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‘Am I Being Paranoid?’: I Suspect a White Teacher at My Son’s Elementary School Is Trying to Block Him from Getting Into the Gifted Program

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Our son has always excelled when it comes to academics. During the school week, he’s not allowed to watch anything other than documentaries selected by his father.

Over time, we’ve learned that our son, a fourth grader — who mastered his multiplication tables by the first grade under his dad’s guidance — has a knack for science, chemistry especially.

Large group of elementary students listening to their male teacher on a class in the classroom. (Photo: Getty Images)

By second grade, he was taken out of class during the regular math class to learn advanced math with another teacher. Needless to say, we were not surprised when his fourth-grade teacher, a white woman, approached us about having him tested for the school’s gifted program. 

We were elated that she saw in him what we had been instilling for years. I know we can be pushy when it comes to his education, but we still grapple with pressuring him to move ahead of his friends and classmates.

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He wasn’t eager to test for the program but became intrigued that the “gifted” time is centered primarily around robotics, which he loves. We decided as a family to move ahead.  

When our son’s test results came back, we were shocked to find out that he had passed the objective portions of the test and failed the subjective part.

Our sixth senses started going off. The man who was responsible for testing and grading struck us as being very disinterested in our son’s academic elevation and overall success. The first time we met, my husband asked him several probing questions about the program that he is in charge of facilitating. I don’t know if that put him off, but he came off like a white man seemingly with more of a penchant for the white students being touted as gifted.

This didn’t make the first time we’d had to fight for a teacher to recognize our son’s abilities. The teachers often have fallen into two extreme groups. They’re either eager to nourish his abilities or are indifferent. White male teachers seemingly have fallen into the latter group.

In the first grade, my husband confronted our son’s teacher at the end of the school year when a math award was given to a white girl who was not even in the top 10 ranking of the class. His excuse was she was most improved, while our son went unrecognized despite having the highest math performance in his grade.

Needless to say, the gifted program instructor was “another one of those.”

I circled back with the white teacher who had recommended him, and she said it was highly unlikely that our son would have failed any portion of the test. She strongly recommended retesting.

I also spoke to two other Black mothers whose sons were tested for the program and found out that they’d had the same negative experience, and the common denominator was this male teacher. Their sons had also failed the subjective portion of the test and were now waiting to be retested.

Meanwhile, white male students were being pushed along like cattle into the program. I’m ready to take this thing as far as necessary, not only to make a point but to ensure my son has all the opportunities available to him.

Am I being paranoid for thinking that this white male teacher is trying to block our son from entering the gifted program? Should I take a step back and trust that our son will be OK either way?  

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