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Ensuring that Diverse Learners Participate in Gifted Education Programs and Services

Growing Achievement Gap for High-Ability Students 

Too many students are not receiving appropriately challenging curriculum and services and as a result, fail to reach their potential.  This is a loss, not only for the students, but for the nation.  Currently, K-12 education policy focuses almost exclusively on closing the achievement gap for struggling learners.  Enormous amounts of resources are being deployed to help children reach grade-level proficiency in math and reading.  Fortunately, there have been some successes, although there is much more to be done.

For advanced students, however, the No Child Left Behind era has not been as successful.  As research studies have shown, there is a growing gap at the top end of the achievement scale between white students and students of color and between advanced students from low-income backgrounds and those from more advantaged circumstances.  This achievement gap for high-ability students is especially problematic in light of the demand for a high-performing and highly skilled workforce to ensure U.S. economic competitiveness in the new global economy.excite 1

Gifted education Strategies Can Close the Achievement Gap

Classroom practice and strategies developed and used by gifted and talented education professionals can support advanced learners, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to reduce, and eventually eliminate the achievement gap.  Central to the gifted education approach to student achievement is that curriculum and instruction should be calibrated to the student's abilities and interests rather than his age.  That belief operationalizes by adjusting instruction based on what students already know to ensure that they may learn something new every day.  Providing a challenging curriculum, teachers who understand gifted learner differences, and the opportunity to work with other advanced students promotes continuous progress, builds confidence, and allows children to achieve at the level at which they are capable.  Unfortunately, we know that not all advanced students have access to these critical and necessary elements of an appropriate education. 

spotty Availability of Gifted Education Services

There is no federal mandate or funding to school districts to support gifted and talented students.  Although every state recognizes gifted students in state policies and acknowledges their learning needs often may be beyond the scope of the regular classroom, the availability of gifted education depends on key decisions made individually by 50 states and 14,000 local school districts -- a system that leads, unsurprisingly, to a bewildering array of programs and services, or a lack thereof, for high-ability students.  

The gaps in support of and services for our most advanced students are even more pronounced for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  In addition to the key issue of access to services and programs -- whether districts with disadvantaged children offer gifted education services --  there are other challenges to ensuring that these students are properly screened and identified for advanced learner services.  For example, what assessments are appropriate for limited-English proficient children?  Are the instruments culturally biased?  Do we recognize potential in students who arrive at school without the advantages of home computers, libraries, and travel experiences?

Thanks in part to research conducted under the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, the gifted education community has examined many of these issues and has developed numerous strategies to address the underrepresentation of diverse learners in gifted education programs and services.  We provide information on the research that can help guide districts as they develop policies and practices to serve all their gifted learners.  We encourage you to explore the entire NAGC website for more information on the gifted education strategies in identificaiton, assessment, curricular modification, and social and emotional support that not only increase gifted student achievement, but also contribute to total school improvement.

Read more about ensuring Equity in Excellence through:

Identification and Assessments to Receive Services 

Classroom Instruction and Teacher Training



Unlocking Emergent Talent: Supporting High Achievement of Low-Income, High-Ability Students (pdf)

Overlooked Gems: A National Perspective on Low Income Promising Learners (pdf)

Identifying and Serving Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Gifted Students
NAGC Position Paper

In Search of the Dream
Gifted and talented students from minority and/or low-income backgrounds frequently do not receive the education they need to develop to their full potential.  This NAGC publication looks at how some schools and programs successfully address this problem.

Essential Readings in Gifted Education: Vol. 6 Culturally Diverse & Underserved Populations of Gifted Students

Click Map for State Information

All Gifted Is Local (pdf)

Other Resources

Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education (pdf)
High-potential children from diverse backgrounds are not performing at the advanced levels at the same rate as other children

The Achievement Trap (pdf)
This report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation examines data that shows high-ability students from lower-income families lose ground academically as they progress through school and looks at possible remedies to this problem

High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB (pdf)
While more resources and time go to struggling learners, teachers have had to let high-ability learners fend for themselves with the result that their academic gains are slowing, especially among students from low-income families.  A two-part study conducted by the Fordham Institute.

NAGC Publications

The Critical Issues in Equity and Excellence in Gifted Education Series, Edited by Joyce L. VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D.
Serving Gifted Learners Beyond the Traditional Classroom
*  Alternative Assessments With Gifted and Talented Students
*  Social-Emotional Curriculum With Gifted and Talented Students