Do gifted & talented tracks increase racial disparities?

The NY Times today ran a collection of Room for Debate pieces[1] on the topic of gifted and talented programs in public education.

One editorial[2] in particular called for the elimination of these programs on the grounds that it creates a de facto racial segregation in public education. In the New York City public school system, 70% of children are either African-American or Latino, whereas more than 70% of kindergarten students in gifted and talented programs were of white or Asian descent.

I’m about as progressive as any; but this is wrong. It is almost certainly ineffective to attempt to improve the outcomes by eliminating programs that benefit talented, motivated students. It is regretable that we (still) live in a country where such racial inequalities still exist. But stunting of opportunity is not the right way to correct it.

Those who would eliminate G&T tracks do so with the mistaken belief that if you have four children in a classroom, with IQ’s of 80,90,110, and 120; that you’ll end up with four kids of average intelligence. It doesn’t work that way. The kids on the lower end of the range may lack the foundational experiences that will enable them to take advantage of whatever benefits are mined from the G&T programs. And the kids on the upper end are likely to be bored and under-motivated by the experience. Nine pregnant women can’t deliver a baby in one month.

The recommended solution is to provide a “gifted education for all.” That certainly seems to be the egalitarian solution; but it ignores the very real difficulties of implementation. It would invariably mean more stratification of students, the very outcome the authors of this piece seek to avoid.

  1. Room for Debate (2014-06-04). The New York Times Link

  2. Potter, H. & Tipson, D. Eliminate Gifted Tracks (2014-06-04). The New York Times Link