Tag Archives: #giftedidentification

Understanding the Intelligence of Black American Girls for Gifted Identification

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.


Beegle, D. (2003, October/November). Overcoming the silence of generational poverty. Talking Points, 15(1),


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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Understanding the Needs of Twice-/Multi-Exceptional African American Students

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Over the course of studying about gifted students for the purpose of endorsement to work in a gifted environment, it became obvious that two groups were notoriously underrepresented through selection for gifted services more so than other subgroups. They include the twice- or multi-exceptional—those students who have gifts and talents, but also have one or more disability that inhibits academic performance—and students from minority cultures such as African or Hispanic Americans. The question arises: how are students who are both from a subdominant culture and also multi-exceptional affected in the process of being identified as gifted students? Additionally, are they are receiving services for both the exceptionality and giftedness once they have been selected? This paper will take a look at how one group of researchers attempted to answer these questions through a qualitative study involving eight, African American students who are also diagnosed as twice-exceptional.

In the Mayes, Hines, and Harris (2014) study, the sample students they used were all African American high school students with disabilities—ranging from specific learning disabilities to one student with a traumatic brain injury—all of whom had already been selected by their school for gifted designation based on non-academic skills and talents. That means, instead of having high testing scores or a strong record of classroom success, these adolescents had been identified based on specific talents such as visual arts, music, or dance, etc as identified by specialists in those areas within the school environment. Since they were already acknowledge as gifted, this study says little about the identification system, which is typically poor for both twice-exceptional and African American adolescents and children in general. However, the researchers were able to identify four main characteristics that this group experienced that could possibly jeopardize their success in school and into adulthood.

The first similarity is that while all of the students were identifed as gifted, seven out of eight were unaware of their gifted designation, while each knew that s/he had a disability. This is primarily due to their in school placement. Most of these students were in special education classes and none received even pull-out services for their gifts. Even though they were in a special needs class, these students felt that their teachers and tutors “…often overlooked the accommodations they needed” (p. 130). These were the accommodations for their disabilities that are written into each student’s IEP. The students were not even aware that they should have been receiving additional special services designed to encourage and enhance their gifts. Also, although each student identified at least one teacher or staff member who took special interest in them, most of the teachers in the system treated them with “…general rudeness and lack of connection…” (p. 130). These attitudes from the teachers and staff members may have contributed to a lack of services that the children received in school.

The second commonality for these students is they all experienced similar personal and social challenges. As was discussed in an earlier paper, children with disabilities tend to have low sociometric measures, which means that they are typically rejected by their classroom peers (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). The students in the study were not exceptions to the rule. The study reported, “…seven of the eight students shared that they were often bullied or teased by their peers, which in turn impacted their behavior at school” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 131). The increased negative behaviors tend to exacerbate the sociometry problem, and the problem increases (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). Additionally, many of the adolescents reported the need to try to hide their special education designation to avoid maltreatment from their peers. Furthermore, while African Americans are in the majority of students in their school’s population in this study, and these particular students also felt pride in their racial and cultural heritage, “…they also realized that they faced stereotypes both within the school and in the larger society” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). For example, the student with the traumatic brain injury reported that his teachers “…stereotyped him as ‘another black, lazy kid’…” because his injuries cause him to have more than average absenteeism (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Along with the propensity for teachers to characterize twice-exceptional children only according to their disabilities—not by their gifts—these particular students were doubly stereotyped due to racial discrimination from the teachers and staff members (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014; Ford, 2010; Rizza & Morrison, 2003). This additional stereotype may account for why these studeents not only did not receive gifted enhancements to develop their talents, but they also lacked accommodations and services needed for their disabilities.

The next commonality between these students is that poor self-concept led them to worry about their future. While a number of these students mentioned that specific teachers encouraged them to take advantage of their gifts and talents through post-secondary education and training opportunities, the students lacked the self-confidence to believe that they could succeed in those programs. One student reported that despite his best efforts, he cannot read. Another stated that she was “…gravely concerned about her ability to be successful in community college. She was concerned that the professors would theink she was ‘dumb’ and that they wouldn’t accommodate her needs” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Perhaps the stereotypes that these adolescents experienced due to their cultural and ability differences negatively affected their self-efficacy and self-concept to the point that it has nearly made it impossible for them to move on without significant intervention. Counseling could, perhaps, help with this problem.

The last similarity between the study subjects was that they all had “…limited interactions with their school counselors” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). The seniors had more contact with guidance than those in the lower grades simply due to the fact that the counselors were attempting to ensure that the students meet their requirements for graduation. However, one student reported that in her opinion “…her school counselor hindered her progress towards graduation due to lack of communication” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). She reported late responses and miscommunications that led to a lowing of her GPA.

Since this is a paper about curriculum, an attempt will be made to tie in possible curriculuar fixes that may help students like these become more successful. First, using a model of curriculum that is provided for the whole school may help teachers identify more of the students who lack the testing ability and/or are in traditionally under-identified groups, as is the case with these students. Therefore, using Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enhancement Model might be effective toward the goal of illuminating the skills of students with gifts that are not otherwise seen (Renzulli & Reis, n.d.). Additionally, this model has proven to be effective for both gifted and non-gifted students alike, so whether or not the students are identified, they will have curricular opportunities for enhancement and compacting (Van Tassel-Baska & Brown, 2007). By using tier II and tier III enhancements to enduce academic growth and successes, this curriculum may also help the study group’s self-concept and self-efficacy issues. While no curriculum will take away the stereotypes and prejudices that influence teacher and staff judgement or treatment by society at large, perhaps adopting a multicultural, responsive classroom model would also help reinforce that cultural difference based on deep cultural experiences are all equally valid. In doing so, perhaps the students will not develop defecit thinking that says that their own culture is inferior to the dominant American culture (Ford, 2010). If they can learn this from the curriculum, then they may be able to avoid some of the self-doubt that inhibits their success and the use their academic and creative gifts and talents by which to build a career.

Based on this study—which is very unique as I could not find another like it—there is clearly a need to do more research on how to use counseling and curriculum to help twice-exceptional students who are also not a part of the dominant culture. While these students have strong gifts, either academically or creatively, and tend to have good task commitment, they are frequently blocked from success due to a double experience of prejudice and stereotyping. Teachers need to do two things to help. First, we must build a culturally responsive class where every student can show his/her abilities in ways that are valid in that culture. Also, we need to provide the proper accommodations for the students’ disabilities so that the challenges do not mask the students gifts and talents. Additionally, counselors and giudance professionals should become more accessible and responsive to the special needs of these students for both accommodations and gifted services (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014). If those things can happen, there is a much higher chance that twice- or multi-exceptional students from subdominant cultures will meet their potential.


Baydik, B., & Bakkaloglu, H. (2009). Predictors of sociometric status for

      low socioeconomic stutus elementary mainstreamed students with and without special needs. Educational Sciences/Theory & Practice, 435–442.

Ford, D. Y. (2010). Underrepresentation of culturally different students in

      gifted education: Reflections about current problems and recommendations for the future. Gifted Child Today, 33(3), 31–35.

Mayes, R. D., Hines, E. M., & Harris, P. C. (2014). Working with twice-

      exceptional African American students: Information for school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(2), 125–139.

Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (n.d.). The schoolwide enrichment model:

Rizza, M. G., & Morrison, W. F. (2003). Uncovering stereotypes and

      identifying characteristics of gifted students and students with emotional/behavioral disabilities. Roeper Review, 25(2), 73–77.

Van Tassel-Baska, J., & Brown, E. F. (2007, January). Toward best practice:

      An analysis of the efficacy of curriculum models in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 342–358.
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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


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The Importance of Culture for Deriving Meaning

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

When children from subdominant cultures in American society are consistently underrepresented in gifted programs, most experts agree that there must be something about the way education is presented through the lens of the dominant culture that makes the curriculum and subsequent demonstration of intelligence and talented more difficult for these students. The question is: what is it about culture that makes it an important component for learning and gifted identification? This paper will look at some of the research that connects culture to learning style.

According to Rodriguez and Bellanca (2007), historically, when children have been ripped away from their own culture due to some traumatic event, and they are subsequently educated in an immersive culture that is not their own, these children have been unable to perform or to demonstrate knowledge. The authors provide several examples of this occurrence throughout history including: the children who survived the Holocaust, the First Nations’ children who were taken from their families by the Canadian government, the children of Japanese citizens who were put in internment camps, and the children of slaves brought from Africa to America. In each case, and others like them, “…many children who survived did so with their cultural identity severely impaired or irretrievably lost” (p. 59).

One thing that all of these groups have in common is that without their cultural heritage intact, they were unable to process meaning when they tried to learn, as was first identified by Reuven Feuerstein (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Many of these children were initially identified as intellectually disabled, when the reality was that simply they could no longer use their background information and prior experiences as a basis for establishing meaning for the things that they were trying to learn. He developed a mediation for these students to replace their cultural loss. Similarly, when a child suffers from deficit thinking—when s/he is led to believe that her/his culture is somehow inferior to that of the dominant culture, then it is as if the student’s own culture has been torn away, and s/he can no longer effectively use cultural experiences as a way to derive meaning in what s/he is attempting to learn.

Context is critical for learning. Most people derive context from the things we know and experience through our family and community culture. When the school’s dominant culture is a mismatch to the child’s family culture—especially when there are significant value and learning differences between the two cultures—then the student feels that s/he cannot use the majority of life’s experiences to help parse the information that is presented at school. If s/he does, then the information may be deficient in some way in the child’s subconscious. As in the cases of the children who were torn away from their culture in the examples above, these students may not be able to express their intelligence significantly without having the proper cultural context available to them. Therefore, they may be gifted and talented in actuality, but they are also not able to express themselves in ways that the teacher and other adults in the dominant culture will recognize. Therefore, their gifts and talents go unnoticed.

Similarly, the Supporting Good Teaching Series from the Educational Research Service offers the following

        Schools have a culture of their own, and many mainstream schools reflect and operate according to what might be described as middle-class European American cultural standards. Students from other cultural backgrounds may experience cultural conflicts in such classrooms because their accustomed ways of learning and communicating may not match mainstream routines—hence creating barriers to effective learning (Educational Resource Service, 2004, p. 1).

Further, they write, “Cultural conflicts can interfere with a child’s progress by producing misunderstanding, discomfort, possible rejection, and, ultimately, low achievement” (Educational Resource Service, 2004, p. 2). This is true of the gifted child as well as the more typically intelligent child. Therefore, the low achievement—while having a different cause than gifted underachievement in dominant culture students—often prevents these students from being identified for gifted and talented programs. As educators, by providing multicultural experiences in the classroom through responsive curriculum, we can go a long way toward giving students back access to their native culture for learning context and presentation of intelligence and talent.

According to Rethinking Schools (2000), an additional benefit to a multicultural approach is that without it, academic rigor is impossible. In a totalitarian society—where only one point of view is tolerated—it is difficult to teach about situations that are best understood and processed through diverging viewpoints. Conversely, in a democratic education system, it is not only possible, but desirable to teach multiple points of view. Similarly, they suggest

      ,ul>In curriculum, academic rigor is impossible without a multicultural standpoint. Suppose one is teaching about the American Revolution. Traditional—non-multicultural—curricular approaches to the revolution focus on the actions of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other “great men.” But, in 1776, the majority of people in the 13 colonies were women, African Americans, or Native Americans. They pursued their dreams in ways that profoundly impacted the revolution… ”There is no way to make sense of events following the Declaration of Independence—or any other historical era—without multicultural perspective (Rethinking Schools, 2000, para. 2).

Yet, when we only teach and expect students to learn through the lens of the dominant culture that presents the White, European, male vantage point, then we narrow the possibility of deeper understanding and learning. As a result, one can see that multicultural education is a more democratic way to teach and learn because it allows for looking at things through divergent experiences. In a similar manner, Morrison (2013) writes, “…democratic education promises much more meaningful learning. If people have more choice and freedom to study what interests them, then they become more deeply engaged in, and thus less alienated from, their learning” (p. 95). How much more is this true when students have the lens of their own culture from which to process, provide context, and express their cultural voice in their education projects.

In summary, the idea of excluding certain cultures from the curriculum is similar to dramatically ripping a child from his/her family and community in that s/he loses the ability to use the context of culture to assign meaning and expression. Feuerstein found that students who were physically separated from their culture historically needed to learn a mediation for assigning meaning before they could be successful at deeper learning endeavors. Fortunately, for many American children from underrepresented ethnic, racial, and gender situations, teachers only need to take a multicultural and responsive approach toward the curriculum to give them back the context they need to become identified. There is an added benefit in that democratic, multicultural education curriculum provides an interweaving of ideas that makes learning about a topic more rigorous, which is a primary goal of gifted education. Therefore, teachers should provide multicultural experiences rather than relying on curriculum that expresses only the viewpoint of the dominant culture as a lens through which all children must learn.


Educational Resource Service. (2004). Culturally sensitive classrooms. Arlington, VA: Educational Resource Service.

Morrison, K. A. (2013). Democratic classrooms: Promises and challenges of student voice and choice. In J. W. Noll, Taking sides: Clashing views on educational issues (seventeenth ed., pp. 92–101). New York: Mcgraw Hill.

Rethinking Schools. (2000). Multiculturalism: A fight for justice. Retrieved from Rethinking Schools:

Rodriguez, E., & Bellanca, J. (2007). What is it about me you can’t teach?: An instruction guide for the urban educator (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.


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Poverty and Gifted Identification

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

This week’s readings in my gifted endorsement program are related to the cultural biases in education that account for the underrepresentation of non-white families and families from poverty in gifted programs. Kitano (2003) writes, “…while intense poverty limits the presence of Black, Hispanic, and Native American students among the highest achievers, inadequate school resources, racial and ethnic prejudice, families’ limited educational resources, and cultural differences contribute to underrepresentation” (293). This paper will use the two articles from the reading assignments along with some other experiences and information to illustrate Kitano’s point.

According to Beegle (2003) families from low socioeconomic status—especially if the family is from generational poverty—are often stuck in the lower levels of what Maslow identified as a hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2007; Huitt, 2007). Parents from generational poverty spend the majority of their resources trying to meet the physical and safety needs of the family, so there is little or nothing left to invest into school, which is a much higher-level need reaching the social, esteem, and self-actualization areas of Maslow’s pyramid. As a result, the parents lack the monetary, educational, and time resources needed to invest in ensuring that their children get into gifted programs despite the child’s individual strengths and talents. That leaves the work of identifying to the teachers and school, which is already prejudiced toward middle class values for academics and behaviors as well as scores on standardized tests that are written to the advantage of white, middle class students (Payne, n.d.; Slocumb & Payne, 2000). Slocumb and Payne (2000) claim that the current “…identification processes do not factor in environmental differences” (p. 28), thereby favoring identification of middle class students over low SES and culturally diverse students. Montoya, Matias, Nishi, and Sarcedo (2016) suggest that this inequity situation is institutionalized racism that needs to end. Having little confidence that the identification system can be repaired, they call for an end to segregated gifted and talented programs and to instead use a differentiation model to service each student’s gifts and talents in the integrated classroom. This model also has the benefit of giving gifted children who have asynchronous development the social and emotional interactions with children who may be more aligned with those needs than some of the more evenly developed gifted students.

Others have more confidence that they system can and should be fixed because of the extremely high needs of gifted and talented students that may be more difficult to service in an integrated classroom. For example, as a remedy to the current segregated system, Slocumb and Payne (2000) suggest that schools should “…develop an identification process for the gifted and talented that takes into account the inequality that exists between students from poverty and those from middle class” (p. 29). To do so would require taking away standardized test scores and other grading systems that favor middle class students as identifying tools, and in their place schools should develop more formative evaluations to help identify students based on skills that are not traditionally valued in school. This could include opening up evaluation systems that use a wider range of Gardner’s identified intelligences (Lane, n.d.), especially the ones that are undervalued in the current gifted identification process.

Another possible solution is to use the model that we use at the Galileo School, which is to teach each student enrolled in our school in a gifted style regardless of identification or designation. Of course, that requires a lot of differentiation as mentioned in the Montoya, Matias, Nishi, and Sarcedo (2016) article, but the difference is that the teachers are not simply using the gifted-style of learning to differentiate for the gifted students. Rather, all students received the benefit of gifted style learning with the academic elements of the learning tailored to their own educational needs and development. As a result, all of the children benefit from things like enhancement, acceleration, and choice.


Beegle, D. (2003, October/November). Overcoming the silence of generational poverty. Talking Points, 15(1), 11-20.
Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from Educational Psychology Interactive:
Kitano, M. K. (2003). Gifted potential and poverty: A calll for extraordinary action. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 26(4), 292–303.
Lane, C. (n.d.). Multiple intelligences. Retrieved from Tecweb:
McLeod, S. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from Simply Psychology:
Montoya, R., Matias, C. E., Nishi, N. W., & Sarcedo, G. L. (2016, March). Words are wind: Using Du Bois and Borudieu to ‘unveil’ the capricious nature of gifted and talented programs. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 14(1), 127–143.
Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages :
Slocumb, P. D., & Payne, R. K. (2000, May). Identifying and nurturing the gifted poor. Principal: The New Diversity, 79(5), 28–32.


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