How to get more minority students in special and gifted education?

Apr 29, 2019 by

Researchers calculate what happens when you pick the brightest from each school

The most troubling aspect of gifted classrooms is that they tend to be disproportionately filled with white and Asian students while bright black and Hispanic students often get overlooked. Indeed, gifted and talented programs can sometimes look like a clever tool to separate children by race or ethnicity in school. In New York City, for example, white and Asian parents who have the resources and/or inclination to prepare their four-year-olds to excel on standardized tests snag almost three quarters of the coveted seats. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic students make up more than 65 percent of the public school system.

Nationally, more than 13 percent of all Asian students are enrolled in gifted programs compared with just 4 percent of black students, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Among whites, 8 percent get tapped for gifted classrooms. Among Hispanics, it’s 5 percent. That mirrors long-standing achievement differences on standardized tests.

Some policymakers are floating this remedy: Pick the top students in each school instead of those students who score among the top in the nation. Research scholars are now studying exactly what would happen to the racial and demographic composition of gifted classrooms if school districts were to switch their selection criteria this way. And they are also looking at how much achievement levels would dip.

Scott Peters, an assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, has been modeling different ways to pick gifted students in 10 states. By choosing the best in each school, he found, “you get a much better diversity of population.” But the trade-off, he found, is that some students will be entering gifted programs with less academic preparation and they might need more instructional support to succeed. Moreover, the diversity benefits he found only materialize when schools are quite segregated to start, that is with high concentrations of blacks or Hispanics.

“The more integrated your schools are, the less it works,” Peters said.

Peters presented his calculations, which he conducted along with four colleagues (at four other universities), at a session the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting held April 2019 in Toronto. His study, “The Effect of Local Norms on Racial and Ethnic Representation in Gifted Education,” is slated for publication at AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. I was given an advance copy by the author.

Source: How to get more minority students in special and gifted education?

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