November 18, 2009

Your tax dollars hard at work

Virginia is going to analyze why there is a disproportionately low representation of minority students in gifted education.

"Virginia is proud of both the high standards of our educational system and the wealth of diversity in our communities," Governor Kaine said. "As we continue to improve on our gifted education programs in particular, it's critical we assess any disproportionate barriers to enrollment so we can ensure students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate."

Data reported by school divisions to VDOE show that while African-Americans make up 26 percent of the statewide student population, only 12 percent of students identified as gifted are black. Hispanics make up nine percent of the student population and five percent of students identified as gifted.

Gee, what could possibly be the reason behind this disparity? 

Well, let's see.  Giftedness is largely determined by performance on IQ tests. So, let's take a look at the relative performance between whites and blacks on IQ tests.  Better yet, let's break performance out by socio-economic status.

The chart shows a 10 to 16 point gap between white and black performance for IQ (that's about a standard deviation) across the SES spectrum.  Blacks in the highest SES decile perform about as well as the 50th percentile White (5th decile).  Even raising the SES of Blacks wouldn't close the IQ gap even if there were a causal connection.

Mightn't this explain all or most of the discrepancy?  It took about ten seconds of googling.  Virginia needs about a year and a half to find a more politically correct explanation.

The study - which is being conducted with technical assistance from the Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia - will be completed by Spring 2010.

There is a similar IQ gap between the performance of Asians and Whites which also explains why Asians are disproportionately represented in gifted classes.  Hopefully, the study will address that problem as well.

Must be discrimination. Some virulent form of discrimination that's only present in the nasty U.S.  And Toronto too. In fact I can't find a single country in which these same IQ gaps aren't present and don't manifest themselves on achievement tests (which are actually IQ tests.  Shhhh don't tell anybody).  So maybe that theory doesn't hold up.

In any event Erin Dillon from The Quick and the Ed is looking for a solution.

Racial disparities in gifted vs. regular education classes seemed obvious enough to me when I attended public schools in Virginia. One can only hope that this study will put some momentum behind addressing those disparities.

How exactly does one address those disparities?


Robin said...


Doesn't this remind you of the disparate impact must equal discriminatory intent attempts in constitutional law?

KDeRosa said...

This is exactly the problem with disparate impact jurisprudence. Neutral laws should show a disparate impact for any measure correlated with IQ, i.e., almost everything.

Dick Schutz said...

Q: How exactly does one address those disparities?

That's any easy one. You test the bejesus out of kids and tie the scores to teacher pay and job retention.

There are three other reforms to go along with this that will get the US to the top within two years using ARRA funding. All states that apply for RttT grants must assure they will implement the reforms.

Why VA would waste state money on an "analysis" when the feds have "reform" in hand is a good question for VA taxpayers to ask. But the tax dollars may be Fed funds going to the Appalachia Lab. If so, it's a good question for all taxpayers.

"Gifted" is another of those "latent traits." If VA officials were to read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, or even your blog, they could save the taxpayers the cost of the study and they would learn something that might actually help "address the disparities."

Tam Tam said...

As a public school teacher who happens to be African American, I have also wondered about these disparities in the test scores. I would like to know what others who are familiar with the "underbelly" of education believe causes the discrepancies, particularly between middle class African American students and their middle class white counterparts.
Thank you.

KDeRosa said...

Dick, That plan is susceptible to being NCLBed. Don't do anything an complain, complain complain until the political heat gets to great.

KDeRosa said...

Tam Tam, no one definitely knows the answer to that question.

Eric said...

disparate impact must equal discriminatory intent...

Why not affirmative action for gifted programs. Too often, gifted programs are eliminated as "elitist." Wouldn't the compromise be for minority students to participate as long as they are willing to do the work?

The chart showed roughly 1 SD gap. That's huge. Does anyone suggest SES accounts for all environmental factors--or that IQ increases can't result from appropriate schooling?

OTOH, there's Linda Gottfredson's argument that gifted ed would be a disservice to kids who need another approach to their education. Still, I'd like to see kids given a chance to thrive with challenging material--and that includes having the preparation from earlier grades for success in later grades.

KDeRosa said...

Why not affirmative action for the varsity football team? Or the band?

SES counts for about 20% of student achievement/IQ.

The irony of course is that many gifted programs are awful anyway.

Anonymous said...

Georgia decided in 1995 to change its criteria for "gifted" out of similar concerns that minorities were underrepresented. The emphasis moved to qualifying in 3 out of 4 categories:
-mental ability;
-creativity; and

The test score cutoffs in mental ability and achievement end up being lowered to result in representation from all ethnic and racial groups. You end up with a gifted program that is more representative (but still disproportionate), but you are now mixing students with substantially weaker academic and intellectual skills.

The gifted program itself then has to be changed. It is more inclusive and far less effective because of the wide range of knowledge and skills.

Eric said...

Why not affirmative action for the varsity football team?

Because the football team didn't win at SCOTUS.

We have a collective obligation to remedy the effects of past discrimination. Do public schools benchmark against DoD schools? Somehow, the 75% of DoD kids end up in the top two quartiles of performance.

Dick Schutz said...

75% of DoD kids end up in the top two quartiles of performance.

It's in the instruction, gifted.

Amanda said...

Interesting sideline from the UK which seems to surprise many from the US - we have a significant black/white gap on raw test scores, but not after controlling for SES: after controlling for this black children do slightly better than white and the worst performing children nationally are poor white boy (apart from the (tiny group of) very low achieving gypsy/roma children.

Anonymous said...

All of the IQ testing gaps are because the iQ tests are normed to a particular group of children who took the test when it was first standardized in England back in the early twentieth century. Thus the fact that blacks score lower than whites has to do with the fact that they aren't as culturally intact as Caucasians due to to the fact that for most of their history they've been subjected to discrimination on the the part of the very people whom the tests are designed to favor.

Norcross schools said...

Okay, so I might be an idealist. I believe that you can maintain one set of standards at a time, efficiently and effectively. Diversity is an inherent result of opportunity. We know that opportunity has progressed. Am I wrong? If so, please provide statistics. I'm very curious about this topic.