Segregation and discrimination in the school systems persists even in the gifted programs offered.
In 2021, then New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that they were looking to phase out their gifted and talented student programs, following in the footsteps of Boston and Seattle, in an effort to remove a program that has been critiqued for, in many ways, reinforcing racist and segregationist systems that already existed.
“It’s really hard in a city that has so much inequality — that has a history of so much inequality — to set up an exclusionary system and then pretend like people are going to equally be able to compete. Public education should not actually be rooted in competition because it’s the right that everyone should have,” Toni Smith-Thompson, one of the parents calling for the removal of gifted and talented programs in New York said.
So, how do Texas’ gifted and talented programs fair in terms of discrimination? Well, in the city of Dallas itself, it was found by Pro-Publica (as of 2018) that Dallas is a highly segregated district with Black students more likely to be behind than White students, and White students 2.7 more likely to be enrolled. Of the Dallas Independent School District’s gifted and talented programs, most of which are primarily Black and Hispanic. But, within this primarily Black and Hispanic district, the gifted and talented programs have several problems in and of themselves. For instance, in Texas, for every 100 students, 99 are given access to gifted and talented programs, according to Ed Trust. However, of those students 59 of every 100 would need to be enrolled in order to offer fair representation. According to Commit Partnership, over 5 percent of students in Texas “are not assessed for potential inclusion.” As of a study conducted in 2019, there has been no significant increase in minority enrollment, only accounting for 14 percent of the student population in Texas, but are only 6 percent of those enrolled in gifted programs.
So, what is ultimately at the root of this issue and how can it be repaired? A solution provided in a research study entitled, “Black Smart: Examining A Gifted Education Program’s Outreach And Engagement To Empower Parents Of Gifted Black Students,” by Ashley Andrea Leverett (specifically examining Waters ISD and Hylo Park Intermedia School) the proposes that in their research, they found that deficit thinking is the cause of under representation, and also due in part to a misguided view of what it means to be gifted. In order to rectify this, Leverett suggests “upstander parents,” parents who “look, listen, and take action on behalf of their children.” Leverett argues that when it comes to access and quality of gifted education, parental advocacy is needed, along with work put in by the schools themselves.
“Schools must confront, interrupt and investigate the attitudinal climate. They should reflect on “(the effectiveness) of family referrals for students of color, and what supports exist to increase their advocacy, awareness, knowledge, and efficacy/empowerment,” ” Leverett said.