School districts are looking for ways to end racial inequality in gifted education, writes Sarah Garland on the Hechinger Report.
As a second grader in 1975, she was bused from her middle-class neighborhood to inner-city Louisville, Kentucky. Her school was integrated. Her accelerated “Advance” class was mostly white and suburban; 11 percent of Advance students were black. “From second grade until my senior year in high school, my classes never had more than two black students at a time,” Garland writes.
More than two-thirds of black middle and high school students who did well on the Advance exam were denied admission by teachers and counselors who made the final determination, a 1990s lawsuit brought by black families showed. Only a third of whites were rejected.
Can gifted education be racially balanced?
Washington, D.C. public schools have reintroduced gifted education — in part to entice more middle-class whites into public schools, Garland writes. One gifted program is an affluent neighborhood. But another is at Kelly Miller, a middle school in a low-income black neighborhood with a growing number of Hispanic immigrants.
Unlike traditional gifted programs, which usually require a test to get in, the D.C. programs are open to any student who wants to enroll. D.C. is aiming the program both at students who are book smart and those who may struggle on traditional measures of achievement but have other extraordinary talents that are harder to measure with a test.
The principal at Kelly Miller, Abdullah Zaki, explains that the idea is to expand the concept of giftedness. “If there’s a kid who is not reading at grade level but has the gift of gab and can argue you down in a heartbeat, they’re obviously interested in debate,” he says. “We can take their natural gift and talent and hone and polish it.”
Black parents haven’t rushed to enroll. Zaki now calls it an “honors” program, because parents don’t get “gifted and talented.” Teachers are struggling to reach high achievers and low achievers in the same classroom.
Kelly Miller is also offering a more traditional version of gifted education, with a track of accelerated math and literacy courses for students who score well in those subjects.
D.C. officials will evaluate the ”schoolwide enrichment model” at the end of the year, Garland writes.
Here are the demographics of the class of ’17 at New York City’s super-elite Stuyvesant High, which uses an admissions test only:
—Stuyvesant offered admission to 9 black students; 24 Latino students; 177 white students; and 620 students who identify as Asian.
The other elite academic high schools also are majority Asian. Asian-American students make up 14 percent of the city’s public school enrollment.