Do you know your state’s policies regarding gifted education? Do some states do a better job of addressing the needs of their brightest students? Who oversees gifted education in your state? If you do not know, a recent survey of practices nationwide may provide you with a useful overview.
In preparation for developing state policy and legislative initiatives for gifted education, the Tennessee Initiative for Gifted Education Reform (TIGER) conducted a survey on the state-level governance of K–12 gifted and talented education in all 50 states. TIGER received 114 responses. Of the 80 respondents who identified their affiliations, 16 worked for state departments of education, 13 were affiliated with a college or university, 11 were K–12 teachers, and 40 were members of state advocacy groups. No attempt was made to verify the information they provided, so corroboration may be needed.
Survey questions of particular interest to parents include the following:
- Which states have a full-time gifted education director? Twenty-one states reported that they do. Many states acknowledged that the person responsible for gifted education also had other responsibilities in the department of education; therefore only a portion of his or her time is spent on gifted education issues.
- Is identification of gifted and talented students mandated within the state? Thirty-two states answered yes. Some reported, however, that the mandate is often disregarded due to the lack of programs for gifted students. Also, some states leave the process and procedures of identification to individual school districts.
- Are gifted and talented accommodations or services mandated? Thirty states said yes. Some report that such programs and services are funded through grants. In other words, a state can mandate the services, but individual school districts are left to obtain the necessary funding to implement the programs.
- Are school districts required to have gifted education program plans approved by the state?Nineteen states reported such a requirement. Even so, the plans can vary widely from district to district.
- What percent of the student population is identified as gifted and talented? The seventeen states responding reported varying percentages, ranging from a low of 6 to a high of 21 percent of their student population as gifted. The percentage depends on the types of giftedness that are recognized and the methods used in the identification process.
- How much does the state spend on gifted education? Fifteen states spend between $5 million and $121 million, and 31 states spend less than $1 million. Some states fund gifted and talented programs at the local level. Some states use formulas that incorporate a fixed dollar amount per identified student (usually when students are categorized under special education), while others designate a lump sum for services.
- Does the state have teacher certification in gifted and talented education? Twenty-six states reported that they do. The requirements vary from state to state. Some states require a substantial amount of college coursework or even a master’s degree, while others accept staff development and workshops toward credit for endorsement.
- Are gifted and talented students entitled to education plans? Eleven states said that they were. The decision regarding this policy is often left up to the district. These plans often consist of predeveloped forms and/or checklists.
The survey reveals many frustrations with and variations among state policies regarding gifted education. Problems mentioned by many respondents include inadequate funding, permissive state regulations regarding identification and programming, inadequate teacher preparation, the absence of education plans, the lack of full-time state gifted directors, dissatisfaction with the current state definition of giftedness, insufficient protections for parents advocating for their children, and excessive paperwork.
—Kristen R. Stephens, PhD
Kristen R. Stephens is educational outreach coordinator at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and adjunct assistant professor in the Program in Education at Duke.
About your state’s gifted education policies; download a free copy of the report at tigernetwork.blogspot.com
- Gifted Children and the Law: Mediation, Due Process, and Court Cases, by Frances A. Karnes and Ronald G. Marquardt, Ohio Psychology Press, 1991
- Stand Up for Your Gifted Child: How to Make the Most of Kids’ Strengths at School and at Home, by Joan Franklin Smutny, Free Spirit, 2000