Why The Poorest Students Often Miss Out On Gifted Classes

Educators have discovered that finding gifted students in a public school system, dominated by poverty and overcrowded classroom, can be very challenging. That's because standard screening and pullout programs are not unearthing the academically talented students who desperately need a lifeline to realize their enormous potential. 

But things are changing. Educators and researchers are now recognizing that a different approach is needed to identify and support these talented students. This shift came out of the awareness that excellence on standardized intelligence tests and good grades cannot be the only yardsticks used to measure giftedness.

Why? Because poverty can cause truly gifted students to underperform.  

Jonathan A. Plucker, an education professor who specializes in gifted and special education issues at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, confirmed this when he said, "The mistake we've made in gifted education is, we've turned identification into a pure testing issue." As a result of this approach, outstanding performers in low-income families have been overlooked.

The traditional performance-driven view of giftedness has been largely beneficial to overachieving students in wealthier communities. The behavior of low income students who are not being challenged academically has often been viewed as anti-social, when it is very often a sign of boredom and lack of stimulation. 

Chyenne Roberts, a 6th grader at Paterson Academy for the Gifted and Talented in New Jersey, has excelled since her move there. However, she confessed that at her old school she tried not to act smart because she was bullied when she did. Chyenne admitted, "I would feel stupid, even though the test didn't show that; I was the outsider, because it was just harder to be down in (my classmates) level."

Educators have acknowledged the shortcomings of traditional methods of identifying high achievers. As a result, efforts are now being made to actively search out and recruit low-income, gifted children, so that they can move forward and achieve the very best. 

Further reading: Poorest Students Often Miss Out on Gifted Classes