One in three Asian students is labeled as gifted by his or her school, according to data released by the Los Angeles Unified School District for a school board meeting scheduled on Tuesday.
The latest numbers again raise questions about the over- and under-representation of ethnic groups in the district's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, which can set a student on a path into the most sought-after schools and colleges.
In breakdowns of the overall GATE enrollment, the racial division is stark:
- Asian students are 150 percent overrepresented based on enrollment estimates of all Asian students in L.A. Unified.
- White students are 60 percent overrepresented compared to their estimated numbers.
- Latino students are 15 percent underrepresented based on their estimated enrollment.
- Black students are 30 percent underrepresented compared to their estimated enrollment.
White and Asian students aren't innately smarter than their black and brown peers, experts say. According to research on the issue, the problem is school staff in high-poverty neighborhoods aren’t looking for – and finding – kids to enroll in gifted and talented programs.
The wealthier west San Fernando Valley, for example, has twice the rate of GATE enrollment than areas in south and east Los Angeles.
The district is under orders from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to do a better job seeking out gifted black and Latino students. The office also ordered the district to improve minority students access to technology, books and libraries and effective teachers.
In the 2010-2011 school year, administrators started offering schools $15 cash rewards for each new gifted student identified, but enrollment has only inched up.
In February and March, Superintendent Ramon Cortines paid administrators to work Saturdays to clear a backlog of thousands of students who were waiting to be enrolled in gifted programs.
The district also said it is reaching out to 129 elementary schools, many in south and east LA, to help increase diversity enrollment in GATE.
The school board's Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee was scheduled to to take up the gifted and talented program Tuesday, but administrators moved the discussion to May 26.
This story has been updated.
Graphics provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District.