Excerpt: Shifting the Narrative — Addressing Systemic Racial Disparities of Gifted Students of Color

The following is an excerpt from a piece in the Summer 2021 issue of Variations2e magazine, which is now available for purchase.

Cultural collageDESPITE THE INTENSE worldwide focus on the lives and experiences of Black people in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the racial demographics of gifted and talented education (GATE) programs across the United States still reveal systemic racism. Organizations, school districts, and agencies have joined the movement to script and publicly share anti-racist statements. However, what remains to be seen is the active and intentional reform of GATE programs to seek and equitably identify Black children.

Decades of research and history have shown a staggering disparity in the representation of Black students and white students in GATE programs across the country. There are glaring inequities in gifted and talented programs as Black students are not referred to, assessed, or offered entry at the same rate as white students. While there is the rallying cry that Black Lives Matter, the reality of the lack of minority students in GATE programs begs the question, “Do Black minds matter?”

An overwhelming number of classrooms are led by white educators with perspectives and experiences that are traditionally and significantly different from those of their racially and culturally diverse students. These differences can create challenges for teachers to appropriately understand and support their students. For educators to successfully do so requires a deep understanding of and appreciation for the cultural, linguistic, and racial differences that separate their students’ lived experiences from their own. Among these student groups are many whose intellect and creativity are often masked by behaviors seen by classroom teachers as a deficit or in need of correction. As a result, these students’ gifts are seldom given any attention and thus go under-developed.

Black students, minoritized by inequitable gifted identification practices, substandard schooling experiences, and income and health disparities, among other prevailing issues, often attend poorly resourced and staffed schools. Inadequately trained teachers, with little to no professional learning experiences or certification in gifted education, are charged with the “gatekeeper” role of deciding the students’ fate for GATE program participation. Black students have also historically been labeled inferior and described as having problematic behavior. The disproportionate and disparaging discipline and suspension rates of Black students, especially for those from impoverished backgrounds, further exacerbate the negative stereotypes that prevail over fair and equitable consideration of Black students for GATE programs. …

To read the entire piece, please purchase the latest issue of Variations2e. 

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About Erinn Fears Floyd

Dr. Erinn Fears Floyd, a gifted education, diversity, equity, and inclusion scholar, is director of training and partnership development for The Consortium for Inclusion of Underrepresented Racial Groups in Gifted Education. She is former director of professional learning for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and gifted education director for the Alabama Department of Education. She has over twenty-eight years of experience as a classroom teacher, gifted and school improvement specialist, literacy coach, district gifted coordinator, and school administrator.

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