A new study confirms that lower-income elementary students are far less likely than their wealthier counterparts to be placed in gifted programs. That’s even when those students go to the same school and display the same levels of academic achievement.
Vanderbilt University’s Jason Grissom co-authored the study. He says, while people often talk about a lack of access to gifted programs for low-income students, his research found something different.
“The biggest separation wasn’t across schools, but within schools,” Grissom says. “We found kids going to the exact same schools had very different probabilities of being assigned on the basis of socioeconomic status.”
The study, conducted jointly by Vanderbilt and the University of Florida, was just published in the Harvard Educational Review. And it’s the first of its kind to use both national data and achievement data (math and reading scores) to weigh the question of access to such programs.
Grissom, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, says districts like Metro Schools should take stock of recruitment efforts to gifted programs. In 2017, for example, Nashville tested every second grader in the district for its gifted program, only to stop the next year due to cost.
“I think our results suggest that the district would benefit from taking a hard look at its assignment processes and how kids are identified [for gifted programs],” Grissom says.
According to the city’s most recent diversity report, the number of black and Hispanic students in the district’s gifted program falls short of its equity requirements.