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Gifted Program Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity

Students of color are less likely to be identified and enrolled in the LPS program for gifted students

Lincoln Public Schools offers differentiated curricula for students identified as gifted at all schools, but there are disparities in which students tend to be identified as gifted by race and ethnicity. After being recommended for identification as gifted (“by anyone including a parent, teacher, or themselves”), students are evaluated for admission to the gifted program by their building’s facilitator based upon their grades and class performance, work, behavioral checklists, standardized test scores, or IQ scores.1

Study after study demonstrates that children from lower income households perform less well in school on average than those from higher income households.2 There exists a strong relationship between students’ educational outcomes, their household income, and the educational attainment of their caregivers, regardless of race or ethnicity. This relationship has been found in studies looking at the individual, school, district, state, and national level. In other words, differences in educational outcomes cannot be separated from differences in caregiver’s background.2

In Lincoln, there is a strong and significant negative relationship between the percentage of students eligible for the free/reduced price lunch program in a school and the percentage of students enrolled in the gifted program at that school.3 In other words, the higher the percentage of students from households experiencing poverty, the lower the percentage of students enrolled in the gifted program at a school tends to be. This analysis was performed using school-level data, as data on whether individual students who are enrolled in the gifted program are also eligible for free or reduced-price lunch is not available.

Further, research finds another source of the observed disparities to be standardized tests themselves. One study, comparing Black and White students’ standardized test scores for students in poverty-concentrated, socioeconomically mixed, and affluent-concentrated school contexts found that the proportion of students scoring higher in affluent-concentrated contexts to be higher than in poverty-concentrated contexts for both groups. However, there was consistent gap between Black and White students across all three socioeconomic contexts, suggesting that the gap by race is as much a function of the test and how it is constructed, as it is a function of the students taking the test.4

Students’ experience with English should also be consider among the multitude of factors that can influence achievement on standardized testing. Compared to non-Hispanic White students, Latino/a/Hispanic students, on average, enter kindergarten with lower average math and reading skills, but the gap narrows by about a third within the first two years of school and then remains relatively stable for the remainder of elementary school.5 In this same study, those children from homes where English was not spoken had the lowest average reading and math scores entering kindergarten but made the largest gains in the early years of school.

  • Overall, 17.5% of students in Lincoln Public Schools are enrolled in the gifted program in the 2020 to 2021 school year.
  • Lincoln students who identified as Asian (22.4% enrolled) or White (21.4% enrolled) were more likely to be enrolled in the LPS gifted program than the overall rate.
    • On average, these groups have median household incomes and adult educational attainment that are higher than average for Lincoln.
  • Students who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native (5.1% enrolled), Black or African American (7.0% enrolled), Latino/a or Hispanic (7.7% enrolled), or Two or More Races (13.7% enrolled) were less likely than average to be identified as gifted learners.
    • On average, these groups have median incomes and adult educational attainments that are lower than average for Lincoln.

Nebraska Department of Education. (2022). Nebraska Education Profile (formerly Nebraska State of Schools Reports).

Percent of Lincoln Public School children who are enrolled in the program for gifted students. Data in some years is unpublished for American Indian/Alaska Native students to protect privacy of low numbers of student.

Per 92 Nebraska Administrative Code 3-001.01C. Section 79-1107(3)R.R.S., a gifted or high ability learner means a student who gives evidence of high performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, or artistic capacity or in specific academic fields and who requires accelerated or differentiated curriculum programs in order to develop those capabilities fully.

  1. Lincoln Public Schools. (n.d.) Gifted Parent Handbook. https://home.lps.org/gifted/
  2. Ladd, Helen F. (2012). Presidential Address: Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 31(2)207-227.
  3. Pearson’s r correlation = -.608; p < .001
  4. Willie, C. V. (2001). The Contextual Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Student Achievement Test Scores by Race. Urban Education, 36(4), 461-478.
  5. Reardon, S. F., & Galindo, C. (2009). The Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Math and Reading in the Elementary Grades. American Educational Research Journal, 46(3), 853-891.