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The Recruitment and Retention of African American Students in Gifted Education Programs: Implications and Recommendations

Donna Y. Ford

The identification and placement of African American students in gifted programs has received increased attention in recent years, primarily due to Javits legislation and the stellar efforts of Torrance, Passow, Frasier, Renzulli, Baldwin, and others who have devoted a considerable amount of research to this issue. While their collective efforts have considerably influenced the recruitment of African American youth into programs and services for gifted students, one shortcoming has been an almost exclusive attention to the identification and placement process. This aspect, referred to herein as "recruitment," represents only one crucial element in increasing the representation of African American students in gifted programs. Equally important, but often overlooked, is the "retention" of these students in gifted education once placed. What mechanisms exist to ensure that, once identified and placed, gifted African American students remain in the program? Do they feel a sense of belonging and inclusion? Are academic as well as social and emotional needs met?

The poor representation of African American students in gifted programs may occur for numerous reasons. These students may complain of: (1) being a minority within a minority because they are often the only or one of few African American students in the gifted program. These feelings may be more likely when students attend predominantly White schools and gifted programs; (2) feeling isolated from White classmates; (3) experiencing intense and frequent peer pressures from African American youth not in the gifted program; (4) feeling misunderstood by teachers who often lack substantive preparation in multicultural education; (5) feeling misunderstood by teachers who do not understand the nature of giftedness, especially among culturally and racially diverse students; (6) feeling misunderstood by family members who do not understand the nature of giftedness.

The primary purpose of this paper is to describe not only barriers to the successful recruitment and retention of African American students in gifted education programs and services, but also to present recommendations for ensuring that the recruitment and retention process is successful.

Reference:
Ford, D. Y. (1994). The recruitment and retention of African American students in gifted education programs: Implications and recommendations (RBDM 9406). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.


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The Recruitment and Retention of African American Students in Gifted Education Programs: Implications and Recommendations
Donna Y. Ford

Guidelines

  1. A culture of assessment rather than a culture of testing promises to capture the strengths of gifted African American students.
  2. There is no "one size fits all" intelligence or achievement test. Multidimensional identification and assessment practices offer the greatest promise for recruiting African American students into gifted programs.
  3. Identification instruments must be valid, reliable, and culturally sensitive. If any of these variables are low or missing, the instrument should not be adopted for use with African American and other minority students.
  4. To increase the representation of African American students in gifted programs, educators must adopt contemporary definitions and theories of giftedness.
  5. Comprehensive services must be provided if the recruitment and retention of African American students in gifted education is to be successful.
  6. Teachers who are trained in both gifted education and multicultural education increase their effectiveness in identifying and serving gifted African American students.
  7. To prevent underachievement, gifted students must be identified and served early.
  8. Qualitative definitions of underachievement offer more promise than quantitative definitions in describing poor achievement among gifted African American students.
  9. The representation of African American students in gifted programs must be examined relative to both recruitment and retention issues.
  10. Family involvement is critical to the recruitment and retention of African American students in gifted education. Parents and extended family members must be involved early, consistently, and substantively in the recruitment and retention process.