All students, regardless of race or income, deserve access to academically rigorous programs. In Illinois, however, both low-income students and students of color are greatly underrepresented in gifted programs:
Where does this disparity come from? It is twofold:
- Most school districts do not universally screen (test all students in a particular grade) for giftedness. Consequently, districts rely on parent advocacy and/or the student’s teacher recommending students for gifted programs. This is problematic because research shows wealthier parents are more likely to advocate for their child and be listened to by school administrators, and a teacher’s likelihood to recommend a student may be influenced by implicit bias.
- Many districts use national norms, rather than local norms, to determine standards for gifted education. This creates scenarios where the highest academic performers in a community may not be granted access to gifted education based on national relevance rather than local. Students should be compared with their local peers when determining eligibility for gifted education.
That is why in 2016, working alongside the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (IAGC), Empower Illinois passed the Untapped Potential Act, which requires local school districts to screen students universally using local norms in order to qualify for gifted and talented programs.