Measuring Equity – “Segregation and the Underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in Gifted Education: Social Inequality and Deficit Paradigms”

This weekend, I spent a great deal of a beautiful day sitting in Gifted and Talented Training. Though I did not give my facilitators much to work with, I managed to learn a few things. The training actually sparked my interest in G/T and other ways that we feed our voracious (and likely college-bound) learners of all hues. That searching led me to “Segregation and the Underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in Gifted Education: Social Inequality and Deficit Paradigms”. Quite honestly, as a black educator and student, the content of the article is tough to digest, but the methods empower me to approach data sets in new ways.

In “Segregation and the Underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in Gifted Education: Social Inequality and Deficit Paradigms”, Dr. Boyd uses a quantitative approach to look at national data on the racial composition of G/T programming in K-12 schools. She is able to calculate both the percent of underrepresentation in G/T by race using the Relative Difference in Composition Index (RDCI) and the significance of that underrepresentation using what she calls an Equity Index (EI). The Equity Index can also be thought of as the desired percentage for a group. Both of these indices confirmed growing underrepresentation  for Hispanic and African American students from 2009 to 2011. The graphs below reveal an underrepresentation of 43% and 47% for African American students in 2009 and 2011, respectively, and an underrepresentation of 31% and 36% for Hispanic students during those same years.

Graphs based on the data from “Segregation and the Underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in Gifted Education: Social Inequality and Deficit Paradigms”.

After sharing this data, Dr. Boyd goes on to share potential explanations for the data including social inequality and white privilege. In the discussion of social inequality, the discussion of Allport’s Five Degrees of Prejudice stood out to me. They are:

  • Antilocution – racist jokes, insults, name calling, sentiments, or non-verbal actions
  • Avoidance – removing oneself from situations that may include people of color
  • Discrimination – denying access intentionally or unintentionally to something people of color are entitled to
  • Physical Attack – bullying, fighting, etc.
  • Extermination – murder

Dr. Boyd focused on the first three for her purposes. She explains that many times antilocution includes actions that are less overt like microaggressions and other subtle (sometimes innocent) actions. Avoidance was described with actions like white flight or taking honors classes simply to avoid students of color. While antilocution and avoidance are not innately illegal in education, discrimination is always punishable by law, whether intentional or unintentional. Dr. Boyd argues that when we as a system know students of color are underrepresented in G/T programming and we don’t move to rectify it, we are discriminating against the unidentified G/T students of color that are being undereducated.

In short, Dr. Boyd believes that the severe underrepresentation of students of color in G/T programming has created de facto segregation. This is a violation of the Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954). Therefore, we need to fix it “with all deliberate speed”. To address these issues, she provides a table of factors to be analyzed to determine representation (or lack thereof) in Gifted programs. The table provides a list of elements on which schools should collect and analyze data.

This article was a departure from the literature I’ve been reading on college readiness, first generation students, and support systems – but it is not completely removed. The way we prepare all students for success determines a multitude of outcomes – among them who gets to go to college. As we work towards equity in all areas of education, it is important to know the data and develop an understanding of why the racial compositions of success and failure look the way they do.

As an educator that loves math, I often struggle to share data with those who don’t. I think I gained a lot from learning about the indices (RDCI and EI) used in Dr. Boyd’s analysis. They are both simple ways to approach a complex and layered issue of racial equity in schools.

It should come as no surprise that in future study, I’m curious to learn about other indices to understand the field of education!

I suppose I have more reading to do…. Feel free to leave a reply below!


Ford, D. Y. (2014). Segregation and the underrepresentation of blacks and hispanics in gifted education: Social inequality and deficit paradigms. Roeper Review, 36(3), 143-154. doi:10.1080/02783193.2014.919563

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons



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