A rigged system: why gifted and talented schools need to make amends


Maya Kogulan

The majority of gifted schools in America require an IQ test for admission. However, recent studies have proven that the test is inaccurate and it has caused racist division within elementary schools.

Maya Kogulan, Print Editor-In-Chief

I am the product of a gifted and talented elementary school. I am the product of frequent holiday parties, sleep-away field trips, smart boards and overbearing country club moms.

However, across the Saginaw River – my peers at a regular school had a drastically different education. They rarely had any parties, used textbooks older than their teachers and couldn’t afford holding field trips or sports.

Despite living in the same neighborhoods and playing on the same rec-ed soccer team, my education was prioritized by the school district. And the only apparent difference between the gifted and regular populations was our race.

My grade had no Black students, yet 45 percent of my town’s population is Black.
My elementary school isn’t an isolated case. The gifted and talented program is dubbed as “modern-day segregation.” Black students make up less than 10 percent of the gifted student population despite making up 17 percent of the total student population.

The root of this separation stems from the entrance exam–the IQ test.

It made me hyper-aware of my race – my teachers were all white, my classmates were white, the characters of the books in the library were white. But to me, that was normal.”

— Maya Kogulan

It is hard to identify “giftedness” in a young child – especially since it’s easily influenced by the involvement of the parent. Childhood psychologists largely agree that at four, the IQ results are unstable. For example, when children that are frequent readers test in early childhood, they display artificially high IQ scores compared to their peers.

For Non-English speakers or working parents, reading a wide variety of picture books to their children is difficult. Therefore, when taking the gifted school entrance exam, their children tend to score lower on IQ testing when in actuality their intelligence may be higher.

Inadvertently, the gifted and talented entrance exam overwhelming favors children with highly educated and wealthy parents, who are more likely white.

And if a student fails the exam on their first attempt, their parents can refute the decision – only if they pay for an additional IQ test by a psychologist. Again, this is blatantly unfair for low-income or working-class parents.

Additionally, the entrance exam is only available to students and parents that are aware of the school and request it. Gifted schools fail to effectively market to the African American community. And a study in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed online journal of the American Educational Research Association, found that between children with the same math and reading scores, the white children were twice as likely to get recommended into the gifted program.

As a person of color, who spent my formative years in a gifted and talented school, I often felt suffocated. My childhood was filled with microaggression – teachers refusing to pronounce my name correctly, kids always asking ‘where I am really from’. It made me hyper-aware of my race – my teachers were all white, my classmates were white, the characters of the books in the library were white. But to me, that was normal.

Reflecting back, I have become aware that the system I was once apart of is flawed.
Gifted and talented education is broken. It creates classrooms with a majority of wealthy, white students by creating barriers for minority children. School districts need to adapt to find a more effective entrance exam that tests beyond IQ and explores other gifted qualities such as creativity, adaptability, and leadership.