Gifted but gone: High-ability, Mexican-American, female dropouts

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Guidance and Counseling|Education, Special|Education, Secondary




The problem of students leaving school prior to high school graduation is particularly intense in south Texas. Approximately 25,000 Mexican-American students left school before graduation during the 1990-91 school year in Texas. This study examined one portion of the dropout population: high-ability Mexican-American females. Traditional identification measures were used to identify high-ability females who left school between 1990-93, and prior to their graduation from high school. These identification methods included the review of: cumulative records for grades; standardized achievement and creativity test scores; reports of awards or outstanding honors; and counselor, teacher, and self recommendations. Information was obtained from records of school districts with enrollments near or over 12,000 students. According to the Texas Education Agency (1992), the larger the student body, the greater the chance of students dropping out. The school systems included in this study are among the largest in Texas.^ Non-traditional methods used by Mexican-Americans to identify high-ability students within their culture were investigated through qualitative research methodology as described by Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Strauss and Corbin (1991). Interviews were conducted with community members, educational personnel, family and extended family, and peers to identify high-ability dropouts who exhibited creativity or exceptional talent in the arts, leadership, or cultural activities.^ The four major purposes of the study were: to describe the circumstances that influenced high-ability students to leave school prior to graduation, to determine if underlying characteristics of Mexican-American, female students exist that signify gifted or exceptional behavior in the Mexican-American culture, to examine the identification and gifted program guidelines for students' entry into gifted and talented programs in south Texas, and to compare the relationship between the lower Valley school population and the number of Mexican-Americans represented in gifted and talented programs. ^