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Gifted Education in the U.S.

There is no federal mandate or requirements to serve gifted and talented students.  As a result,  it is important for gifted education supporters to work in their states and local districts, as well as at the federal level, to develop new policies supporting gifted education, to remove obstacles, and to ensure adequate funding for the more than three million academically gifted students in the United States.

The Federal Role

The federal government stands largely on the sidelines of gifted and talented education, dedicating just 2 cents of every $100 K-12 federal education dollars to this student population (2007).  The single federal program for gifted and talented children, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, was de-funded by Congress in 2011.  For approximately 18 years, the Javits Act provided approximately $7.5 million annually for national research and demonstration projects and funded the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.  The research focused on ways to identify and serve gifted children in underserved populations.   There is a definition of gifted students in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act , which recognizes that gifted and talented children have special educational needs not typically met in the regular classroom. 

NAGC and its members and other advocates have been working to persuade Congress to incorporate gifted and talented students in major pieces of legislation affecting education K-16.  For example, for the first time, the Higher Education Act includes gifted students as a population of children that teacher education programs must address.  NAGC's current legislative focus includes several changes to the major K-12 law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as "No Child Left Behind").  See the Legislative Update section on the website for more detailed information.  The other area at the federal level for advocacy is the work NAGC does with the U.S. Department of Education to promote the needs of gifted students and to recommend ways in which the federal grant funds are spent. 

State and Local Role

Because of the lack of federal leadership in gifted education, there is a disparity of policies and services between states, districts, and even schools in the same district.  Picture a patchwork quilt.  Gifted advocates must work together at all levels to help policy makers, administrators, and teachers to recognize that gifted and talented students have needs that require specialized services and corresponding teacher training.  

State Comparisons

NAGC and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted conduct a biannual survey of the gifted polcies in the states.  The most recent survey was done for the 2008/2009 school year.  The complete results,  2008/2009 The State of the States of Gifted Education, can be found in the NAGC Bookstore.  We have also compiled a brief comparison of the responding states, which is available to download.

To learn more about gifted learners' unique educational needs and why we need to advocate for them, click here.

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