Gifted Underachievers

Racial and ethnic minority and low-income students are underrepresented in gifted programs in the United States as compared to their white counterparts. As Grissom and Redding (2016) note, even among students with high standardized test scores, such students are less likely to be assigned gifted services. In light of this, we explore various factors that can contribute to the identification of this particular demographic as gifted achievers.  

To identify gifted underachievers, it is important to measure the difference between their ability and performance. Performance can be measured using standardized tests and any resulting difference used to confirm underachievement. However, standardized tests are biased, lack validity, and unreliable. In light of this, we identify three factors that can help identify gifted underachievers from this particular demographic. Firstly, teachers should receive training in gifted education to enhance their effectiveness in identifying gifted students (Powell & Siegle, n.d). The teachers should also receive training multicultural education to improve their ability to identify and meet the needs of gifted underachievers from racial and ethnic minority and low-income learners. Secondly, it is important to consider and look beyond non-intellectual barriers to achievement (Derek, 2017). Issues such as social and environmental problems, cultural issues, psychological may affect the identification and placement of gifted learners from this particular demographic. The third factor is family involvement in the learning process. Parents for this particular group of learners may find it hard getting involved in their children education due to several factors. As Kerr (2009) notes, involving parents and extended family members can help identify children for gifted programs.

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Identifying gifted underachievers among students from racial and ethnic minority and low-income groups can be a challenge. However, applying the above outline factors can help the process and ensure that gifted learners from this particular demographic are identified and referred to the gifted education programs. 


Derek, C. (2017). Observation and analysis of three gifted underachievers in an underserved, urban high school setting. Gifted Education International, 33(1), 62-75.

Grissom, J. A., & Redding, C. (2016). Discretion and Disproportionality: Explaining the Underrepresentation of High-Achieving Students of Color in Gifted Programs. Aera Open, 2(1), 1-25.

Kerr, B. A. (2009). Encyclopedia of giftedness, creativity, and talent. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.Powell, T., Siegle, D. (n.d). Teacher Bias in Identifying Gifted and Talented Students. The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (1990-2013). Retrieved from

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