How a school district proved gifted programs can be racially diverse

By: | March 16, 2021

Gifted education has been trying to solve its racism problem for years. The National Association for Gifted Children, or NAGC, reaffirmed its commitment to the issue after the Black Lives Matter protests. The group pledged to review all its policies to prioritize equity.

Yet diversification efforts have borne little fruit. After analyzing the newest U.S. Education Department civil rights data, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor Scott Peters found that on a state level “equity got worse” in gifted education from 2016 to 2018, with underrepresentation of Hispanic children in a majority of states and of Black students in three-quarters of states, he wrote in an email.

U-46 is a bright point, a sign that change can happen. West of Chicago, it is Illinois’ second-largest district, with about 40,000 students. In 2009, Hispanic students made up 46 percent of the student body but just 26 percent of gifted students, according to federal data, whereas white students were about 20 points in the opposite direction, comprising 38 percent of the district but 57 percent of gifted students. By 2017-18, the most recent data available, the district was 54 percent Hispanic — and its gifted classes were 48 percent Hispanic. The percentage of white gifted students, 25, was actually a hair lower than their representation in the district.

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