From Washington Post by Kevin Sieff:
The budding scholars in Alexandrias gifted *classes are bright and curious enough to make any teacher beam, but these days theyre also an emblem of what the school system calls one of its greatest failures: a lack of diversity among the academic elite.

Most of the citys students are black or Hispanic. Most in gifted programs are white.

This imbalance in classes tailored to gifted and talented students is echoed across the region and the nation, a source of embarrassment to many educators.

In theory, a racial enrollment gap in gifted programs should be easier for schools to close than a racial achievement gap. But in practice, experts say, there are many obstacles. Among them, they say, are testing and outreach methods that fail to ensure children from all backgrounds get an equal shot.

In Alexandria, where a bitter struggle to desegregate public schools ended a half-century ago, administrators have vowed over the next year to tackle the problem.

Its simply unacceptable, said Gregory Hutchings, director of pre-K-12 initiatives for city schools. These numbers tell us that were not serving all kids.

At Cora Kelly Elementary School, Rosalyne Cameron teaches seven gifted fourth-graders, all of them engaged in the kind of high-level inquiry considered a hallmark of gifted education.

Four of Camerons students are white, two black and one Hispanic. In the citys elementary and middle school gifted program, 61 percent are white, 17 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian.

By contrast, 25 percent of Alexandrias 12,000 students are non-Hispanic white. About 5 percent are Asian, 31 percent are Hispanic and 34 percent black.

Alexandria is debating how to diversify gifted classes without sacrificing rigor. That pursuit could raise questions such as how intelligence is measured and the function of a program catering to the academic elite. Its all on the table, Hutchings said.

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