IDENTIFYING GIFTEDNESS WITHIN TRADITIONALLY UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS OF STUDENTS IN THE USA
The article deals with the problem of identifying giftedness among traditionally overviewed cultural and ethnic minority students in America. The authors’ findings are based on the insightful study into gifted children research and educational programs in the US. The latter was selected due to its extremely diverse school populations.
Research shows that identification of giftedness in the regular school practice is performed mostly by teachers and administration, hence many high-potential students become underrepresented in the special enrichment programs. They are Afro-Americans, Hispanics et al, learning–disabled and some others who inevitably fall into the achievement trap of traditional American testing system. The authors track the change in trends in defining giftedness throughout the last decades and point out to the ambiguity of IQ- and achievement tests. Then they turn to ‘gifted underachievers’, i.e. those whose results in achievement tests and general school performance is much lower than their intellectual abilities could suggest. The article provides a classification of challenges that could explain low attendance of high-ability children in the regular classroom. They are socio-economic conditions (typically, low income) and cultural background of the GT students; gender issues; ability differentiation; boredom and learning disability (including limited English proficiency) that are thoroughly tackled upon by the authors. Next inner psychological barriers that hinder correct identification and development of gifted learners are observed in the article. Following prominent American researchers in the field, giftedness is viewed as asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and extreme intensity come together to produce inner experiences different from ‘the norm’. In school practice these manifestations can lead to misdiagnosis of the gifted and range from simple neglect to misguided counseling strategies that invalidate and 'normalize' the complex inner processes of the gifted.
The authors conclude that in order to establish a successful identification procedure for GT students it is vital to consider social, ethnic, cultural and personal characteristics of high-ability learners. Thus the unique potential and academic needs of the gifted and talented can be met and nurtured.