The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) reports that accelerated and enrichment programs can provide gifted students with the support they need to continuously progress in their education. However, school systems are not always willing or able to challenge and nurture students with exceptional abilities and talents. The pros and cons of providing these services have been the topic of debate for years.
What Is Gifted and Talented Education?
According to NAGC , “Students with gifts and talents perform — or have the capability to perform — at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential.”
Although the NAGC sets the standards for Gifted and Talented Education (GTE), including the methodologies, practices and theories that inform GTE, definitions vary by state, district and school, as do approaches to GTE. While there are no universally agreed upon criteria or determination of what “higher level” means, children who perform exceptionally well on academic and skills-oriented performance tests or who have high abilities in learning and assimilating information are often considered gifted.
There are many forms of GTE, and gifted students benefit from a variety of approaches depending on their grade level and school district or state. Services range from simple (encouraging extracurricular activities) to complex (entire courses, schools and summer programs designed for gifted students). When done right, GTE programming can help gifted students unlock their potential and grow academically and socially. However, another school of thought holds that all students should receive similar opportunities for individualized support and encouragement.
What Are the Pros?
Those who advocate for GTE argue that gifted education is equalizing education, as it offers students who are not challenged in their grade-level classes opportunities to advance and grow. In the 1970s, The Marland Report claimed that gifted students were likely to become “mental dropouts” who did not develop their abilities due to misplacement. A study that correlates GTE programs with brighter futures found that 63% of students who received GTE services went on to earn terminal degrees (master’s and above).
In addition, many students who receive GTE services are successful in multiple areas, including academics, the arts and high-impact careers. They also maintain their creative interests over time and stay involved in creative pursuits long after they leave school. Overall, GTE benefits every student it serves.
What Are the Cons?
The absence of consistent definitions of giftedness or placement strategies for gifted and talented students can leave many students out, and there is increasing concern among educators that GTE excludes students who have not been deemed naturally gifted. Assessments are often based on teacher recommendation and standardized testing, but studies suggest that this approach leaves out students with untapped potential.
Another criticism of GTE programming is the common assumption that giftedness is natural rather than developed. Educator and entrepreneur Matthew Mugo Fields suggests that modern technology enables educators to offer all students individualized programming and opportunities to foster their creative passions, develop their abilities, and receive tailored education plans. He proposes redirecting funding for GTE to programming that can adapt to every student and offer them the same type of support that gifted students receive.
At the core of the debates is the need for individualized assessment and education that provides appropriate instructions, curriculum and support. Earning a Master of Science in Education in Gifted, Talented, and Creative online from Arkansas State University provides educators with graduate-level programming and coursework based on the recommendations of professional and accrediting organizations.
Learn more about A-State’s MSE in Gifted, Talented, and Creative online program.