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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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Using Mediation in a Gifted Learning Program

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Since this class is about guidance and counseling of gifted learners, I decided to take a look at the process of mediation to determine how—if at all—it can be used to improve learning environments for gifted and talented students. This paper will start by briefly explaining the history and defining the role of a mediator in education, and then apply mediation theory to gifted education. I will also take a look at some of the relevant literature related to using mediation with gifted students.

The concept of mediation in education came about from Feuerstein’s work with students who survived the Holocaust (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Mediation is a rejection of the behaviorist ideas about learning. It builds on Piaget’s learning model where the learner is metaphorically placed between a stimulus and a response. In Piaget’s model, the lesson stimulus, whether it be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, reaches the learner who then responds by processing the materials. However, Feuerstein noticed that this model was somewhat deficient for his special learners—the survivors. Without parents or teachers to work as intermediaries between the stimulus and the learner during their formative years, the lesson delivered via a stimulus didn’t necessarily reach the student in a way that was useful. Additionally, once the lesson reached the child, s/he did not have the skills available to ensure a learning response. Therefore, Feuerstein postulated that in early learning, every stimulus and response needs a mediator until the child learns to do that on his/her own. “This mediator is a person who captures the stimuli that bombard a learner every day, strains the stimuli, and helps the children develop their own way of filtering those stimuli that promote learning from those that distract” (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007, p. 17). By that definition, certainly twice-exceptional students with specific learning disabilities—for example—who are distracted by the many stimuli in a classroom could use mediators to help them process information so they can weed out the distractions from the curriculum. Then, the mediator can help the student process the stimulus into a learned response.

Smith (2002) suggests that applying CBI, cognitive-behavioral interventions, for behavior deficits exhibited by gifted students can also help them learn how to use mediation to monitor and control their own behaviors. He writes, “CBI incorporates behavior therapy…and cognitive mediation (e.g., think-alouds) to build what can be called a new ‘coping template’” (Smith, 2002, para. 3). First the mediator teaches the child to process the negative stimulus that is causing the problematic behavior, and then s/he mediates the response for the student. As the child begins to learn how to use the mediating steps himself/herself, then the mediator is no longer needed and the child can use CBI to moderate and control negative behaviors without intervention.

While Feuerstein’s method of mediated learning was exclusively used in the beginning to work with children who never

had an adult to help them mediate stimuli and responses—and that is not necessarily the problem for gifted learners—there is a place for it in working with gifted and talented students. Twice-/multi-exceptional students may be bombarded by an influx of stimuli that they cannot successfully parse without having an active mediator. Also, gifted students who have behavior issues may learn to control them by using mediation through CBI. Therefore, there is good reason to practice mediation in gifted and talented programs along with guidance and counseling.


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.

Smith, S. W. (2002, August). Applying cognitive-behavioral techniques to social skills instruction.

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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


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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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