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Background Information:
The No Child Left Behind Act

"Does the No Child Left Behind Act 'do' anything for gifted students?"

That is a question we hear quite often. The answer is not a simple "yes" or "no." Although the major provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) do not address the learning needs of gifted and talented students, there are several provisions in NCLB of which gifted education advocates should be aware.

First, it is important to understand that No Child Left Behind is the Bush Administration's catchy name/label for its original legislative proposal to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was scheduled for reauthorization in 2001. ESEA is the umbrella law governing the federal government's involvement in K-12 education (note that another federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), governs K-12 education of children with disabilities). As with all legislative initiatives, the final version is a compromise between the White House and Congress. The final version of ESEA signed into law in January 2002 is still referred to as No Child Left Behind, even though it includes many provisions that were not included in the President's initial legislative proposal. One example is the Javits Act, the federal law that authorizes federal funds for research and grants to support programs and services for gifted and talented students.

Second, although the federal legislative process, and resulting federal law is often arcane, it is helpful to understand generally how federal education law is organized on paper. Think of a filing cabinet. The top drawer is ESEA, the umbrella law for K-12 education.

filing cabinetWithin that drawer are files for a range of big-picture issues, labeled "Titles." (For example Title I governs programs for low-income students; Title II governs teacher preparation)

filing cabinet Within each file are multi-page booklets that address individual programs and student needs, labeled "Parts."

filing cabinet Within the booklets are sheets of paper, labeled "Sections."


The file drawer of ESEA is semi-permanent so that any legislative proposal related to K-12 education (but not related to children with disabilities) can be placed into an appropriate file within the drawer, no matter when it becomes law. The Javits program, which was not part of the original NCLB Act, was added to ESEA by the Congress and is now, on paper, located in Title V, Part D, sections 5461-5466 of ESEA.

Now, imagine the rest of the file drawers in our education filing cabinet, organized in a similar way, and are labeled IDEA (for children with disabilities), and HEA (Higher Education Act), for programs and services that are post-secondary. Of course, there are other filing cabinets for criminal justice programs, defense, environmental laws, transportation, health and human services, housing, agriculture and other federal laws.

Because of the way NCLB / ESEA is organized on paper, then, the provisions that mention gifted and talented students are scattered throughout. Below is a description of the provisions that address gifted students or gifted education as well as some comments on why advocates for gifted students might be interested in each.

We have also provided a specific citation to the place in the file drawer where they may be located in case you would like to locate the actual language in federal law. The page numbers provided after each description refers to a page number in the conference report, which is the final document that Congress actually passed and sent to the President for his signature. You may obtain a copy of the conference report (House Conference Report 107-334) through the Library of Congress.

The definition of gifted and talented in NCLB is as follows:

The term 'gifted and talented', when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities. (Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(22))
(Page 544)

Title I Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged

Part A - Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs

Section 1111 - State Plans
States are required to explain the method used to define "annual yearly progress" and may use a host of academic indicators, including changes in the percentage of students in gifted and talented, advanced placement, and college preparatory programs. (Section 1111(b)(2)(C)(vii)).
(Page 24)

The annual yearly progress (AYP) portion of the Act is the heart of the all-important accountability provisions. Advocates concerned about gifted children and gifted education should be asking about the criteria used for AYP in their state plan, and, to the extent that districts monitor g/t or AP data, should be asking their school districts about that too.

Title II Preparing, Training & Recruiting High Quality Teachers & Principals

Section 2122: Local application and needs assessment
An LEA application for a sub-grant from the state must include an explanation of how the LEA will provide training to enable teachers to address the needs of students with different learning styles, particularly students with disabilities, with special learning needs (including students with gifts and talents).... (Section 2122(b)(9)(A))
(Page 210)

Advocates concerned about teacher training should ask LEAs about the applications submitted under this section, and what the LEA may/may not have included about the "special learning needs" of g/t students. Advocates might also recommend assistance and resources for teacher training.

Title V Promoting Informed Parental Choice and Innovative Programs

Part A - Innovative Programs

Subpart 3 - Local Innovative Education Programs (Note: this is the local block grant section of the Act)
Funds to LEAs shall be used for innovative assistance programs, which may include "programs to provide for the educational needs of gifted and talented children." (Section 5131(a)(7)).
(Page 363)

LEAs receive funds under this program based on their relative student population. In some cases, the amount an LEA receives is quite small. However, g/t advocates should make sure that their local LEAs are aware that these funds may be spent to support gifted education.

Part D - Fund for the Improvement of Education

Subpart 6 Gifted and Talented Education
Sections 5461-5466 is the Javits Act, which includes
- National Research Center on the Gifted & Talented
- National Demonstration Grants program
- Statewide Grants program
(Page 409)

This section is the Javits Act, which provides funds for research and demonstration grants, and since 2002, provides funds for statewide grants to support gifted education programs and services. Each year g/t advocates urge Congress to fund this program, which is funded at $11.25 million for fiscal year 2003.

Title VII Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education

Part A - Indian Education

Subpart 3 National Activities
Section 7134 is Gifted & Talented Indian Students
(Page 510)

Part B - Native Hawaiian Education
Section 7205(a)(3)(E) is Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Students
(Page 524)

The funds allocated under this section go to a special school for Native Hawaiian children who are gifted. Hawaii g/t advocates might urge U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye to use his position on the appropriations committee to support funding for other programs that benefit gifted students.

Title X, Part C, Homeless Education

Section 1032 amends Subtitle B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as follows:

Section 722(g)(4)(D) Grants for State and Local Activities:

Requires LEAs that receive funds under the McKinney Act to provide homeless children services comparable to services offered to other students in the school, including programs for gifted and talented students.
(Page 584)

Section 723(d)(2) LEA sub-grants

Permits LEAs to use funds awarded through sub-grants from the state under the McKinney Act on expedited evaluations of the strengths and needs of homeless children, including needs and eligibility for gifted and talented programs and services
(Page 588)

School administrators, teachers, and counselors should be made aware of these sections, especially since it is possible that homeless children may fall through the cracks because of frequent changes in location and enrollment.

 For more information on current legislative issues related to gifted learners, visit the Legislative Update Page.