Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Minority Language Students
Students with special gifts and talents come from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Gifted students can be described as possessing an abundance of certain abilities that are most highly valued within a particular society or culture. Many minority language children have special talents that are valued within their own cultures; unfortunately, these students are often not recognized as gifted and talented.
Most procedures for identifying gifted and talented students have been developed for use with middle class children who are native English speakers. Such procedures have led to an underrepresentation of minority language students in gifted and talented programs, which in turn prevents our schools from developing the strengths and abilities of this special population.
This digest explores the controversy surrounding the underrepresentation of minority language students in gifted and talented programs and makes recommendations for more suitable assessment techniques and program models.
Why Are Minority Language Students Underrepresented in Programs for Gifted and Talented Students?
Educators who work closely with minority language students argue that using standardized IQ tests as a primary measure of giftedness does not fairly accommodate the linguistic and cultural differences of these students. These educators look to identify the "able learner" rather than the more narrowly defined gifted student who scores in the top 3% on IQ tests. Able learners are defined by some educators as students in the top 10% of their class who have shown some extraordinary achievement in one or more areas such as science, mathematics, or the performing arts (Ernest Bernal, personal communication, September 13, 1988).
Reliance on IQ tests alone has greatly diminished the potential number of gifted students. Renzulli (1978) indicated that "more creative persons come from below the 95th percentile than above it, and if such cut-off scores are needed to determine entrance into special programs, we may be guilty of actually discriminating against persons who have the highest potential for high levels of accomplishment" (p. 182).
Three percent is a conservative estimate of the percentage of the population that is considered gifted. However, in Arizona, for example, only 0.14% of the students in gifted and talented programs come from language minority backgrounds (Maker, 1987). Using the 3% criterion, one would estimate that 2,900 limited-English-proficient (LEP) students in Arizona could be receiving some type of services for giftedness. An assessment of needs, however, revealed that only 143 LEP children were participating in gifted programs, despite the fact that minority language students represent 16.17% (96,674) of the school-age population. Other studies indicate that the proportion of Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians identified as gifted represents only half that expected (Chan & Kitano, 1986).
Table 1 illustrates that, nationwide, Caucasians and Asians are overrepresented, while the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics is only half what would be expected in gifted and talented programs.
Sources: Zappia (1989); Machado (1987).
The concept of giftedness as it relates to culture and values can help explain why more gifted and talented Asian and Pacific-American students have been identified than any other group. Although these children comprise only 2.2% of the school-age population, they constitute 4.4% of the identified gifted students, twice the expected number (Kitano, 1986). (This figure is slightly lower than the statistic given in Table 1 [2.5%], but the table has more recent data.) The traditional Asian values of educational attainment and obedience to authority support achievement in U.S. schools, despite the fact that Asian and Pacific-American cultures differ in many ways from the majority culture.
Different learning styles may also contribute to the underrepresentation of gifted and talented minority language students. Native Americans are often caught between the schools' value of independence and the home and community value of interdependence. In school, students generally sit in rows and face the teacher, whereas in Native American culture, everyone would be seated in a circle and decisions would be made collectively.
Among many Hispanics, cultural differences may also produce manifestations of giftedness that differ from the traditional manifestations in the majority culture. In Puerto Rico, for example, children learn to seek the advice of their family rather than act independently (Perrone & Aleman, 1983). Respect for elders is often valued more than precociousness, which can be seen as disrespectful. Similarly, the Mexican-American child who respects elders, the law, and authority becomes vulnerable in a school system that values individual competition, initiative, and self-direction.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing