An article last week in the Palm Beach Post, “Why Gifted Kindergarten is 70 Percent White,” criticized the environment surrounding gifted and talented programs in Florida, arguing that districts with diverse populations have a history of gifted programs that exclude students of racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities. As school districts become more aware of minority underrepresentation, many of our school district partners ask us to identify how they can improve diversity in these programs. Here are some best practices for improving the diversity of gifted and talented programs.
Employ Universal Screening
Studies show that the typical nominating process for gifted and talented programs often overlooks racially diverse and low-income students. Schools can avoid this pitfall by implementing a universal screening process, where all students are tested for giftedness using a cognitive ability test. In one study, implementing universal screening led to a 180% increase in the gifted rate among all disadvantaged students.
Modify Identification Procedures
Schools can improve the diversity of gifted and talented programs by adopting one of three modifications to how the identify students for inclusion in the programs:
- Explore alternative pathways to identification by considering factors beyond established standards for inclusion, such as students who show potential for advanced work yet do not meet typical metrics.
- Use early identification strategies for students in preschool or early primary grades through proactive measures such as advanced learning opportunities
- Adapt assessments to consider broader perspectives of student performance, including observational studies or student portfolios
Invest in Professional Development
Research has shown that professional development for teachers is important for the success of gifted and talented programs. Professional development can help teachers recognize their own biases, improve their knowledge about communities other than their own, and recognize how to spot talent in multiple contexts. This awareness, in addition to ongoing cultural training, can help improve opportunities for historically underrepresented and overlooked students.
More details about these three approaches are available in our report,” Ensuring Equity and Diversity in Gifted and Talented Education.” This report also analyzes an array of approaches to improving diversity in gifted and talented programs.
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