Gifted Programs Reinforce Class And Racial Inequalities
When you look at the odds of a student of color getting into a gifted program compared to a white student, the disparities are pretty striking. The odds of a black student getting into a gifted and talented program are 66 percent lower than they are for a white student student, according to a study published earlier this year in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Educational Research Association. Latino students’ odds are 47 percent lower compared to white students. For Asian students, however, the odds of assignment into a gifted and talented program are 44 percent higher than for white students.
Low-income students, black and Latino students, and English language learners have a few barriers that make it harder for them to get into gifted classes. For example, the IQ tests required to gain entry focus a lot on vocabulary, which is harder for students whose families haven’t fully learned English, aren’t using complex sentences, or use a different vernacular. If you’re a black or Latino student, racial bias may prevent teachers from noticing your intelligence and recommending you for testing.
Even beyond that, affluent families have the resources to give their kids an extra edge. They can better prepare their children for IQ tests by paying for practice tests and sending them to private psychologists, who may identify more gifted students. Card said earlier research he conducted in 2014 found a huge spike in IQ scores at 130 points for non-disadvantaged students that would suggest influence from private psychologists.
So, who is gaming the system?
“If you look at the scores of kids who are tested by private psychologists, you see a huge number of kids who just barely pass [to get into the programs]. So it looks like the private psychologists are basically gaming the system, and I think almost everybody knows that that’s true,” said David Card, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley and a co-author of a new study examining how gifted classes can benefit non-gifted students.