Black Teachers More Likely to Identify Gifted Black Students

Teacher standing in front of classBlack teachers are more likely to place black students in gifted-education programs, according to a study published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.

A persistent racial gap in giftedness identification leaves black children out of many gifted academic programs, even when their abilities are similar to or exceed those of their white peers.

A 2016 Vanderbilt University study found black students with high standardized test scores are about half as likely as white children to be assigned to gifted programs. That study also found the gap disappears when the gifted program teacher is black.

Are Black Teachers Better at Recognizing Giftedness in Black Students?

Although previous studies have established black students are underrepresented in gifted programs, this study is among the first to explore the cause of the disparity. Drawing on data from the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which follows a cohort of kindergartners through eighth grade, researchers explored facts that affect assignments to gifted programs.

Even after adjusting for test sores, school characteristics, and other factors that might account for giftedness disparities, researchers found black teachers were more likely to assign black students with high test scores to gifted programs. Black teachers had more positive assessments of black pupils’ learning and self-control than white teachers.

Is Diversity the Issue?

Some educational advocates have speculated that a generalized increase in diversity might boost black participation in gifted programs. The study found teacher diversity did not improve outcomes for black students. It was not enough to have black teachers in the school; students had to be taught by a black teacher to increase their odds of being recommended for the gifted-education program.

Some research suggests the apparently objective criteria used to test for giftedness, such as IQ scores, may be racially biased. This research raises additional concerns that white teachers may fail to recognize the skills of their black students. The study’s authors suggest schools change their processes to screen all students for giftedness, rather than relying on teacher or parent referrals.


  1. Black students more likely to be identified as gifted if teachers are black. (2016, May 10). Retrieved from
  2. Nicholson-Crotty, S., Grissom, J. A., Nicholson-Crotty, J., & Redding, C. (2016). Disentangling the causal mechanisms of representative bureaucracy: Evidence from assignment of students to gifted programs. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. doi:10.1093/jopart/muw024
  3. The racial gap in the selection of students for gifted education programs. (2016, February 1). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Monty


    May 11th, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    It can’t continue to be this way
    if a kid is gifted then that should be apparent to the teacher
    whether he or she is black or not

  • matthew


    May 11th, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    so what you are really saying or implying is that a black student is not going to get a fair shake unless they are taught by black teachers. do we really believe this? couldn’t there be another underlying issue here that would cause these kinds of numbers? i am not saying that discrimination doesn’t happen because i think that we all know that it still does, but would a white teacher consciously not recommend for a gifted program just because the student is black?

  • Ibe T

    Ibe T

    May 12th, 2016 at 4:01 AM

    you are right because only the black teachers can understand the way the behave and react to situations… they think they way i think method of identification.

  • Stacey


    May 12th, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    Now we have to consider the fact there are far too few minority teachers in the classroom. This alone has always been a problem and looks like it could now be an even larger one.

  • Frank G

    Frank G

    May 13th, 2016 at 6:51 AM

    The decision to place a student in a gifted program shouldn’t be left to the discretion of a teacher. It should be based on IQ score, which is by far the single best predictor of educational achievement and many other life outcomes. The article introduces the old canard that IQ tests are racially biased. They’re not. No cognitive psychologist who has actually studied the allegation believes it. It is a comforting and politically correct but empirically wrong belief common among journalists and educators unfamiliar with the psychometric research. IQ scores predict academic performance, college graduation rates, and adult income equally well for students of all races. The average group differences in IQ scores among races are a well established fact. The black/white IQ gap explains nearly the entire racial difference in the distribution of students in gifted programs when admissions to these programs is administered in a fair and objective way. If the cutoff point is set at an IQ of 130, only about 2.23% of white students will qualify, while only about 0.13% of black students will qualify. In other words, given the big average IQ gap between whites and blacks, you would expect white students to qualify for gifted programs at 17 times the rate of black students. The fact that many school district strive to have equal proportions of whites and blacks in gifted programs simply means that many white students will be unfairly turned away in favor of lower-IQ black students.

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