The new report Is There a Gifted Gap? by the Fordham Institute shines a glaring light on how unevenly and unfairly services for high-ability students are distributed throughout the state of Illinois and how out of step we are with the rest of the country.
A few important statistics from the report underscore just how far behind Illinois is in providing equitable access to gifted services:
- Only 35.2% of schools in Illinois offer gifted services, which is far below the national average of 68.3%.
- Only 32.8% of Illinois’ high poverty schools (where at least 75% of students receive free or reduced price lunch) have gifted programs, which is drastically lower than the national average of 69% of high poverty schools with gifted programs.
- In Illinois, high poverty schools are far less likely to have gifted programs than low poverty schools (high poverty = 32.8%; low = 57%). This is in stark contrast to the fact that, nationally, high and low poverty schools are equally likely to offer gifted programming.
- Even within the relatively small number of Illinois schools that offer gifted programming (35.2%), black, Hispanic, and low-income students are significantly underrepresented in these programs.
The Illinois Association for Gifted Children has been a voice for disadvantaged high-ability children, arguing that the steep drop in the number of Illinois’ elementary and middle school districts that offer gifted programs – from over 80% in 2003 (the last year that the state provided funding to districts for their gifted programs) to 27% as of 2016 – has had a disparate impact on black, Hispanic, and low-income students.
The State Board of Education, legislators, and the Governor heard our message and supported the passage of the Accelerated Placement Act this past year, which requires all Illinois districts to create policies allowing early entrance to Kindergarten and 1st grade, whole grade acceleration, and single subject acceleration. This is a great step forward in providing advanced students with appropriately challenging learning opportunities, but we have more work to do to close opportunity and excellence gaps, and to ensure that we identify and nurture talent equitably throughout Illinois.
The Gifted Gap report helps emphasize how critical it is that Illinois continue to strengthen its policy support for advanced students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Visit our Policy & Advocacy webpages and contact the co-chairs, Carolyn Welch (carolynEwelch@comcast.net) and Eric Calvert (firstname.lastname@example.org), to get involved!