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Money over Merit? Socioeconomic Gaps in Receipt of Gifted Services

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Abstract

In this essay, Jason A. Grissom, Christopher Redding, and Joshua F. Bleiberg investigate the receipt of gifted services based on the socioeconomic status (SES) of elementary school students and their families. Using nationally representative longitudinal data, they show that gaps in the receipt of gifted services between the highest and lowest SES students are profound, and these gaps remain substantial even after taking into account students' achievement levels and other background factors and using school fxed effects to explain school sorting. The authors discuss several potential approaches schools and districts can use to ameliorate the apparent disadvantages students from low-SES families experience in processes surrounding receipt of gifted services.

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... While there is a federal definition of giftedness outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that focuses on students demonstrating "evidence of high achievement capability" in a variety of domains, there is no universal definition of what it means to be "gifted" (Parr & Stevens, 2019). This means that giftedness is often defined at the state and division level (Callahan et al., 2017), which also means that there is often considerable variability in how it is determined (Grissom et al., 2019). Often, giftedness is assessed through students scoring in the 95th percentile or above on standardized measures of achievement (Crabtree et al., 2019). ...
... Identification for gifted programs is often based on standardized test performance, which have often been shown to be culturally biased (Grissom et al., 2017). Furthermore, if a school does not provide universal testing for its students for the purposes of gifted identification, testing may be more likely to occur privately by higher SES parents who are willing to request it, even repeatedly, through child psychologists (Grissom et al., 2019). • Tracking. ...
... Educators often serve as gatekeeping mechanisms for gifted programs by recommending students to participate (Callahan et al., 2017). While identification may also be based on more seemingly objective measures like standardized testing, requesting subjective recommendations from educators may contribute to the potential for bias in who gets identified (Grissom et al., 2019). • School resource differences. ...
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MERC is developing a literature brief on gifted services in elementary school as a part of our Equitable Access and Support for Advanced Coursework Study. The brief will be published in the fall of 2020. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the research that help answer the question, “who receives gifted services in elementary school?” Writing Team: David Naff, PhD (MERC/VCU SOE), Amy Jefferson (VCU SOE), Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, PhD (VCU SOE), Michael Schad, PhD (VCU Alt Lab), Zoey Lu (VCU SOE), Kathryn Haines (Chesterfield), Morgan Saxby (Chesterfield)
... Many taken-for-granted school practices operate as what we call status-reinforcing processes. These include tracking, ability grouping, gifted programming, and standardized testing (Barlow and Dunbar 2010;Gamoran and Mare 1989;Grissom, Redding, and Bleiberg 2019;Grodsky, Warren, and Felts 2008;Horn 2018;Joensen and Nielsen 2009;Knoester and Au 2017;Kohn 2000;Lewis and Diamond 2015;Oakes 1982;Rist 1970;Rose and Betts 2004;Sacks 1997;Staiger 2004;Tyson 2011). ...
... In the U.S., despite known limitations of standardized tests (Becker 1972), mathematics performance is seen as a core indicator of students' aptitude (Stevenson and Stigler 1994;Uttal 1997). U.S. schools thus use students' math grades and test scores to determine ability-group, gifted program, and track placements from a very early age (Gamoran and Mare 1989;Grissom et al. 2019;Lewis and Diamond 2015;Oakes 2005;Oakes et al. 1990;Tyson 2011). Ability grouping and tracking influence students' math confidence and anxiety (Boaler 2002;Horn 2008) and their course-taking trajectories (Battey and Leyva 2016;Long, Conger, and Iatarola 2012;Muller et al. 2010;Planty, Provasnik, and Daniel 2007). ...
... Taken-for-granted practices in education serve as status-reinforcing processes when they amplify and then justify the inequitable treatment of students from different status groups. Tracking, ability grouping, gifted programming and standardized testing are key examples of such practices (Grissom et al. 2019;Grodsky et al. 2008;Horn 2018;Joensen and Nielsen 2009;Knoester and Au 2017;Kohn 2000;Lewis and Diamond 2015;Oakes 1982;Rist 1970;Rose and Betts 2004;Sacks 1997;Tyson 2011). In this paper, we reveal that homework practices can also operate as status-reinforcing processes. ...
Preprint
Practices like ability grouping, tracking, and standardized testing operate as status-reinforcing processes-amplifying then naturalizing unequal student outcomes. Using a longitudinal, ethnographic study following students from elementary to middle school, we examine whether math homework can operate similarly. Because of inequalities in families' resources for supporting homework, higher-SES students' homework was more consistently complete and correct than lower-SES students' homework. Teachers acknowledged these unequal homework production contexts. Yet, official policies treated homework as an individual endeavor, leading teachers to interpret and respond to homework in status-reinforcing ways. Students with consistently correct and complete homework were seen as responsible, capable, and motivated and rewarded with praise and opportunities. Other students were seen as irresponsible, incapable, and unmotivated; they were punished and docked points. These practices were status-enhancing for higher-SES students and status-degrading for lower-SES students. We discuss implications for homework policies, parent involvement, and interpretations of inequalities in school. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
... Carman and Taylor (2010) controlled for SES using eligibility for federal meal subsidy as a proxy to examine identification rates for gifted services for students identified using the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT; Naglieri & Ford, 2003). On a national scale, Grissom et al. (2019) examined the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K): 1998 and found that students from high SES households had significant advantages in being identified for gifted services compared with their peers from low SES households within the same school. Using nationally representative data sets to examine access to gifted education can be misleading, though, as state policies regarding gifted education vary greatly across the United States (Peters et al., 2019). ...
Article
Proportional identification of students for gifted services in Florida school districts is an important goal. A multi-level model was used to analyze school district data from the Florida Department of Education from the 2011–2016 academic years. Results from the study indicate that the likelihood of identification of students varied by their socioeconomic status. Students who were Black were 59% more likely to be identified for gifted services if they participated in federal meal subsidy programs. However, the likelihood of identification for students who are Latinx or Native American decreased by 47% and 38%, respectively, when compared with peers who did not participate in federal meal subsidy programs.
... In a follow-up analysis, Grissom et al. (2019) investigated the effects of socioeconomic status (SES) and the intersection of SES and other studentand school-level factors on probability of identification. The effect of higher SES was profound but also unequal in its benefits. ...
... The highest income group produces 47% of those identified as gifted, and the lowest income group produces 9% of the students identified as being gifted and talented (Hodgkinson, 2006). Grissom et al. (2019) used a nationally representative data set to show that SES differences persisted even controlling for academic achievement among those in the same schools. Multiple ideas have been provided for why poverty has a strong impact on gifted and talented student identification including (a) limited access to resources to build foundational skills, (b) victim-blaming or identifying a culture of poverty in which poor students and families are seen as at fault for their poverty and lack of achievement, (c) overrepresentation of poor children in special education caused by higher rates of disability and poorer health care, and (d) the social and cultural context of the child and school (Burney & Beilke, 2008). ...
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Work on bureaucratic representation suggests that minority citizens benefit when the programs that serve them are administered by bureaucrats with similar characteristics. This literature has not sufficiently dealt with the long-standing concern that minority benefits may come at the expense of citizens from other groups, which some critics argue makes representative bureaucracy irreconcilable with democratic values. This article suggests distributional equity as a potential moderator of bureaucratic representation and as a potential source of reconciliation. It tests for the effects of representation under different distributional conditions in a policy area in which outcomes approach a zero-sum game. Analyses of a nationally representative sample of public organizations find a relationship between bureaucratic representation and citizen outcomes only in those instances where program benefits are being inequitably distributed to the relevant group. The article concludes with a discussion of the significance of these findings for the democratic legitimacy of representative bureaucracy.
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In this article I seek to answer the question, ''When are racial disparities in education the result of racial discrimination?'' To answer it I synthesize the social science research on racially correlated disparities in education. My review draws from the sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology, history, and education literatures. I organize explanations into six categories: biological determinism, social structure, school organization and opportunities to learn, family background, culture, and the state. I arrive at three answers. The first is a definition: Racial discrimination in education arises from actions of institutions or individual state actors, their attitudes and ideologies, or processes that systematically treat students from different racial/ethnic groups disparately or inequitably. The second answer is that while distinguishing racial discrimination from disparities may be an interesting intellectual, legal, and statistical challenge, the conclusion probably is less meaningful than social scientists and policy makers might hope. The third answer follows from the first two. I propose the following reformulation of the original question: ''When are racial disparities in education not due to discrimination?'' I argue that the reformulated question is more likely to bring solutions to the race gap than the original one. Even if we conclude that discrimination does not cause racial disparities in education, we should not conclude that schools have no role in addressing them. If public schools do not address educational disparities, then who or what institution will?
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A dataset containing demographic information, gifted nomination status, and gifted identification status for all elementary school students in the state of Georgia (N = 705,074) was examined. The results indicated that automatic and teacher referrals were much more valuable than other referral sources. Asian and White students were much more likely to be nominated than Black or Hispanic students. Students receiving free or reduced-price lunches were much less likely to be nominated than students paying for their own lunches. The results suggest that inequalities in nomination, rather than assessment, may be the primary source of the underrepresentation of minority and low-SES students in gifted programs.
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This article discusses five reconsiderations (lessons) the research on the education of the gifted and talented suggests. Although several of the considerations derive from traditional practice in the field, some reconsideration is warranted because of more currently researched differences in how the gifted learner intellectually functions. It is argued that thinking of the gifted learner as idiosyncratic, not necessarily one of many classified as “the gifted,” requires a reconceptualization of how to appropriately and fully serve this unique learner. The research synthesized here covers the period from 1861 to present and represents the entire body of published research studies and representative literature (theory, program descriptions, and persuasive essays). Implications for service development and implementation are also discussed.
Article
This project was a 2-year investigation of elementary school children placed in programs for high-ability learners. The primary purpose of the study was to investigate academic and affective changes in students during their first 2 years in a gifted program. Students were assessed during the fall of one year and the spring of the next year. Subjects were from 14 different school districts in 10 states and included African American and Caucasian/ non-Hispanic students. The study compared students enrolled in gifted programs (special school, separate class, pull-out, within-class), high-achieving students from districts in which no program was available at the designated grade levels, and nongifted students in regular classrooms. This project focused on academic and affective student outcomes through multiple administrations of an achievement test, a self-perception survey, and a motivation inventory. In addition to comparing programs in general, an important dimension of the project was to examine characteristics of students from traditionally underserved populations. This was accomplished by including the variables of racial/ ethnic status and the social status of participants. Results revealed that there were differences in cognitive and affective outcomes across program types. Therefore, it is strongly advised that educators conduct ongoing evaluations of their programs to be better able to monitor and address all students' needs.
Article
Fifty college students were interviewed about their prior experiences in gifted programs and their perspectives on the impact of these experiences on their lives. Interview questions probed the types of experiences they remembered, including the types of instruction they had, their relations with peers, and their views about how their experiences in gifted programs affected other parts of their lives. Data were analyzed qualitatively with additional topics and themes emerging. In this paper, the author shares their voices and discusses the implications of their reports.
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This article presents results from a meta-analysis of findings on the effects of accelerated instruction on elementary and secondary school students. The data for the meta-analysis came from 26 controlled studies. The analysis showed that examination performance of accelerates surpassed by nearly one grade level the performance of nonaccelerates of equivalent age and intelligence. Examination scores of accelerates were equivalent to those of same-grade but older, talented nonaccelerates. Nonintellective outcomes were investigated relatively infrequently in the 26 studies and were not consistent from study to study.
Article
This paper discusses the rationale for developing performance assessment tasks to augment the identification of more economically disadvantaged and minority students for gifted programs in one state; provides a blue-print for the development protocol, including preteaching, rubrics, and exemplars; and shows major findings for use of the protocol with intended students. The performance assessment tasks were developed and revised based on try-out, pilot, and field test data collected across multiple districts with more than 4,000 students at primary and intermediate grades. Appropriate technical adequacy data were used for decision making on task and rubric revisions. Criterion levels of performance within domains were developed to ensure inclusion of populations of interest without compromising the integrity of the task protocols. The performance assessment tasks of Project STAR resulted in finding an additional group of students who were 12% African American and 14(Y) low-income children dunng the field test of the instrument. These students represent those who would not have qualified for gifted programs using traditional measures. In that sense, the assessment approach yields a “value-added” component to the state identification system. Thus, Project STAR provides an effective and innovative approach to finding more low-SES and minority gifted students for programs.
Article
Gifted and talented education programs provide children who have been identified as having high ability in some intellectual or creative characteristic with a supplemental curriculum to their traditional coursework. Despite the popularity of these programs, the literature lacks a comprehensive review of gifted education in the United States. This policy brief aims to fill this void by providing national and state-level statistics on participation rates, funding appropriations, and policies on gifted education. Since many of the operational details of these programs are determined by local education agencies, data on a nationally representative sample of schools are then used to provide information on gifted curricula, instructor training and experience, and the selection process for admission. Finally, a review of the research on gifted education is provided. This research highlights that gifted programs vary widely and that further research on this topic can provide valuable information to policy makers and educators. © 2011 Association for Education Finance and Policy
Article
This paper summarizes a qualitative study of family-school relationships in white working-class and middle-class communities. The results indicate that schools have standardized views of the proper role of parents in schooling. Moreover, social class provides parents with unequal resources to comply with teachers' requests for parental participation. Characteristics of family life (e.g., social networks) also intervene and mediate family-school relationships. The social and cultural elements of family life that facilitate compliance with teachers' requests can be viewed as a form of cultural capital. The study suggests that the concept of cultural capital can be used fruitfully to understand social class differences in children's school experiences.
Article
Words) Students with exceptional academic potential who come from low-income families are frequently not identified for and consequently are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. Because of this, new means of identifying such children must be developed. This paper presents the findings of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses conducted on the HOPE Scale, a 13-item teacher-rating instrument designed to identify academic and social components of giftedness in elementary-aged students. Participants included 349 teachers who completed HOPE Scales on 5995 ethnically and economically diverse students from three rural and two metropolitan school districts in the Midwest. MCFA was also used to evaluate measurement invariance between income groups. Findings suggest a two-factor model represents good fit for the data while remaining loyal to the latent constructs of academic and social giftedness. Invariance test results suggested equivalence of model form, factor loading, and factor variances across income groups.
Article
This study tracks the profile data of identification for gifted students in South Carolina, where a new performance-based dimension of identification has been employed, during a 3-year period. Targeted to identify more low-income and minority students, the identification protocol demonstrates efficacy in doing so. The study also tracks comparative data, showing the verbal and nonverbal profiles of students identified using this protocol in comparison to students more traditionally identified. Results suggest that students identified using performance tasks were more likely to be identified through the nonverbal assessment component of the tasks. Performance data are tracked across 2 years, showing that performance task-identified students, in general, perform at levels below traditionally identified students. In their area of strength, however, they tend to approach the mean for the traditionally identified gifted students on that portion of the high-stakes state test.
Article
This monograph describes Project START (Support To Affirm Rising Talent), a three-year collaborative research effort to develop and apply gifted identification procedures based on Howard Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences. Specifically, the study attempted to: (1) develop identification procedures; (2) identify high-potential primary age students from culturally diverse and/or low economic backgrounds using the multiple intelligences model; (3) investigate the reliability and validity of the identification procedures; and (4) test the efficacy of specific interventions on student achievement and attitudes about school and self. Identified students were assigned to one of three conditions: an experimental condition involving modification of classroom activities and a family outreach program; an experimental condition involving modification of classroom activities, a family outreach program, and a mentorship; and a control group. Findings of the qualitative and quantitative study are grouped into the following categories: psychometric properties of the assessment tools; achievement, attitude, and self-concept; teacher changes during the project; outcomes for students and their families; elements of the program found to be most effective; and other qualitative findings. Two appendices include a project lesson development flow chart and classroom observation protocols. (Contains approximately 225 references.) (DB)
Article
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), selected a nationally representative sample of approximately 22,000 kindergartners in the fall of 1998 and is following these children through the end of the fifth grade. Baseline data about these children, their families, and their kindergarten programs were collected by means of telephone interviews with the children's parents or guardians and from self-administered questionnaires completed by the kindergarten teachers. Data were also gathered during an individual assessment with each child. This report documents the design, development, and psychometric characteristics of the assessment instruments used in the ECLS-K. The focus is on the psychometric results of the assessment instruments for four time points: Fall- and Spring-kindergarten and Fall- and Spring-first grade. The assessment instrument examined three domains: the cognitive (direct and indirect), socioemotional, and psychomotor. In addition, the report discusses issues involved in analyzing longitudinal measures of cognitive skills, including the use of total scores and of proficiency probabilities to measure longitudinal change. Initial results revealed sex differences in prereading skills at kindergarten entry and the areas of gain. Public school children had the lowest reading skills at kindergarten entry, followed by Catholic school children, with private non-Catholic school children having the highest reading skills. There were differences in the areas of gain in children attending different types of schools. The report's five appendices include a summary of national mathematics and science curriculum standards, reading assessment content classifications used for test item development, ECLS item parameters and item fit by rounds, and score statistics for indirect and psychomotor measures for selected subgroups. (Contains 60 references.) (KB)
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Documents the activities, resources, and relationships available to three gifted urban elementary public school children living in poverty and describes their adjustment at home and at school over a three-year period. Despite their mothers' active involvement in their education, the children experienced limited academic opportunities. (CR)