Public School Closings and Culturally Diverse Gifted Students

bio_kendrickby Tiombe Kendrick

This country has faced a multitude of economic challenges since 2008. As a result, many industries in this country have experienced drastic consequences of this most recent economic fall-out. The field of public education in particular has been hit hard. Part of my weekday morning routine includes watching a morning news program on one of the major television networks. Being a public school educator (school psychologist), my ears and eyes are naturally drawn to reports of public school closings across the nation. It seems that many people in our country are genuinely concerned about this recent trend in public education across many major U.S. cities responsible for educating some of the largest numbers of culturally and ethnically diverse students. For example, the Chicago Public School District (CPS) decided to close a record number of schools for the 2013-2014 school year. I recently read an article that indicated CPS would close 54 schools.

Upon further examination, one would soon realize that the vast majority of schools designated for closure disproportionately impact Black, Hispanic, and low-income students (who are also disproportionately Black and Hispanic). According to the article, 88% of students impacted are Black (43% of the student population in CPS are Black), 10% are Hispanic (44% of CPS student population are Hispanic), 94% are low-income (76% of the student population in CPS are classified as low-income), and 0.7% is White (8% of CPS student population is White). The New York City Public School district is slated to close approximately 26 schools. The affected students are 59% Black (Blacks make up 30% of student population), 43% are Hispanic (40% of student population is Hispanic), 82% of students are classified as low-income (73% of student population is classified as low-income), and 3% are White (White students comprise 14% of the student population. This information is disheartening as it seems that many Black and Hispanic students in our country continue to experience disparities as it relates to education!

I often ask myself what will be the consequence of this disturbing trend among gifted/talented (G/T) students affected by these school closings. Unfortunately I came close to having my school closed while attending school in Boston. As a young child who had attended the John D. Philbrick Elementary since kindergarten, I was devastated to learn the Boston Public School District planned to close my school. This school felt like my second home. This is where I learned to play the trumpet for the school band, took piano lessons, and learned critical life skills. Fortunately, my story ended happily. I remember protesting along-side teachers, students, and parents the closure of our school, and we won the fight. I often wonder how G/T students affected by these school closings feel. I also ponder for many of my waking hours about the impact these school closings will have on the social and emotional development of Black and Hispanic G/T students. I can only imagine how these students must feel. These children, often times, are not privy to the politics surrounding  the decisions made about the schools they attend. Many times, G/T children from these two populations experience feelings of hopelessness and anger because their voices are not being heard.

I look forward to the day when I will see educational disparities and inequity erased from public education in this country.



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