What is Giftedness?

Giftedness, intelligence, and talent are fluid concepts and may look different in different contexts and cultures. Even within schools you will find a range of beliefs about the word ‘gifted,’ which has become a term with multiple meanings and much nuance. Gifted children may develop asynchronously: their minds are often ahead of their physical growth, and specific cognitive and social-emotional functions can develop unevenly. Some gifted children with exceptional aptitude may not demonstrate outstanding levels of achievement due to environmental circumstances such as limited opportunities to learn as a result of poverty, discrimination, or cultural barriers; due to physical or learning disabilities; or due to motivational or emotional problems. This dichotomy between potential for and demonstrated achievement has implications for schools as they design programs and services for gifted students.

Nearly every state has its own definition of gifted and talented students. Some define giftedness based on a comparison to others of the same age. Others base the definition on needs beyond what is offered in the regular classroom. The state of Arizona’s definition can be downloaded here. To compare Arizona to other state definitions, please visit www.nagc.org.

The Federal Definition of Gifted and Talented

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 such areas 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.

Identification

The purpose of identifying gifted and talented students is to ensure these learners receive gifted education services commensurate with their academic abilities and potentials.

Arizona is fortunate to have a law mandating gifted education services to students who score at or above the 97th percentile on a verbal, quantitative, and/or non- verbal battery of a state approved test.  A district must offer testing three times a year.  (ARS §15-779.02)

The list of approved tests and more information about the law can be found at http://www.azed.gov/gifted-education/

Programs and services to meet the needs of identified students vary from district to district and may include, but are not limited to:

Cluster class placement
Gifted self-contained classrooms
Pull-out programs
Acceleration in one or more subject areas
Flexible grouping within or between classrooms
Differentiated curriculum and instruction
Advanced placement classes
Honors classes
International Baccalaureate Program

For specific programs and services, a district may use additional data and information to screen students.  Please check with your local school district for more information about the identification and placement process.

Teachers who work with gifted learners must be provided with professional development support based on a plan outlined within a school district’s Scope and Sequence for Gifted Education.  Teachers whose primary responsibility is teaching gifted learners must have, or be working toward earning an Arizona Gifted Education K-12 Endorsement.  http://www.azed.gov/gifted-education/teacher-resources/

Testing

Arizona is fortunate to have a law mandating gifted education services to students who score at or above the 97th percentile on a verbal, quantitative, and/or non- verbal battery of a state approved tests. A district must offer testing three times a year. (ARS §15-779.02)

Click here for a list of approved tests and more information about the law can be found at www.azed.gov/gifted-education

Parents can find many conflicting viewpoints about the formal testing of preschoolers. Most experts argue against routine early testing. Nancy Robinson, Ph.D. from the University of Washington, wrote, “Testing is never warranted unless it will make a difference in a student’s life.” Testing simply to obtain a score is unwise. The effort is costly, and, even more importantly, a lower-than-expected score runs the risk of disappointing parents and affecting their view of their child. This is particularly risky for very young children for whom there are no significant educational decisions pending, and whose scores are likely to be less stable in additional to being more heavily influenced by how the child feels that day than those obtained later on.” Teachers should be able to assess where your child is academically by assessing his or her content knowledge and through classroom observation. To read more about identifying gifted children at a young age, please visit www.nagc.org.

Gifted Standards

NAGC has developed national standards in programming and services and teacher preparation to guide high-quality education for the nation’s estimated 3 to 5 million gifted and talented students, ensuring that highly able learners are recognized and subsequently served through systematic programming is the highest priority. Click here to read more about the gifted standards for teacher preparation and program / services standards.

Classroom teachers are the primary agent for identifying and serving gifted and talented students in our nation’s schools. Ensuring that highly able learners are recognized and subsequently served through systematic programming is of the highest priority. It is critical that all teachers are able to recognize a high-ability student who may need more depth and complexity in instruction or be referred for further assessment and services.  Teachers in specialized programs for gifted learners or those who coordinate gifted and talented programs and services should be familiar with the theory, research, curriculum strategies, and educational practices necessary to developing and sustaining classroom-based opportunities for advanced student learning.  The standards provided here — for teacher preparation, Pre-K to 12 gifted education programs and services, and knowledge and skills for all teachers — will assist in improving teaching and deepening student learning.

NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards In Gifted Education

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approved new Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education in December 2013 for use in reviewing programs as part of the national accreditation process.  The revised standards were developed jointly by NAGC, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the Association for the Gifted (CEC-TAG).  The 2013 standards, which are the foundation for the knowledge and skills in which teacher candidates demonstrate competency, as determined by the field of gifted education, are used by college and university teacher preparation programs in gifted education and are a model for district-based professional development programming.

Advanced Standards In Gifted Education Teacher Training

Many educators in gifted education continue their professional growth toward mastery of advanced professional standards to help prepare them for leadership roles in gifted education. The Advanced Standards lay out the knowledge and skills that teachers in gifted education should master as part of their preparation for advanced professional practice.

Knowledge & Skill Standards In Gifted & Talented Education For All Teachers

Few general teacher preparation programs provide instruction on the needs of gifted and talented students, and as a result, the majority of teachers in classrooms today have not been trained to meet the learning needs of these students.  As teacher preparation programs acknowledge the importance of all teacher candidates being able to recognize and address the specialized learning requirements for gifted children, NAGC has developed the Knowledge and Skill Standards for their use, as well as for others involved in training all teachers already in the classroom.  These knowledge and skill standards present the primary understanding of the issues, learning differences, and strategies that all teachers should possess. The Knowledge and Skill Standards in Gifted and Talented Education were drawn from the NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards.

Myths About Giftedness

As parents of gifted children, you may have been told gifted children do not need any special services, or that giftedness cannot be truly identified until a student is older, or that only model students are gifted, or that all children are gifted. As an educator, you may have been told it never hurts to teach a gifted student what they already know or that teaching gifted children is easy because they’re so smart. All myths.

The National Association for Gifted Children compiled a list of the most prevalent myths in gifted education with evidence rebutting each of them. This list was developed from a longer list of myths explored in a special of Gifted Child Quarterly (GCQ) in the Fall of 2009. NAGC Members can read the full issue of GCQ via the SAGE website.

Myth:

Gifted Students Don’t Need Help; They’ll Do Fine On Their Own

Truth:

Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.

Myth:

Gifted Students Make Everyone Else In The Class Smarter By Providing A Role Model Or A Challenge

Truth:

Average or below-average students do not look to the gifted students in the class as role models. Watching or relying on someone who is expected to succeed does little to increase a struggling student’s sense of self-confidence.2Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels and become bored, frustrated, and unmotivated when placed in classrooms with low or average-ability students.

Myth:

Teachers Challenge All The Students, So Gifted Kids Will Be Fine In The Regular Classroom

Truth:

Although teachers try to challenge all students they are frequently unfamiliar with the needs of gifted children and do not know how to best serve them in the classroom. A national study conducted by the Fordham Institute found that 58% of teachers have received no professional development focused on teaching academically advanced students in the past few years and 73% of teachers agreed that “Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school – we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive. This report confirms what many families have known: not all teachers are able to recognize and support gifted learners.1

Myth:

All Children Are Gifted

Truth:

All children have strengths and positive attributes, but not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word. The label “gifted” in a school setting means that when compared to others his or her age or grade, a child has an advanced capacity to learn and apply what is learned in one or more subject areas, or in the performing or fine arts. This advanced capacity requires modifications to the regular curriculum to ensure these children are challenged and learn new material. Gifted does not connote good or better; it is a term that allows students to be identified for services that meet their unique learning needs.

Myth:

Acceleration Placement Options Are Socially Harmful For Gifted Students

Truth:

Academically gifted students often feel bored or out of place with their age peers and naturally gravitate towards older students who are more similar as “intellectual peers.” Studies have shown that many students are happier with older students who share their interest than they are with children the same age.3Therefore, acceleration placement options such as early entrance to Kindergarten, grade skipping, or early exit should be considered for these students.

Myth:

Gifted Education Programs Are Elitist

Truth:

Gifted education programs are meant to help all high-ability students. Gifted learners are found in all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups. However, many of these students are denied the opportunity to maximize their potential because of the way in which programs and services are funded, and/or flawed identification practices. For example, reliance on a single test score for gifted education services may exclude selection of students with different cultural experiences and opportunities. Additionally, with no federal money and few states providing an adequate funding stream, most gifted education programs and services are dependent solely on local funds and parent demand. This means that in spite of the need, often only higher-income school districts are able to provide services, giving the appearance of elitism.

Myth:

Gifted Students Are Happy, Popular, And Well Adjusted In School

Truth:

Many gifted students flourish in their community and school environment. However, some gifted children differ in terms of their emotional and moral intensity, sensitivity to expectations and feelings, perfectionism, and deep concerns about societal problems. Others do not share interests with their classmates, resulting in isolation or being labeled unfavorably as a “nerd.” Because of these difficulties, the school experience is one to be endured rather than celebrated.

Myth:

This Child Can’t Be Gifted, He Has A Disability

Truth:

Some gifted students also have learning or other disabilities. These “twice-exceptional” students often go undetected in regular classrooms because their disability and gifts mask each other, making them appear “average.” Other twice-exceptional students are identified as having a learning disability and as a result, are not considered for gifted services. In both cases, it is important to focus on the students’ abilities and allow them to have challenging curricula in addition to receiving help for their learning disability.4

Myth:

That Student Can’t Be Gifted, He Is Receiving Poor Grades

Truth:

Underachievement describes a discrepancy between a student’s performance and his actual ability. The roots of this problem differ, based on each child’s experiences. Gifted students may become bored or frustrated in an unchallenging classroom situation causing them to lose interest, learn bad study habits, or distrust the school environment. Other students may mask their abilities to try to fit in socially with their same-age peers and still others may have a learning disability that masks their giftedness. No matter the cause, it is imperative that a caring and perceptive adult help gifted learners break the cycle of underachievement in order to achieve their full potential.

Myth:

Our District Has A Gifted And Talented Program: We Have AP Courses

Truth:

While AP classes offer rigorous, advanced coursework, they are not a gifted education program. The AP program is designed as college-level classes taught by high school teachers for students willing to work hard. The program is limited in its service to gifted and talented students in two major areas: First AP is limited by the subjects offered, which in most districts is only a small handful. Second it is limited in that, typically, it is offered only in high school and is generally available only for 11th and 12th grade students. The College Board acknowledges that AP courses are for any student who is academically prepared and motivated to take a college-level course.

Myth:

Gifted Education Requires An Abundance Of Resources

Truth:

Offering gifted education services does not need to break the bank. A fully developed gifted education program can look overwhelming in its scope and complexity. However, beginning a program requires little more than an acknowledgement by district and community personnel that gifted students need something different, a commitment to provide appropriate curriculum and instruction, and teacher training in identification and gifted education strategies.