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Donna Ford

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Department of Special Education, Department of Special Education

Research Area

Gifted with emphasis on minority children and youth; recruitment and retention of racially different students in gifted education and Advanced Placement classes/programs; underachievement and closing achievement and opportunity gaps by race and income; equity issues in testing and assessment; multicultural education; issues in urban education; family involvement.


Short Biography

Donna Y. Ford, Ph.D., is Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She teaches in the Department of Special Education and holds a joint appointment in the 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 a researcher with the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She also taught at the University of Kentucky. 

Professor Ford earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Urban Education (educational psychology) (1991), Masters of Education degree (counseling) (1988), and Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and Spanish (1984) from Cleveland State University.

Professor Ford conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education; (2) multicultural and urban education; (3) achievement gaps; (4) minority student achievement and underachievement; and (5) family involvement. She consults with school districts, educational, and legal organizations in the areas of gifted education, Advanced Placement, and multicultural/urban education. Professor Ford’s courses focus on these topics.

She is the author/co-author of several books, including Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education (2013), Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students (1996, 2010) Multicultural Gifted Education (1999, 2011), In Search of the Dream: Designing Schools and Classrooms that Work for High Potential Students from Diverse Cultural backgrounds (2004), Diverse learners with exceptionalities: Culturally responsive teaching in the inclusive classroom (2008), and Teaching Culturally Diverse Gifted Students (2005). Several other books are in progress.

Professor Ford has written at least 200 articles and book chapters; she has made more than 1,000 presentations at professional conferences, organizations, and in school districts. She is the co-founder of the Scholar Identity Institute for Black Males at Vanderbilt.

National Awards (Sample)

  • NAACP Image Award Nominee for Literature (Instruction), Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education, 2014.
  • Outstanding Service Award, Council for Exceptional Children and The Association for the Gifted (CEC-TAG), Washington, DC, 2011.
  • Distinguished Scholar Award, National Association for Gifted Children, Washington DC, 2008.
  • Senior Scholar in Gifted Education Award, The American Educational Research Association, Gifted Education SIG, Washington, DC, 2007.
  • John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education (Speakers Series), Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, 2005.
  • Scholar of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award, The American Educational Research Association, 2005.

Media Mentions (Sample)

Projects (Sample)

Courses Taught

  • SPED 7100 Cultural Diversity in American Education
  • EDUC 6060 Cultural Diversityin American Education
  • SPED 7120 High Poverty Youth: Improving Outcomes
  • HOD 6400 High Poverty Youth: Improving Outcomes