Black Kids Special Education, featured, Implicit Bias From Teachers, News, Race, Racial Bias In Learning, Racism In Schools -

Study Finds Black Children Are Less Likely to Be Labeled Gifted by Teachers

Black Kids Special Education, featured, Implicit Bias From Teachers, News, Race, Racial Bias In Learning, Racism In Schools -

Study Finds Black Children Are Less Likely to Be Labeled Gifted by Teachers

image via wikipedia.org
image via wikipedia.org

In the educational system, children whose needs exceed that of their classroom teacher are known as exceptional. This could mean special needs children with mental, emotional, learning or behavior disorders, or children who learn at a faster pace and/or need to be more challenged in the classroom.

In both cases, it is the primary teacher who recommends the students for testing that will get them the proper educational attention they need.

Teachers and educators determine which students are exceptional and which students are not. A recent study from New York University has found that when choosing between students with identical manifestations of giftedness or disability, their abilities are not the major determining factor. Instead, it is their race or ethnicity.

Rachel Fish, the author of the study, writes in its abstract, “Scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners have long argued that students of color are over-represented in special education, and under-represented in gifted education.”

The reason for this, according to the findings in her study, is racial bias. However, racism has long been found to interfere in the classroom.

Studies have found that Black and Latino students are far less likely than white and Asian students to be assigned to gifted-and-talented programs. Black students are 66 percent less likely to be chosen for gifted programs, while Latino students are 47 percent less likely than their white peers. Additionally, Black students with identical test scores are still twice less likely to be chosen for gifted programs than white students.

In the study conducted out of NYU, researchers took 70 third- and fourth-grade teachers from a large, northeastern city and assigned them to read profiles of fictional male students. Each fictional student showed signs of academic difficulties, behavioral challenges, or academic giftedness.

While the behaviors described in the profiles were identical, Fish made one key difference: the name of the student was changed to signify specific racial identities.

The teachers who participated in the study had a higher chance of seeing the academic gifts in profiles assigned to the name Jacob, while they were less likely to give the same treatment to an identical profile with the name Carlos or Demetrius. In plain English, children seen as white were more likely to be assigned to gifted programs than Latino or Black children, according to the study.

The study also found that academic and behavioral problems were seen as ordinary when the profile name was either Carlos or Demetrius. Meaning that “low academic performance is normal for [Black and Latino students] and not a problem to remediate” with academic, medical, or social intervention. However, these identical issues in the profiles with the white-sounding names were often seen as “medicalized problems to fix” by teachers.

Fish said, “The issue is that racism affects all of us, and teachers are in positions of power.”

But why does racism affect all of us? And how, when so many teachers are well-meaning or not outwardly racist, can this be remedied?

The first step is understanding implicit bias.

There is an implicit associations test designed by researchers at Harvard University that gauges our split second reactions to see who we prefer. One test, for example, has both Black and white children. The test has you press a button to associate positive words like “peace” and “smile” with one set of children, while associating the other set of children with negative words like “disaster” and “grief,” and then switches it around.

Most people in America generally have a preference for white children. The test makers say, “Automatic White preference may be common among Americans because of the deep learning of negative associations to the group Black in this society. High levels of negative references to Black Americans in American culture and mass media may contribute to this learning. Such negative references may themselves be more the residue of the long history of racial discrimination in the United States than the result of deliberate efforts to discriminate in media treatments.”

Indeed, most people do not consider themselves to harbor any hatred or conscious negative feelings about non-white children, and yet, they have a bias against them. This is implicit bias: unconsciously, in a split second, associating white children with positive words and actions — and in the case of the educators in Fish’s study, giftedness — while associating Black and Latino children with negativity and poor behavior.

The results of the IAT are split 50/50 for Black people’s preferences, and there are other studies that demonstrate how this manifests in the classroom. A previous study indicated that Black students were three times more likely to be assigned to gifted reading programs when they were taught by a Black teacher, versus when they were taught by a non-Black teacher.


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