The purpose of this article is to discuss what gifted and talented education is and why minorities have been consistently under-represented in such programs. Recommendations will be offered to promote a high-quality education for all students regardless of their identification, placement, or ethnicity.
Traditionally, there has been an overrepresentation of minority students in special education. However, there is one aspect of special education in which minorities are underrepresented. Minority students with gifted and talented exceptionalities are underrepresented in special school programs designed to serve this group.
What is Gifted and Talented Education?
A student is considered to be "gifted and talented" when she or he performs at, or has the potential to perform at, a higher intellectual capability than other students of the same age. These students may demonstrate high intellectual, artistic, or creative capability. Specific selection procedures measure students' academic and intellectual superiority (Pearson et al. 1990). Approximately three to five percent of the general population has gifted and talented exceptionalities.
Students with gifted and talented exceptionalities require special services to meet their needs. The gifted and talented (G.T.) curriculum promotes higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving. In the regular classroom, gifted and talented students are not challenged, and become bored when they have to wait for their peers to acquire certain concepts. When students with gifted and talented exceptionalities are not properly identified, they risk not achieving their academic and social potential.
G.T. classes differ from general education classes because they provide a more individualized and challenging learning environment. G.T. services are either provided in the regular classroom through a special curriculum, or the students are pulled out of the regular classroom to receive instruction.
According to Tracy Weinber (2002), Director of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, the most effective means of meeting the needs of these students is through some type of specialized class.
Why is Gifted and Talented Education Considered Special Education?
Gifted and talented education falls under the umbrella of special education because it serves a special population with special educational needs. Specific testing is conducted, and test results are utilized to determine appropriate placement and appropriate services based on each student's needs. Therefore, it is important to be informed of and follow the mandates that oversee G.T. programs and assessment processes.
Causes of Underrepresentation of Minorities in Gifted and Talented Education
Students with gifted and talented exceptionalities come from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. As there are no inherent intellectual differences among people of different ethnicities, there should be an equal distribution of needs and exceptionalities throughout cultures. When the representation is not in proportion to the population, this brings up the question of unfairness and discriminatory factors which hinder or put minorities at a disadvantage (Gallagher, 1995). In the case of minority students, only one half of the eligible students are identified and receive services.
Minority students are underrepresented in G.T. for various reasons. The identification of culturally diverse gifted and talented students is a complex process which must not be taken lightly, and this identification is not always done in the most appropriate manner. Perhaps the most significant reason for this under-representation is the use of culturally inappropriate assessment instruments and testing procedures.
It is important to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment instruments and the methods used for identification purposes. This will ensure that …