By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
One of the most critical issues in the field of gifted education is the underrepresentation of students of color and of students living in poverty. We must do better at recognizing, supporting, and nurturing students from all walks of life in gifted and talented programs and services. In their upcoming book, Drs. Dina Brulles and Scott Peters have succinctly and aptly stated that gifted programs should exist to “alleviate unmet academic needs so that every student is appropriately challenged” (emphasis mine).
The list of underserved students includes not only students of color and those who live in poverty, but also recent immigrants, students who are twice exceptional (having a disability as well as being recognized as gifted), and those who are LGBTQ. This seems like an overwhelming list of students, but in today’s world, we are much more diverse than we’ve ever been.
Students who are underserved face a variety of obstacles, both inside and outside of school, in accessing—and achieving in—gifted programs and services. Some school-based obstacles include:
- A narrow view of giftedness
- Assessments that don’t match the program’s or service’s design
- The use of one measure or assessment for placement
- The timing, location, and methods of assessment
- The validity and reliability of the assessment
- The capacity, capabilities, and understandings of those making the decisions
- Educators’ awareness and knowledge of diverse gifted learners
- Lack of challenging courses and materials to prepare students for gifted programs and services
- Policies and practices that hinder participation
Outside of school, students may also face barriers that can influence their readiness or perceptions about gifted programs and services, including:
- Community misunderstanding of giftedness
- Lack of enriched opportunities before and after school
- Self-doubt or a negative mindset based on stereotyping by others
- Amount of support at home or in the community
- Historical perspectives on schooling systems
To assist students in overcoming some of these barriers, here are things individual educators can do to identify, support, and nurture underserved gifted learners:
- Learn more about giftedness and its array of qualities.
- Know that giftedness exists in every culture and economic group.
- Look at students from many dimensions, beyond test scores and performances on standardized tests.
- Invest yourself into the many cultures and groups in your school community.
- Set high expectations for all students.
- Examine your own cultural biases.
- Participate in professional development on the teaching and learning strategies of gifted and talented education.
There are things we as an educational community can do to increase the participation and success of underserved gifted learners:
- Invest in quality programs and services that recognize and develop a broader understanding of giftedness and talent development.
- Ensure national, state, and local policies and procedures reflect a commitment to develop talent and giftedness in all groups of people.
- Start looking for bright minds early—preschool and kindergarten are not too soon!
- Provide support services to students throughout the schooling process, including opportunities outside of school, early learning experiences, and preparatory programs.
- Study the research and implement effective practices in gifted education and in addressing the “excellence gap.”
- Remove the barriers in the definition of giftedness, the identification of giftedness, and the continuance of students in programs and services.
- Reach out to school communities to inform them of the qualities of giftedness and the benefits of participation in gifted programs and services.
- Provide professional development for all staff on the diversity of giftedness and the principled need for gifted programs and services.
- Secure multiple pathways and entry points into gifted programs and services.
- Offer multiple measures for identifying gifted students in all cultural and economic groups.
- Invest in quality multicultural curricula and instructional practices that challenge students and can prepare them for advanced academic experiences.
- Develop social-emotional support groups for students where they can share their stories, seek partnerships, and bond with friends.
- Create parent and community programs that offer support and ideas for nurturing gifted and talented children.
- Create a school-wide culture that values giftedness and talent in all groups of students and views parents and community members as vital to the success of our children.
It is a moral imperative that we identify, support, and nurture giftedness and talent in all groups of students. In building a more equitable society, we must cultivate the unique differences we all possess. Our collective future depends on the best and brightest minds working together to solve the complex problems we are bound to face.
- Unlocking Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High Ability Students by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and Jane Clarenbach. National Association for Gifted Children (2012).
- Overlooked Gems: A National Perspective on Low-Income Promising Learners edited by Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Tamra Stambaugh. National Association for Gifted Children (2007).
- National Association for Gifted Children.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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