- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) Maryland school districts and nonprofit groups are trying to address the underrepresentation of minority children in programs for the gifted.
Officials want to correct biases in the ways children are determined to be gifted. They're trying to make sure precocious pupils from poor families don't lose out on gifted programs simply because their parents don't know about them.
"Because you're poor does not mean you're not gifted," said Christine Johns, deputy superintendent of Baltimore County schools.
The county's pilot program identifies gifted minority students, then gives them enriched instruction that lets them thrive.
The program expanded the list of factors used to identify children as gifted beyond standardized test scores. It also sent "gifted and talented resource teachers" to 20 schools in low-income neighborhoods to help find these children.
There are a lot of minority children who risk falling through the cracks in public schools. Nationally, blacks and Hispanics are less than half as likely as their white classmates to be enrolled in gifted programs, according to a report last year by the National Research Council, a D.C. nonprofit group that advises the federal government.
But specialists say new programs to reverse minority students' traditionally lagging school performance can change that. The goal is to place more minority children on a path of rigorous class work that will steer them into college and successful careers.
"If these things are well done, [the children] quickly escalate to very high levels. You see kids showing up in state science fair contests and Web design competitions," said Joseph Renzulli, director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, in Storrs, Conn.
In Maryland, the state Department of Education, which funds summer programs for gifted students, encourages these programs to enroll traditionally underrepresented children and give them scholarships.
Some Baltimore area school systems also are altering their gifted and talented programs.
Anne Arundel County school officials are revamping the gifted curriculum and stressing the identification of minority students. Howard County school officials are shifting teachers of gifted students to lower-performing schools, which tend to be in poorer neighborhoods.
Baltimore County's school system started its pilot program this school year, after a consultant reported that minorities "continue to be underrepresented in the district's gifted programs" despite years of initiatives. This school year, only 8 percent of the school system's 17,103 gifted students are black, far fewer than the 34 percent share of black students in the district.
as a whole.
Officials, however, say they're optimistic that the new pilot program, which they hope to expand to more schools next year, will help correct the underrepresentation.


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