To Be Young, ‘Gifted’ And Black, It Helps To Have A Black Teacher

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On a recent, chilly Sunday morning, children ranging in age from 4 to 6 waited with their parents in the cafeteria of a Brooklyn school. Each wore a name tag.

The kids chatted cheerfully (in several languages) until each was summoned upstairs to be tested for a spot in New York City’s gifted program. Their parents sent them off with hugs and the promise of special treats for doing their best.

When a student is identified as “gifted,” the label is a vote of confidence — as in the indelible Nina Simone song. It also comes with a prize package: extra services, accelerated classes, individualized learning plans. The availability of these services varies widely from district to district. The chances of being identified as gifted also varies — notably, by race.

A new, national study finds that black students are about half as likely as white students to be put on a “gifted” track — even when they have comparable test scores.

Previous surveys have found a similar gap, but the researchers here — Jason Grissom and Christopher Redding at Vanderbilt University — looked only at students attending schools with gifted programs. So the disparity can’t be accounted for by, say, the fact that black students are more likely to attend under-resourced schools.

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