Where are all the Gifted English Learners?

English Learners are some of the most underrepresented populations in gifted programs around the United States. In Ohio, where I am from, English Learners are very underrepresented. In fact, they more underrepresented in gifted programs than all other categories.


Why are English Learners so underrepresented in gifted programs? I have a few ideas that I want to share.

Language Acquisition

Lack of knowing the native language can mask giftedness. It can take up to three years for a child to learn conversational English. It can take up to 7 years to learn the academic language of the classroom. Since this lack of language skills these students are not recommended for gifted services.

For teachers, there are some aspects of language that should not be overlooked. To begin look for cross-coding. If you have an English Learner who is easily going from their native language to English and back again, they may be gifted. Another aspect is noticing how quickly these students are learning English and assimilating into the American Culture.

Lack of Assessments

Many people will suggest the best way to assess giftedness in English Learners is to use a nonverbal test such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. To be honest there is some  truth to it, but the issue is not all English Learners are non-verbally gifted. Some are gifted in math, or visual-spatial. A test like the Naglieri won’t find those students.


Another aspect that needs to be brought up is that there aren’t many tests in other languages than English. There is Lagramos, the Spanish version of the IOWA. Some have directions that can be translated in different languages, but not in all. There are over 150 different languages spoken our schools today, and not all of these have translation.

Now, this post isn’t a comprehensive list. This is just a few issues.

Teachers, what kinds of strategies do you use to help identify giftedness in the English Learners in your classroom?



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