Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Strength of Parent Advocacy: Tips for Getting School Districts to Recognize Gifted Children of Color

Today's post is written by: Adeyela Albury Bennett, parent & guest writer

It hurts that my brilliant eight-year-old twin daughters were denied access to Gifted Education services in our public school district. It also hurts that my daughters’ teachers view their loquaciousness as a behavior problem, rather than as a sign of giftedness. I am taken aback when my children’s knowledge of Arabic language and culture is dismissed. I am crushed that a teacher rated my twins low on a creativity checklist, yet recommended one of them to display her artwork at a prominent jazz and arts festival. I have sleepless nights when my twins’ unorthodox responses to essay prompts meet with a large, scarlet “F.”

My daughters are clearly gifted, but yet to be recognized as such by the school system. So, yes, I used to cry.

But, like Fannie Lou Hamer, I grew weary of crying. I grew sick and tired of my girls being left out of special school programs that, ultimately, would provide them with a more positive educational experience and put them on the fast track for scholarships to prep schools and Ivy League universities. Armed with divinely inspired wisdom, knowledge, understanding -- and courage -- I am now fighting back against inequities at my daughters’ school. Instead of crying, I now pray … and advocate on behalf of my children, and all children of color, who are brilliant and creative, yet unrecognized as gifted.

Nationally, six to ten percent of the population is intellectually gifted, according to the National Association of Gifted Children ( Sadly, children of color are dreadfully underrepresented in Gifted Education programs. In fact, white children with identical standardized test scores in math and reading as Black children are twice as likely to be placed into gifted programs, according to a recent study by researchers from Vanderbilt University (Grissom & Redding study)
At our daughters’ school, a significant number of students in kindergarten through Grade 5 at our school have been identified as gifted. The overwhelming majority of the gifted students are white, either Caucasian or Hispanic white. Most of them attend gifted classes all day, but some are enrolled in the full-time Extended Foreign Language program, and study in Spanish and English

Here are six tips for parents who want their children considered for their school district’s gifted program services:

1. Cultivate a positive relationship with teachers and administrators. Get to know your School Board representative and become active in the Parents Teachers Association. Be visible at the school. Teachers can be your greatest ally or worst enemy in your quest to have your child recognized as gifted.
2.       As early as Kindergarten, request for your child to be tested for gifted. Keep a record of all communication. If you have the economic means, also consult with a private psychologist, preferably of the same racial and/or cultural background. Prep your child for the IQ or Ability Test evaluation. Find out the minimum Ability Score OR full scale Intelligent Quotient score your state requires for gifted placement. However, they may have to meet additional criteria, such as high academic scores on the report card and standardized tests, and high scores on the teacher-rated gifted characteristics and creativity checklists.
3.       Prior to meetings with school officials, request advanced copies of student records to be discussed. This gives you a chance to review the data for accuracy, and prepares you to intelligently discuss your child’s education. Take a knowledgeable family member, friend or advocate with you to take notes and lend support at meetings.
4.       If your child doesn’t qualify, find out why. Know your rights to appeal. Find out if the IQ instrument used by the psychologist is culturally appropriate. Also, check for inconsistent or disparate scores in the psychological report that could indicate a disability that may qualify for federal Section 504 Accommodation. Closely review the teacher-rated checklists, because they are subjective. Be aware that districts generally fail to provide teachers with adequate training on identifying gifted characteristics.
5.       Network and form alliances to stay abreast of scholarly research and news articles about gifted education. Seek advice and support from school educators, academics, parents of gifted children, religious organizations, social media bloggers and civic groups that focus on education equity issues.
6.       Speak up! Attend advisory council meetings. write elected officials and the school superintendent to report any discrepancies in the process. Write newspaper editors, and radio and television stations to tell your story

We must ALL do our part to ensure EQUITY and ACCESS in Gifted Education!

Adeyela Bennett is a parent, an international educator and social justice advocate. You may contact her at