Gifted education, also referred to as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) or Talented and Gifted (TAG), refers to the broad set of practices, pedagogy and theories used when teaching students who have been identified as “gifted” or “talented.” While there is no universal definition of what it means to be a student who is gifted and/or talented, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines “gifted” children and youth 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.
Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).” Unlike special education programs, gifted education programs are not federally regulated, causing services, funds and legislation to be determined by state and/or local budget restrictions. The state-regulation of gifted education services causes the definition of giftedness to vary from state to state. Visit the NAGC’s State Definitions of Giftedness for a comprehensive list of accepted definitions.
Identifying Gifted Students
TAG students demonstrate an outstanding or above-average aptitude and/or competence in one or more areas. NAGC identifies those areas of giftedness into the following six domains:
General Intellectual Ability
High IQ scores, a wide-range of general knowledge and high levels of vocabulary, memory and abstract reasoning
Specific Academic Aptitude
Outstanding performance on achievement and/or aptitude tests in one specific content area, such as math or science
Creative and Productive Thinking
Synthesize new ideas by bringing together seemingly abstract, independent or dissimilar elements. Student characteristics include preference for complexity, positive self-image and openness to experience
Successfully direct individuals or groups to a common goal or decision and capable of negotiating in difficult situations. Student characteristics include self-confidence, tendency to dominate and ability to adapt to new situations.
Visual and Performing Arts
Demonstrate special talents in art, music, dance, drama and similar studies
Kinesthetic learners with strong practical, spatial and mechanical skills
Twice-Exceptional (2e) Students
The term “twice-exceptional” or “2e” (also referred to as “GT/LD”) refers to students who have above-average intelligence and are identified as having one (or more) disability. Micaela Bracamonte is the principal and founder of The Lang School, a New York City private school designed exclusively for twice-exceptional students. Her article, “2e Students: Who They Are and What They Need,” discusses the typical 2e student profile, acknowledging that inconsistency in test results and overall performance is one of the “hallmarks” of twice exceptionality. She explains, “2e students typically perform at very high levels on some, but not all, of the gifted screening tests used by public schools. On the other hand, they tend to simultaneously perform very poorly on one or more of the local, state, or national standardized assessments used to measure individual student progress.” Bracamonte outlines the remaining hallmarks as including:
Evidence of a discrepancy between expected and actual achievement
Evidence of an outstanding talent or ability
Coincident evidence of a processing deficit
Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program Options
Due to their outstanding levels of aptitude and/or competence, gifted and talented students often find the general education curriculum unmotivating and unchallenging. There are several program delivery models available to gifted and talented students that allow these students to remain motivated and stimulated in their learning and that are aligned with students’ levels of competence and interests. While many gifted students do remain in classes with their general education peers, it is important to explore all possible options when seeking the best education for these students.
Gifted students remain in general education classes with their peers but are assigned additional/higher-level material.
Students are advanced to a higher-level class that covers material more suited to their abilities and preparedness. May include skipping grades or completing curriculum in a shorter amount of time.
Gifted students are assigned to a class with a special curricular focus outside the regular classroom for two to six hours per week.
Summer programs for gifted students often focus on one particular area of study and are offered through colleges/universities, non-profit organizations and local summer camps.
Though a controversial method, families of gifted students may opt to homeschool their children if they believe the school district and/or school system does not meet the needs of their children.
Equal Rights and Advocacy
There are over 3 million academically gifted students in the United States alone, yet there are no federally mandated requirements for gifted and talented students. Currently, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is the only federal program for gifted and talented children. This program does not establish rights for gifted children (as IDEA does for Special Education); instead, it focuses on research and advocacy for gifted children in underserved populations. This program funds the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented and is awarded approximately $7.5 million dollars per year. According to the NAGC, funding for the Javits program is “in jeopardy each year.” It is the responsibility of state, local and federal programs to “develop new policies supporting gifted education, to remove obstacles, and to ensure adequate funding.”