Gifted Education and the Matthew Effect

  • Leslie Margolin


The Matthew effect refers to the notion that advantaged people receive increasing advantages over time, while the disadvantaged wind up with increasing disadvantages. As worded in The Gospel According to Matthew: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” With regard to education, this translates to students who are performing better will receive more credit and more educational opportunities, and hence will perform even better. Conversely, children who are performing poorly—who receive bad grades and receive few positive reinforcements for their scholarship - study less, and as a result develop academic skills more slowly, which further inhibits their academic growth. The Matthew effect has been observed among children with academic deficiencies (Gaultney, 1998), but has not yet been examined among children singled out for their academic strengths. This paper will show how this inequitable distribution of resources operates in gifted education - how children who are identified as gifted not only perform better in school, they are advantaged by their membership in privileged racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups (Ford, 2014) and are further advantaged by their access to better teachers, curriculum, and material support (Berlin, 2009; Henfield et al., 2008; Shaunessy et al., 2007). Secondly, this paper addresses the question of how these inequities continue, and proposes that the Matthew effect which so favors gifted children is covered and obscured by a counter narrative which portrays gifted children as unusually needy. Gifted child scholars and teachers mask the inequities of gifted education by systematically highlighting gifted children’s unhappiness, sensitivity, and victimization.


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of EducationUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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