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Lack of diversity in gifted education: Some readers see segregation

Education Lab’s look at the lack of diversity among students identified as gifted provoked strong reaction from readers. Some suggested taking a similar lens to professional basketball, while others applauded our examination.

Education Lab’s examination of the diversity, or lack thereof, in classes for students deemed academically gifted provoked strong reaction from readers.

While black, Latino, American Indian and Pacific Islanders now comprise a third of all students in Washington public schools, they are represented at minuscule rates in classrooms for the intellectually advanced.

Whites and Asians, meanwhile, fill almost all those seats.

In response to the story, a few readers tartly suggested that The Seattle Times apply a similar lens to professional basketball and said the piece irresponsibly encouraged racial hatred. Still others, many of them retired teachers, decried what they saw as an under-the-radar sorting system that perpetuates segregation.

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

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Dale Kutzera zeroed in on a fundamental divide.

“Some believe all kids are intellectually equal, and any variations are strictly due to environmental issues,” he wrote, while “others believe there is a range of intellectual aptitude and you test kids and those who do well are challenged with gifted programs.”

Many parents, he added, “want their kids in gifted programs in order to surround them with ‘better’ more academically oriented role models. Who wouldn’t?”

Diana Grusczynski, perhaps.

Grusczynski, who is Latina, said: “The amount of advocacy necessary to get a child into Seattle’s program is ridiculous … I couldn’t help wondering how the children of immigrants who are less educated, speak little English, or don’t even have email would fare.”

One possible solution?

“Perhaps [Seattle] needs to provide more enriched programs overall, rather than sort gifted students narrowly,” Grusczynski suggested. “Even though I was always an excellent test taker, I’ve always thought that this was a very narrow way to assess whether a student is gifted.”

The Times’ original story quoted Federal Way parent Angela Griffin as inspired to run for the school board because she saw barriers to gifted-education classes as a civil-rights issue.

Some readers strongly endorsed that sentiment, among them Kimberly D’Angelo, vice president of the Northshore School Board.

“Back in September,” she wrote, “I asked the district in an open public meeting, what percentage of gifted students were minority, Hispanic and [low-income]. I was astounded to find that these populations are minimally represented in our gifted…

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