Gifted Education and Racial Issues

A family friend with grown gifted children asked about racial issues in the field. Here is my response to her question:

You asked a great question that has been addressed in Gifted Education during the past 5 years or so.  One major researcher/presenter is Joy Davis.  She was at several of the gifted conferences that I attended.  Here is one of her books:

So as far as my personal experience:

In the 1990’s, you were right to observe that not many African Americans were represented in the gifted populations in schools.  Why?  Many reasons but the few that I have experience with is 1) teachers rarely recommended African Americans to be tested because most were very active students.  2) Economic issues did not allow parents to spend the time and resources to get their child in gifted education. 3) Teachers didn’t know what traits to look for in any populations outside of the Caucasion White population.  A Gifted student of Native American, Hispanic and African American looks much different than the Asian American and White American gifted learner.  

Teacher training in Gifted Education (now-a-days) includes this training both at the college level and at the district level.  Studies found that in any one population or race, somewhere between 8%-10% of that population would be identified as gifted learners.  So now, districts look to have their gifted population look like their school population.  The gifted population still does not quite reflect the school population but the field is aware now and making steps to identify gifted learners in all races and economic levels. It’s actually quite complicated!

Food for thought:  How does a district handle the difference between the high income, heavily exposed and travelled student to the low income, minimal exposure gifted student.  There is a difference in their test scores and parental support.  I worked at a high income Tomball school and two low income schools and a medium income school with a higher population of Asian American students.  Even within a district the differences in test scores are vast.  I campaigned for letting each campus determine if a student would benefit from gifted education services.  During my last two years, administration was letting campuses determine this.  Yea!!

In our experience in the 1990’s, parents had to have the time and money to get a child into gifted education.  It was much like an elite club then.  In many districts now, testing happens across grade levels as teachers or specialists refer students.  Gifted Education is a service that a student benefits from much like Dyslexia services.  Parents are not the only ones to refer their students for testing, teachers, administrators and the student themselves can.  Testing still happens once or twice a year (which I never understood) at no cost to the parent.  We only need parent permission to test and time and personnel to test.  

For perspective, I paid about $300 to test Adam and Amber to test in the early 1990’s.  My reason was that both kids were becoming unhappy with going to school.  Amber in first grade was in a class with a teacher who yelled at the 3 ADHD students.  This had to change.  I knew she loved school and did well otherwise.  Adam was in fourth grade and had endured a fair amount of bullying because he used high level words which singled him out.  After a meeting with his teacher who pointed out that his journal entries were calling for help, we looked into testing for him.  Again, we knew he did well and loved school otherwise.  
Parents can still do private testing.  It’s much more expensive to test privately – like $1200+!
So that’s the long answer. 

Not all school districts are as progressive as Tomball and most Texas schools because of our State’s legislature and some monetary resources allocated to Gifted Education.  It’s very different in other states.