Gifted education

Gifted education (also known as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), Talented and Gifted (TAG), or G/T) is a broad term for special practices, procedures, and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented.

The main approaches to gifted education are enrichment and acceleration. An enrichment program teaches additional, related material, but keeps the student progressing through the curriculum at the same rate. For example, after the gifted students have completed the normal work in the curriculum, an enrichment program might provide them with additional details about a subject in the curriculum. An acceleration program advances the student through the standard curriculum faster than normal. When gifted students have completed the normal work, they move on to the next subject in the curriculum, even though the rest of the class is still working on the first subject.

There is no standard global definition of what a gifted student is. Multiple definitions of giftedness are used by different groups. Most of these definitions select the students who are the most skilled or talented in a given area, e.g., the students with the most skill or talent in music, language, logical reasoning, or mathematics. The percentage of students selected varies, generally with 10% or fewer being selected for gifted education programs. However, since students vary in their aptitudes and achievements, a student who is not gifted in one area, such as music, may be considered gifted in another, such as language. Consequently, even if all programs agreed to include only the top 5% of students in their area, more than just 5% of students would be identified as gifted.


Classical era to Renaissance

Gifted and talented education dates back thousands of years. Plato (c. 427–c. 347 BCE) advocated providing specialized education for intellectually gifted young men and women.[1] In China's Tang Dynasty (580-618 CE), child prodigies were summoned to the imperial court for specialized education.[1] Throughout the Renaissance, those who exhibited creative talent in art, architecture, and literature were supported by both the government and private patronage.[1]

Sir Francis Galton

One of the earliest Western studies of human abilities was conducted by Sir Francis Galton, who between 1888 and 1894 developed and compiled measurements of over 7,500 individuals to gauge their natural intellectual abilities. In his studies he determined that if a parent deviates from the norm, so will the child, but to a lesser extent,[2] one of the earliest observed examples of regression toward the mean. Galton believed that individuals could be improved through interventions in heredity, a movement he named eugenics. He categorized people into gifted, capable, average, or degenerate and recommended breeding between the first two categories, and forced abstinence for the latter two. His term for the most intelligent and talented people was "eminent," and after studying England's most prominent families, concluded that one's eminence was directly related to his direct hereditary line.[3]

Lewis Terman

At Stanford University in 1918, Lewis Terman adapted Alfred Binet's Binet-Simon intelligence test into the Stanford-Binet test, and introduced intelligence quotient (IQ) scoring for the test. According to Terman, the IQ was one's mental age compared to one's chronological age, based on the mental age norms he compiled after studying a sample of children.[4] He defined intelligence as "the ability to carry on abstract thinking".[5] During World War I Terman was a commissioned officer of the United States Army, and collaborated with other psychologists in developing intelligence tests for new recruits to the armed forces. For the first time, intelligence testing was given to a wide population of drafted soldiers.

After the war, Terman undertook an extensive longitudinal study of 643 children in California who scored at IQ 140 or above, the Genetic Studies of Genius, continuing to evaluate them throughout their lives. Subjects of these case studies were called "Termites" and the studies contacted the children in 1921, and again in 1930, 1947, and 1959 after his death. Terman's studies have to date been the most extensive on high-functioning children, and are still quoted in psychological literature today. Terman claimed to have disproven common misconceptions, such as that highly intelligent children were prone to ill physical and mental health, that their intelligence burned out early in their lives, or that they either achieved greatly or underachieved.[6]

Leta Hollingworth

A professional colleague of Terman's, Leta Hollingworth was the first in the United States to study how best to serve students who showed evidence of high performance on tests. Although recognizing Terman's and Galton's beliefs that heredity played a vital role in intelligence, Hollingworth gave similar credit to home environment and school structure.[7] Hollingworth worked to dispel the pervasive belief that "bright children take care of themselves"[8] and emphasized the importance of early identification, daily contact, and grouping gifted children with others with similar abilities. Hollingworth performed an 18-year-long study of 50 children in New York City who scored 155 or above on the Stanford-Binet, and studied smaller groups of children who scored above a 180. She also ran a school in New York City for bright students that employed a curriculum of student-led exploration, as opposed to a teacher providing students with a more advanced curriculum they would encounter later in life.[8]

The Cold War

One unforeseen result of the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union was the immediate emphasis on education for bright students in the United States, and this settled the question whether the federal government should get involved in public education at all.[9] The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was passed by Congress in 1958 with $1 billion US to bolster science, math, and technology in public education. Educators immediately pushed to identify gifted students and serve them in schools.[10] Students chosen for gifted services were given intelligence tests with a strict cutoff, usually at 130, which meant that students who scored below the 130 were not identified.[11]

Marland Report

The impact of the NDEA was evident in schools for years after, but a study on how effective education was meeting the needs of gifted students was initiated by the United States Department of Education in 1969. The Marland Report,[12] completed in 1972, for the first time presented a general definition of giftedness, and urged districts to adopt it. The report also allowed students to show high functioning on talents and skills not measurable by an intelligence test. The Marland Report defined gifted as

"Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement and/or potential ability in any of the following areas, singly or in combination:
  1. General intellectual ability,
  2. Specific academic aptitude,
  3. Creative or productive thinking,
  4. Leadership ability,
  5. Visual and performing arts, or
  6. Psychomotor ability."

The report's definition continues to be the basis of the definition of giftedness in most districts and states.[13]

A Nation at Risk

In 1983, the result of an 18-month-long study of secondary students was published as A Nation at Risk, and claimed that students in the United States were no longer receiving superior education, and in fact, could not compete with students from other developed countries in many academic exercises. One of the recommendations the book made was to increase services to gifted education programs, citing curriculum enrichment or acceleration specifically. The US federal government was also urged to create standards for the identification and servicing of gifted students.[14]

Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act

The Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act was passed in 1988 as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Instead of funding district-level gifted education programs, the Javits Act instead has three primary components: the research of effective methods of testing, identification, and programming, which is performed at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented; the awarding of grants to colleges, states, and districts that focus on underrepresented populations of gifted students; and grants awarded to state and districts for program implementation.[15]

Annual funding for grants must be passed by US Congress, and totaled $9.6 million US in 2007,[16] but the money isn't promised. While he was President, George W. Bush eliminated the money every year of his term, but members of Congress overrode the president to make sure the grant money is distributed.[17]

No Child Left Behind

The most recent US federal education initiative was signed into law in 2002. The goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is to bring proficiency of all students to grade level, but critics note it does not address the needs of gifted students who perform above grade level. The act imposes punishments on schools, administrators, and teachers when students do not achieve to the plan's designs, but does not address any achievement standards for high functioning students, forcing schools and teachers to spend their time with low achieving students. An article in The Washington Post declared, "The unmistakable message to teachers -- and to students -- is that it makes no difference whether a child barely meets the proficiency standard or far exceeds it."[18] Gifted services have been recently eroding as a result of the new legislation, according to a 2006 article in The New York Times.[17]

A Nation Deceived

In 2004, the John Templeton Foundation sponsored a report titled A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students, highlighting the disparity between the research on acceleration (which generally supports it, both from an academic and a psychological point of view), and the educational practices in the US that are often contrary to the conclusions of that research. The Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA) was established in 2006 at The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa College of Education through the support of the John Templeton Foundation following the publication of this report.

Studies of giftedness

The development of early intelligence tests by Alfred Binet led to the Stanford-Binet IQ test developed by Lewis Terman. Terman began long-term studies of gifted children with a view to checking if the popular view "early ripe, early rot" was true. The Terman Genetic Studies of Genius longitudinal study has been described by successor researchers who conducted the study after Terman's death and also by an independent researcher who had full access to the study files.[19]

Modern studies by James and Kulik[20] conclude that gifted students benefit least from working in a mixed-level class, and benefit most from learning with other similarly advanced students in accelerated or enriched classes.

Definition of giftedness

Educational authorities differ on the definition of giftedness: even when using the same IQ test to define giftedness, they may disagree on what gifted means - one may take up the top 2 percent of the population, another might take up the top 5 percent of a population, which may be within a state, district, or school. Within a single school district, there can be substantial differences in the distribution of measured IQ. (The IQ for the top percentile at a high-performing school may be quite different from that at a lower performing school.)

In Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, Susan K. Johnsen (2004) explains that gifted children all exhibit the potential for high performance in the areas included in the United States federal definition of gifted and talented students:

The term 'gifted and talented' when used in respect to students, children, or youth means [those who show] evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities.
P.L. 103–382, Title XIV, p. 388

The National Association for Gifted Children in the United States defines giftedness as:[21]

Gifted individuals are 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).

The development of ability or talent is a lifelong process. It can be evident in young children as exceptional performance on tests and/or other measures of ability or as a rapid rate of learning, compared to other students of the same age, or in actual achievement in a domain. As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence, however, achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness. Various factors can either enhance or inhibit the development and expression of abilities.

This definition has been adopted in part or completely by the majority of the states in the United States. Most have some definition similar to that used in the State of Texas, whose definition states:

[The phrase] 'gifted and talented student' means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment, and who:
  • exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area;
  • possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or
  • excels in a specific academic field.
    74th legislature of the State of Texas, Chapter 29, Subchapter D, Section 29.121

The major characteristics of these definitions are (a) the diversity of areas in which performance may be exhibited (e.g., intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, academic), (b) the comparison with other groups (e.g., those in general education classrooms or of the same age, experience, or environment), and (c) the use of terms that imply a need for development of the gift (e.g., capability and potential).

Reliance on IQ

In her book, Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, Susan K. Johnsen (2004) writes that schools should use a variety of measures of students capability and potential when identifying gifted children. These measures may include portfolios of student work, classroom observations, achievement measures, and intelligence scores. Most educational professionals accept that no single measure can be used in isolation to accurately identify every gifted child.

Even if the notion of IQ is generally useful for identifying academically talented students who would benefit from further services, the question of the cutoff point for giftedness is still important. As noted above, different authorities often define giftedness differently.[22]

Global implementation


Public gifted education in Australia varies significantly from state to state. New South Wales has 95 primary schools with opportunity classes catering to students in year 5 and 6. New South Wales also has 17 fully selective secondary schools and 25 partially selective secondary schools.[23] Western Australia has selective programs in 17 high schools, including Perth Modern School, a fully selective school.[24] Queensland has 3 Queensland Academies catering to students in years 10,11 and 12.[25] South Australia has programs in 3 public high schools catering to students in years 8,9 and 10, including Glenunga International High School.[26] The Victorian Government commissioned a parliamentary inquiry into the education of gifted and talented children in 2012.[27] One recommendation from the inquiry was for the Victorian Government to list the schools with programs, but the government has not implemented this recommendation. Some private schools have developed programs for gifted children.

State/Territory Public Primary Schools with Programs Partially Selective Public High Schools Fully Selective Public High Schools
New South Wales 95 25 17
Western Australia 0 16 1
Queensland 0 0 3
South Australia 0 3 0
Victoria ? ? ?
Tasmania 0 0 0
Australian Capital Territory 0 0 0
Northern Territory 0 0 0


Queen Elizabeth High School in Calgary offers the GATE Program to both Division 3 and 4 (in total, Grades 7-12)

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE), in Calgary, Alberta, has various elementary, middle and high schools offering the GATE Program, standing for Gifted and Talented Education, for Grades 4-12, or Divisions 2-4. The program for students, who, through an IQ test, ranked in the Very Superior Range; falling into Gifted or Genius. For each of the three divisions, there are 2 schools offering GATE, one for the North Side of the city (CBE Areas I, II and III) and one for the South Side (CBE Areas IV and V). For Division 2, or Grades 4-6, it is available at Hillhurst Elementary School for the North and Nellie McClung Elementary School for the South. For Division 3, or Grades 7-9, it is available at Queen Elizabeth High School for the North and John Ware Junior High School for the South. For Division 3, or Grades 10-12, Queen Elizabeth High School, which is a joint Junior High-Senior High offers it for the North and Henry Wise Wood Senior High School offers it for the south. GATE classes go more in depth and learns some curriculum for the following grade level, with tougher assignments and a faster learning pace. They benefit from being around students like them. These students attend the school alongside regular students and those in other programs (e.g. IB, AP.)[28] In the 2014-15 school year, students from Grades 4-7 in the south will be attending Louis Riel Junior High School, already home to a science program, and students in the regular program there will be moved to Nellie McClung and John Ware. Students at John Ware will be phased out: eighth grade GATE will end in June 2015, and ninth grade GATE will end in 2016, while GATE will be expanding to Grade 9 at Louis Riel by September 2016. Prior to John Ware, the GATE program was housed at Elboya. A large number of teachers from Nellie McClung and John Ware will be moving to the new location, which was picked to deal with student population issues and to concentrate resources.[29]

Notable alumni of the CBE GATE Program include the 36th mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, from Queen Elizabeth High School.

Naheed Nenshi, a mayor of Calgary and an alumnus of the CBE GATE Program.

Vancouver Board of Education's gifted program is called Multi-Age Cluster Class or MACC.[1] This is a full-time program for highly gifted elementary students from grades 4 to 7. Through project-based learning, students are challenged to use higher order thinking skills. Another focus of the program is autonomous learning, students are encouraged to self-monitor, self-reflect and seek out enrichment opportunities. Entrance to the program is initiated through referral followed by a review by a screening committee. IQ tests are used but not exclusively. Students are also assessed by performance, cognitive ability tests, and motivation. There are 4 MACC's in Vancouver: grade 4/5 and grade 6/7 at Sir William Osler Elementary, grade 5/6/7 at Tecumseh Elementary, and a French Immersion grade 5/6/7 at Kerrisdale Elementary.

At a lower scale, the Peel District School Board operates its Regional Enhanced Program at The Woodlands School, Lorne Park Secondary School, Glenforest Secondary School, Heart Lake Secondary School and Humberview Secondary School to provide students an opportunity to develop and explore skills in a particular area of interest. Students identified as gifted (which the PDSB classifies as "enhanced") may choose to attend the nearest of these high schools instead of their assigned home high school. In the Regional Enhanced Program, enhanced students take core courses (primarily, but not limited to English, mathematics, and the sciences) in an environment surrounded by fellow enhanced peers. The classes often contain modified assignments that encourage students to be creative.


In India, Jnana Prabodhini Prashala started in 1968, is probably the first school for gifted education. The motto is motivating intelligence for social change. The school, located in central Pune, admits 80 students each year, after thorough testing, which includes two written papers and an interview. The psychology department of Jnana Prabodhini has worked on J. P. Guilford's model of Intelligence.


National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET, also known as SAMPAD, Persian: سمپاد, which stands for سازمان ملی پرورش استعدادهای درخشان in Persian) are national Middle and High Schools in Iran developed specifically for the development of exceptionally talented students in Iran. NODET was first established in 1976 and re-established in 1987.

Admission to NODET schools is selective and based on a comprehensive nationwide entrance examination procedure.

Every year thousands of students apply to enter the schools, from which less than 5% are chosen for the 99 middle schools and 98 high-schools within the country. All applicants must have a minimum GPA of 19 (out of 20) for attending the entrance exam. In 2006, 87,081 boys and 83,596 girls from 56 cities applied, and finally 6,888 students were accepted for the 2007 middle schools. The admission process is much more selective in big cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad and Karaj in which less than 150 students are accepted after two exams and interviews, out of over 50,000 applicants.

Top schools of NODET (and also Iran's top) are Allameh Helli High School and Shahid Madani High School (in Tabriz), Farzanegan High School located in Tehran, Shahid Ejei High School located in Isfahan, Shahid Hashemi Nejad High School located in Mashhad and Shahid Soltani School located in Karaj. Courses taught in NODET schools are college-level in fields such as Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and English Language. The best teachers of the ministry of education are chosen mainly by the school's principal and faculty to teach at NODET schools. Schools mainly have only two majors (normal schools have three majors), math-physics and experimental sciences (like math-physics but having biology as the main course). Even though social sciences are taught, there is much less emphasis on these subjects due to the lack of interest in both students and the organization.


Norway has no centre for gifted or talented children or youth. However, there is the privately run Barratt Due Institute of Music who offers musical kindergarten, evening school and college for highly talented young musicians. There is also the public secondary school for talents in ballet at Ruseløkka school in Oslo, who admits the 15 top dancers. On athletics, Privately run Norwegian Elite Sports Gymnasium (NTG) offers secondary school for talents in five locations in Norway. This account might not be complete.

Republic of Ireland

The Centre for the Talented Youth of Ireland has run in Dublin City University since 1992.

Republic of Korea

Following the Gifted Education Promotion Law (영재교육진흥법) in the year 2000, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) founded the National Research Center for Gifted and Talented Education (NRCGTE) in 2002 to ensure effective implementation of gifted education research, development, and policy. The center is managed by the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI). Presently twenty-five universities conduct gifted and talented education research in some form; for example, Seoul National University is conducting Science-gifted Education Center, and KAIST is conducting Global Institute For Talented Education (GIFTED), the Korean Society for the Gifted and Talented (한국영재교육학회) and the Korean Society for the Gifted (사단법인 한국영재학회).

Education for the scientifically gifted in Korea can be traced back to the 1983 government founding of Gyeonggi Science High School.[30] Following three later additions (Korea Science Academy of KAIST; Seoul Science High School and Daegu Science High School), approximately 1,500, or 1 in 1,300 (0.08 percent) of high school students are currently enrolled among its four gifted academies. By 2008, about 50,000, or 1 in 140 (0.7 percent) of elementary and middle school students participated in education for the gifted. In 2005, a program was undertaken to identify and educate gifted children of socioeconomically underprivileged people. Since then, more than 1,800 students have enrolled in the program.

Gradually the focus has expanded over time to cover informatics, arts, physical education, creative writing, humanities, and social sciences, leading to the 2008 creation of the government funded Korean National Institute for the Gifted Arts. To pluralize the need for trained professional educators, teachers undergo basic training (60 hours), advanced training (120 hours), and overseas training (60 hours) to acquire skills necessary to teach gifted youth.


In Singapore, the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was introduced in 1984 and is offered in the upper primary years (Primary 4-6, ages 10–12). Pupils undergo rigorous testing in Primary 3 (age 9) for admission into the GEP for Primary 4 to 6. About 1% of the year's cohort are admitted into the programme.[31] The GEP is offered at selected schools, meaning that these pupils attend school alongside their peers in the mainstream curriculum but attend separate classes for certain subjects. As of the 2016 academic year, there are 9 primary schools which offer the GEP.[32]


The School for Gifted Children in Bratislava was established in 1998. It offers education known as APROGEN - Alternative Program for Gifted Education.

United Kingdom

In England, schools are expected to identify 5-10% of students who are gifted and/or talented in relation to the rest of the cohort in that school - an approach which is pragmatic (concerned with ensuring schools put in place some provision for their most able learners) rather than principles (in terms of how to best understand giftedness).[33] The term gifted applies to traditional academic subjects, and talented is used in relation to high levels of attainment in the creative arts and sports.[34] The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth ran from 2002 to 2007 at the University of Warwick. Warwick University decided not to reapply for the contract to run NAGTY in 2007, instead introducing its own programme, the International Gateway for Gifted Youth in 2008.[35][36] In January 2010, the government announced that NAGTY was to be scrapped the following month.[37]

United States

In the United States, each state department of education determines if the needs of gifted students will be addressed as a mandatory function of public education. If so, the state determines the definition of which students will be identified and receive services, but may or may not determine how they shall receive services. If a state does not consider gifted education mandatory, individual districts may, thus the definition of what gifted is varies from state or district.[38]

In contrast with special education, gifted education is not regulated on a federal level, although recommendations by the US Department of Education are offered. As such, funding for services is not consistent from state to state, and although students may be identified, the extent to which they receive services can vary widely depending upon a state or district's budget.

Gifted education programs are also offered at various private schools. For example, The Mirman School caters to children with an IQ of 138 and above and the Altair School in Beaverton, Oregon that caters to profoundly gifted children.

Hong Kong

Definition of Giftedness in Hong Kong

The Education Commission Report No.4 [39] issued in 1990 recommended a policy on gifted education for schools in Hong Kong and suggested that a broad definition of giftedness using multiple criteria should be adopted.

Gifted children generally have exceptional achievement or potential in one or more of the following domains:[40]

  1. a high level of measured intelligence;
  2. specific academic aptitude in a subject area;
  3. creative thinking;
  4. superior talent in visual and performing arts;
  5. natural leadership of peers; and
  6. psychomotor ability - outstanding performance or ingenuity in athletics, mechanical skills or other areas requiring gross or fine motor coordination;

The multi-dimensional aspect of intelligence has been promoted by Professor Howard Gardner from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In his introduction to the tenth anniversary edition of his classic work Frames of Mind. The theory of multiple intelligences, he says:

In the heyday of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings - initially a blank slate - could be trained to learn anything, provided that it was presented in an appropriate way. Nowadays an increasing number of researchers believe precisely the opposite; that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints; that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth; and that it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that go against early 'naive' theories of that challenge the natural lines of force within an intelligence and its matching domains. (Gardner 1993: xxiii)

Howard Gardner initially formulated a list of seven intelligences, but later added an eighth, that are intrinsic to the human mind: linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, musical, bodily kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and naturalist intelligences. It has become widely accepted at both local and international scales to adopt a broad definition of giftedness using multiple criteria to formulate gifted education policy.

The Mission and Principles of Gifted Education Policy in Hong Kong

The mission of gifted education is to systematically and strategically explore and develop the potential of gifted students. Gifted learners are to be provided with opportunities to receive education at appropriate levels in a flexible teaching and learning environment. The guiding principles[41] for gifted education in Hong Kong are:

The Framework for Gifted Education in Hong Kong

Based on these guiding principles, a three-tier gifted education framework [42] was adopted in 2000. Levels 1 & 2 are recognised as being school-based whilst Level 3 is the responsibility of the HKAGE. The intention is that Level 1 serves the entire school population, irrespective of ability, that Level 2 deals with between 2-10% of the ability group, and that Level 3 caters for the top 2% of students.


To immerse the core elements advocated in gifted education i.e. High-order thinking skills, creativity and personal-social competence in the curriculum for ALL students;


To differentiate teaching through appropriate grouping of students to meet the different needs of the groups with enrichment and extension of curriculum across ALL subjects in regular classrooms.


To conduct pull-out programmes of generic nature outside the regular classroom to allow systematic training for a homogeneous group of students (e.g. Creativity training, leadership training, etc.);


To conduct pull-out programme in specific areas (e.g. Maths, Arts, etc.) outside the regular classroom to allow systematic training for students with outstanding performance in specific domains.


Tertiary institutions and other educational organizations / bodies, such as the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education and other universities in Hong Kong to provide a wide and increasing range of programmes for gifted students

Commonly used terms

Source: Frequently Used Terms in Gifted Education[43]

Modification of a gifted student’s curriculum to accommodate their specific needs. This may include changing the content or ability level of the material.
Affective curriculum
A curriculum that is designed to teach gifted students about emotions, self-esteem, and social skills. This can be valuable for all students, especially those who have been grouped with much older students, or who have been rejected by their same-age, but academically typical, peers.
Heterogeneous grouping
A strategy that groups students of varied ability, preparedness, or accomplishment in a single classroom environment. Usually this terminology is applied to groupings of students in a particular grade, especially in elementary school. For example, students in fifth grade would be heterogeneously grouped in math if they were randomly assigned to classes instead of being grouped by demonstrated subject mastery. Heterogeneous grouping is sometimes claimed to provide a more effective instructional environment for less prepared students.
Homogeneous grouping
A strategy that groups students by specific ability, preparedness, or interest within a subject area. Usually this terminology is applied to groupings of students in a particular grade, especially in elementary school. For example, students in fifth grade would be homogeneously grouped in math if they were assigned to classes based on demonstrated subject mastery rather than being randomly assigned. Homogeneous grouping can provide more effective instruction for the most prepared students.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
A written document that addresses a student's specific individual needs. It may specify accommodations, materials, or classroom instruction. IEPs are often created for students with disabilities, who are required by law to have an IEP when appropriate. Most states are not required to have IEPs for students who are only identified as gifted. Some students may be intellectually gifted in addition to having learning and/or attentional disabilities, and may have an IEP that includes, for instance, enrichment activities as a means of alleviating boredom or frustration, or as a reward for on-task behavior. In order to warrant such an IEP, a student needs to be diagnosed with a separate emotional or learning disability that is not simply the result of being unchallenged in a typical classroom. These are also known as Individual Program Plans, or IPPs.


Attempts to provide gifted education can be classified in several ways. Most gifted students benefit from a combination of approaches at different times.


Activities such as reading, creative writing, sport, computer games, chess, music, dance, foreign languages, and art give an extra intellectual challenge outside of school hours. For some GATE students, (if they are a top level) the district might send a letter containing a suggestion of skipping a grade.


On the primary school level, students spend all class time with their peers, but receive extra material to challenge them. Enrichment may be as simple as a modified assignment provided by the regular classroom teacher, or it might include formal programs such as Odyssey of the Mind, Destination Imagination or academic competitions such as Brain Bowl, Future Problem Solving, Science Olympiad, National History Day, science fairs, or spelling bees. Programmes of enrichment activities may also be organised outside the school day (e.g. the ASCEND project in secondary science education [44]). This work is done in addition to, and not instead of, any regular school work assigned. Critics of this approach argue that it requires gifted students to do more work instead of the same amount at an advanced level. On the secondary school level sometimes an option is to take more courses like English, Spanish, Latin, Philosophy, Science, etc., or to engage in extra curricular activities. Some perceive there to be a necessary choice between enrichment and acceleration, as if the two were mutually exclusive alternatives. However, other researchers see the two as complements to each other.[45]


The regular school material is compacted by pretesting the student to establish which skills and content have already been mastered. Pretests can be presented on a daily basis (pupils doing the most difficult items on a worksheet first and skipping the rest if they are performed correctly), or before a week or longer unit of instructional time. When a student demonstrates an appropriate level of proficiency, further repetitive practice can be safely skipped, thus reducing boredom and freeing up time for the student to work on more challenging material.


Self-pacing methods, such as the Montessori Method, use flexible grouping practices to allow children to advance at their own pace. Self-pacing can be beneficial for all children and is not targeted specifically at those identified as gifted or talented, but it can allow children to learn at a highly accelerated rate. Directed Studies are usually based on self-pacing.


Pupils are advanced to a higher-level class covering material more suited to their abilities and preparedness. This may take the form of skipping grades or completing normal curriculum in a shorter-than-normal period of time ("telescoping"). Subject acceleration (also called partial acceleration) is a flexible approach which can advance a student in one field, such as mathematics or language, without changing other studies, such as history or science. This type of acceleration is usually based upon achievement testing, rather than IQ.

Some colleges offer early entrance programs that give gifted younger students the opportunity to attend college early. In the U.S., many community colleges allow advanced students to enroll with the consent of school officials and the pupils' parents.

Acceleration presents gifted children academic material from established curricula that is commensurate with their ability and preparedness, and for this reason is a low-cost option from the perspective of the school. This may result in a small number of children taking classes targeted at older children. However, for the majority of gifted students, acceleration is beneficial both academically and socially.[46] "Radical acceleration (acceleration by two or more years) is effective academically and socially for highly gifted students."[47] Some advocates have argued that the disadvantages of being retained in a standard mixed-ability classroom are substantially worse than any shortcomings of acceleration. For example, psychologist Miraca Gross reports: "the majority of these children [retained in a typical classroom] are socially rejected [by their peers with typical academic talents], isolated, and deeply unhappy. Children of IQ 180+ who are retained in the regular classroom are even more seriously at risk and experience severe emotional distress."[48] These accelerated children should be placed together in one class if possible.[49]


Like acceleration, colloquium provides advanced material for high school students. In colloquium, students take Advanced Placement courses. However, colloquium is different from AP classes because students are usually given more projects than students in AP classes. Students in colloquium also generally study topics more in depth and sometimes in a different way than students enrolled in AP classes do. Colloquium is a form that takes place in a traditional public school. In colloquium, subjects are grouped together. Subjects are taught at different times of the day; however, usually what is being taught in one subject will connect with another subject. For example, if the students are learning about colonial America in History, then they might also be analyzing text from The Scarlet Letter in English. Some schools may only have colloquium in certain subjects. In schools where colloquium is only offered in English and History, colloquium students usually take Advanced Placement courses in math and science and vice versa.


Gifted students are pulled out of a heterogeneous classroom to spend a portion of their time in a gifted class. These programs vary widely, from carefully designed half-day academic programs to a single hour each week of educational challenges. Generally, these programs are ineffective at promoting academic advancement unless the material covered contains extensions and enrichment to the core curriculum. The majority of pull-out programs include an assortment of critical thinking drills, creative exercises, and subjects typically not introduced in standard curricula. Much of the material introduced in Gifted pull-out programs deals with the study of Logic, and its application to fields ranging from Philosophy to Mathematics. Students are encouraged to apply these empirical reasoning skills to every aspect of their education both in and outside of class. In some elementary classes such as math, students divide classes based on level: highest (gifted), median and lowest.

Cluster Grouping

Cluster grouping is the gathering of four to six gifted and talented and/or high achieving students in a single classroom for the entire school day. Cluster teachers are specially trained in differentiating for gifted learners. Clusters are typically used in upper elementary grades. Within a cluster group, instruction may include enrichment and extensions, higher-order thinking skills, pretesting and differentiation, compacting, an accelerated pace, and more complexity in content.

Summer Enrichment Programs (United States)

These offer a variety of courses that mainly take place in the summer. Summer schools are popular in the United States. Entrance fees are required for such programs, and programs typically focus on one subject, or class, for the duration of the camp.

Several examples of this type of program are:

There are also several websites that list summer enrichment programs:

Within the United States, in addition to programs designed by the state, some counties also choose to form their own Talented and Gifted Programs. Sometimes this means that an individual county will form its own TAG program; sometimes several counties will come together if not enough gifted students are present in a single county. Generally, a TAG program focuses on a specific age group, particularly the local TAG programs. This could mean elementary age, high school age, or by years such as ages 9 through 14.

These classes are generally organized so that students have the opportunity to choose several courses they wish to participate in. Courses offered often vary between subjects, but are not typically strictly academically related to that subject. For example, a TAG course that could be offered in history could be the students learning about a certain event and then acting it out in a performance to be presented to parents on the last night of the program. These courses are designed to challenge the students to think in new ways and not merely to be lectured as they are in school.

Full-time separate classes or schools

Gifted students are educated in either a separate class or a separate school. Classes like this are sometimes called "Congregated Gifted Classes".

Separate or independent schools are schools with a primary mission to serve the needs of the academically gifted. Such schools are relatively scarce and often difficult for families to locate. Some of these schools can be located on the Wikipedia article entitled: "List of gifted and talented programmes". Another resource for locating gifted schools in the United States can be found on the National Association for Gifted Children's "Resource Directory" accessible through their home page. Such schools often need to work to guard their mission from occasional charges of elitism, support the professional growth and training of their staff, write curriculum units that are specifically designed to meet the social, emotional, and academic talents of their students, and educate their parent population at all ages.

Some gifted and talented classes offer directed studies, where the students lead a class themselves and decide on their own projects, tests, and all other assignments.

These separate classes or schools tend to be more expensive than regular classes, due to the usually smaller class size. Not-for-profit (non-profit) schools often can offer lower costs than for-profit schools. Either way, they are in high demand and parents have to pay part of the costs.

Homeschooling in the US

An umbrella term encompassing myriad educational options for gifted children: part-time schooling; school at home; classes, groups, mentors and tutors; and unschooling. In many US states, the population of gifted students who are being homeschooled is rising quite rapidly, as school districts responding to budgetary issues and standards-based policies are cutting what limited gifted education programs remain extant, and families seek educational opportunities that are tailored to each child's unique needs.

Identifying gifted children

The term "Gifted Assessment" is typically applied to a process of using norm-referenced psychometric tests administered by a qualified psychologist or psychometrist with the goal of identifying children whose intellectual functioning is significantly advanced as compared to the appropriate reference group (i.e., individuals of their age, gender, and country). The cut-off score for differentiating this group is usually determined by district school boards and can differ slightly from area to area, however, the majority defines this group as students scoring in the top 2 percentiles on one of the accepted tests of intellectual (cognitive) functioning or IQ. Some school boards also require a child to demonstrate advanced academic standing on individualized achievement tests and/ or through their classroom performance. Identifying gifted children is often difficult but is very important because typical school teachers are not qualified to educate a gifted student. This can lead to a situation where a gifted child is bored, underachieves and misbehaves in class.[50][51]

Individual IQ testing is usually the optimal method to identify giftedness among children. However it does not distinguish well among those found to be gifted. Therefore, examiners prefer using a variety of tests to first identify giftedness and then further differentiate. This is often done by using individual IQ tests and then group or individual achievement tests. There is no standard consensus on which tests to use, as each test is better suited for a certain role.[50][52]

The two most popular tests for identifying giftedness in the school-age population are the WISC IV and the SB5. The WIAT III is considered the most popular academic achievement test to determine a child's aggregate learned knowledge.[50][52]

Although a newer WISC version, the WISC V, was developed in late 2014, the WISC IV is still the most commonplace test. It has been translated into several languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Swedish, French, German, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Italian. The WISC-IV assesses a child's cognitive abilities, with respect to age group. Coupled with results from other tests, the WISC accurately depicts a child's developmental and psychological needs for the future.[50]

The SB5 is an intelligence test that determines cognitive abilities and can be administered to persons in virtually any age group. It assesses a series of intelligence indicators including fluid reasoning, general knowledge, quantitative reasoning, spatial processing, and working memory. The SB5 makes use of both verbal and nonverbal testing.[53]

The WIAT-III cannot assess all components of learned knowledge, but does give an understanding of a child's ability to acquire skills and knowledge through formal education. This test measures aspects of the learning process that take place in a traditional school setting in reading, writing, math, and oral language. Although the WIAT-III tests a wide range of material, it is designed primarily to assess children's learning before adolescence.[50]

Versions of these tests exist for each age group. However it is recommended to begin assessment as early as possible, with approximately eight years of age being the optimal time to test. Testing allows identification of specific needs of students and help to plan an education early.[50][51]

Out-of-group achievement testing (such as taking the SAT or ACT early) can also help to identify these students early on (see SMPY) and is implemented by various talent search programs in use by education programs. Out-of-group testing can also help to differentiate children who have scored in the highest percentiles in a single IQ test.[52]

Testing alone cannot accurately identify every gifted child. Teacher and parent nominations are essential additions to the objective information provided by grades and scores. Parents are encouraged to keep portfolios of their children's work, and documentation of their early signs of gifted behavior.[54][55]


Controversies concerning gifted education are varied and often highly politicized. They are as basic as agreeing upon the appropriateness of the term 'gifted' or the definition of 'giftedness'. For example, does 'giftedness' refer to performance or potential (such as inherent intelligence)? Many students do not exhibit both at the same time.

Measures of general intelligence also remain controversial. Early IQ tests were notorious for producing higher IQ scores for privileged races and classes and lower scores for disadvantaged subgroups. Although IQ tests have changed substantially over the past half century, and many objections to the early tests have been addressed by 'culture neutral' tests (such as the Raven test), IQ testing remains controversial. Regardless of the tests used to identify children for gifted programs, many school districts in the United States still have disproportionately more White and Asian American students enrolled in their gifted programs, while Hispanic and African American students are usually underrepresented.[56] However, research shows that this may be not be a fault of tests, but rather a result of the achievement gap in the United States.[57]

Some schools and districts only accept IQ tests as evidence of giftedness. This brings scrutiny to the fact that many affluent families can afford to consult with an educational psychologist to test their children, whereas families with a limited income cannot afford the test and must depend on district resources.


Another area of controversy has been the marginalization of gifted females with studies attributing it to self-efficacy, acculturation and biological differences in aptitude between boys and girls for advanced maths.[58][59]

Class and ethnicity

Gifted programs are often seen as being elitist in places where the majority of students receiving gifted services are from a privileged background. Identifying and serving gifted children from poverty presents unique challenges, ranging from emotional issues arising from a family's economic insecurity, to gaps in pre-school cognitive development due to the family's lack of education and time.[60]

In New York City experience has shown that basing admission to gifted and talented programs on tests of any sort can result in selection of substantially more middle-class and white or Asian students and development of more programs in schools that such students attend.[61]

Appropriateness of forms of gifted education

This is the most hotly debated aspect of gifted education. Some people believe that gifted education resources lack availability and flexibility. They feel that in the alternative methods of gifted education, the gifted students "miss out" on having a "normal" childhood, at least insofar as "normal childhood" is defined as attending school in a mixed-ability classroom. Others believe that gifted education allows gifted students to interact with peers that are on their level, be adequately challenged, and leaves them better equipped to take on the challenges of life.

Another facet of this controversy is the effectiveness of the programs dependent upon resources that are pushed more toward students who are struggling. Gifted Education is not mandated in many states, making it elective for districts to earmark money for. Many lower-achieving districts and schools must make crisis decisions on programs that are not high priorities. As a result, gifted students at these schools are not served, or not served effectively.

Emotional aspects

While giftedness is seen as an academic advantage, psychologically it can pose other challenges for the gifted individual. A person who is intellectually advanced may or may not be advanced in other areas. Each individual student needs to be evaluated for physical, social, and emotional skills without the traditional prejudices which either prescribe either "compensatory" weaknesses or "matching" advancement in these areas.[62]

It is a common misconception that gifted students are universally gifted in all areas of academics,[63] and these misconceptions can have a variety of negative emotional effects on a gifted child. Unrealistically high expectations of academic success are often placed on gifted students by both parents and teachers.[64] This pressure can cause gifted students to experience high levels of anxiety, to become perfectionists, and to develop a fear of failure.[64][65] Gifted students come to define themselves and their identity through their giftedness, which can be problematic as their entire self-concept can be shaken when they do not live up to the unrealistically high expectations of others.[64]

A person with significant academic talents often finds it difficult to fit in with schoolmates.[66] These pressures often wane during adulthood, but they can leave a significant negative impact on emotional development.

Social pressures can cause children to "play down" their intelligence in an effort to blend in with other students.[67] "Playing down" is a strategy often used by students with clinical depression and is seen somewhat more frequently in socially acute adolescents. This behavior is usually discouraged by educators when they recognize it. Unfortunately, the very educators who want these children to challenge themselves and to embrace their gifts and talents are often the same people who are forced to discourage them in a mixed-ability classroom, through mechanisms like refusing to call on the talented student in class so that typical students have an opportunity to participate.

Students who are young, enthusiastic or aggressive are more likely to attract attention and to disrupt the class by working ahead, giving the correct answers all the time, asking for new assignments, or finding creative ways to entertain themselves while the rest of the class finishes an assignment. This behavior can be mistaken for ADHD.

Many parents of gifted find that it is the social-emotional aspect of their children's lives that needs support. Schools and Talent Development programs often focus on academic enrichment rather than providing time for gifted kids to have the social interaction with true peers that is required for healthy development. National organizations such as Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted SENG as well as local organizations, have emerged in an effort to meet these needs.

It can also happen that some unidentified gifted students will get bored in regular class, daydream and lose track of where the class is in a lecture, and the teacher becomes convinced that the student is slow and struggling with the material.

Finally, G&T students are statistically somewhat more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder and to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.[68][69][70][71] G&T students also have a higher chance of co-occurring learning disability.[72] Gifted students with learning disability are often called twice exceptional. These students can require special attention in school.

Test preparation

In the United States, particularly in New York City where qualifying children as young as 4 are enrolled in enriched kindergarten classes offered by the public schools, a test preparation industry has grown up which closely monitors the nature of tests given to prospective students of gifted and talented programs. This can result in admission of significant numbers of students into programs who lack superior natural intellectual talent and exclusion of naturally talented students who did not participate in test preparation or lacked the resources to do so.[73]

It is virtually impossible to train a child for a WISC test or other gifted test.[74] Some websites are known for publishing test questions and answers, although using these is considered illegal since it is highly confidential information.[74][75] It would also be disastrous if a non-gifted student was placed in a gifted program.[75] Reviewing actual test questions can confuse children and stifles their natural thinking process, however reviewing similar style questions is a possibility.[74]

Private gifted assessment is usually expensive and educators recommend that parents take advantage of online screening tests to give a preliminary indication of potential giftedness.[76] Another way to screen for giftedness before requesting a psychological assessment is to do a curriculum-based assessment. Curriculum-based assessment is a form of achievement testing that focuses specifically on what the child has been exposed to in their academic career. It can be done through school or a private educational center. Although this can determine if a child's performance in school potentially signifies giftedness, there are complications. For example, if a child changes school districts or country of residence, the different terminology of curriculum could hold that child back. Secondly, discrepancies between school districts, along with public and private education, create a very wide range of potential knowledge bases.[52]


Advocates of gifted education contend that gifted and/or talented youth are either motivationally, perceptually or intellectually prepared for a challenge not offered in the standard curriculum, so that it is appropriate to pace their lessons more aggressively by encouraging them to participate in honors courses, Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and other sources of educational enrichment and acceleration.

They also claim that the needs of many gifted students are still neglected, as schools tend to place emphasis on improving education for the "average" student. Some argue that too many resources are diverted from gifted education to the other end of the special education spectrum, disabled students. This may be an unintended consequence of the development of disability rights litigation, which some pundits argue has led to the disabled receiving escalating resources at the expense of needed growth for gifted programs and even for core curricula (see special education). However, many advocates believe that both special education and gifted education deserve more resources, on the general principle that each child should receive a challenge appropriate to his preparedness and motivation.

The families of gifted and/or disabled students are often dissatisfied with the education system, which, while it may suit the majority of students, often fails to provide for those with special needs.

Researchers and practitioners in gifted education contend that, if education were to follow the medical maxim of "first, do no harm," then no further justification would be required for providing resources for gifted education as they believe gifted children to be at-risk. The notion that gifted children are "at-risk" was publicly declared in the Marland Report in 1972:

Gifted and Talented children are, in fact, deprived and can suffer psychological damage and permanent impairment of their abilities to function well which is equal to or greater than the similar deprivation suffered by any other population with special needs served by the Office of Education.

(pp. xi-xii)[77]

Three decades later, a similar statement was made by researchers in the field:

National efforts to increase the availability of a variety of appropriate instructional and out-of-school provisions must be a high priority since research indicates that many of the emotional or social difficulties gifted students experience disappear when their educational climates are adapted to their level and pace of learning." [emphasis added][78]

See also


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  78. The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?, Edited by Maureen Neihart, Sally M. Reis, Nancy M. Robinson, and Sidney M. Moon; National Association of Gifted Children (Prufrock Press, Inc.), 2002, p. 286.

Further reading

  1. The latest research about gifted education can be found in the academic journals that specialize in gifted education: Gifted Child Quarterly, Journal of Advanced Academics, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Roeper Review.
  2. Assouline, S. and Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2005). Developing Math Talent: A Guide for Educating Gifted And Advanced Learners in Math. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press .
  3. Broecher, J. (2005). Hochintelligente kreativ begaben. LIT-Verlag Muenster, Hamburg 2005 (Application of the High/Scope Approach and Renzulli's Enrichment Triad Model to a German Summer Camp for the Gifted)
  4. Davidson, Jan and Bob, with Vanderkam, Laura (2004). Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
  5. Davis, G., & Rimm, S. (1989). Education of the gifted and talented (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  6. Hansen, J., & Hoover, S. (1994). Talent development: Theories and practice. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.
  7. Johnsen, S. (1999, November/ December). The top 10 events in gifted education. Gifted Child Today, 22(6), 7.
  8. Newland, T. (1976). The gifted in historical perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  9. Piirto, J. (1999). Talented adults and children: Their development and education (3rd ed.). Waco, TX,: Prufrock Press.
  10. Rogers, Karen B. (2002). Re-forming Gifted Education:How Parents and Teachers Can Match the Program to the Child. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
  11. Winebrenner, Susan. (2001). Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.
  12. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (1993). National excellence: A case for developing America's talent. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

External links

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