Seattle Public Schools Cites ‘Equity’ In Shutting Down Gifted Program With Majority White And Asian Students
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Seattle Public Schools is shutting down its program for gifted and talented students, where the majority are white or Asian, citing “equity” concerns.

The school board voted to scrap its Highly Capable Cohort program in 2020 after a 2018 survey found that only 3.7% of participating students were Hispanic and 1.6% were black. Meanwhile, 11.8% were Asian, and the majority were white.

“Numbers would suggest that within our city … predominantly white children are more gifted than other cultures and races, and we know that is absolutely not true,” Kari Hanson, the district’s director of student support services, told Parent Map in 2018.

“Clearly we’re not identifying our children of color and we need to get down to why,” Hanson said.

The district began phasing out the gifted program in the 2021-22 school year, and it will be gone entirely by the 2027-28 school year.

Starting next year, every school will have a new “more inclusive” Highly Capable Neighborhood School Model.

“The program is not going away, it’s getting better,” the school district said in a release. ”It will be more inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive.

“In particular, students who have been historically excluded will now have the same opportunities for services as every other student and get the support and enrichment they need to grow,” the district said.

Currently, the district has three elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools for students in the Highly Capable Cohort program.

Under the new program, gifted students will not be separated from other students but will remain in the same classroom, and teachers will have to develop individualized education plans for each student.

Critics argue that the new model puts an unfair burden on teachers who do not have the time or resources to give 20 to 30 students an individualized plan, especially since the district is currently facing a $105 million deficit.

Some parents also worry that the new model will overlook more advanced students.

Minority representation in the Highly Capable Cohort program has improved since 2018. In the 2022-23 school year, 8.2% of gifted students were Hispanic, and 3.4% were black.

The school district is made up of about 14% Hispanic students and 15% black students.

Nevertheless, it is still replacing the program after years of attacks from critics.


In 2021, Rita Green, the education chair of the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP, called for the elimination of Seattle’s gifted program.

“We want the program just abolished. Period. The Highly Capable Cohort program is fundamentally flawed, and it’s inherently racist,” Green said.

The district’s decision also comes amid broader criticism of gifted programs due to equity concerns.

In 2021, then-New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city’s elementary schools to stop testing for giftedness.

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