Understanding the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Gifted Education

An Anthology By and About Talented Black Girls and Women in STEM

Edited by:
Nicole M. Joseph PhD, Vanderbilt University

A volume in the series: Contemporary Perspectives on Multicultural Gifted Education. Editor(s): Donna Y. Ford, Vanderbilt University. Malik S. Henfield, University of San Francisco.

This book seeks to understand the complexities of talented and high-performing Black girls and women in STEM across the P-20 trajectory. Analogously, this volume aims to understand the intersections between giftedness, its identification, and racial, gender, and academic discipline identity. The dearth of literature on this subject suggests that Black girls and women have unique experiences in gifted programming, in large part because of factors associated with gifted programs in general (Montie, 2013). Key factors affecting Black students, and Black girls in particular, is identification and underrepresentation (Ford, 1995; 2013; Joseph, in press; Joseph et al., in press). These factors can be shaped by interlocking systems of racism, classism, gender bias, and other forms of oppression (Collins & Bilge, 2016; Crenshaw, 1991).

Teachers in the P-12 educational system are the first identifiers for gifted programming and look for student characteristics, such as natural leadership, inquisitiveness, and students’ desire to be in gifted programs (Montie, 2013). Because many Black girls are stereotyped and teachers rarely have deep understanding of cultural differences, Black girls are less likely to be identified for gifted programming. More specifically, Black girls’ lack of representation in gifted mathematics or STEM programs contradicts research that finds that girls reach several developmental advantages ahead of boys. For example, research has shown that girls talk and read earlier (Silverman, 1986), receive higher grades in elementary school (Callahan, 1979), and drop-out less often (Dowdall & Colangelo, 1982) than boys. Other studies have also shown that Black girls have higher mathematics career aspirations than their White and Latina female peers (Riegle-Crumb, Moore, & RamosWada, 2011); yet, they are rarely represented in gifted math and Advanced Placement (AP) math programs. Furthermore, Ford et al., (1996, 2002) found the underrepresentation of urban, low-income African-American students in gifted education related to low test scores, student and family choice, a lack of teacher referral, and a mismatch between home and school cultures.

Some high-performing Black girls and women are participating in programs that nurture and support their racial and gender identities and contribute to them developing into strong and efficacious girls and women who have agency in their lives. This anthology will include studies that illustrate the complexities of intersectionality in various STEM programs, while also demonstrating the increasing access to STEM for females of color is doable.

Gifted is defined by the federal definition (1983 version) as those students who possess demonstrated or potential ability, intellectually or creatively in specific academic areas, the performing of visual arts, and leadership (Cassidy & Hossler, 1992). According to Ford (1995, 2013), potential is important because it provides a fighting chance for racialized minorities, girls, and low-income students to be included in gifted, advanced, and STEM programming —otherwise, these students might be overlooked, go unrecognized, and underachieve. Consequently, in most states and school districts, such students go unmet when giftedness is defined in a one-dimensional fashion, such as relying solely on high IQ (intelligence quotient) scores (Ford, 1995, 2013). Gifted and advanced programming must also be broad so as to include schools or programs that may not have official gifted education and AP programs, but aim to provide curriculum or enrichment experiences for high-performing Black girls.

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