Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Gifted Education: Recruitment and Retention Issues

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Gifted Education: Recruitment and Retention Issues

Article excerpt

A persistent dilemma at all levels of education is the underrepresentation of African American, American Indian, and Hispanic/Latino students in gifted education and advanced placement (AP) classes. Research on the topic of underrepresentation has tended to focus on African American students, starting with Jenkins's (1936) study, which found that despite high intelligence test scores African American students were not formally identified as gifted. For over 70 years, then, educators have been concerned about the paucity of Black students being identified as gifted. During this timeframe, little progress has been made in reversing underrepresentation. This lack of progress may be due in part to the scant database on gifted students who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD). In 1998, Ford reviewed trends in reports on underrepresentation spanning 2 decades and found that African American, Hispanic/Latino American, and American Indian students have always been underrepresented in gifted education, with underrepresentation increasing over the years for African American students. (Unlike African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian students, Asian American students are well represented in gifted education and AP classes. For example, as of 2002, Asian American students represented 4.42% of students in U.S. schools but 7.64% of those in gifted education; see Table 1). Regardless of the formula used to calculate underrepresentation (see Skiba et al., 2008), the aforementioned three groups of CLD students are always underrepresented, and the percentage of underrepresentation is always greater than 40%. Also, as noted by Ford (1998), less than 2% of publications at that time focused on CLD gifted groups, resulting in a limited pool of theories and studies from which to draw.

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR; see Table 1) indicate that as of 2002, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian students remain poorly represented in gifted education, especially CLD males. Further, CLD students seldom enroll in AP classes (The College Board, 2002), the main venue for gifted education at the high school level. In both programs, underrepresentation is at least 50%--well beyond statistical chance and above OCR's 20% discrepancy formula stipulation (Ford & Frazier-Trotman, 2000). Several OCR Annual Reports to Congress (2000, 2004, 2005) and publications by Karnes, Troxclair, and Marquardt (1997) and Marquardt and Karnes (1994) indicated that discrimination against CLD students continues in school settings and in gifted education. Karnes et al. examined 38 complaints or letters of findings in gifted education, falling into four categories: (a) admission to gifted programs; (b) identification of gifted students; (c) placement in gifted programs; and (d) procedures involving notification, communication and testing of gifted students. Of these 38 complaints or letters, almost half (n = 17) pertained to discrimination against CLD students. Likewise, Marquardt and Karnes reported that most of the 48 letters of findings they reviewed related to discrimination against CLD students, mainly involving lack of access to gifted programs. They concluded that "unless a school district is constantly vigilant in monitoring its procedures for minority students identification and admission to gifted programs, minorities report underrepresentation" (p. 164).

Compared to special education, gifted education is a small field; fewer publications are devoted to this area of study. And unlike special education, gifted education is not federally mandated, leaving much room for differences in definitions, identification, and programming across districts and states. Only 6 states fully mandate gifted education, and 10 states have neither funding nor a mandate (Davidson Institute, 2006). Proponents of gifted education argue that gifted students have exceptional or special needs, as do children in special education classes; without appropriate services, gifts and talents may be lost or not fully developed. …

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