The Houston Independent School District Board of Education approved the first reading of a policy revision that would provide students with more equitable access to the district’s gifted and talented program.
The proposal is designed to ensure that students identified as gifted are able to retain that designation and remain in the district’s gifted and talented program throughout their tenure in HISD, no matter which school they attend.Currently, all HISD students are tested for the gifted and talented program in kindergarten and then again in fifth grade. During the 2013-2014 school year, more than one-third of the district’s 3,527 gifted fifth graders were removed from the program after taking the requalifying test in fifth grade. The vast majority of exited students — more than three-quarters — were Hispanic.
“We hope this goes a long way in making sure all students — no matter their background — have equal access to the district’s gifted and talented program,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, who earlier this year directed the district’s Equity Council to review the program and identify a solution that would ensure equitable access for all students. “If you’ve been identified as gifted, you shouldn’t have to continue to prove it.”
More than one-third of white students in HISD are labeled as gifted and talented, while just 14 percent of Hispanic students and seven percent of African American students receive the same designation. Similarly, students from wealthier families are more than twice as likely to be labeled as gifted and talented than their peers from poor families.
The average number of gifted and talented students across the state is just eight percent, compared to 15 percent in HISD.
A gifted and talented label gives students — and the schools they attend — a financial advantage, which is why ensuring equity in the process is important. HISD schools receive $400 in additional funding for every gifted student enrolled. Vanguard magnet schools, which are specifically designed for gifted and talented students, receive another $400 per student on top of that.
Additional changes included in the policy update include an expansion of content areas in which students can be considered gifted and receive academic support. Previously, HISD focused solely on core academic areas, but now will also consider creativity, the arts and leadership. Adding the three new content areas ensures the district is better aligned with the state’s education plan for gifted and talented students.
Schools also would be required to develop personalized Gifted Education Plans detailing how they plan to meet each gifted student’s individual academic needs, and establish campus-based committees to help identify gifted students and develop and carry out the personalized plans.
The Board of Education must approve a second reading of the proposal before it goes into effect.
I would hope that, as part of this major overhaul of the GT program, HISD also looks at how gifted students are identified….that the process becomes more objective and less subjective. Clearly, given the fact the HISD’s percentages are out of line with the state, HISD is too liberal in applying GT standards, thereby allowing students who are not truly GT into the program. This is analogous to the days when ELL students were labeled ‘SPED’ when they were not meeting AYP. The standards needed to identify and place a student in the SPED program changed. Ultimately, that is (in my opinion) what needs to happen with the identification and placement of GT students…it needs to change.