Too few black students are identified as gifted. Nationally there is a crisis, with black students representing 19% of school districts but only 10% of gifted programs.
In real numbers, this discrepancy means that more than 250,000 gifted black students are unidentified and thus denied access to the curriculum and services they need to be successful academically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically.
What can parents and families do to advocate on behalf of their gifted children, too many of whom face unnecessary obstacles to having their gifts recognized and served?
(1) Be informed. Study the state and district definitions and criteria for gifted education. The more informed you are, the stronger your advocacy. Learn about asynchronous development, recognizing that culture may not be addressed. There is a difference between chronological age and intellectual age, academic age, and social/ emotional age.
(2) Gather data. Get evaluations from professionals who are not school personnel, such as psychologists and medical professionals. You may pay out-of-pocket, but as the saying goes, pay now or pay later.
(3) Reframe thinking. Recognize that most children who are not challenged will act up or disengage. This can include bullying others, throwing tantrums, and not doing school work. This is especially so for gifted students as they are advanced and will become bored from not being challenged. Behavioral issues do not necessarily mean that children are “bad.” Instead, they are seeking and need rigor and challenge. Acting out can be a cry for help.
(4) Be an advocate. When possible, involve gifted children in additional programs and activities to keep them challenged and excited about learning (for example, competitions, summer programs, after-school programs, mentoring programs).
(5) Find true peers. When possible, surround gifted children with other gifted students; they need peers who share their interests and struggles. These peers should be culturally diverse.
(6) Be realistic. Do not expect schools to solely provide the challenge your child needs. Schools are essential but not the only way to nurture gifts and talents. Family activities are essential. Attend national, state, or local conferences when possible.
(7) Be relentless. Never give up on your gifted child, even if he or she is not formally identified. There are often many barriers to accessing gifted education for students of color. This does not mean your child is not gifted.
Ed. Note: Interested parents should consult the work of the author, Donna Y. Ford, Ph.D., who has written extensively on giftedness in communities of color.