Gifted Minority Kids: Lost in the Shuffle?
(Note: See also the set of articles about gifted and
talented students in the www.ShowandTellforParents.com
category on Curriculum)
students of color gifted and talented to the degree that Caucasian children
are? Are there just as many geniuses and creative phenomenons among low-income
kids? And if giftedness is an equal opportunity "gift," then are schools doing
a good enough job of identifying and nurturing high degrees of intelligence and
talent among minority students?
New research into what is commonly called the black-white
"achievement gap" suggests that the students who lose the most ground
academically in U.S. public schools may be the brightest African-American
As black students move through elementary and middle
school, these studies show, the test-score gaps that separate them from their
better-performing white counterparts grow fastest among the most able students
and the most slowly for those who start out with below-average academic skills.
Some experts believe the patterns have something to do with
the fact that African-American children tend to be taught in predominantly
black schools, where test scores are lower on average, teachers are less
experienced, and high-achieving peers are harder to find. Since it is wise
educational policy to structure instruction toward what the average student is
capable of - "teaching to the norm" - a high-ability minority student in a
classroom of relatively lower-ability peers will not grow as much as a
high-ability student in a classroom with more able classmates.
Another factor: the percentage of parents with college
degrees tends to be lower in a predominantly minority school, setting a climate
for the school in which academic achievement may not be as expected or
The research, which was presented to the American Educational Research Association in
New York City, included a study by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University, who analyzed
reading and mathematics scores for nearly 7,000 elementary students in the
federal Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study-Kindergarten Cohort. From kindergarten to 5th grade, he found
that the achievement gaps grew twice as fast among the students who started out
performing above the mean than they did among the children who started out on
the lower rungs in the first place.
Another study by economists Steven G. Rivkin of Amherst
College and Eric A. Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford tracked
800,000 Texas children as they moved from 3rd through 8th grades in successive
waves. The higher the initial achievement score, the researchers found, the
more scores diverged over time between black and white students.
Some other research also suggests that high-achieving black
children in some schools face more peer pressure to hide their academic
abilities. It is also contended that African-American, Native American, Hispanic
and immigrant children, on average, tend to have fewer opportunities for
intellectual enrichment outside of school, which might be particularly
important for bright students.
Homework: Read here about
underachievement in gifted minority students, and what to do about it.