High-Achieving, Low-Income Students Excluded From Gifted Classes, Investigation Finds

Are smart students from poor families more likely to be overlooked for gifted or high-level math classes? The answer is a resounding yes, a team of North Carolina investigative journalists has found.

Last month, led by reporter Joseph Neff, the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., unveiled a three-part series, called “Counted Out,” that showed convincingly how high-achieving, low-income North Carolina students are very often excluded from the classes that would challenge their abilities and help them attend college and climb out of poverty, while equally achieving, wealthier students are counted in.

Using anonymized state records involving tens of thousands of students and zeroing in on end-of-grade achievement tests, Neff found that just one out of three low-income students with superior math scores was labeled gifted by educators, compared to one out of two students—with equal achievement—from wealthier homes. These high-potential, low-income students also were found much less likely to take high school math in middle school, “an important step toward the type of transcript that will open college doors,” notes Neff, with his colleagues Ann Doss Helms and David Raynor.