THE NEW YORK TIMES recently reported new research done by professors at Vanderbilt on the selection process for “gifted programs” in the United States. What they found: when teachers make recommendations for “gifted” programs in elementary and middle school, black and Latino students were half as likely to be chosen.
Broward County, one of the most diverse counties in Florida, completely changed this pattern by doing something simple and obvious: using a short, universal, nonverbal test to identify students with high IQs, instead of relying on anecdotal teacher referrals. After they implemented the screenings, the number of black students in the gifted program jumped from 1% to 3%. For Latinos, it tripled from 2% to 6%. For white students, it only raised slightly from 6% to 8%.
Broward County’s example demonstrates how racial and cultural bias still plays an influential role in determining the academic futures of students, and how removing subjective processes ultimately makes education more fair.