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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

Federal Definition

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.


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

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

Slide to view programs and services that may meet the needs of your gifted student


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.

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


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

Private Gifted Testing Resources:

Beljan Psychological Services (602) 957-7600
CENTER Psychology & Consulting (602) 734-0194
Arizona Child Psychology (602) 824-8804
The Nicholls Group (480) 998-2303
The Serin Center (623) 824-5051
The Reuter Center (480) 378-6280
Phoenix Children’s Hospital (602) 933-1000
Simply Psychology, LLC (602) 428-2838

AAGT provides resources, external links/programming and a business directory as a service to members. Inclusion of these on the AAGT website, social media or newsletter does not imply any endorsement of the providers. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced resources do not necessarily state or reflect those of AAGT.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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