As Dropout Nation noted in these week’s Podcast, the nation’s special education ghettos are way-stations for kids many adults in schools and districts consider unreachable. At the same time, special ed programs serve as one of the ways American public education rations what traditionalists consider to be quality education. Another form of rationing comes in the form of gifted-and-talented classes which serve those students gatekeepers into those programs (using faulty I.Q. tests such as the Stanford-Ninety, along with their own judgement) consider worthy of what is presumed to be high-quality teaching and comprehensive, college-preparatory instruction. The fact that recent data suggest that those programs rarely do well by these students makes their value seem questionable. More importantly, gifted-and-talented programs are ineffective in reaching and serving those poor and minority kids who may be quite capable of doing the work.

Dropout Nation Contributing Editor Michael Holzman takes a look at federal data and wonders why so few black and Latino children are in gifted-and-talented programs. Read, consider, and offer your own thoughts.

Who is gifted and talented in the Atlanta metro area? This is a more-important question than you may think.

The school systems of Atlanta and the five-county core of the Atlanta metro area (Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett) enroll nearly 400,000 students. Half of the area’s students are black; 21,000 are Asian; just over 90,000 are white, non-Hispanic and just under 90,000 are Hispanic.

A total of 50,000 students in the Atlanta area are enrolled in programs for the gifted and talented according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  The distribution of those students, by race and ethnicity looks like this:

Between a quarter and a third of Asian and white students are placed in gifted and talented programs.  Atlanta area school systems identify just seven percent of black students and just five percent of Hispanic students as gifted and talented.

Students in gifted and talented programs presumably have access to specialized educational resources.  Presumably that is helpful to them.

What can one say?  That the Atlanta metro school systems actually believe that white, non-Hispanic and Asian students are four times as likely to be gifted and talented as black and Hispanic students?  If not, perhaps they should look again.  There might be some more gifted black and Hispanic students around there somewhere.

Unless, of course, gifted education programs in the Atlanta area are a means for school segregation by another name.