Closing Texas’ “gifted gap” is good for our future

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As Texas’ economy evolves, we will need all types of students to be innovators, inventors, leaders, and creators. Gifted programs are a unique way to cultivate many of those talents in our high-achievers, so we must make sure that giftedness is identified in any student—regardless of race or income.

In education policy debates, we spend a lot of time focusing on proficiency gaps – getting “low performers” to a level of academic readiness that will enable them to succeed. This group of students is identified by high-quality assessments administered to all students to determine who is learning what they need to and who isn’t. We won’t ever find a silver bullet to close those gaps, but we can chip away at them with smart policy and hardworking, high-quality educators.

But what about identifying and serving our high-performing students? That’s a little dicier.

Much in the same way as low-performing students, gifted students need extra support to thrive. Unlike academically struggling students, however, many gifted students go unidentified in schools. To illustrate the severity of these gaps, The Fordham Institute recently released a report entitled “Is There a Gifted Gap?” which dives into the data about gifted education in high-poverty schools.

Here are some Texas highlights from the report:

  • At the school level, Texas offers gifted programming at a far higher rate than the national average (95.8% of low-poverty schools, 93.2% of middle-poverty schools, and 85.6% of high-poverty schools).
  • Compared to an 8.9% national average participation rate for gifted programming, Texas is slightly behind at 7.8%.
  • In high-poverty schools, Asian and white students are overrepresented in gifted participation rates, while black and Hispanic students are underrepresented. That said, gifted participation in Texas’ high-poverty schools is more representative of our student body’s racial makeup than national averages.

Clearly, a lot of things are going right, but we still have room to grow. Fordham suggests three policy changes that would likely increase diversity and expand opportunity in gifted programs: streamlined identification processes (or universal screening), shifting to identification within schools instead of district-wide, and countering bias to identify more students of color.

As Texas’ economy evolves, we will need all types of students to be innovators, inventors, leaders, and creators. Gifted programs are a unique way to cultivate many of those talents in our high-achievers, so we must make sure that giftedness is identified in any student—regardless of race or income. Or as the report’s foreword says, “For tomorrow’s leaders and innovators to reflect America’s diversity, today’s schools must cultivate talented children from every kind of background.”

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