High-ability, low-income kids are more likely to be attending schools with limited resources—schools where the teacher’s attention is often focused on struggling students. That’s important, because gifted kids from low-income backgrounds are often dependent on the school system to identify and cultivate them to maximize their potential. When gifted students aren’t identified, they face increased risk for dropping out of school and not realizing their full potential.  In Illinois, low-income and students of color are greatly underrepresented in the gifted category and as a result, the talents of our smartest children go unrealized.

In response to national studies demonstrating the under-enrollment of low-income students in gifted programs, OCI researched the state’s largest school districts to determine if the same issue is occurring in Illinois.

Here’s what OCI’s analysis found:

  • Black students were under-represented by 31%
  • Latino students were under-represented by 52%
  • Low-income students were under-represented by 42%

The discrepancies result from misguided identification policies that many schools use to identify gifted students, and OCI’s research shows that impoverished students and students of color are paying the price.

In response to this research, OCI consulted with national, state, and local experts to develop a legislative agenda that will reform Illinois’ gifted education programming.

The “Untapped Potential Act” passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and on July 29th, 2016 the Governor signed the Untapped Potential Act into law!

This is a victory for all children in Illinois, especially gifted students from low-income and minority families. The law stands to change district’s gifted identification and assessment requirements to qualify the districts for state gifted funding. By being in classrooms that is a better academic fit, low income, high ability students are more likely to be their true academic selves and blossom into the adults that will be the visionaries of tomorrow.

OCI is hard at work conducting more research and developing more policies to support low income, high ability children in Illinois.  To read more about our work, click on the links below.


One Chance Illinois conducted the research, discussed the data, and passed the law… But, now it’s time to implement a solution to our issues shown above.

So, how do we plan to tackle the issue?

  • Make parents aware that they can take the lead on screening through a PR campaign
  • Many scholarship granting organizations lament that they struggle to find kids/ families. Let’s make the initial connection for them and inspire them to expand their efforts.
  • Shine a light publicly on the issue and put pressure on the system to do better by our best and brightest.

More specifically we will:

  • Conduct targeted media campaign: “Is my child gifted?
  • Screen at least 100 PreK – 9th graders
  • Connect students and families to services
  • Leverage results to pass policy that closes the gap and restores funding

Check out our CrowdRise page below, any support is greatly appreciated!

 The Untapped Potential Project on Crowdrise