Also, thank you to reader NE Parent for this link to a NY Times article on finding more gifted students of color. It makes for fascinating reading.
In 2005, in an effort to reduce that disparity, Broward County introduced a universal screening program, requiring that all second graders take a short nonverbal test, with high scorers referred for I.Q. testing. Under the previous system, the district had relied on teachers and parents to make those referrals.
The share of Hispanic children identified as gifted tripled, to 6 percent from 2 percent. The share of black children rose to 3 percent from 1 percent. For whites, the gain was more muted, to 8 percent from 6 percent.
Whatever the reason, the evidence indicates that relying on teachers and parents increases racial and ethnic disparities.
Since a school in Broward rarely had enough gifted children to fill a class, these classrooms were topped off with children from the same school who scored high on the district’s standardized test. These high achievers, especially black and Hispanics, showed large increases in math and reading when placed in a class for the gifted, and these effects persisted.
Despite these positive results, Broward County suspended its universal screening program in 2010 in a spate of budget cutting after the Great Recession.
That’s why the research in Broward County is so important. It shows that there is a fairer way to identify gifted children, and that placing each school’s gifted and achieving students in advanced classes can shrink, rather than expand, racial and ethnic differences in achievement. Universal screening, with a standardized process that does not rely on teachers and parents, can reveal talented, disadvantaged children who would otherwise go undiscovered.
I personally believe this is the best and simplest method to follow. I will note that Broward County did not follow the Brulles method of making sure there was a cluster of high achieving/gifted students in each class; they took the identified gifted students and filled out the class with high achievers (which was how some Spectrum classes used to be filled).
end of update
At last Wednesday's Board meeting, one person (whose name I missed) speaking on the need for Ethnic Studies said that there were five people working in the Race & Equity office while there were seven in Advanced Learning. (It's unclear why she picked that example.)
Two comments. One, I checked with the district and Advanced Learning has eight FTEs while Race & Equity/School & Family Partnerships has 7.0 FTEs.
Two, every single department in the district is supposed to be looking at their work thru the lens of equity. So, in that way, everyone who works for the district is thinking about equity. I don't think the district would disagree with that statement.
What I find baffling is this idea that Advanced Learning is a program for white children. It's not. I don't hear enough about people who want to find more children of color to be in the program, just that it's terribly wrong that the program is mostly white and Asian children.
Don't people want more kids of color in the program OR is it that they just don't want the program at all? It would be a good idea to be honest about that point.
The Times recently had a story about how Federal Way School District is reaching more black and Latino students with advanced learning. It's a wide-ranging article and I would say the tone towards Seattle schools is less-than-friendly (and actually not totally accurate).
The biggest problem with this article is the casual use of "advanced coursework" and "gifted program" which are not necessarily the same thing. Neither item is ever defined.
Federal Way SD has a much larger percentage of black students taking advanced coursework than nine other districts. Ditto on Latino students and Pacific Islanders (although Seattle and the other districts are very similar to each other for numbers of Latino students). That may be true but are all those students in the gifted program or taking an AP class? It isn't clear.
But there's this:
The rate of black students doing advanced coursework has nearly doubled, to 34 percent, and Federal Way now has better participation among minority and low-income children in gifted programs than any other large, diverse district in the state.Federal Way has about 22,500 students. While that is much larger than most of the school districts in the state, it is nowhere near Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma or Lake Washington.
Overall, however, Washington tolerates a persistent caste system in its schools, with an upper strata characterized by creativity and exploration and a general-education track emphasizing little of that.Hard to say what to make of that statement. Does "Washington" mean OSPI? Or does it mean Washington state parents? Or Washington state districts?
What is Federal Way doing?
All middle and high school students- working at grade level - as well as second-graders are all screened for giftedness. More high school students in Federal Way are taking AP courses but two-thirds of them fail the end of year exam. (That said, research shows that even taking an AP course is of value, whether or not you even take the test.) The Times reports that 90% of students in "accelerated" classes pass those classes.
The article quotes Pedro Noguera, an expert on education and equity who I heard speak earlier this year at UW, and he said the same thing to the Times as he did at UW:
"The kids we call 'gifted,' for many their only gift is their parents, who've had the time and money to invest in them." We've confused being privileged with being gifted. Just because you're an early reader does not mean you're going to be a brilliant scholar."How many of them are not gifted? Does he really know? And that last comment is really something of a snide slam against children which I cannot condone.
The Times also quotes an OSPI official who says that private testing is better than the free group testing. That official, Jody Hess, goes on to say that "a built-in advantage only available to families of means." She clearly doesn't know that Seattle SD pays for F/RL students to get private testing for free if they choose to appeal. (The Times article does acknowledge this but says that none of the suggested evaluators on Seattle's list are in low-income areas.)
The Times goes on to cite a report from 2007 about Seattle's gifted program but the Times fails to mention that it only covered APP. Many of us were very unhappy that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did not have the entire program was assessed. And, all the things that were listed as problematic were never addressed. (One of our district's fatal flaws is the inability to listen to either paid experts or taskforce reports.)
There's a really good short section on the Technology Access Foundation Academy but to note, it's not a gifted school. It is a STEM school with high expectations. What's interesting is that the program, co-located with a middle school in Federal Way, is going to move in with the middle school. It'll be fascinating to see if TAF is able to scale up their results.
Allow me to point out a few things that got left out by the Times' education reporters.
1) Seattle high schools - all the comprehensives - offer AP courses except for those that are IB schools. Of Federal Way's four high school, two offer AP and one offers IB and one offers the Cambridge Prep program.
2) The story states how the expert who did the study on APP in Seattle in 2007 said that "the district's practice of identifying highly-capable children in kindergarten was 'anachronistic', largely because I.Q. scores at that age are malleable." Well, that may be true but Federal Way, like Seattle, tests in kindergarten.
3) Federal way does have some self-contained classes.
4) Seattle does screen all second-graders at
Lastly, a great - if sad- story from Quartz via The Hechinger Report about gifted students who end up in prison.
There is much indignation over the school to prison pipeline that funnels children into the criminal justice system, especially regarding the large number of special education students within this population. As many as 70% of those arrested possess some kind of disability. Lamentably overlooked, though, is the other at-risk population, gifted and talented students. In fact, the gifted may comprise as much as 20% of prisoners, according to Marylou Kelly Streznewski’s Gifted Grown Ups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential.Lastly, information about the largest scientific study of the profoundly gifted to date, a 30-year study conducted by researchers Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
Furthermore, high ability students from low-income backgrounds, as compared to their more advantaged peers, are twice as likely to drop out of school. Dropping out triples the likelihood of incarceration later in life.
Many gifted students are impoverished, underperform due to distraction and boredom, or possess disabilities that most well-intentioned teachers are not trained to handle. The belief that gifted students can fend for themselves is misguided and inequitable.
David Lubinski, professor of psychology and human development at Peabody, led the study, which tracked 300 gifted children from age 13 until age 38, logging their accomplishments in academia, business, culture, health care, science and technology. The results were recently published in a paper titled “Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators,” in Psychological Science.
Our study shows what kinds of measures you need to pinpoint the extraordinarily gifted among the gifted students,” he said. Lubinski concludes that those with extraordinary talent in mathematical and verbal reasoning ultimately were motivated to achieve at higher levels if course material was presented at the advanced rates at which they learned. “Ability, motivation and opportunity all play roles in developing exceptional human capacity and providing the support needed to cultivate it throughout life,” he said.