Discuss issues of underrepresentation of culturally diverse students in gifted programs. Develop a potential gifted program that employs alternative methods of identification and addresses the issue of under-identification of culturally diverse students.
White, middle-class students are generally encouraged to succeed academically; academic success is valued and seen as a path to future happiness via a college education and a secure, well-paying job (Ford, 2008). Students from culturally diverse backgrounds may see these goals as unattainable and therefore assume an underachieving attitude towards school (Gándara, 1995; Weisman, Flores & Valenciana, 2007; Frasier & Passow, 1994). Frasier & Passow (1994) argued that this valuing of the American dream of a college education may either not be shared by students from culturally diverse groups, or may be viewed as an unrealistic goal, and therefore a waste of time (Shaunessy et al, 2007). This value dynamic must be recognized and considered when identifying students for gifted programs; too easily students from diverse backgrounds are overlooked because of their lack of motivation (Frasier & Passow, 1994; Frasier, 1989).
Another challenge that is faced by all talented students are the stigmas that often accompany being identified as gifted (Frasier & Passow, 1994); the labeling of students is a social and emotional issue that affects all of our students in the REACH program. Terms such as "nerd", "dork", "brain", and other derogatory labels are often heard in our schools; peer pressure to conform socially can be overwhelming for our talented students. Devaluing academic ability may be more extreme within culturally diverse groups due to the perception that achieving in school represents "acting white" (Ogbu, 1978). Compounded with the labeling issues that affect all talented students, culturally diverse students face scorn from their peers for exhibiting perceived "white" behaviors (Ford, 2008). Conforming to the majority white, middle-class culture is viewed as traitorous and therefore dangerous for our talented culturally diverse students (Frasier & Passow, 1994; Gándara, 1995; Frasier, 1989; Ogbu, 1998). Similarly, in their case-study of twenty Hispanic achievers, Cordeiro & Carspecken (1993) found that the students at times perceived academic success as being Americanized, thus attracting scorn from peers within their cultural group. Somehow we must circumvent this social phenomenon to identify and encourage the talent that we are not currently seeing because it is hiding in fear.
Using our current methods of identification, including analyzing performance and aptitude test scores, teacher nominations, and self-nomination, does not address our students who are underachieving or fearful of admitting their superior ability. Poor performance by culturally diverse students on standardized performance tests is well documented (Sternberg, 2007; Ford, 2008). These tests tend to be what Ford (2008) describes as "culturally loaded"; white middle-class students achieve at relatively higher rates than culturally diverse students. Our reliance on these types of tests to identify talent in our schools is failing our culturally diverse students; these students are not even registering on our radar screen and are missing out on the wonderful programming options the REACH Program has to offer.
REACH: The Foster County Gifted Program
Proposal for Restructuring of Identification System & Philosophy
The issue of under-identifying the gifts and talents of students from culturally diverse backgrounds is not a recent phenomena; in 1951 Bristow et al argued that potential exists in every cultural and economic group in our country. The challenge, they concluded, is identifying this potential and encouraging it. Even earlier, Jenkins (1936) concluded that ...
Analysis of the problem of under-identification in gifted programs in culturally diverse schools. Includes specific recommendations for a mock program, including alternative identification procedures.