In many states gifted and talented (GT) education is not an option. It is mandated by state law.
For example, Maryland law defines a gifted and talented student as “having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students” (Maryland Annotated Code §8-201).
Academic gifts and talents are not confined to math and the English language arts.
The Maryland State Department of Education asserts, “Some gifted students have a general intellectual ability to think and analyze. Others may have a specific academic ability in mathematics or science. Still others are creative thinkers who produce unique ideas and products or are highly skilled in the visual and performing arts. There are potentially gifted leaders who exhibit early in life the abilities to influence and organize others.” Not all gifts and talents can be developed in the classroom.
Gifted and talented education is not a birthright or an entitlement. It is a need for students who think and learn differently.
Gifted and talented students tend to show moral and ethical sensitivity far beyond their chronological age, and have the capacity to explore subject matter faster and in-depth. Furthermore, as the NAGC asserts, “High-ability learners span all cultures, races, classes, and backgrounds. However, our nation often fails to identify and serve the gifted students who are the most disadvantaged”
Gifted and talented education is not a means of addressing curricular deficiencies. It is an educational intervention, required by state law, for students with different learning needs.
GT is not a means of addressing the needs of the well-prepared student who finds the math and English language arts curriculum unchallenging. Math and English are subject to the mandatory NCLB testing requirements, and are, arguably, lacking in coverage of material at a depth and richness that will engage the well-prepared student or provide an adequate mastery of concepts.
Gifted and talented students are estimated to be a very small percentage of the population.
The NAGC estimates that there are approximately 3 million academically gifted children in grades K-12 in the U.S – approximately 6% of the student population.”
Author’s note/update: An excellent piece on GT education is found here. It is written by Tamara Fisher, “a K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana and President of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education.”