Black Enrollment in Single Digits at Gifted School in Diverse District

Black Enrollment in Single Digits at Gifted School in Diverse District

(Image: iStock/nicolas hansen)

In recent years, education and legal scholars have brought attention to the re-segregation of schools in the U.S. For instance, the 2012 report from the Civil Rights Project titled E Pluribus…Separation: The Deepening Double Segregation for More Students brought attention to the growing racial and economic segregation of many black and Latino students.

The report highlighted the fact that, although U.S. neighborhoods are becoming more diverse, black and Latino students are attending hyper-segregated schools. In this nation’s educational history, separate has never been equal.

A Case Example

I knew that my neighborhood school district harbored unique racial inequity challenges, as indicated by continual reports of racial inequality in housing, educational outcomes, and economic opportunities. However, like many small urban cities, the school system is one place where different racial groups can cross the proverbial racial and economic divide. Nonetheless, in this case the school district may actually be aiding and abetting racial segregation veiled as gifted education.

There are 24 schools in my neighborhood district, including a selective-enrollment gifted school that serves 5th-8th graders. Even though the district is made up of predominantly black (56.5%) and low-income (74%) students, with white (23%), Latino (9.9%), and Asian (1.6%) students in the minority, the student body in the gifted school is mostly white. Black students make up only 8.2% and Latino only 4.6% of the gifted school; students from low-income families make up only 22%. White (67%) students make up the majority (Asian students make up 8.9%).

In this case, gifted education is clearly inaccessible to the district’s majority black student population.

The Segregated Gifted Education Problem

Racial segregation in public education is a threat to the individual academic performance of a student, and potentially to the future economic as well as civic progress of black communities, in general. There may be a relationship between educational opportunities provided to students and long-term community development and economic prosperity.

Although more attention has been paid to black underrepresentation in gifted education, we must also address the fact that white students are overrepresented in gifted schools, even where the majority district student population is of color.

As gifted education scholar Donna Ford has reported, black students are underrepresented in gifted programs by almost 50% in most years, and in every Civil Rights Data Collection report.

Considering that students of color are already the majority in the nation’s public schools, we must begin to study the economic and social benefits–for all students–of desegregating gifted education.


This post was written by Venus E. Evans-Winters, Ph.D., associate professor of education, Educational Administration & Foundations, at Illinois State University.