ERIC Identifier: ED321485
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Cohen, Linda M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Minority Language
Students. ERIC Digest #E480.
Students with special gifts and talents come from all cultural and linguistic
backgrounds. Gifted students can be described as possessing an abundance of
certain abilities that are most highly valued within a particular society or
culture. Many minority language children have special talents that are valued
within their own cultures; unfortunately, these students are often not
recognized as gifted and talented.
Most procedures for identifying gifted and talented students have been
developed for use with middle class children who are native English speakers.
Such procedures have led to an underrepresentation of minority language students
in gifted and talented programs, which in turn prevents our schools from
developing the strengths and abilities of this special population.
This digest explores the controversy surrounding the underrepresentation of
minority language students in gifted and talented programs and makes
recommendations for more suitable assessment techniques and program models.
WHY ARE MINORITY LANGUAGE STUDENTS UNDERREPRESENTED IN PROGRAMS FOR GIFTED AND TALENTED STUDENTS?
Educators who work closely
with minority language students argue that using standardized IQ tests as a
primary measure of giftedness does not fairly accommodate the linguistic and
cultural differences of these students. These educators look to identify the "able learner" rather than the more narrowly defined gifted student who scores
in the top 3% on IQ tests. Able learners are defined by some educators as
students in the top 10% of their class who have shown some extraordinary
achievement in one or more areas such as science, mathematics, or the performing
arts (Ernest Bernal, personal communication, September 13, 1988).
Reliance on IQ tests alone has greatly diminished the potential number of
gifted students. Renzulli (1978) indicated that "more creative persons come from
below the 95th percentile than above it, and if such cut-off scores are needed
to determine entrance into special programs, we may be guilty of actually
discriminating against persons who have the highest potential for high levels of
accomplishment" (p. 182).
Three percent is a conservative estimate of the percentage of the population
that is considered gifted. However, in Arizona, for example, only 0.14% of the
students in gifted and talented programs come from language minority backgrounds
(Maker, 1987). Using the 3% criterion, one would estimate that 2,900
limited-English-proficient (LEP) students in Arizona could be receiving some
type of services for giftedness. An assessment of needs, however, revealed that
only 143 LEP children were participating in gifted programs, despite the fact
that minority language students represent 16.17% (96,674) of the school-age
population. Other studies indicate that the proportion of Blacks, Hispanics, and
American Indians identified as gifted represents only half that expected (Chan
& Kitano, 1986).
Table 1 (at the end of this digest) illustrates that, nation wide, Caucasians
and Asians are overrepresented, while the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics is
only half what would be expected in gifted and talented programs. The concept of
giftedness as it relates to culture and values can help explain why more gifted
and talented Asian and Pacific-American students have been identified than any
other group. Although these children comprise only 2.2% of the school-age
population, they constitute 4.4% of the identified gifted students, twice the
expected number (Kitano, 1986). (This figure is slightly lower than the
statistic given in Table 1 [2.5%], but the table has more recent data.) The
traditional Asian values of educational attainment and obedience to authority
support achievement in U.S. schools, despite the fact that Asian and
Pacific-American cultures differ in many ways from the majority culture.
Different learning styles may also contribute to the underrepresentation of
gifted and talented minority language students. Native Americans are often
caught between the schools' value of independence and the home and community
value of interdependence. In school, students generally sit in rows and face the
teacher, whereas in Native American culture, everyone would be seated in a
circle and decisions would be made collectively.
Among many Hispanics, cultural differences may also produce manifestations of
giftedness that differ from the traditional manifestations in the majority
culture. In Puerto Rico, for example, children learn to seek the advice of their
family rather than act independently (Perrone & Aleman, 1983). Respect for
elders is often valued more than precociousness, which can be seen as
disrespectful. Similarly, the Mexican-American child who respects elders, the
law, and authority becomes vulnerable in a school system that values individual
competition, initiative, and self-direction.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMONLY USED TECHNIQUES FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF GIFTED AND TALENTED MINORITY LANGUAGE STUDENTS?
Research on the identification of giftedness points to the lack
of appropriate assessment procedures. Giftedness is not a trait inherent to
native English speakers; however, there is a lack of instruments that can detect
giftedness in minority language students (Gallagher, 1979; Llanes, 1980; Raupp,
1988; Renzulli, Reis, & Smith, 1981). Most tests rely on either oral or
written language skills. Minority language students who are not considered
gifted may, in fact, be very gifted, but unable to express themselves in
English. Therefore, many researchers urge that great caution be exercised in
using English standardized tests for the identification of linguistic and
cultural minority students. These researchers also recommend selecting tests
that reduce cultural and linguistic bias.
The identification and assessment of gifted and talented minority-language
students is complex because it involves students who are both gifted and
talented and from a language or cultural background different from that of
middle class, native-English-speaking children. Many researchers and
practitioners recommend multiple assessment measures to give students several
opportunities to demonstrate their skills and performance potential.
Each school can establish its own relevant criteria to ensure that the
screening process is appropriate for a specific target population. Moreover, an
assessment team that is sensitive to their needs can represent the population to
be served in the program. In addition, teachers can be brought into the
identification process, because they have the opportunity to observe students in
numerous academic and social situations.
An alternative to using English language standardized tests is the assessment
of LEP students in their native language. These tests measure a variety of
skills: creative thinking skills such as fluency, flexibility, originality, and
elaboration; intellectual development based on Piaget's theory of development
(Piaget, 1954; Piaget & Inhelder, 1973); language proficiency; and nonverbal
perceptual skills of cognitive development.
Many school districts now include behavioral checklists or inventories,
nominations, or related techniques to identify gifted and talented minority
language students. Checklists usually compare or rate the student according to
general descriptions or more specific examples of behavior deduced from
characteristics of gifted persons. Many of these instruments are designed
locally, are available from state departments of education, or are available
Other commonly used methods such as interviews, self-reports,
autobiographies, and case histories can also be used to identify gifted and
talented minority language students. Interviews are often scheduled as part of
the identification or selection process to determine a candidate's general
fitness for a program and provide information for instructional planning. The
use of case studies to identify giftedness has been documented by Renzulli and
Smith (1977) and is recommended because it relies on multiple sources of
information about a student's performance. Although these procedures can be
cumbersome, time consuming, and complex, they can provide the most valid basis
for decision making.
WHAT TYPES OF PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE FOR GIFTED AND TALENTED STUDENTS, AND ARE THEY SUITABLE FOR MINORITY LANGUAGE STUDENTS WHO ARE SELECTED TO PARTICIPATE?
There are as many different
types of programs and instructional models for gifted and talented LEP students
as there are different views of intelligence. The program models discussed in
this digest demonstrate a wide range of suggestions for choosing a program for
gifted and talented students and can stimulate ideas about the types of program
that can be implemented. However, each district must implement the program that
will best meet the needs of its gifted and talented minority language students.
Jean M. Blanning, of the Connecticut Clearinghouse for Gifted and Talented
(1980), suggests that, in general, programs for gifted and talented minority
language students should allow their students to:
pursue topics in depth at a pace commensurate with their abilities and intensity
explore, branch out on tangents unforeseen when first beginning a study, without
curriculum parameters confining them to a particular direction;
initiate activities, diverge from the structured format, within a framework of
guidance and resources appropriate for such exploration;
ask questions about areas or aspects of studies and find answers which lead to
experience emotional involvement with a project because it is based on interests
and use of higher levels of ability;
learn the skills, methodology, and discipline involved in intellectual pursuits
and/or creative endeavors;
think (interpretations, connections, extrapolations) and imagine (ideas, images,
intuitive insights) to develop fully into their own products;
experience the use of intellectual abilities and senses necessary in all
ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS. The most common program model for gifted and talented
students is probably an enrichment program, in which students receive
instruction in addition to their regular classroom instruction. Enrichment
programs provide learning experiences designed to extend, supplement, or deepen
understandings within specific content areas (Dannenberg, 1984). Some enrichment
programs provide academic services and cultural opportunities for gifted and
Gifted and talented LEP students at Louis S. Brandeis High School in New York
City (Cochran & Cotayo, 1983) attend operas and museums and, in this way,
become a part of American culture. Students have said that the program has made
them feel "special," because they visit places they ordinarily would not.
Another example of activities in an enrichment program would be to have students
studying the prehistoric era watch films on dinosaurs, draw pictures of them,
and go to a natural history museum to see a dinosaur exhibit.
The decision as to whether or not to implement an enrichment program may be
greatly affected by the school district's concept of giftedness. If giftedness
is considered a quality to be measured through IQ tests, then perhaps an
enrichment program would be seen as a "frill," because it does not concentrate
strictly on academics. On the other hand, this program may be particularly
appreciated by gifted and talented minority language students, since they often
do not receive this sort of exposure to the arts in a standard instructional
RESOURCE ROOMS. Another program model uses a resource room, which is usually
staffed by a resource teacher. Students may visit the resource room to do
special assignments or to check out various educational games or puzzles. In a
kindergarten/first grade gifted and talented program in Albuquerque, New Mexico
(Beam, 1980), parents are also able to check out items for their children. The
resource room provides an excellent opportunity for parents and students to
bridge the gap between home and school. However, in many inner-city schools,
special programs may be needed to obtain the desired levels of parental support.
Also, the establishment of a resource room usually requires physical space for
the room, sufficient operating funds, and a resource teacher who has expertise
in the area of gifted and talented students.
The Hartford, Connecticut, program "Encendiendo Una Llama" ("Lighting a
Flame") has been in operation since 1979 and uses a resource room, an
after-school program, and a regular classroom component to provide services for
gifted and talented minority language students. This program emphasizes language
development in English and Spanish, high-level thinking skills, independent work
and study skills, and development of creative thinking. It is an integrated
program in which English-dominant children also participate. In each of the
participating Hartford schools, the bilingual gifted and talented program is the
only gifted program in the school, and all children are eligible to participate,
regardless of their language background.
PARENT INVOLVEMENT PROGRAMS. Many programs include a strong parent
involvement component in which parents can help support their children's
development at home while the school can be used as an additional resource.
Although it is important for all parents to be involved in their children's
education, it is particularly critical to develop a strong link between the home
and the school for gifted and talented minority language children.
Many programs provide parents with checklists to help assess their children.
In addition, programs often provide booklets of home activities through which
parents can encourage critical thinking and creativity.
ACCELERATION OR HONORS PROGRAMS. Many people associate acceleration or honors
programs with gifted and talented programs. These programs may include skipping
grades, early entrance, early graduation, credit by examination, nongraded
classes, and advanced placement classes (Dannenberg, 1984). Some gifted students
who seem bored in school may benefit from an accelerated program that provides
an academic challenge and keeps them involved in school. However, it may be
difficult to identify these students, who initially may not be seen as gifted.
Some educators who adhere to the narrow definition of giftedness as high IQ
may not feel that an honors program is appropriate for students who fit the
broader definition of the able learner. This attitude is refuted in the film
"Stand And Deliver," which is based on a true story about several minority
language students at an inner-city school in Los Angeles. These students were
not considered gifted by many of their teachers, yet they were the only students
in their school to pass the Advanced Placement exams given by the Educational
Testing Service for college credit in calculus. Their success can be attributed
largely to their mathematics teacher, Jaime Escalante, who had very high
expectations for them and refused to believe that they were unable to think
critically simply because they were from low-income, minority language
backgrounds. He encouraged their participation in these special advanced classes
(held at night and on Saturdays in overcrowded, stifling classrooms) to prove to
other students, the faculty, and themselves that they were intelligent.
Moreover, these students gained new, strong, self-concepts, which inevitably
improved their academic skills and gave them the courage and discipline to
pursue a college education.
MENTOR PROGRAMS. Another program model for gifted and talented education is
the mentor program. Mentors provide role models for the students, giving them an
opportunity to interact with adult professionals. Through the Higher Achievement
Program in Washington, DC, elementary and junior high school students from
low-income neighborhoods are tutored by volunteers 2 nights a week. To be
eligible for the program, students must show a high level of motivation and pass
a qualifying examination. One night each week is devoted to verbal skills such
as reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing; the second night is devoted
primarily to mathematics and related skills. Critical thinking skills are
stressed in all subjects.
The mentor program has many psychological and social benefits for the
students and is a low-cost program if the school district recruits area
professionals as volunteers. School districts located near universities can
encourage them to establish a course in which official credit is given to
university students who participate as mentors. If the mentors are sensitive to
the needs of particular cultural and linguistic groups, they can provide
positive role models for the students. The mentor program concept can be a
solution to difficult budget constraints and has been used by numerous school
districts around the country.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGE
The following recommendations
may improve the assessment and educational programs of gifted and talented
minority language students.
BROADEN THE CONCEPT OF GIFTEDNESS. Broadening the concept of giftedness to
include able learners will allow for the identification of a greater proportion
of gifted minority language students. A broader definition of giftedness may be
the first essential step toward identifying and educating gifted and talented
minority language students.
EXPAND RESEARCH ON GIFTEDNESS AND MINORITY LANGUAGE STUDENTS. Although there
is a large body of literature on gifted and talented students in general, there
is much less literature on gifted and talented minority language students. This
may be because many researchers in the past did not consider minority language
students as gifted, based on the traditional measure of giftedness as a high IQ
score. Further research is needed on all the able learners in our schools,
including minority language students.
EMPLOY MORE WELL-ROUNDED ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES. If there is a
lower-than-expected proportion of minority language students identified as
gifted, then the identification and assessment process should be examined to
determine why these students have not been identified. School districts may need
to find creative solutions to the problem of how to identify gifted and talented
minority language students by using nontraditional methods.
The identification of minority language students can include multiple
criteria (with information from as many sources as possible) that are relevant
to the needs of the population. Using multiple instruments can result in a more
precise picture because it provides information about students from different
perspectives. A combination of assessment instruments can help ensure that a
student's ability to participate effectively in a gifted and talented program is
INCREASE STAFF AWARENESS OF THEIR POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPING
GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAM. Regardless of the program model selected for implementation, administrators must first examine the resources
they have within their school system. Upon entering the school district,
teachers could be asked to complete a questionnaire about their abilities and
interests and whether or not they would be interested in participating in a
gifted and talented program. For example, a teacher who has played piano for 10
years might be interested in teaching a course in music appreciation.
Administrators need to be aware of the unique talents within their own staff as
they identify local personnel who may be able to contribute their time, effort,
and expertise to gifted and talented programs.
EXPLORE VARIOUS PROGRAM MODELS. No single model can be recommended as the
"best" instructional approach for gifted and talented minority language
students, because each population is unique and each program has its own
specific goals and objectives. The type of program implemented may depend on
several issues such as the instructional model, the talents of the students, the
number of gifted students identified, the talents of the professional staff, the
availability of qualified personnel, the level of commitment of the school and
school system, and budget constraints.
INCREASE AWARENESS OF DIFFERENT WAYS GIFTEDNESS MAY
BE MANIFESTED IN DIFFERENT POPULATIONS.
Many students are gifted or talented. Teachers face the challenge of identifying, developing, and
supporting their students' talents. Although this may be a challenge, it is also
a rewarding experience. Watching students grow to their fullest potential and
knowing that, as the teacher, you have played an integral part in your students'
growth are great personal and professional triumphs.
This digest highlights some of the current
debates in the education of gifted and talented students focusing on the
definition of giftedness, the assessment of gifted students, and the development
and implementation of gifted programs. Providing appropriate gifted and talented
programs for students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds is
a challenge that many school districts face. Since minority language students
represent an increasing percentage of the total school population, meeting the
educational needs of gifted minority language students is vital. All students,
including minority language students, deserve the most challenging instruction
Beam, G. C. (1980). "A kindergarten/primary
program for culturally different potentially gifted students in an inner city
school in Albuquerque, New Mexico" (Final Report). Grant Number G007901801.
Project Number 562AH90290. Albuquerque: Albuquerque Special Preschool.
Blanning, J. M. (1980). A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL INSERVICE HANDBOOK FOR PROFESSIONAL PERSONNEL IN GIFTED AND TALENTED. Hartford: Connecticut State Department of Education, Connecticut Clearinghouse for the Gifted and Talented.
Chan, K. S., & Kitano, M. K. (1986). "Demographic characteristics of
exceptional Asian students." In M. K. Kitano & P. C. Chinn (Eds.),
EXCEPTIONAL ASIAN CHILDREN AND YOUTH (pp. 1-11). Reston, VA: The Council for
Cochran, E. P., & Cotayo, A. (1983). LOUIS D. BRANDEIS HIGH SCHOOL, DEMONSTRATION BILINGUAL ENRICHMENT COLLEGE PREPARATORY PROGRAM. New York: New York City Public Schools.
Dannenberg, A. C. (1984). MEETING THE NEEDS OF GIFTED & TALENTED BILINGUAL STUDENTS: AN INTRODUCTION TO ISSUES AND PRACTICES. Quincy: Massachusetts Department of Education, Office for Gifted
Gallagher, J. J. (1979). "Issues in education for the gifted." In A. H.
Passow (Ed.), THE GIFTED AND THE TALENTED: THEIR EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kitano, M. K. (1986). "Gifted and talented Asian children." RURAL SPECIAL
EDUCATION QUARTERLY, 8(1), 9-13.
Llanes, J. R. (1980, February-March). "Bilingualism and the gifted
intellect." ROEPER REVIEW, 2(3), 11-12.
Machado, M. (1987, February). "Gifted Hispanics underidentified in
classrooms." HISPANIC LINK WEEKLY REPORT, p.1.
Maker, C. J. (1987). PROJECT DISCOVER; DISCOVERING INTELLECTUAL SKILLS AND CAPABILITIES WHILE PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR VARIED ETHNIC RESPONSES. Tucson: University of Arizona, Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation.
Piaget, J. (1954). THE CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY IN THE CHILD. New York: Basic
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1973). MEMORY AND INTELLIGENCE. New York:
Raupp, M. (1988). TALENT SEARCH: THE GIFTED HISPANIC STUDENT. Quincy:
Massachusetts Department of Education, Office for Gifted and Talented.
Renzulli, J. S. (1978). "What makes giftedness? Reexamining a definition."
PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 60(3), 180-184, 186.
Renzulli, J. S., Reis, S., & Smith, L. H. (1981). THE REVOLVING DOOR
IDENTIFICATION MODEL. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J., & Smith, L. (1977). "Two approaches to identification of
gifted students." EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN 43, 512-518.
Zappia (1989). Identification of gifted Hispanic students: A multidimensional
view. In C. J. Maker & S. W. Schiever (Eds.),
DEFENSIBLE PROGRAMS FOR GIFTED STUDENTS FROM UNDERSERVED
POPULATIONS: CULTURAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES (pp. 10P26). Austin: Pro-Ed.
Note. Adapted from Linda M. Cohen. (1988, Fall). "Meeting the needs of gifted
and talented minority language students." NEW FOCUS, 8. The National
Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Publication prepared under Contract No.
300860069 for the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs
(OBEMLA), U. S. Department of Education.