Overcoming Underrepresentation in Gifted Programs, Part I: Attitude and Access

Overcoming Underrepresentation in Gifted ProgramsAmong Culturally, Linguistically, Ethnically Diverse, and Diverse Social and Economic Gifted Learners: A Parent

and School Engagement Perspective, Part I


By Ken Dickson


Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series by guest Talking Circles columnist Ken Dickson on how parents and schools can work to overcome underrepresentation of specific populations in gifted programs. This month’s column focuses on the roles of attitude and access.


Underrepresentation among culturally, linguistically, ethnically diverse (CLED) learners and learners from diverse social and economic backgrounds in gifted programs and services continue. Improvements have occurred, but much work remains. For at least four decades, gifted education (the field, herein) has engaged in formal discourse concerning these learners. Multiple perspectives have been offered. For this article, the perspectives will focus on four areas – attitude, access, assessment and accommodations. The areas represent outcomes of research from several stakeholders regarding diverse learners and gifted programs and particularly Dr. Mary Fraiser. Dr. Fraiser, an African-American scholar and past president of the National Association for Gifted Children, dedicated her life to areas regarding underrepresented populations of learners. In that regard, this information is based on her contributions.


Attitude – Attitude involves a mental position, feeling or emotion towards CLED and learners from diverse social and economic backgrounds.


What should be included in engagement between school and its CLED parents, and parents from diverse social and economic backgrounds regarding mental positions, feelings and emotions?


Parents and schools should engage in parent awareness and personnel professional

development. The outcomes of such engagement should enhance mental positions, feelings and emotions toward CLED and groups from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Specific topics should focus on:

 Deficit thinking and teaching. Deficit thinking involves educators interpreting learners’ differences as deficits, dysfunctions or disadvantaged traits. Such interpretations focus primarily on learners’ differences and deficits, while positive traits become masked and secondary. 

 Diverse learner-family-teacher relationships.

 Culturally relevant/congruent instruction practices.

 Equitable educational access, opportunities and support.

 Student exceptionalities that impact giftedness.

 Courageous, open, transparent conversations about differences.

 Parent/caregiver dynamics.


Access – Access involves ways in which CLED learners and learners from diverse social and economic backgrounds are considered for gifted program placement.


What should be included in engagement between CLED parents, and parents from diverse social and economic backgrounds regarding placement considerations?


Parents and schools should engage in identification awareness and implementation activities that focus on clear systematic and ongoing information that involve:

 National, state and local identification/access concepts, regulations, policies, practices, process and procedures designed to foster equity in GT programming and services.

 Environments and instructional activities that encourage the expression of diverse

characteristics and behaviors associated with giftedness.

 Diverse characteristics and behaviors associated with giftedness.

 The use of multiple assessments that measure diverse abilities, talents and strengths.