David F. Lohman
The cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the U.S. school population is now and long has been underrepresented in programs for academically advanced students (see, e.g., Donovan & Cross, 2002; Marland, 1972). In the past decade, however, educators have offered several proposals for increasing the diversity of programs for the gifted and talented (see Boothe & Stanley, 2004, for one compendium of views). Some educators would make greater use of parent, teacher, and self-rating scales. Some would emphasize nonacademic talents—such as musical, athletic, and leadership abilities. Others call for the use of different measures—especially nonverbal ability tests. Although each of these proposals has something to offer, none directly addresses the central problem in identifying academic talent. All hope to find ways of measuring academic promise that will simultaneously reduce average differences between ethnic groups and identify those minority students who currently display or who are most likely to develop academic excellence. Unfortunately, just because a measure shows a smaller average difference between groups does not mean that it is a better tool for identifying academically talented students. Indeed, research has consistently shown that academic achievement in minority children is best predicted by the same cognitive and affective characteristics that predict academic achievement in majority children (Keith, 1999; Lohman, 2005). Therefore, although attempts to select students using other criteria may identify more minority students, many of the students identified—minority or majority—will not be the ones who currently display or who will someday develop academic excellence. The problem, then, is to find a way to identify and assist these children without compromising the ability of programs to serve children who already display high levels of academic and cognitive development. The goals of this monograph are (a) to explain why an aptitude approach to talent identification accomplishes these goals and (b) to illustrate how schools can implement this approach.