Equity in Gifted/Talented (G/T) Education

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Economic Class Rules

Hidden rules are the unspoken habits and cues of a group that are just not discussed; yet, when someone violates one of those rules, judgments are made. Poverty has its own rules, and they are different from middle class rules, just as middle class rules are different from those of wealth.

As shown in the table below, there are three driving forces for poverty, middle class, and wealth (Payne, 2005).

PovertyMiddle ClassWealth
Survival Work Political Connections
Relationships Achievement Financial Connections
Entertainment Material security Social Connections

Dr. Ruby Payne’s “Hidden Rules of Economic Class” creates an awareness of the driving forces that influence students from all social classes, but particularly regarding students from the world of poverty. Source: Payne, Dr. R. (2008).

Lack of a Linear Orientation
Students from poverty lack a linear orientation because poverty creates a different perspective on time. While the wealthy focus on tradition, the middle class is very future and goal-oriented because work and achievement drive everything. The middle class way of thinking is linear. However, in poverty, one’s destiny is driven by fate and luck, and so those in poverty live in the present.

Implications for Identification

  • Students from poverty may not articulate goals. Look for students from poverty who do articulate goals and embrace them. Provide prompts for these students to clarify and elaborate on their goals.
  • Students from poverty may not know how to plan. Look for students who indicate an interest in planning as they may be gifted/talented.
  • Students from poverty may have difficulty with the skill of sequencing because they lack a linear orientation. Sequencing is also a crucial skill in planning. Look for students from poverty who grasp sequencing quickly.

Difficulty in Abstracting
The world of poverty is concrete, sensory, and emotional. The world of school is verbal and abstract.

A critical component of abstract thinking is the ability of students to understand analogies and metaphors. These are crucial in helping students translate the abstract to the concrete and then back to the abstract. Because entertainment and relationships are important in poverty, students from impoverished backgrounds may grasp a concept if the teacher makes comparisons to entertainers or other people.

Implications for Identification

  • Look for students who use figurative language that reflects comparisons of people and entertainers.
  • Look for students who discern patterns in human behavior, but not necessarily ideas.
  • Look for students who ask questions that are focused on relationships.
  • Look for students who can connect their personal experiences to abstract concepts, though these concepts may be focused on the family and neighborhoods rather than larger, more abstract connections.