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An Interview with Dr. Donna Y. Ford

donna fordDr. Donna Y. Ford

This week, Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented welcomes Dr. Donna Y. Ford to discuss Multicultural Gifted Education on Friday at 7/6 C.

Dr. Ford is Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She is the former Betts Chair of Education and Human Development, and currently holds a joint appointment in the Department of Special Education and Department of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Ford has been a Professor of Special Education at the Ohio State University, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. A full bio may be found here.

Dr. Ford’s latest book is Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education from Prufrock Press. She was a 2014  NAACP Image Award Nominee for Literature-Instruction. 

Ford Recruiting

Below is an interview we recently conducted with Dr. Ford.

Moderator: How did experiences in your early life lead you to gifted education?

Dr. Ford: I was identified as gifted in elementary school. So I have always been interested in gifted education and students. I could share many reasons for my interest and passion, but will concentrate on one. My interestpeaked when my son was identified as gifted but started underachieving in the second grade. This was a terrible time for him — he and the teacher had a very poor relationship. He started hating school and doing poorly on assignments. This is when two areas of interest become a passion for me: (a) Black students’ under-representation in gifted education and (2) why gifted students in general, but gifted Black students in particular, underachieved. I decided to concentrate on gifted in my doctoral studies at this time. My dissertation in 1991 and first book (1996) focused on underachieving gifted Black students. Let me say that my work in gifted education is both personal and professional.

Moderator: How has your work in special education impacted your approach to gifted education?

Dr. Ford: I am convinced that many Black students in special education are gifted, and this is particularly so for our males. While I do not focus my work on twice exceptional students, I am pleased others are. This dual issue of over-representation in special education and under-representation in gifted education must be interrogated. Both result in lost potential. Both are a form of miseducation.

Moderator: What lessons have you learned from a mentor that you consider of greatest value?

Dr. Ford: Actually, I am often the mentor rather than mentee. This is not meant to be arrogant but to say that I learned early in life to be self-sufficient and make wise choices. This said, when mentoring, I stress the value of having a strong work ethic. Effort trumps ability in my experiences. Work hard and with integrity is a winning combination.

Moderator: Do you think gifted organizations could do more to promote diversity?

Dr. Ford: Absolutely!! Organizations have no choice but to be proactive and culturally responsive. To ignore or downplay culture and diversity is a disservice to children, students, families, and communities. At least half of students in P-12 settings are non-White. There is no rationale to ignore 50% of our students.

Thank you Dr. Ford for taking the time to talk with us! We look forward to discussing this critical issue with you.


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