Who's Smart and Who's Not?: Misidentification, Disproportionality, and Racism in Special Education


In this workshop presentation, we introduce participants to, and discuss, the identification process that results in persistent racially stratified, disproportionate special education identification in school systems. A racial hierarchy is evident in public school settings regarding who is identified as a gifted, exceptional learner and who has learning deficiencies. We describe the pathway that exists for students that results in their exclusion from general educational environments and has lifelong implications for career, financial resources and family structure. We discuss and describe the process by which students are impacted by systems that fail to see their intellect and their gifts and continue to assess students of color as intellectually inferior. In this session, we also reimagine education and schools so that all students have the opportunity to be seen as gifted and exceptional and are provided the tools and resources to operate in their giftedness.


Reiko Williams
Director of Regional Equity Initiatives and Partnerships, Equity and Wellness, Multnomah Education Service District, Oregon, United States

Samuel D. Henry
Professor Emeritus, Education, Portland State University, Oregon, United States


Presentation Type

Workshop Presentation


Educational Organization and Leadership


Special Education, Disproportionality, Racism, Misidentification, Gifted, Intellectual Inferiority, Exclusion, Inclusion

Digital Media


Who's Smart and Who's Not? (pptx)