The Social Construction of Giftedness

The Intersectional Relationship Between Whiteness, Economic Privilege, and the Identification of Gifted

  • Gillian Parekh Assistant Professor of Education, York University
  • Robert S. Brown Research Coordinator, Toronto District School Board
  • Karen Robson Ontario Research Chair in Educational Achievement and At-Risk Youth, Associate Professor of Sociology, McMaster University

Abstract

Wide socio-demographic disparities exist between students identified as gifted and their peers (De Valenzuela, Copeland, Qi, & Park, 2006; Leonardo & Broderick, 2011). In this paper, we examine the intersectional construction of giftedness and the academic achievement of students identified as gifted. Using data from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the largest and one of the most diverse public education systems in Canada, we consider racial, class, and gender characteristics of students identified as gifted in comparison to those who have very high achievement. Results demonstrated that there was almost no relationship between students identified as gifted and students who had very high achievement (Pearson’s correlation of 0.18). White, male students whose parents had high occupation statuses had the highest probability of being identified as gifted. Female students were more likely to be high achievers. Compared to White students, it was only East Asian students who were more likely to be identified as gifted; yet South, Southeast and East Asian students were more likely to be very high achievers. Parental occupation was strongly related to both giftedness and very high achievement. Results point to the socially constructed nature of giftedness and challenge its usage in defining and organizing students in schools.

Author Biographies

Gillian Parekh, Assistant Professor of Education, York University

Dr. Gillian Parekh is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University. With a doctorate in Critical Disability Studies, Gillian has conducted extensive research with the Toronto District School Board in the areas of structural equity, special education, and academic streaming. In particular, her work explores how schools construct disability and organize students across programs.

Robert S. Brown, Research Coordinator, Toronto District School Board

Robert S. Brown has worked in applied research for over 35 years, in media research, market research, and education research. He is a Research Co-ordinator in the Toronto Board of Education and Adjunct Professor at York University, in the Faculty of Education and in Critical Disability Studies. His areas of study include the time structures of schools, including absenteeism; secondary achievement; special education needs; postsecondary student pathways; longitudinal tracking studies; and socio-economic and demographic patterns. 

Karen Robson, Ontario Research Chair in Educational Achievement and At-Risk Youth, Associate Professor of Sociology, McMaster University

Karen Robson is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Ontario Research of Academic Achievement and At-Risk Youth at McMaster University. She works with the TDSB to examine issues around the transition of high school students to postsecondary education in Ontario and leads a large research team which includes members in Chicago, New York City, London, and Vancouver. With a strong commitment to longitudinal and comparative research, Dr. Robson examines the educational pathways of young people in major cities around the world, using policy contexts to understand major differences in life outcomes of young people. 

Published
2018-07-05
Section
Articles