The Relationship between Students? Verbal and Nonverbal Test Scores within the Context of Poverty



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The association between intelligence and achievement has been investigated by many researchers, and a moderate to strong correlation between the two has been repeatedly found. Few researchers, however, have studied the intelligence?achievement relationship within the context of poverty.

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the verbal and the nonverbal scores of students within the context of poverty. The study investigated how students? verbal and nonverbal scores differentiate by ability levels within each grade, specifically kindergarten through fifth grades. It also focused on gifted fifth grade students, and investigated the relationship between their verbal scores and poverty status.

Research questions guiding the study were: (1) What is the relationship between verbal and nonverbal intelligence scores of students from poverty, (2) how does this relationship differ by ability levels within each grade, and (3) what is the relationship between verbal scores and poverty status of fifth grade gifted students?

The data was collected and analyzed with quantitative methods. The study had two different samples. The first sample consisted of 1935 kindergarten through fifth graders and was used to answer the first and second research questions. The second sample consisted of 128 gifted fifth grade students and was used to answer the third question. The Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scale (RIAS), the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, Eighth Edition (OLSAT 8), and the Stanford Achievement Test?Tenth Edition (Stanford 10) were used to collect data.

The results indicated that students living in poverty, as measured by free- or reduced lunch status, evidenced large gaps between their verbal and nonverbal intelligence scores. The observed gaps were not specific to any grade level or ability level. Rather, all grades from kindergarten through fifth, demonstrated large gaps between their verbal and nonverbal IQ scores. These gaps were even larger for students with higher nonverbal IQ scores. In addition, free or reduced-lunch status was a significant predictor of verbal intelligence scores as well as of achievement scores.

In the light of the results, the study discussed the findings and offered implications: Identification and placement processes for gifted and talented students from poverty should be extra cautious given this demonstrated verbal-nonverbal score discrepancy. Verbal abilities should be assessed when placing students into advanced programs given the verbal demands of these programs. While many students with high nonverbal scores may have had the potential to learn, they were not ready to learn due to their lower verbal scores. Therefore, building verbal intelligence of impoverished students with lower achievement scores will make them more likely to be successful in academic coursework that demands high verbal ability.