Gifted Education

Gifted education is considered a form of special education. Giftedness is defined by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC),[1] a national organization of parents and educators that advocates for gifted education, as:

Those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. (National Association for Gifted Children, 2017)

Gifted education in the United States expanded during a national wave to identify and cultivate talented youth in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in the late 1950s. The US government’s 1958 National Defense Education Act included legislation that funded gifted education programs in the hopes of producing a generation of talent to compete against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Today, most states leave gifted education identification methods and programming up to the Local Education Agency (LEA); there is no comprehensive system for identifying children for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs or national oversight of GATE screening or curriculum. Each state is different in how it defines and screens for giftedness, and school districts within states often differ on GATE implementation. This means that broadly addressing socioeconomic and racial disparities and gaps in gifted education in the United States, which are significant, is almost impossible to do. Similar to both charter and private schools, GATE programs, even those within public schools, experience less large-scale oversight than regular public school programs because there are no nationally implemented programs for GATE curriculum and identification procedures (National Association for Gifted Children & The Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted, 2015).

The pronounced disparities in US gifted education particularly affect Black and Hispanic and low-income students who are often underrepresented in GATE programs. Gifted education is of particular interest to me because it represents an environment that, in theory, is comprised of students with higher intellectual capabilities, but which has a relative absence of students of color. Black and Hispanic students make up 42% of student enrollment in schools that offer GATE programs but only 28% of the students actually enrolled in a GATE program. In comparison, White students represent 49% of all students in schools offering GATE programs and make up 57% of student enrollment in GATE Programs nationwide (US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, 2016).

I myself was identified for remedial reading in the first grade. My own story is shared by many children of color who are underrepresented in privileged education spaces.

[1] The NAGC was founded in 1954 by Ann Isaacs—the same year as the Brown v Board of Education ruling. Isaacs’s work in preschools in the 1940s and 1950s sparked her interests in gifted and talented children. Isaacs also published and edited Gifted Child Quarterly (1957-1975) (Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, 2005).

 

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