What Does it Mean to be Gifted and Talented?

Children with abilities "significantly above the norm" in some areas are considered gifted, according to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Many people associate academic ability in math or science with "giftedness," but the NAGC makes it clear that gifted and talented children may perform above the norm in creative, artistic, intellectual, or leadership domains, or specific academic subjects such as math, science or language arts. If you are gifted and talented, it means you have academic or creative abilities that are above the norm. Frequently, states and school districts assess children who are in the top 10% of various academic or intellectual assessments to be "gifted and talented."

Gifted Education

In 2011-12, about 3.2 million students participated in gifted and talented education (GATE) programs in the United States. The types of programs offered vary widely, from one or two hour day programs in elementary schools to gifted and talented magnet schools focused on different interests and subjects in urban school districts. Stanford University sponsors an online website incorporating advanced learning, primarily for students in grades K-7. Students in Stanford's online program combine online learning with tutors.

Need For Gifted and Talented Programs

Teachers and parents alike often notice that children who learn at an accelerated pace can grow bored and disengaged in a classroom that isn't challenging them. Teachers learn strategies that engage accelerated learners and result in continuous learning at a faster pace than the average classroom environment. Gifted education leads to better outcomes in higher education, according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Longitudinal studies of students who've participated in GATE programs in the past found that the majority went on to pursue masters or doctoral degrees. In one case, 44 percent of a group of over 300 GATE students had doctoral degrees. Only 2 percent of the overall population in the U.S. has a doctoral degree.

Myths About Gifted Students

The National Association for Gifted Children identified several myths about gifted students and education. As one example, people often think that gifted students are role models in non-accelerated classrooms, and therefore should not be asked to participate in accelerated learning programs. Studies show that average or below-average students don't see students with higher than average learning rates as "role models." Students with poor grades are not automatically "low ability," either. Many gifted students receive poor grades because they are unengaged in slower-paced learning, or, they deliberately "mask" their abilities to fit in socially. Some school districts see Advanced Placement (AP) programs as "gifted education." These programs prepare students for college, but they do not meet the criteria for education meeting the needs of educationally-defined gifted and talented students.

"Gifted and talented" is an academically-oriented definition which is usually assessed by testing and evaluation in basic intellectual abilities, and in specific areas of learning or creative endeavors. If your child performs in the top 10% of students in an academic discipline, or they show significant talents or gifts in areas as diverse as music, art, math, or engineering, they are "gifted and talented." With gifted education and ongoing resources and support, studies show that gifted children go on to achieve advanced degrees and measurable achievements such as book publications and professional awards, at a much higher rate than the general population.

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