Low income and minority students are under-represented in gifted education programs. One explanation for this pattern is that the usual process for identifying gifted students, through parent and teacher referrals, systematically misses many potentially qualified disadvantaged students. We use the experiences in a large urban school district following the introduction of a universal screening program for second grade students to study this hypothesis. With no change in the standards for gifted eligibility the screening program led to large increases in the fractions of economically disadvantaged students and minorities placed in gifted programs. Comparisons of the newly identified gifted students with those who would have been placed in the absence of screening show that blacks and Hispanics, free/reduced price lunch participants, English language learners, and girls are all systematically "under-referred" in the traditional parent/teacher referral system.
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