Why More Black Boys Aren’t Involved in Gifted Classes

Darius Brown, 18, graduated from Lancaster High School recently and is the first from the campus to receive the Gates Millennium Scholars award, which will pay for college through a doctorate degree. He will attend Texas A&M University in the fall.
Darius Brown, 18, graduated from Lancaster High School recently and is the first from the campus to receive the Gates Millennium Scholars award, which will pay for college through a doctorate degree. He will attend Texas A&M University in the fall.

Teachers noticed in elementary school that Darius Brown was a precocious student.

He preferred to read even when other tasks were at hand and enjoyed a friendly debate to persuade them that he should get more free time to play.

They didn’t think he was being defiant, though that would have been easy to do.

Instead, his teachers saw his potential and tapped him for the Lancaster school district’s talented and gifted program. He was pulled out of regular coursework several times a week for extra lessons above his grade level. That put Darius on track to take harder classes that challenged him — Advanced Placement courses in statistics, physics, government and more.

His hard work and the path his teachers and mother set him on led to him win the scholarship lottery: The recent high school graduate is one of only 1,000 students nationwide to win the coveted Gates Millennium Scholars award. The scholarships pay for college right through to a doctoral degree while offering other support along the way.

This fall Darius will go on to Texas A&M University, where he will work part time in the president’s office as he pursues a political science degree. He’s not only optimistic about his future, he’s certain.

One day he’ll earn a law degree — probably focusing on civil and family matters — and eventually run for office.

“There’s a lot going on in the world, so why can’t a small-town kid come out and be a person for the people and at the same time, make changes to share the wealth of equality for all people?” the 18-year-old asks, already testing out his future stump speech.

But for too many other young black men, such goals aren’t anything more than a daydream. No one ever shows them the way.

Decades of studies have demonstrated that black and Latino students are far less likely than their peers to get access to advanced programs that prepare them for college.

African-American boys in particular are the most underrepresented in such programs, a trend that is mirrored in Texas schools, according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News.

African-American boys make up about 6.5 percent of Texas students but less than 3 percent of all students in talented and gifted programs, according to state data from the 2014-15 school year. That gap is echoed in districts across Texas — even in many where black students are the majority.

Hispanic boys are underrepresented in many instances as well, making up about 20 percent of those in talented and gifted programs even as they compose 26.6 percent of the students. But in some areas — including Dallas and Fort Worth — participation in such programs closely mirrors their population in those districts.

So what can happen when more children are challenged?

The reach for higher learning
Darius obviously has ambition.

He juggled school, football, church, a job at a furniture shop, volunteer work in the community and time on the student council. At Lancaster High School, he founded the Society of Gentlemen — a group dedicated to inspiring other young men to become leaders.

All this was in addition to helping care for his four younger siblings — often cooking up his signature burgers for dinner when Mom had to work long days at her job in auto loan financing.

Any one of those responsibilities could pull too hard at a student, making him or her lose focus on studies. But Darius thrived while also snapping up every advanced course he could.

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Source: Dallas Morning News | Eva-Marie Ayala