Education News

Houston School Board Considering Changes To Gifted And Talented Program

More than one-third of white students in the Houston Independent School District are labeled as gifted and talented, compared to 14 percent of Hispanic students, and 7 percent of black students with the same designation.

Earlier this year, a report found that in Houston schools, black and Hispanic students are much less likely to be identified as gifted and talented than their white or Asian classmates.

Now the Houston school board is considering changes to address that, starting with abandoning the practice of retesting and disqualifying students already identified as gifted.

Researcher Donna Ford found that retesting “very problematic” and contributed to the under-representation of black and Hispanic students.

In the Houston Independent School District, more than one-third of white students are labeled as gifted and talented, compared to 14 percent of Hispanic students, and 7 percent of black students with the same designation.

“And I do not believe that a child who has been identified as gifted needs to be retested,” Ford said.

But that’s been standard practice in HISD.

Currently, HISD tests all students in kindergarten and again in fifth grade for gifted classes, even if they’re already enrolled in them. If students don’t meet the cut, they’re removed in sixth grade from the gifted program, which offers more challenging classes and extra funding of at least $400 more per gifted student to schools.

“I’m almost sure that the district is losing a lot of black students and some Hispanic students at that resting,” Ford said in a previous interview.

Houston Public Media obtained public records and first reported this fall that, in fact, the majority of the students removed from gifted and talented, or GT classes, were Hispanic – almost 80 percent.  

“We will no longer disqualify students who have previously been certified as GT in our district,” said Adam Stephens, who oversees advanced academics at HISD.

The HISD board of trustees recently gave preliminary approval to that change.

Also on the table: HISD may expand what subject areas count as gifted, moving beyond core content areas, and also require schools to develop personalized “Gifted Education Plans” to detail how to meet each gifted student’s needs.

“This is the start down the right road,” Stephens said. “One of the things that we know is also in policy, is that we are going to start identifying students in the areas of creativity, the arts and leadership,” he added.

The Houston school board gave preliminary approval at its November meeting and will take a final vote on the new gifted and talented policy at its meeting Thursday.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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