Children of Color Are Gifted, Too

This post, written by Joy Lawson Davis and George Betts, was originally published on the website of the National Association for Gifted Children. It is reprinted here with permission.

The presumption that individuals of one racial group are smarter than others is a myth and stereotype. Even efforts in the early 20th century to align high intelligence with the majority or white culture were refuted.

The groundbreaking work of Martin D. Jenkins who studied and published papers telling descriptive stories of highly intelligent Negro children that he had worked with as early as 1934 provided more than sufficient evidence of the intellectual capacity of black students. Historical archives over time and across cultures provide substantive evidence of the multiple ways that people from all ethnic groups have demonstrated their “smarts” in the sciences and humanities, and  through art and music. Being smart is not just the purview of any one group of people.

Last month we read a very disturbing article written by parents of twin girls who were able to demonstrate how smart they were in the home environment and in school, but because of identification protocols that rely too heavily on one piece of data or information, their children were not eligible for inclusion in the school’s gifted programs.

Unfortunately, this story could be told by parents in almost any school district in the nation. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are underrepresented in gifted and advanced learner programs in schools across America. Discriminatory assessment procedures, poorly trained teachers, and limited engagement with culturally diverse families are a few of the reasons that these tragic conditions persist.

The National Association for Gifted Children recognizes that underrepresentation of culturally diverse students is a national problem, and works diligently to provide support for educators, researchers, and parents as more effective practices and programs are developed. At its most recent annual convention, NAGC held several special sessions dedicated to recognizing giftedness in diverse populations and to honoring national scholars who have tirelessly dedicated their careers to attacking this national problem. Through NAGC conventions and its website, school district personnel and parents can have access to the diversity materials and experts who work in this specific area. We applaud districts and communities that have taken action.

The parents who wrote the article have every right to desire equitable access to educational programming that will enable their children to reach their highest potential. We encourage school districts everywhere to be more attentive to their identification procedures, ensure that all forms and tests are culturally fair, and do all they can to provide culturally responsive training for classroom teachers who have the future of high ability children from all cultural groups in their hands. Working together, providing the best resources, and recognizing the problems inherent in any process that excludes students is a big step towards equity, inclusion, and access in gifted education.

Joy Lawson Davis is a member of the NAGC Board of Directors. George Betts is the president of the NAGC Board. For more information, go to the NAGC website.