Profiles of talent: Case studies of high-ability African American students in an urban elementary school

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Black Studies|Education, Elementary|Education, Special




The identification of gifted African American students is one of the most pressing issues in gifted education. According to national statistics, African American children comprise 17% of total public school enrollment, yet only 8.4% of all children served in gifted programs were African American. Thus for every 200 students from the total public school enrollment, there will be approximately 1 African American student represented in gifted programs, underscoring the critical need for authentic and appropriate identification instruments and systems for these children. ^ Underrepresentation of racial or ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged children in programs for gifted students has not changed considerably in public schools over the last 4 decades. Among the many factors that contribute to the lack of identification of gifted African American youngsters, the one most commonly cited by researchers concerns the construct of giftedness as defined by intelligence and other standardized tests. The use of an IQ or standardized ability test as the primary means for the nomination and placement of children in gifted programs has not effectively facilitated the identification of students from economically disadvantaged background or those representing culturally diverse populations. Therefore, researchers are currently reexamining identification procedures to include multiple sources and criteria. Improving the process of identification for populations traditionally underrepresented in gifted programs will facilitate access to educational services and programs that will appropriately foster the talents of these children. ^ This qualitative study identified the characteristics of high ability African American urban elementary students as these traits were manifested in the home, school, and community environments. Utilizing interviews and document review, data were collected and subsequently analyzed to provide descriptions of the characteristics of talent in this population, and guide identification procedures of this population for placement in gifted programs. ^