Gifted education, also referred to as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), is a term that encompasses the methodologies, procedures, practices and theories employed in the education of gifted or talented children. However, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what exactly it means to be gifted.
So how do we define the term “gifted” as it relates to children? The jury is still out. Some educators define giftedness in terms of IQ. Others in terms of academic performance. How giftedness is measured and defined may vary within a given state, district, or individual school.
In Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, authored by Susan K. Johnsen, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at Baylor University, she explains that generally gifted children exhibit the potential for higher than normal performance in areas of intellectual, creative, artistic, academic and leadership capacity, and in order to fully develop their talents and capabilities require educational and non-curricular activities not provided in a traditional school setting.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), a U.S. based organization, defines giftedness in children in terms of reasoning and learning ability. Specifically, the association classifies children as gifted if they demonstrate exceptional levels of aptitude or competence in one or more structured areas of academic activity such as mathematics, music, language, etc; or in a set of sensorimotor skills such as dance, athletics, art, etc.
The NAGC suggests that giftedness can be evident in children who perform exceptionally well on academic and skills oriented performance tests or as the ability to learn and assimilate information more rapidly than other children their age. As gifted children grow and develop their giftedness is characterized by high levels of achievement and motivation.
While definitions vary, most states have adopted a definition similar to that used by the State of Texas which defines “gifted and talented student” as a child that demonstrates the ability to perform at a relatively high level of accomplishment, with respect to intellectual, academic, creative, leadership or artistic capability, when compared with other children of the same age, experience level and background.
While IQ is useful for identifying academically capable students, most experts agree that assessment of giftedness should be based on a variety of measures of capability and potential rather than relying on just one. Measures for assessing giftedness should include academic, creative, artistic, and leadership performance; capability and potential; and overall performance relative to other students.
Gifted Education in the United States
Unlike special education that is regulated by the federal government, gifted education is addressed at the state or district level. Consequently, federal education funds are not directly allocated to gifted education. Funding for gifted education programs is determined in large part by the availability of funds on a state or district level.
How gifted education is addressed varies from state to state. The state department of education for each individual state independently determines what resources, if any, will be allocated to funding education initiatives for the gifted as a function of public education.
Each state must also determine how they’ll define and identify gifted students and how resources will be allocated among students. Not all states considered gifted education a mandatory service within the public education system. However, even with states that do not consider gifted education mandatory, individual school districts located within the state still have the right and ability to set up special academic programs to support gifted education.
Below you’ll find additional gifted education information and resources.