The Impact of Identification Practices on the Enrollment of English Learners in GT Programs
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Background: English Learners (ELs) are vastly underrepresented in gifted and talented (GT) programs compared to their peers in other mainstream populations. ELs are a growing population in the nation's public-school system. Although this population is seeing growth at a fast pace, the enrollment of ELs in gifted programming continues to lag. Existing methods of identifying students with gifts and talents rely on the use of standardized testing to measure general intelligence (Beyer & Johnson, 2014). Further, classroom teachers often serve as gatekeepers to gifted identification, with teacher nominations commonly used as a referral tool in the process. Given this, both the methods for evaluating students for GT programs and implicit bias on behalf of teachers can serve as a barrier to identifying gifted English learners. Purpose: The study examined existing gifted identification practices in Region 4 (R4) districts and their impact on the number of ELs identified for GT programs. RQs: 1.) What are current practices in identifying students for gifted programming among a sample of districts in R4? 2.) What are the differences in the percentage of ELs identified for GT programs using the various identification practices? Methods: Descriptive data from school districts in R4 and their GT procedures was utilized. R4 represents the Houston area and serves a diverse population of more than 1.2 million students. Fourteen school districts in R4 were identified as the sample for this study based on specific criteria. Data collected from districts about their use of various methods and processes to identify giftedness was described. Descriptive data provided a general overview of GT identification practices within R4. Linear regression was used to analyze data. Results: Descriptive statistics showed that disparities existed in R4 in the percentages of both GT enrollment and ELs in GT. One-half of the sample has EL enrollment that ranges from 20%-40%. The sample relies heavily on the use of ability testing along with parent and teacher ratings. Variance was found in the utilization of achievement testing. A linear regression found that the percentage of ELs enrolled in a school district was significant in determining the number of ELs subsequently identified as GT. A second linear regression showed that the use of achievement testing did not have a significant impact on the number of ELs identified for GT. Conclusion: R4 has a disproportionate representation of ELs in GT programs. R4 struggles with meeting the needs of its largest sub-population, as GT enrollment is not indicative of enrollment trends of the region. Existing identification practices serve as a barrier for equitable representation in GT programs. School districts with high enrollment rates of ELs also saw higher rates of ELs in GT. Literature supports that the use of achievement testing measures the concepts its intended to, but fails to comprehensively identify giftedness in the various ways it may manifest. Expanding universal screening procedures is an implication for practice while further research should focus on the rate of language acquisition as a factor to determine giftedness in ELs.