Do gifted education programs encourage social inequality?

“Gifted” is the term used by psychologists and educators to designate children with extraordinary academic abilities. Giftedness has typically been associated with having high IQ scores. Gifted education programs are loosely defined as being “above the norm.” So, gifted students are those who, compared to their age group, score above average. Gifted education programs have also traditionally been hubs for white children from middle to high classes to flourish.

Discrepancies in how schools define giftedness only serve to further the sense of inequality. Continuing socioeconomic inequities, such as; class, race, disabilities and gender, have had an impact on which students receive access to gifted programs. IQ test scores are effected by socioeconomic factors. As Noodle points out, children coming from higher status, higher income households, generally are more likely to be exposed to the type of tasks that aid them in developing the cognitive wiring that is valued in schools.

Fortunately, when school-wide testing is used to identify gifted students, it has been reported that the representation of poor and minority students has increased. Likely because without such widespread testing, far fewer poor and minority children are assessed in the first place.

Parents with the higher financial means and status are more likely to push for gifted education classes. However, districts that mainly serve impoverished communities or children of color, non-mandatory “extras” like gifted education are likely to be less available.

Senator Barbara Mikulski has successfully advocated for restoring federal funding to a program aimed at increasing the enrollment of underrepresented students in gifted education programs.

Our comprehension of giftedness and gifted education programs are works in progress and will be indefinitely subject to reassessment and adjustment.

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