This article defines gifted education and has information on how gifted children are identified, meeting the needs of a gifted child, and effects on gifted education of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
As of 1972 in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act we can find a Federal definition of gifted children. It defines gifted children as:
“Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”
But states and local school districts are not required to use this definition, and even the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers a slightly different definition, omitting “in specific academic fields”:
“Students who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”
And here, for comparison, is the definition used in the state of Georgia:
“[A] student who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability(ies), exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation, and/or excels in specific academic fields, and who needs special instruction and/or special ancillary services to achieve at levels commensurate with his or her abilities.
Eligibility is based upon (1) mental Ability, (2) achievement, (3) creativity and (4) motivation.”
With such a broad Federal definition and differing local definitions, it is not clear how many gifted children there might be in the United States, but NAGC estimates about 3 million K��"12 students who are academically gifted.
How Are Gifted Children Identified?
Many locations have a screening process in place to identify gifted children. This may include results on standardized tests, specialized assessments of creativity or other areas, and grade-point average. Screening may be hampered when children are non-native speakers of English, or when their particular area(s) of excellence are outside the norms of the test.
How Are the Needs of Gifted Children Met?
The needs of gifted children are met in various ways, depending on the educational philosophy of the district, the personnel and funding available, and the child’s particular gifts. Programs go by a variety of names including:
- Gifted Education
- Gifted and Talented Education
- Talented and Gifted Program
Some programs focus on keeping the child in place and enriching their environment. Others will contemplate alternative placements and learning environments. Some possibilities include:
- Classroom accommodations
- Ability grouping that places the student with other gifted students, either part-time or full-time
- Accelerated lessons, or placements in AP classes
- Grade advancement
- Dual enrollment in high school and college
- Testing out of certain requirements
- Private tutoring with a gifted specialist or a specialist or mentor in the child’s area of expertise
- International Baccalaureate (IB) course
- Specialized public or private high schools that focus on the student’s area of expertise
Gifted Education and No Child Left Behind
Because the Federal law No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) rewards districts for narrowing the achievement gap between the best and the least able students, it not only does not promote the needs of gifted students, but also may make it counterproductive (not to mention costly) for a district to meet the needs of gifted students. In fact, some districts have kept gifted students in the regular classroom rather than considering other placement options specifically on account of this legislation.
Partly in response to the (sometimes unintended) results of NCLB, a report called A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students was published in 2004 with sponsorship from the John Templeton Foundation. Based on 50 years of research, it calls for a review of the nation’s approach to gifted education. You may wish to read it if you have a gifted child. It is available at the University of Iowa website:
National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) - nagc.org
Nationmaster: Gifted Education in Georgia - nationmaster.com
University of Iowa: Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration: A Nation Deceived - accelerationinstitute.org