In many places around the U.S., low-income and minority children are significantly underrepresented in gifted-and-talented programs. This seems to be the case whether the process for identifying gifted children relies on teacher referrals for screening, or on evaluations arranged and paid for independently by parents.
So what happens when you give every student a chance?
For starters, according to a new NBER working paper, you get a massive increase in diversity. At least that was the case at public schools in one of the United States’ largest and most diverse urban school districts.
In the early 2000s, the gifted population in the district studied by the researchers was far less diverse than the student body overall. While blacks and Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the student population, only 28 percent of third-graders who had been identified as gifted were black or Hispanic. (The district is not named in the paper, but the demographics, along with other details of the case study, match those of the Broward County Public Schools system in Florida, which the same researchers got grant money to study a few years ago.)
In 2005, the district adopted universal screening instead of using a referral program; all second-grade students took an ability test, and those who scored above a given threshold took an IQ test in order to qualify for a gifted-and-talented program.
Just passing the test didn’t guarantee a spot; there also was input from parents and teachers on whether the student possessed things like motivation, creativity, and adaptation. The threshold on the initial test was lowered slightly for disadvantaged “Plan B” students, who were either eligible for free or discounted lunches based on their family’s income, or were English-language learners.
Related: TAG complaint against the Madison School District and they’re all rich white kids and the will do just fine, NOT!