Understanding the Intelligence of Black American Girls for Gifted Identification

13 Jul

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Evans-Williams (2014) wrote a journal article chronicling the specific challenges that the special population of Black American girls face for identification and retention in gifted and talented programs. Her article starts by looking at the statistics, showing that Black American girls are underrepresented by approximately 40% in current GT programs based on their numbers in the general population. That means that there were—at the time of publication—in excess of 100,000 students in this subgroup that are underserviced. Williams (2014) describes—according to the available literature—that cultural intelligences of being Black, being female, and also frequently falling into the low SES group as well are not valued in the selection process or curricular activities typically used to recognize and teach gifted and talented students. These additional intelligences as demonstrated by the subgroup include resiliency and developing a bicultural identity. This paper will explore these two kinds of intelligence, and suggest ways to raise their value in the GT selection process.

This article was chosen because it discusses three groups of students who are frequently biased against in the current system. African Americans and other Black Americans are among the lowest groups selected from regardless of gender or SES. There are a plethora of studies about the many causes of the achievement gap between Whites and Blacks in general, and that gap gets even wider when it comes to recognizing gifts and talents (U.S. Department of Education, 2009) (Carlton-Parsons, 2001) (Cavilla, 2013). Similarly, while it is popular to talk about how boys are now doing more poorly in school than girls, the truth is that any educational gains made by girls is not due to advantage or privilege built into the school community or curriculum as was the case for White boys. Rather, it is simply that, for a number of reasons, girls have raised their achievement levels (Mead, 2006). Closing a gap is not always about the group that is ahead losing skills or privilege. It can be, as in the case of overall achievement, that the lower group is making advancements. Yet, girls as a group are still underrepresented in gifted education programs. Finally, SES affects socialization, actualization, parental involvement, hierarchy of needs, and a wide variety of things that make children underperform in school (Beegle, 2003) (Payne, n.d.). Therefore, Black girls who come from low income families are battling all three biases built into the selection system (Evans-Williams, 2014). As a result, suggesting solutions to help these students will possibly have a positive affect on three underrepresented subgroups. That is why this study was selected for review.

Two areas of intelligence and talent that Evans-Williams (2014) discusses in her study are worth looking at for solutions. She cites several papers that suggest that Black American girls have superior resiliency over other subgroups. Resiliency comes from the fact that despite the cultural- and gender-related challenges they face, many go on to complete school successfully (Evans-Williams, 2014). Yet, how can one look at resiliency in terms of currently accepted identifiers for giftedness? Perhaps resiliency can be seen as a form of task commitment. According to Renzulli (n.d.) task commitment is one of three rings of giftedness that also include creativity and traditional intelligence. Typically, task commitment is about having the ability to concentrate one’s efforts to do in-depth work on a particular project. Resiliency, on the other hand, is about having the ability to make it through life. If educators begin to look at life for students as an ongoing project, then resiliency is a form of task commitment as it is responsible for meeting goals, much like the goal of completing an academic or creative project.
The other intelligence to consider is biculturalism (Evans-Williams, 2014). Accordingly, Black American girls have the ability to switch from their home and community culture to the White, middle-class, European-based, dominant culture of public schools and back again better than other subgroups. Payne (n.d.) suggests that code switching is a sign that a student understands that there are different cultural expectations in different situation. Like switching language registers when one is in different social groups, bi- or multi-cultural code switching suggests high awareness and intelligence. Therefore, as Evans-Williams (2014), it should be considered when selecting students for gifted and talented services.

Studying Black American girls is a good way to be able to untangle the weave of biases caused by being a part of two or three different underrepresented subgroups. As a result, Evans-Williams (2014) study is an important one for developing a discussion about the topic, and there should be additional studies with this group. Both resiliency and biculturalism are clearly kinds of intelligences that are not evaluated in current systems, which continues to have a White, male, European bias. Recognizing that these skills can be used for more advanced forms of intelligence and creativity, educators should add them to the more traditionally accepted educational values used in the selection and retention processes.


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Carlton-Parsons, E. (2001, December). Using power and caring to meidate White male privilege, equality, and

      equity in an urban elementary classroom: Implications for teacher preparation. The Urban Review, 321–338.

Cavilla, D. (2013). Thoughts on access, differentiation, and implementation of a multicultural curriculum. Gifted

      Education International, 30(3), 281–287.

Evans-Williams, V. E. (2014). Are Black girls not gifted? Race, gender, and resillience. Interdisciplinary Journal

      of Teaching and Learning, 22–30.

Mead, S. (2006, June). The evidence suggests otherwise. Education Sector, 1–21.

Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages

Renzulli, J. (n.d.). Renzulli’s three-ring conception of giftedness. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Achievement gaps: How Black and White students in public schools

      perform on the national assessment of educational progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences.
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Posted by on July 13, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


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