Seeing the Issues of Inequity in Gifted Education

Over the past year and half there has been a push for the recognition of inequity in education that has pushed into how students are identified and served in gifted programs around the State and Nation. It is important recognize there is an issue in how states identify and serve students who are gifted.

In Ohio, we are limited as to how we identify students who are potentially gifted. Districts must use assessment scores at the national percentile for giftedness in academic ability, and select scores for intelligence tests. Our State definition for gifted “means students who perform or show potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience, or environment.” There is a disconnect from how we define giftedness and how students are actually identified gifted.

We have to first look at how we identify giftedness, then move on to how we serve these students who are identified gifted. Like all great movements, this has to start at the district level. Students who are identified as gifted should be afforded the most appropriate educational opportunities available. They should not be left to linger and shrivel up like a forgotten over-ripe banana. They need to have challenge, productive struggle, and a learning environment that allows them to strive and be successful. To be honest, this isn’t just a gifted education issue, this is an overall educational issue. This is also an issue to where minorities and students from traditionally underrepresented populations get left behind in many districts across the State, and Nation.

We know that students of are economically disadvantaged and/ or from minority students groups are underrepresented in gifted education programs across the State. How extensive it is? Check out many of the presentations post to the Ohio Gifted Advisory Council webpage. Use this information as a baseline to see how your district compares to the data presented.

How is this done? Districts should begin to take stock in their identified populations either by the whole district or by buildings. They need to identify who are being identified gifted, and then who is being served. To start I would suggest looking at the Representation Index of your gifted students. Below is how to calculate it.

This Representation Index should be calculated for all races in your district’s gifted programs. I would also suggest looking at your district’s elementary and middle school gifted programs, along with students who are taking advanced courses such as honors and AP courses.

In Ohio, we don’t have a mandate for service of students who are gifted. However, many districts across the state choose to provide services. Not only do a Representation Index for who you are identifying, I would suggest doing it for those who are in services as well. Who are the children being served in your gifted classes? What services do they qualify for that are being offered from the district?

By looking at your district data you will most likely see that there is significant disproportionality among students who are gifted. Do they look like a typical cross section of your district? After identifying the what the picture is we need to see what the solution may be. Some believe it is the use of local norms, or the use of subtests for specific purposes, along with multiple pathways to identification and into services. Some believe it may be a combination of all of those along with early talent development programs for targeted groups of students. However the solution presents itself, after reflection and the development of action steps by either the legislators or the Department of Education along with the anticipated Strategic Plan for Gifted Education developed by the Ohio Gifted Advisory Council, we all have to be present to make it work.

I don’t have the answers to this large systemic issue of the lack of students who are economically disadvantaged and of color in gifted programs. I know the problem exists. I know something needs to be done about it, and done soon. We are leaving many children behind with no respite it sight.