have

other Special Education needs, is not the Least Restrictive Environment or best method for

meeting the academic and motivational needs of these learners. Reform is needed for these

students and can be done so in the private education system.

D. Definition of Terms

1. Twice Exceptional (2e): Students who have above-average intelligence and are

identified as having one or more disabilities make up this category (Quinlan,

2017, Twice Exceptional or 2e)

2. Private School: a school supported by a private organization or private individuals

rather than by the government like state-funded public schools

3. IEP: Individualized Education Plan

4. GIEP: Gifted Individualized Education Plan

5. Raven Matrices: a nonverbal group test typically used in educational settings

used to measure fluid intelligence

E. Assumptions

Two major assumptions are generalized throughout this study. These ideas are that (a)

there is a need for self-contained classrooms for students that are Twice Exceptional and that

(b) the academic needs of students that are Twice Exceptional are not being met in the general

education classroom with infrequent gifted enrichment and pullout special education services. It

is expected that this study will confirm the need for the alteration of the education of students

who are Twice Exceptional.


Starting in the 1970s, research was beginning to spark about students who are Twice

Exceptional. 1981 is a year that holds so much value in this field of research. In this year, Johns

Hopkins University held a colloquium for people in the field of learning disabilities and the field

of giftedness. For the first time ever a large gathering was held and this meeting of the minds

helped to collaborate and develop a type of list of characteristics of individuals who might be

Twice Exceptional. The table below shows many of this and although it is old, it is still very


(The Council for Exceptional Children, 1981)

Jumping ahead to not long ago, in 2009 an article was published detailing the immense

struggle in identifying the Twice Exceptional learner. Before a school can ever identify how to

meet the needs of these special learners, they must first identify the learners themselves. This

proves to be extremely difficult due to the fact that so many of these unique characteristics can

mask one another. The article Twice Exceptional Children, states Twice exceptional children

dont need to be fixed. Theyre not broken. They simply need your guidance as to how best to

forge ahead (Fliess, 2009, para. 10). This helps educators to truly see the need for better

programming for these students who are Twice Exceptional and the extreme need for educators

to remain steadfast and open-minded for the Twice Exceptional children. Fliess also provides a

list helping to identify Twice Exceptional children. A teacher or parent might see an outstanding

talent or ability, discrepancy between expected and actual achievement, difficulty getting along

with peers, low self-esteem, evidence of underachieving, the appearance of laziness and an

inability to focus or concentrate (Fliess, 2009, para. 5)

In 2010, the 2e Newsletter published an article by Micaela Bracamonte. In this article

Twice Exceptional students are better defined and represented as well as giving many

explanations of the needs of these special learners. Bracamonte states that,"two to five

percent of the gifted population have LDs and two to five percent of students with LDs are

gifted" (Bracamonte, 2010, para. 5) While this percentage may seem small, according to

Bracamonte's numbers, that is 1,300 to 4,500 2e students in the U.S.! She goes on to give

profiles of many different students who are Twice Exceptional and how diagnosis can be

identical but the individuals show their characterics very differently. When developing a plan for

2e learners, Programming for 2e students must include strategies to: nurture the students

strengths and interests, foster their social/emotional development, enhance their capacity to

cope with mixed abilities, identify learning gaps and provide explicit, remediative instruction,

support the development of compensatory strategies (Reis & McCoach, 2000, and Smutny,


In 2012, a piece of literature was published entitled, Studies Shed Light on Twice

Exceptional Students by Sarah D. Sparks. This article discusses not only the high rate of

students who are Twice Exceptional, but also the need for earlier identification. Sparks writes,

Ms. Kalbfleisch and other experts estimate there were 300,000 twice-exceptional

studentsintellectually gifted children also diagnosed with learning disabilitiesin 2004, when

the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act first noted that students with disabilities may also

be gifted. (2012, para. 3) In addition to such high numbers of 2e students, this article and

related research begins to dissect the need for earlier diagnosis and support. The timing of an

evaluation can mean the difference between a student being identified as gifted or disabled, she

explained, because while giftedness can mask a disability early on, over time, the disability can

hide a student's strengths (Sparks, 2012, para. 5). People are beginning to analyze the ways in

which the giftedness and learning disabilities can mask one another causing the Twice

Exceptionality to appear quite average as far as academic achievement and motivation goes.

Rose Blackett, a psychologist and educator, also published an article in the year 2012.

She writes extensively on the lack of needs being met to the minority population of Twice

Exceptional students. From her research she provides a list of tips for identifying 2e students

from her research in New Zealand. These include oral questioning instead of written responses,

enlisting a writer to record answers, reduce the number of time limited tests given, using Raven

Matrices, and administering short answer tests (Blackett, 2012, para. 2). This publication adds,

"Gifted children with learning disabilities are invisible in most school systems because they are

not failing...not failing school...but they are failing to realize their intellectual and creative

potential" (Blackett quoting Kalbfleisch, 2012).

In 2013, a book called Fundamentals of Gifted Education: Considering Multiple

Perspectives by Carolyn M. Callahan and Holly L. Hertberg-Davis was published. This book

contains vast amounts of information regarding the struggles teachers encounter when

identifying 2e students. As people continue research Twice Exceptional children, this huge issue

continues to arise. Callahan and Hertberg-Davis write, Unfortunately, preservice teachers do

not usually receive extensive education in either special or gifted education unless they seek it

out explicitly. Training and professional development opportunities and requirements for training

and certification also vary by state. (2013, p. 364). This uncovers a huge issue in the

educational system for the education of teachers in this area of learners. There proves to be a

huge gap in the education of teachers on Twice Exceptionalities.

Currently research continues on Twice Exceptional students and in the year 2017 a book

was published by a Seton Hill University professor, Dr. Audrey Quinlan. Her work is entitled,

Gifted or Just Plain Smart?: Teaching the 99th Percentile Made Easier. Quinlans work speaks

volumes in her clear explanation for the three main scenarios that make diagnosing students

with Twice Exceptionalities so difficult. These three scenarios are, Students identified as gifted

whose giftedness hides the disability. Signs of the disability may show up later as academic

challenges increase. These students are often accused of simply being lazy or of not meeting

their potential when their schoolwork falters. Students identified as disabled whose disability

hides the giftedness. Students receive services for the identified disability but not for their gifted

level. However, these students may show exceptional abilities in some areas. Because of this,

they have a better chance of being identified. Students identified as average. These are highly

intelligent students whose intelligence and disability mask each other. These students seem

average because their two exceptionalities cancel each other (Quinlan, 2017, Twice

Exceptional or 2e).

Through all of the existing research, the education system is learning how to best identify

Twice Exceptional students. Moving forward, there are also many clearly defined means for best

educating and reaching these exceptional learners through teaching styles, techniques and

curriculum. Despite all that is known thus far regarding this topic, it is evident that need exists for

further research into the environment for implementing Twice Exceptional instruction.


A. Methodology to Complete Study

Prior to the school year when this study would begin, the educators (administrators and

teachers) taking part on the study would be given coursework from a university in the area of

Twice Exceptional students. This would give them the necessary knowledge and tools to bring

this into their general education classroom, self-contained classroom or just into the school,

overall. The school year would begin with each grade level (six, seven, and eight) having half of

the Twice Exceptional population split into two groups. One group would be placed in a

self-contained classroom with all Twice Exceptional students. The teacher in this room will be a

special education certified teacher that will use the Twice Exceptional coursework to create a

curriculum (prior to the school year) and classroom community that supports all of the different

individuals who are twice exceptional. The second group would be placed into the general

education setting with a teacher who received the Twice Exceptional coursework and the Twice

Exceptional students would receive necessary pull out and push in support and enrichment for

his or her disability or giftedness.

Throughout the school year, surveys will be given to the students, families of the

students and other educators and faculty in the building that regularly interact with the students

to better understand their academic achievement and motivation throughout the year. In

addition to this, IEPs and GIEPs will be read and data will be collected to see present levels and

goals for each individual to help monitor growth. Annual PSSA scores will be used for academic

achievement growth and the Childrens Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory will be used to

monitor growth in the area of motivation.

Because this study will run for three years, some students will have one year in the

program, some will have two years and the starting year of sixth graders will have three full

years. The amount of time in each setting will be taken into consideration too to see if this make

and exponential difference in academic and motivational growth.

B. Subjects

The subjects for this experiment are students in grades six, seven and eight. These

students must have an Individualized Education Plan and a Gifted Individualized Education Plan

or some documentation of either learning disabilities as well as giftedness. The subjects are

students at a private school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Each individual may fall into any of the

three possible categories for potential misdiagnosis as mentioned above. These students will

also fit into one or more of the categories in the table above.

C. Instruments

Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected over the three year time frame of the

study. Qualitatively, data will be collected using surveys given to families, students and

educators in the school. Quantitatively, data will be collected three times throughout each of the

three years of the study. This will occur once before the school year, once in the middle of the

school year and once at the end of the school year. This will occur each of the three years. The

students Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Gifted Individualized Education Plan (GIEP) will

also be used for quantitative data collection. The Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment

(PSSA) will be used to assess academic achievement and the Childrens Academic Intrinsic

Motivation Inventory to measure growth in individual and group motivation.

D. Procedures

The study will work directly with the school to provide parents with the information

regarding the two placement options. Through data collection and parent interviews, the most

appropriate environment of the two options will be selected for each individual. The school

district will open this study to surrounding public and private schools for students that meet the

necessary requirements. Students will be required to provide their own transportation in this

scenario. The study will also provide the necessary professional development to the two

educators regarding Twice Exceptional curriculum and tips. Teachers will receive this

professional development prior to the study as well as throughout the three years.

E. Scoring & Analysis

Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected and recorded throughout the three year

study. This will all be used collectively to measure whether the students showed higher levels of

academic achievement and/or motivation in the self-contained classroom with all Twice

Exceptional students or in the general education classroom with pullout resources for special

education and gifted enrichment.

F. Recommendations for Future Research

In the future, it would be beneficial to see this study over a longer period of time or with a

teacher that completed extensive research in the area of Twice Exceptional children as it grows

as a trending topic in education. This study also does not measure social skills, organizational

skills and other factors aside from motivation and academic achievement. It might be interesting

to better understand how these types of things affect overall performance.


Blackett, R. (2012) Tips on identifying 2e students. Retrieved: (Links to an external site.)Links to an
external site.

Bracamonte, M. (2010). Twice-exceptional students: Who are they and what do they need?

Callahan, C. M., & Hertberg-Davis, H. L., (2013) Fundamentals of gifted education: considering
multiple perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.

The Council for Exceptional Children (1981). Characteristics of gifted and disabled students
[Table]. In Gifted children with handicapping conditions: a new frontier. Retrieved from
course files SED 850 75.

Mock, D. R., Jakubecy, J. J., Kauffman, J. M. (2002). Special education. Retrieved from:

National association for gifted students. Retrieved from:

Quinlan, A. M., (2017) Gifted or just plain smart?: teaching the 99th percentile made easier.
Twice Exceptional or 2e. Landham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Reis, S. & McCoach, D.B. (2000). The underachievement of gifted students: What do we know
and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly, 44(152-170).

Sparks, S. D., (2012). Studies shed light on twice exceptional students. Retrieved from: