Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Gifted Classes Race Imbalance

Lisa Fleisher, who continues to do GREAT writing on the ed beat for the WSJ, with an article in today’s paper about how the vast majority of NYC’s gifted-and-talented program students are white and Asian:

As New York City switches to a new test to identify children for its gifted-and-talented program, new data show that the overwhelming majority of these coveted, public-school slots still go to white and Asian students.

More than 70% of the students in the 110 gifted-and-talented programs across the city this school year are white or Asian, though they make up a third of the general elementary-school student population. Students who are black, Hispanic or another race make up 29% of the gifted-and-talented population, though they are two-thirds of elementary-school students in district schools.
The gulf is even wider in four of the Department of Education's five elite citywide programs for the gifted, such as the Anderson School on the Upper West Side. Nearly 84% of Anderson's gifted students are white or Asian, according to data the city released late on Friday in response to a public records request by The Wall Street Journal.

The gifted-and-talented programs educate more than 14,500 children—or about 3% of the city's kindergarten-through-fifth-graders—who are admitted based on their scores on special standardized tests. The programs offer tougher work, more exposure to literature and advanced skills, and they are often seen as setting students up for a life of higher academic success.

As I’ve written before, this is a REALLY tough problem. Any program like this will be hugely over-represented by students who come from wealthier households with two parents, with access to books, test prep, tutors, etc. – which means far more white and Asian students. But if you kill these programs altogether, you just accelerate the flight of the families with the most influence, resources, etc. to change the system. The answer, of course, is to provide a quality education for ALL students, not just the top 3% -- then it wouldn’t matter so much.

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