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NAGC Position Statement: Standards for Graduate Programs in Education

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Position Statement


The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) periodically issues policy statements dealing with issues, policies, and practices that have an impact on the education of gifted and talented students. Policy statements represent the official convictions of the organization.

All policy statements approved by the NAGC Board of Directors are consistent with the organization's belief that education in a democracy must respect the uniqueness of all individuals, the broad range of cultural diversity present in our society, and the similarities and differences in learning characteristics that can be found within any group of students. NAGC is fully committed to national goals that advocate both excellence and equity for all students, and we believe that the best way to achieve these goals is through differentiated educational opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all students.

The Standards for Graduate Programs in Gifted Education include:

  • Conceptual Framework
  • Candidates for Graduate Programs in Gifted Education
  • Professional Education Faculty


Historically, in 1972 Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr., published the results of a nationwide study mandated by the U. S. Congress. Designed to determine the degree to which our most able students were being served in the nation's schools, the Marland Report defined gifted and talented students as "those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance." The Marland Report, recognized as a landmark study that made a significant impact on the nation, stressed the importance of recognizing diverse types of giftedness and talent. This study identified six areas in which high potential might be manifested: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, visual and performing arts, and psychomotor ability. However, in the years that have elapsed since the release of the Marland Report, the term "gifted and talented" has most often been used to imply the possession of either high intellectual potential or high academic achievement. In an effort to encourage the recognition and nurturance of a diversity of abilities, the term gifted and talented is used within this standards document to include the breadth of current thinking on the nature of giftedness.

Marland further reported that gifted and talented students "require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society." This requirement was reaffirmed by the passage of the Javits Bill for gifted and talented programs and its re-authorization in 1994.

Since its inception, the National Association for Gifted Children has consistently acknowledged the existence of a diverse scope of extraordinary abilities in all populations and emphasized the need to develop and nurture all expressions of giftedness. In keeping with this philosophy, the NAGC Professional Development Division has endeavored to identify personal and professional competencies that are essential to the successful development of giftedness, and the specific concepts and skills that should be included in programs designed to prepare personnel for diverse roles in the field of gifted and talented education.

Development and Purposes of the Standards

The NAGC Professional Development Division originated in 1987 as an outgrowth of the National Institutes on Professional Training in Gifted Education, which first met meeting in Clearwater, Florida, in 1980. A primary goal of the Professional Development Division is the development and dissemination of recommended guidelines or standards for personnel preparation in gifted education.

As a part of NAGC's ongoing commitment to exemplary programs in gifted education, a group of 50 educators representing diverse roles and populations in the field met in Lafayette, Louisiana, in the spring of 1993 to begin work on professional standards for graduate programs in gifted education. Subsequent meetings of the original symposium participants were held at NAGC conferences in Atlanta in 1993 and Salt Lake City in 1994. This document resulted from the deliberations of these sessions.

The NAGC Standards for Graduate Programs in Gifted Education propose a set of concepts, skills, and other professional competencies that leaders in the field have identified as essential for persons preparing to provide direct services to gifted students or to fulfill other professional roles within the field. The document is designed to serve two purposes:

  1. To set standards for institutions attempting to develop or refine new or existing graduate programs designed to prepare personnel for professional roles in gifted education; and
  2. To prescribe criteria on which internal and external evaluation of such programs may be based.

Underlying these purposes are the following philosophical beliefs:

  1. All persons are entitled to educational opportunities designed to maximize their potential.
  2. In order to serve as role models for their students, teachers should demonstrate integrity, empathy, and respect for students and their differences. All students should be served by self-confident professionals who are committed to lifelong learning and who communicate effectively with students of all ability levels and from all populations.
  3. Effective teachers should be creative, flexible, and willing to take intellectual and creative risks.
  4. There are common elements that must be included in the educational programs designed for all students. These include critical and creative thinking, development of healthy self-concepts, interpersonal communication skills, cultural appreciation, and personal initiative. Where there is excellence in general education, gifted education will more likely flourish; where gifted education flourishes, there is increased potential for excellence in general education.
  5. The potential for giftedness exists in all populations and in a variety of contexts. Giftedness must be recognized, developed and nurtured if it is to flourish.
  6. Individuals with extraordinary potential are capable of perceiving and conceptualizing more complex ideas and issues, and responding in more complex ways, than the majority of their age peers.
  7. In order to achieve personal excellence and realize their potential contributions to self and society, students with exceptional potential must be provided with appropriate educational opportunities. Educational services for these students must be
    1. commensurate with their unique developmental and academic levels;
    2. qualitatively differentiated in depth, breadth, pace, and intensity from those that are appropriate and available in the general curriculum; and
    3. provided by actively-involved professionals with specialized preparation on the nature and needs of individuals with extraordinary potential.

It is important to note that no attempt was made in this document to differentiate between the expectations for master's level students and those pursuing doctoral programs. This decision was based on the following rationale:

  1. NCATE and the Council for Exceptional Children make no distinction among levels of graduate programs in making accreditation decisions; and
  2. Doctoral programs in most institutions are highly individualized, varying in accordance with the student's background and the program's central orientation (e.g., curriculum and instruction, educational psychology, special education).

It is assumed that the concepts and skills prescribed herein comprise minimal standards to be achieved in all graduate programs that include gifted education. Doctoral programs, on the other hand, should require coursework and field experiences designed to develop more sophisticated levels of understanding and application in theoretical foundations, administrative and consultative leadership, and research that addresses current theory, techniques and technologies.

Organization of the Document

The format for this document is patterned in part after the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the primary accrediting agency for teacher education programs in the United States. It was the intention of the Professional Development Division to develop a document specific enough to provide concrete guidance for the development of new, high-quality programs, but broad enough to be compatible with the diversity of regulations and parameters under which individual states and institutions must operate.

The standards outlined in this document are organized into four categories:

  1. Conceptual Framework, including the Knowledge Base: What should be taught
  2. Candidates for Graduate Programs in Gifted Education: Who should teach gifted children
  3. Professional Education Faculty: Who should prepare teachers to work with gifted students
  4. Resources: Human, financial, technological, library, and other media resources necessary to offer quality programs for the preparation of gifted education professionals




A.  Conceptual Framework

The graduate program in gifted education is based on a conceptual framework derived from research on the nature of giftedness, the unique needs of gifted and talented persons, and the methodologies best suited to meeting these needs.


1.  The conceptual framework of the program includes a clear articulation of the philosophy, goals, and knowledge base of the curriculum.
2.  The courses and field experiences that comprise the curriculum are consistent with the conceptual framework.

B.  Professional Studies

The program provides graduate program candidates with professional coursework and field experiences designed to develop specialists who are proficient within the field of gifted education.


The curriculum incorporates into the required course work and field experiences an integrated series of activities designed to develop in its graduates the following concepts and skills:

1. Knowledge and understanding of:

1. principles of human development and the nature of individual differences, especially as applied to exceptional abilities
2. the origins and nature of various types and manifestations of giftedness
3. the cognitive, social, emotional, and environmental factors that enhance or inhibit the development of giftedness in all populations
4. a variety of methods for identifying and assessing students with extraordinary potential
5. the historical and theoretical foundations of the field of gifted education, current trends and issues, and potential future directions of the field
6. current and seminal research related to learning theory, giftedness, and creativity
7. a research-based rationale for differentiated programming for gifted students
8. theoretical models, program prototypes, and educational principles that offer appropriate foundations for the development of differentiated curriculum for gifted students
9. the unique potentials of gifted students from underserved populations, including but not limited to gifted females and those are who are disabled, racially or ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged, and/or underachieving
10. advanced concepts in a variety of areas, including in-depth studies in content and processes that are appropriate to the anticipated professional roles of individual candidates
11. current educational issues, policies and practices and their relationships to the field of gifted education
12. the influence of the social, cultural, political and economic environment on the field of gifted education
13. the interdependent relationships between general education and gifted education

2. The ability to

1. interpret and apply knowledge related to the nature and needs of gifted students
2. identify and assess the unique needs of gifted students
3. design, implement, facilitate, and evaluate differentiated learning experiences for gifted students
4. create an environment in which giftedness can emerge and gifted students can feel challenged and safe to explore and express their uniqueness
5. develop differentiated curricula to meet the unique intellectual, academic, and social-emotional needs of gifted students
6. use effectively such techniques as grouping for appropriate instruction and individualized planning to assist gifted students in realizing their unique potentials
7. integrate instruction in a variety of fields to encourage interdisciplinary thought and studies in gifted students
8. use emerging technologies in research and in the teaching of gifted students
9. modify curriculum to allow time for gifted students to pursue their interests with depth and breadth
10. vary teaching styles and instructional strategies to help gifted students meet their individual needs
11. develop in gifted students the attitudes and skills needed to become independent, life-long learners, to self-evaluate, and to set and pursue appropriate personal and academic goals for future success
12. utilize current, research-based methods for assessing and reporting on the progress of gifted students for the purpose of making differentiated educational decisions
13. provide consultation, collaboration, and staff development services in gifted education for teachers and administrators in the general education program
14. communicate and work in partnerships with colleagues, administrators, students, families, business and industry, and the public, in advocating appropriate programming for gifted students
15. act as a change agent in the social, cultural, political, and economic environments inhibiting services to gifted students
16. foster partnerships with the families of gifted students in order to facilitate a total learning environment
17. forge an integrated program of excellence between general education and gifted education

C. Field Experiences

The field experiences required in the graduate program are consistent with the conceptual framework, are well planned and sequenced, and are of high quality.


1. Field experiences, practica, and internships in the gifted education program are sufficiently extensive and intensive to prepare individual candidates for effective performance in the roles for which they are preparing.
2. Field experiences are provided in a variety of settings that expose students to the diversity that exists within the gifted population.
3. Field experiences are designed to provide candidates with opportunities to

(a) observe master teachers providing direct and indirect services to gifted students;
(b) relate principles and theories from the conceptual framework to actual practice in the field of gifted education;
(c) study, observe, plan instruction for, and provide direct services to gifted students of different ages and cultural backgrounds.



A. Entrance Qualifications and Composition

The institution recruits, admits and retains candidates who demonstrate potential for professional success in the field of gifted education and encourages application and matriculation of students from diverse backgrounds.


1. Recruitment efforts and admission standards are designed to attract a high quality of students.
2. Recruitment efforts and admission standards are designed to attract students from diverse backgrounds.
3. Criteria for admission to graduate programs in gifted education consider a variety of indicators such as appropriate test data, records of academic achievement, evidence of successful teaching experience, and other current methods of assessing academic and teaching potential.

B. Assessment and Exit Criteria

The faculty systematically monitors and assesses the progress of candidates to ensure that they receive appropriate academic and professional advisement from admission through completion of their graduate program in gifted education.


1. Criteria used in the assessment of student progress are consistent with the philosophy and goals articulated in the conceptual framework of the program.
2. The program employs defensible means for monitoring, reporting, and facilitating student progress that are appropriate to the goals of the program and are consistent with current practice in assessment.
3. The program provides follow-up evaluation and services for its graduates.



A. Qualifications and Composition

The professional education faculty who teach graduate courses in gifted education represent or are knowledgeable about diverse cultures and are well qualified to provide instruction and design course work and field experiences for persons preparing for careers in the field.


1. Efforts are made to recruit gifted education faculty from diverse backgrounds.
2. Graduate programs in gifted education employ faculty with professional and scholarly identification in the field.
3. The quality of the faculty is commensurate with other high quality programs in the institution and within the field of gifted education.
4. Each faculty member who serves as a graduate advisor or chairs thesis/dissertation committees possesses an earned doctorate, has demonstrated competence in educational research, and is knowledgeable about current theories and practices related to the field.
5. Gifted program practitioners who supervise field experiences hold appropriate credentials to evaluate the performance of candidates, have had appropriate professional training and teaching experiences, and have demonstrated competence to serve in this capacity. Such persons model instructional and affective practices that are congruent with the philosophy and goals of the program.

B. Scholarly Activity

Faculty with primary responsibilities for graduate training in gifted education maintain a high level of scholarly activity.


Gifted education faculty:

1. Maintain a high level of scholarship through such activities as research, publication, and presentation at professional meetings;
2. Are actively involved in professional associations within and beyond the field of gifted education;
3. Collaborate with colleagues and practitioners in research, teaching, and placement and assessment of candidates for graduate programs in gifted education.



Professional assignments and resources allow active faculty involvement in teaching, scholarship, and service.


1. Faculty assignments allow time for high quality teaching, scholarship, and service.
2. Faculty teaching loads are consistent with the requirements of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
3. Human, financial, technological, library, and other media resources are sufficient to support quality instruction and scholarly activity.

Approved 7/95


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The NAGC Professional Development Division wishes to acknowledge the efforts of the following persons who participated in sessions of the Professional Standards Symposium and/or provided feedback to aid in the completion of this project:

Dorothy Armstrong, Grand Valley State University MI
Alexinia Baldwin, University of Connecticut
Louise Ballantyne, Salem-Keizer School District
Martha Bass, Arkansas Department of Education
Jan Baudoin, Lafayette Parish School Board, LA
Jane Bechtel, Fairview Park City Schools, OH
Linda Bedgood, Mobile County Public Schools, AL
Antusa Bryant, Mankato State University, MN
Susan Burgard, Pierre School District, SD
John Calaway, North Central Arkansas Educational Service Center
Carolyn Callahan, University of Virginia
Roberta Carol, New Jersey Department of Education
Barbara Clark, California State University
Donna Rae Clasen, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Starr Cline, Herricks Union Free School District, NY
Mary Ruth Coleman, University of North Carolina
Carolyn Cooper, Baltimore County Schools, MD
Bonnie Cramond, University of Georgia
Toby Daspit, Iberia Parish School Board, LA
Margie DeBuse, University of Oregon
Peggy Dettmer, Kansas State University
Pat Dial, Louisiana Department of Education
Ken Dickson, Fayette County Schools, KY
Sally Dobyns, University of Southwestern Louisiana
Cindy Dooley, Western Illinois University
Pat Dunham, Southeast Oklahoma State University
Nancy Ehret, St. Bernard School, St. Martinville, LA
Jerry Flack, University of Colorado
Mary Frasier, University of Georgia
Marilyn Gaddis, Southwest Texas State University
James Gallagher, University of North Carolina
Rebecca Garland, North Carolina Department of Education
Susan Hansford, Cleveland Hts-University Hts Schools, OH
Marnell Hayes, Texas Woman's University
Karen Houser, Carbon School District, UT
Jaclyn Huber, Jennings, LA
Scott Hunsaker, Utah State University
Edmund Hunt, Northeastern Illinois University
Marcia Imbeau, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville
David Irving, NY
Suzanne Jessup, Southern Arkansas University
Cathy Kass, Oklahoma City University
Barbara Kozara, Saginaw Independent School District, MI
Mary Landrum, University of Nebraska at Kearney
Peggy Lathlaen, Westwood Elem. School, Friendswood, TX
Gail Lewis, Episcopal School of Acadiana, Cade, LA
Dona Matthews, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada
Marian Matthews, Eastern New Mexico University
Gwen Morgan, Arkansas Tech University
Helen Nevitt, Southeast Missouri State University
Richard Olenchak, University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa
Jeanette Parker, University of Southwestern Louisiana
Sally Reis, University of Connecticut
Joe Renzulli, University of Connecticut
Julia Roberts, Western Kentucky University
Ann Robinson, University of Arkansas-Little Rock
Karen Rogers, University of St. Thomas, MN
Beverly Shaklee, Kent State University
George Sheperd, University of Oregon
Bruce Shore, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Robert Sloat, Texas Woman's University
Ninia Smith, Fort Hays State University
Joan Smutny, National-Louis University, IL
Alane Starko, Eastern Michigan University
Judi Sternberg, AGATE, New York
Carol Story, Johnson State College, VT
Rena Subotnik, Hunter College, NY
Terry Thomas, California State University-Sacramento
Sally Todd, Brigham Young University, UT
Carol Tomlinson, University of Virginia
Shirley Weddel, Littleton, CO
JoAnne Welch, Northeastern Louisiana University
Karen Westberg, University of Connecticut
Alan White, Connecticut Department of Education