Study: Black students three times more likely to be in gifted programs if their teachers are black

Students participate in a gifted classroom at Chapel Hill Elementary School in DeKalb County. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

A new study out of Indiana University and Vanderbilt University finds black teachers are more likely to refer black students to gifted services and classes, which give children creative learning experiences and opportunities for advanced work.

The research echoes what the AJC found in a special 2014 report. The AJC discovered:

Despite aggressive efforts to erase the gap between the races, white students in Georgia are roughly three times more likely than their black counterparts to be enrolled in gifted programs — and roughly 2 1/2 times more likely to be in those classrooms than other minority students, including Hispanics and Asians. That’s according to an analysis of 2012-2013 school year education data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The state has made significant progress. Twenty years ago, the AJC examined gifted participation and found white students were five times more likely than minorities to be enrolled in gifted programs.

Poverty undoubtedly plays a role. But experts say the persistent racial disparity — coming six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of schools — is troubling. Gifted students benefit from smaller class sizes, more challenging work, specially trained teachers and a more motivated, high-achieving peer group. The failure to close the gap has meant unequal access to an elite public education, seen as a path to top colleges and high-paying jobs.

But poverty isn’t the only explanation. Statistician Matthew McBee discovered this when he analyzed state gifted enrollment data for his 2010 dissertation at the University of Georgia. He crunched the numbers on more than 300,000 students, and found after filtering for poverty that race was still a “huge” predictor of who would — or would not — get the gifted label.

“Any poor kid has a lower chance of getting in, whether they’re black, white, Hispanic or Asian. That’s just a fact. But if that kid is poor and black, that gives him another penalty, ” said McBee, now an assistant professor of psychology at East Tennessee State University.

Some researchers blame class and cultural bias in the selection process. Georgia uses a mix of standardized tests and more subjective ratings by teachers to identify gifted children. Donna Ford, a leading researcher of racial disproportion in gifted programs, said any subjective measure like a teacher rating is suspect.

Here is the release from Indiana University on the new research:

African-American children are three times as likely to be placed in gifted-education programs if they have a black teacher rather than a white teacher, according to research conducted by faculty members at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Vanderbilt University.

The research also finds that black students are 54 percent less likely than white students to be identified as eligible for gifted-education services after adjusting for the students’ previous scores on standardized tests, demographic factors, and school and teacher characteristics.

The results suggest the key factor is that black teachers are more likely than white teachers to see black students as gifted — and not that the students or their parents are doing anything differently to gain one of the limited seats in programs for gifted students.

The article, “Disentangling the Causal Mechanisms of Representative Bureaucracy: Evidence from Assignment of Students to Gifted Programs,” appears in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Authors are Sean Nicholson-Crotty and Jill Nicholson-Crotty, associate professors in SPEA at IU Bloomington, and Jason Grissom and Christopher Redding of Vanderbilt University.

“We find that African-American students are under-represented in gifted programs,” Sean Nicholson-Crotty said. “And we find that having a black teacher dramatically increases the likelihood that a black student will be placed in a gifted program, relative to having a white teacher.”

Previous studies had shown that African-American students are underrepresented in gifted programs, but the studies were based on organizational-level data and could not determine what caused the underrepresentation. The current study makes use of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, kindergarten cohort, a federal program that tracks information about students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

These data make it possible to measure the odds that black and white students will be placed in gifted programs, with adjustments made for student, teacher and school characteristics, test scores and other factors. These data also allow the researchers to draw conclusions about a causal mechanism that can explain the observation that black students are more likely to be identified as gifted with black classroom teachers.

Specifically, the study shows that black teachers’ perceptions of black students are more positive than are white teachers’ perceptions, and these perceptions drive assignment differences. Black teachers more positively assess black students’ approaches to learning, self-control and other behaviors that may be important in identifying giftedness.

“It’s that teacher-student match, independent of your test score,” Jill Nicholson-Crotty said. “It’s the relationship between the teacher and the student.”

These findings accord with those from another recently published study, by researchers at American University and Johns Hopkins University, which found that black teachers had higher expectations than white teachers that black students would succeed in school.

The authors did not find support for another possible outcome suggested in the academic literature: that black students are more likely to be recommended for gifted programs by both black and white teachers when those teachers are part of a racially diverse teaching force. They also found no evidence of two other potential explanations for the results. One is that black students perform better on standardized tests and other objective measures of giftedness if they have black teachers. Another is that parents of black students are more likely to engage with teachers and lobby to have their children evaluated for giftedness if their teachers are black.

Gifted education programs have long been subject to criticism that their selection criteria, which often rely on IQ testing and other measures of cognitive ability, are biased against students of color and poor children. But the current study suggests African-American students can also be left behind in the referral process, when teachers recommend students to be evaluated for gifted programs.

The researchers say the findings point to the value for schools of recruiting and hiring more teachers of color. While teachers and students should not be matched by race, they say, having a more diverse teaching force would raise the odds that black students would have a black teacher in the early grades when students are typically identified for gifted programs.

Another policy response, they said, would be to screen all students for giftedness, not just those who are referred by teachers or parents, and to provide outreach to parents so they have the information and skills to help schools identify their children as gifted.

 

Reader Comments 0

118 comments
Milo
Milo

Bell Curve. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Study: Black students three times more likely to be in gifted programs if their teachers are black."

Did the so-called "statisticians" control for the overall demographics of the school population in conjunction with the overall demographics of the school teacher population?  In other words, black students in majority black schools have predominately black teachers who are going to recommend - wait for it - black students.  Likewise, schools with majority white population most likely have a greater proportion of white teachers.Lies, D**n Lies, and Statistics, indeed.It's a numbers thing.  But the Cultural Marxists see discrimination under every rock even when there is none and the AJC is a major contributor to this practice.As far as the poverty excuse?  Simply put, higher IQ parents have greater earnings potential and pass along those higher IQ traits to their children.  I.e., poverty is a function of IQ.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

I see the politically correct filters are in place at AJC.  "Malformed content"????  WTF is that?  An opinion the AJC doesn't agree with?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Hmmm, went through that time  ^^^^

Starik
Starik

@Lee_CPA2 IQ is a bell curve, for every racial group, and the bell curves overlap. There are significant numbers of blacks whose IQ is higher that significant numbers of whites; the percentage may be quite large.  Similarly, the Asian bell curve and the Jewish bell curve are more advanced in IQ than the white bell curve, with the Hispanic and Indian curves a bit lower.  Probably, the German bell curve differs from the Polish, Russian, and French curves.  So what? 


Everybody has genetic differences.  Poverty, culture and sheer numbers (see India and China) have an effect.  Plenty of people in all cultures and racial groups have the potential to learn, and produce high IQ scores, but they don't have the opportunity to be educated.


The Georgia bell curve is better than Mississippi and Alabama's curve - compare to New York and Connecticut?  Much worse.

Glenda Bagley
Glenda Bagley

I'm so tired of these crybabies crying poor pitiful me crap

Toni Robertson
Toni Robertson

Are all kids tested for the gifted program? I thought that in order to be tested, the teacher had to recommend them first. So that does leave it open to some subjectivity. When both of my kids tested, it was very official and I had to sign paperwork for them to be pulled out of class and take this test.

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

Dekalb County and most metro Atlanta schools test in 1st, 3rd and 5th grade. No referral system.

Toni Robertson
Toni Robertson

My 4th grader is dyslexic. We had moved from Gwinnett over to Forsyth county when she was entering 1st grade. I was worried because schools do not recognize dyslexia and tend to say she should just "work harder". But much to my surprise, the teacher contacted me within 6 weeks of the start of the school year and said she is recommending her for the gifted program. She has enjoyed the advanced work and creative projects there and now has an IEP. I am grateful she was just not written off as a lazy student.

Toni Robertson
Toni Robertson

Interesting that it's not that way in all counties.

Tanya Seaman
Tanya Seaman

Toni you are absolutely correct! Recommendations/ referral from teachers in other counties. If a teacher doesn't think Susie is gifted because she gets directed in class and talks ( because she is bored with school work and isn't challenged) ms teacher won't recommend her.

eulb
eulb

Procedures for identifying gifted students vary from one district to another. Here's a link to the GA DOE's info about that.  http://tinyurl.com/zlr2kte


I'm wondering how charter schools and online schools identify and serve their gifted students. 

Brent James
Brent James

Not true they care less i had a white teacher she stayed on me until i graduated high school 26 years ago

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

Why have any subjective teacher referrals? Just fill the program based on objective test scores. Of course, we don't like tests anymore, so that may be a problem. 

Chels Lynn Colbert Monty
Chels Lynn Colbert Monty

I had to fight to get my child tested for gifted..had to complain all the way to the superintendent of the school system...she ended up being the only black child in gifted from 1st to 5th grade...the only one. Most black parents don't even realize there is a gifted program...it's not something that's advertised in open house.

Cameron Guill
Cameron Guill

Hard to know you need to request the testing if they don't tell you there even IS testing.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

What I am trying to communicate is that the instruments for testing gifted students are themselves culturally biased.  That has nothing to do with race of the students or the race of their teachers or of their socio-economic backgrounds.


The tests to determine "giftedness," themselves, have not found a way to test well enough, yet, for creativity and imagination, which are also traits that are indicative of giftedness.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings As one who is old enough to remember the bad old days in the South, it would probably not be appropriate to label kids as gifted because of an ability to sing and dance, or because of natural rhythm.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings


Creativity and imagination are not limited to singing and dancing.


Your post borders on racism.


There is a "natural rhythm" present in the Universe's design for those who have eyes to understand that rhythm.

Starik
Starik

@Milo @MaryElizabethSings @Starik Say again?  Racism is affirmative action.  If you meet your physician or surgeon, and they are black the first question is..."is this guy any good or was he promoted, hired, admitted to meet a quota? This totally unfair to the qualified blacks who are actually competitive. 


When your kid talks about a teacher, Dr. Somebody, you might think "Wow a PhD teaching school."  Probably not. Probably an internet degree, a strategy to make a higher salary. 



Deirdre Jones
Deirdre Jones

Because white teachers are always trying to say or recommending a lower or slower class

Milo
Milo

Maybe they need grammar help. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

My son graduated from the Institute Saturday and he was gifted from K5...........how?.....I have no clue, I was pretty good in school when I tried, but some kids just have that discipline at an early age?

Letters Sänger
Letters Sänger

now is that due to merit or appropriation based on race?

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

This is rediculous! The tests are the same for all the students and are not graded by the teachers...SO...results have nothing to do with their color...or their teacher's color...Contrary to most people's beliefs, it is NOT a recommendation program. It is a qualification system to get in... perception is IRRELEVANT... AJC...RESEARCH YOUR FACTS...QUIT RACE BAITING!!

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

I don't "value" student whether they are "gifted" or not. The test scores are mostly used now to "value" teachers and schools...which is total BS. Kids are not products that are all made from the same mold. Unfortunately, society has placed values on school test scores. But, every teacher that I have met in over 25 yrs knows that the goal can only be what each child can perform. We push ALL of them because we are evaluated on them. We push parents by referencing test scores because life is a competition...The more a student learns, the more successful they will be in life. Parents do not listen to teacher's opinions WITHOUT data to back it up. So, test scores is all you hear. Parents do not listen when you just say, "Little Johnny is not learning because he is not doing his work." They want to blame the teachers for pushing them too much. Yet, the data shows they are not performing as high as their peers. (These same peers they will be fighting for jobs later.) It is a double edge sword. Unfortunately, some will only be able to get minimum wage jobs when they are adults. But, teachers and parents should always expect their best...and not just to get by... they have to be pushed with grades, data and comparisons to some extent...

Dereko J. Robertson
Dereko J. Robertson

The fact that students' value (or lack thereof) is determined so highly by test scores is a huge reason our educational system is in the tank.

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

Teachers push all their kids... they get evaluated based on their kids scores... but, you cannot make a student "gifted". I am a gifted certified teacher. The test scores are what gets them in Gifted classes.

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

You cannot "teach" a student to perform well on cognative tests (mental abilities/I.Q. tests) Those are very complicated puzzles that students must figure out. They are not even taught in school. Gifted student's have to score in the top range in 3 out of 4 tests to get into "Gifted". That one is extremely hard to pass. You have to score 96%+. Then, the academic test requires 90% or higher. The students that do well on these are usually tutored (by stay at home parents or other resources) to learn everything before they are even taught at school. (Privileged perhaps..but not based on color.) The motivational and creativity tests assess students enthusiasm to do extra work, their organization, getting work turned in on time and unique ways of coming up with ideas. And, those two are given a second time by a different teacher in case a student is only missing one of those components. It is completely designed to be fair to all.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

Since you so kindly pointed out an error in someone else's post ...it is ridiculous, not rediculous.  Just saying. 

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

I am also a gifted endorsed teacher and have served as a system coordinator.  You might want to go back and look at the definitions and characteristics on the motivation and creativity.  Turning work in on time and doing extra work has nothing to do with motivation to learn.  Many, many gifted students do not perform well in traditional classrooms and are not identified by traditional teachers.  Teacher-pleasing behaviors and high-achievement are often misidentified as gifted behaviors.   Creativity can be measured on a test.  The test provides a much clearer picture than the recommendation of teachers.  Checklists are way to subjective and when completed by teachers who do not understand giftedness, are not reliable. 

kaelyn
kaelyn

Back in high school in the 80's (in a working class, predominantly white, Yankee city) I was the only nonwhite student in the "gifted" classes. My white teachers recommended me for the program.

The counselors at my school were very interested in the futures of the doctor/lawyer/business owner kids, and not so much interest was given to the rest of us - regardless of hue. By the time I was a senior I wanted to be in classes with my friends and "dropped down" to college prep classes.

I had exactly one black teacher in high school who encouraged all of us working class kids to do our best. He was a kind man who took a special interest in the boys (most of them white) who were on the verge of dropping out of school. I didn't get the sense that he favored any particular group of students, yet he was probably a special role model for the black students.

I now have one child in the gifted program. Her school is more racially diverse than my old high school, but I'd bet money that the majority of the kids in her gifted classes are from higher income backgrounds. My biased view says that income is more indicative of class level placement than race.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@kaelyn Bingo.


Like we see with one of our Presidential frontrunners, it's easier to be a millionaire if you start out with a million dollars.

Starik
Starik

@kaelyn Excellent observations.  Race is irrelevant  Class and culture matter.

newsphile
newsphile

I believe many gifted programs are problematic for all races.  I know this article is about minorities, but I see broader issues:  1.  There are also white students who weren't allowed access to the gifted program who enroll in AP and Honors courses, make great grades, and outrank gifted students in their classes.  2.  Some gifted programs are filled based on one standardized test score in elementary school.  3.  Gifted programs have given many students a sense of entitlement and of being so intelligent that no effort is required from them.  4.  Gifted teachers are frequently not gifted individuals which contributes to some of the issues with the program.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@newsphile  (1) High achievement and giftedness are not the same thing.  Many students are motivated to work hard and study and are raised to have the "teacher-pleasing" behaviors.  These kids do very well in class.  It doesn't mean they are gifted.  (2) In Georgia, students are not placed in gifted based on one test score.  Our system is a multi-criteria identification method.  (3) This can be said of children of a certain socio-economic status, children of certain schools, and yes, sometimes gifted students.  Many gifted students can complete grade level requirements with little to no effort.  That is why we need program for them.  (4)  I agree. 

Daniel McDowell
Daniel McDowell

Kinda like how...a black student is more likely to have their failing grades "corrected" if they go to a all black school...and have black teachers

Kathy Ervin
Kathy Ervin

Also my oldest 2 daughter's who had excellent test scores were never recommended by any teacher to be tested for any gifted classes. I stayed at the school checking on my children and not one of their teachers said anything about it. Smh! Holly Holland Stewart ,you sure was quick to call me an idiot ,I hope that you don't call your students idiots!

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

It is NOT true...because perception is not one of the requirements...the only thing that matters are their TEST scores... I am a gifted certified teacher...I know. Don't be an idiot falling for AJC'S race bait!

Kathy Ervin
Kathy Ervin

I am far from being an idiot! I know that this is true because it happens. If you think that the truth is race baiting so be it. Had my grandsons paternal grandmother not pressed the issue for him to be tested he would not be in a gifted class today. His teacher who happens to be white never initiated the conversation of him being tested for the gifted class!

Holly Holland Stewart
Holly Holland Stewart

ALL students are tested. There is no recommendation system in almost all Atlanta Metro schools. They are tested in 1st, 3rd, and 5th.

Kathy Ervin
Kathy Ervin

You are right about were! This study was done at Indiana and Vanderbilt Universities!

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

This is not true of every system - not even every system in the metro area.  Many systems test only by recommendation.    Just remember...being gifted endorsed does not make one a "gifted teacher" but a teacher of gifted students.  Calling people names does not support your argument. 

Milo
Milo

If you're not gifted, how do you effectively teach gifted kids?