Strive for K-12 honors diversity

Daily Editorial Board

A recent study on the underrepresentation of students of color in K-12 gifted programs reminds us why diversity initiatives targeting even the youngest learners will benefit the University of Minnesota.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University found that students of color — regardless of test scores and prior academic achievement — are less likely to be a part of advanced programs when they require a subjective teacher referral to get into them. Because the recommending teacher’s race is a contributing factor, the study suggests teacher diversity can have a ripple effect on individual academic careers.
In the last decade, Minneapolis Public Schools began to automatically test second graders to see whether they fit a newly expanded definition of “advanced learner” that seeks out students with high levels of reasoning and logic. Using this system, the last group of advanced learners consisted of nearly 48 percent students of color.
Students who get an early start in gifted programs cultivate a sense of confidence. Accelerated programs are a funnel for successful AP and IB course-takers in high school. These courses can, in turn, promote acceptance into collegiate honors programs. 
Black and Hispanic students make up only about 2.5 and 3 percent of the University of Minnesota’s Honors Program, respectively. Those numbers lag behind state and broader University of Minnesota demographics.
Effects of the K-12 gap remind us why efforts to encourage academic excellence for all students will benefit post-secondary education down the road.