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Gifted Minority Kids: Lost in the Shuffle?


(Note: See also the set of articles about gifted and talented students in the category on Curriculum)


Q. Are 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 children.


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 encouraged.

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.


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 13 2008



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