Special Populations in GATE: Asian American Gifted Students

In my final semester of my masters program, I’m taking the class I’ve been waiting for: Special Populations in Gifted Education. The course is held online, so all conversations take place on BlackBoard.

The fourth reading, “Issues in Research on Asian American Gifted Students” by Margie K. Kitano, was published in Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse background (Castellano & Frazier, 2011)My thoughts are below…

The first question I wanted to address before diving into this chapter was the identification of  “Asian American”…what does it mean to be Asian American and by grouping a large continent together, what do we miss? 

I started with this response…

Last year, I sat in a workshop at UR through the Bonner Center that was discussing school success in Richmond of different minority groups. The speaker brought up a salient point I feel worth repeating as we begin discussing this chapter and which comes up in the Identification part of the Lit. Review. She noted that when we make the sweeping generalizations about groups – such as Asians, African Americans, etc. we miss the big pictures that shows only a piece of what is really going on. For instance, when we lump Asians together to discuss success rates, we miss the big picture and the gaps in services and achievement of these different groups. Just look at this chart from the Census about the different Asian American Ethnic Groups in the US. The same goes for African American groups, when we lump West Africans or Haitians into this general category, we miss seeing the trees in the forest. In the literature review, they mentioned how Kitano and DiKiosia (2002) examined whether or not Asian Americans were over-represented in gifted, and the necessity of disaggregating by subgroup. In my experience, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indian children are the groups most often identified as gifted. Some schools, such as mine, have a high population of these subgroups and a large proportion of our gifted population includes students from these groups. A friend works at another school in the county and they have a large Nepalese population, many who are far behind their same age peers due to their recent immigration status. I think that when we look at these subgroups, we need to consider when these groups started immigrating, language barriers and how we have created barriers to their success that may continue to hinder them.


We were asked to reflect on the theoretical framework:

I know this chapter is about Asian Americans, but I can’t help but make the connection to the chapter on African Americans or just my experience teaching a diverse range of students across all races and economic status. Sue and Okazaki (1990) offered the explanation that increased relative functionalism for advancement may lead Asian Americans to value education when there are perceived and experienced barriers to upward mobility. It really begs the question of what has happened in poor African American communities (and poor communities in general) that education has stopped being seen as a route to advancement? How has this functional relativism stopped being effective in motivating communities in poverty? I would argue part of this is that the institutionalized racism and dehumanization of African Americans in this country has had a lasting effect on these communities and that these same experiences of racism were not present in Asian communities who were seen as a “model minorities.” I would also argue that more than ethnicity, class may have a greater impact on the perceptions about the value of education.

Another student stated

I find myself wondering about Nature vs Nurture and how much of what “earns” a gifted designation for a child is driven by family circumstance.

To which I responded:

At the end of your post you said you wonder ” … how much of what “earns” a gifted designation for a child is driven by family circumstance.” I would argue that class affects students as much, or more, than racial identifies. Students who come from privilege have opportunities for travel and cultural experiences, have more familial support in terms of being able to afford extra-curricular, tutors, etc. Additionally, children from economic privilege often come homes that value education and place high expectations on their children. Children who do not come from class privilege are at a huge disadvantage. Then, to pair this class status with different racial or ethnic statuses, and expectations are lowered more. Teacher biases blind those responsible for identification and it is one of the biggest reasons we have an under-representation of these special populations in GATE.

Next, we were asked to consider schooling and make connections to one of the following: School achievement: English learners, school achievement: mathematics, motivational factors, parent and family participation, educational aspirations, transitions to college, or creativity…

In the discussions of parent and family participation, I found the part about the ways schools use a narrow definition of parental involvement based on  visibility. It made me think about the recent back to school night and who actually attended this event. Of all of the Asian families I teach, I can only remember two Asian families being present. The majority of parents were white. Not even many of my black families came that night. This section discussed the barriers to involvement, including language, economics and culture. When I worked in a city school, we often talked about ways to increase parent engagement. And even then, we talked about how we could get them in the school. On a few occasions, we discussed how we could overcome economic barriers by going out into the community or by using other draws to get them in to the school. Every school I’ve ever worked at though has had the narrow focus of involvement on being present and visible in the building. We never talked about the ways in which we could support parents to help their kids at home. Those types of parent engagement notes only ever went home as a comment on a report card that reads “could benefit from supervised study at home.” At my current school, because of our overall high parent engagement, often at home and at school, we rarely talk about who isn’t at these types of events, or how we can reach out to these families.

Lastly, in the discussion of culture, a peer asked:

So you have to develop a plan to introduce multiculturalism into your curriculum at the start of the year? What parts specifically would that include I wonder? …To teach “multiculturalism” I imagine would be nearly impossible to do en-masse and maybe even slightly offensive.

I responded:

I disagree. Multiculturalism doesn’t have to be the blatant teaching of a culture through an examination of practices, presentations, etc. In my class, I take a multicultural approach, ensuring that I am teaching stories that reveal the differences of people across identities. We also make connections from short stories with white main characters to experiences of others in order to compare and contrast the ways in which our identities affect our experiences. I would argue that if we tell white teachers or any teacher that they can’t teach about another culture that we shut down all conversations about diversity which only furthers the problem. We have to expose kids to this rich diversity in respectful ways. Teachers need support to do this well, but we should not be shutting down. I do agree that the blanket flag, festivities, food stuff is only scraping the service and can potentially reinforce stereotypes. There are a lot of organizations out there helping to forward MC education, such as Teaching Tolerance and Teaching for Change.

Interestingly enough, this article was posted on the New York Times at the end of this week’s discussion. There was quite a bit of backlash in the comments on FB.



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