Promoting Privilege

Selecting Students for a Public Gifted School

  • Douglas G Wren Old Dominion University

Article

Abstract

Point of view:   I am a cisgender, White male in my sixties. I retired recently after working with children in a professional capacity since the mid-1970s. During my education career, I was an elementary school teacher, gifted teacher, research specialist, and director of research and evaluation in a historically White school district that became majority African American during my tenure.
Value:  Numerous educational policies and procedures in the United States benefit children from privileged families over their traditionally underserved counterparts, which include students of color and low-income students.  This piece describes a public school district’s inequitable practices related to its program for gifted students, practices that are not uncommon in many American school districts.  “Education is one of the best ways to address systemic inequities, but education systems in the US seem to be increasingly subject to criticism that they are unable to change and promote equity” (Cheville, 2018, p. 1).  Despite their inherent resistance to change, educational agencies must be made aware of discriminatory policies and procedures.  Stakeholders must then hold policy makers and educational leaders to account.  As James Baldwin wrote nearly 60 years ago, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced”  (Baldwin, 1968, p. 38).
Summary:  Gifted education programs in public schools comprise mainly middle-class and upper-middle-class students of European and Asian descent.  Students from low socioeconomic groups, African American students, Latinx students, and Indigenous American students continue to be underrepresented in gifted programs, despite the fact that this inequity was brought to light many years ago (Ford, 1998).  Given our nation’s long history of overt and covert racism, it is not surprising that the manner by which students are identified for gifted services is systemically entrenched.  Most states have mandates or provide guidance to local school districts regarding identification criteria; however, very few of the measurement instruments or methods used to evaluate children for gifted services are effective at facilitating equitable representation of all groups in gifted education programs.  This piece examines one school district’s guidelines used to identify students for gifted services, including admittance to its prestigious school for gifted children.  Because the guidelines are typical of practices employed by many school districts across the US, the information contained herein is generalizable to a larger audience.

Information