Theses Doctoral

Diversity in Gifted-and-Talented Programs: The Role of Family Engagement and Bureaucratic Rules

Park, Elizabeth H.

Scholars have long explored the lack of diversity in gifted-and-talented education and specifically the role that gifted-and-talented test performance plays as a barrier to access. However, there is limited work, particularly quantitative work, examining the ways in which policies perpetuate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities within the education system.I build upon the extant research by examining each stage of the admissions process, employing quantitative methods, and using a comprehensive sample of longitudinal admissions and enrollment data from New York City. This dissertation explores the diversity of gifted-and-talented programs by addressing two research questions: 1) Do families who request testing, test, apply, and enroll their children in gifted-and-talented programs reflect diverse backgrounds? and 2) Do gifted-and-talented admissions criteria and priorities, specifically test score criteria and sibling priority, advantage certain students?

My results suggest that from the onset, families engaging with the first step of the gifted-and-talented admission process are not representative of the student population at large. While a more diverse group of families request testing and test, as families progress further along in navigating the admissions process, at each stage the families look more like one another. The filtering nature of the admissions process leaves far lower proportions of low-income, Black, and Hispanic families enrolling in gifted-and-talented programs.

I also find that admissions rules advantage certain students to varying degrees. My findings reveal that test score cutoffs severely exacerbate the lack of diversity in gifted programs, giving the already advantaged families a further advantage. Contrastingly, I find that sibling priority does not exacerbate the lack of diversity to the same extent. Overall, the likelihood of receiving an offer does not vary by most sociodemographic characteristics. However, once a child meets the test score criteria, the score plays a far less important role in determining offers to a top choice program, and sibling preferences give families a strong advantage in receiving an offer to their first choice gifted-and-talented program.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Politics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Henig, Jeffrey
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 25, 2021