By recognizing qualified students through diverse and objective assessments, gifted programs become inclusive, serving bright students from many backgrounds.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sandrine Fuhara and her family appreciate advantages they have, such as a job, challenging schools, and the ability to live a good life. Refugees from Zambia, they did not always have it so good. This year Sandrine was invited to join Cedar Rapids Community School District’s gifted program, the Program for Academic and Creative Talent, or PACT. Sandrine says she has never seen someone who looks like her in one of the gifted classes.
It’s seen as “only white, smart students can go in there,” said Sandrine, now 13. “We’re looking at ourselves — and we’re from other countries, and we’re black, we’re in ELL (English Language Learners). I think we just need those words of encouragement.”
According to Iowa Department of Education Data, about 16 percent of students in Cedar Rapids public schools are black. However, only 8 percent of the students in gifted programs are black.
“We are very much aware that, as much as we’re trying, we’re not serving as many African-American students as we have in the district,” said Chad Hageman, who facilitates the district’s PACT program.