Meeting the needs of all students in a classroom setting can be a challenge as children come from a variety of different educational backgrounds. For the students who are considered highly able learners, additional support in order to thrive in a learning environment has been shown as important to their academic success throughout the centuries.
As teachers try to help raise learning performance among students who struggle with classroom curriculum, it is difficult to integrate more advanced curriculum that fits best for accelerated learners.
This is where Gifted and Talented programs (GT programs) come into play. While GT programs have been around since the late 1800's, they have evolved dramatically through the years. In the 1970's and 1980's, programs for gifted children became more common as legislative efforts by the federal government implemented more opportunities for accelerated learning.
More recent programs, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and standards set by the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC), outline how teachers and administrators can set up these programs and determine which students qualify.
How are students identified for GT programs?
The No Child Left Behind Act defines gifted and talented students as being able to exhibit the following:
"Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities."
The NAGC further defines standards for Gifted and Talented Education and shares that the identification process for GT programs is exhibited among students over time. Every school district designs their own policies and procedures to determine how they best assess student performance for GT programs.
Standards have been modified over the years to more completely assess how students fit into the GT programs. Most schools start by reviewing standardized test scores among other methods of identification.
How common are GT programs in schools?
Most school districts across the United States have implemented gifted programs for students though they vary by size and scope. Teachers who are trained to teach GT programs may travel between districts or be a full-time teacher at one specific school.
GT programs get mixed reviews
While gifted and talented programs have been in place for over a century, they do receive mixed reviews from teachers, parents, and education administrators. Those who support GT programs feel it necessary to help advanced learners develop without feeling held back or bored with standard classroom curriculum. Critics of GT programs suggest that these classes intensify inequality in schools and should be available to all students.
GT programs tend to focus more on hands-on learning with more individualized attention, which could benefit all students. These programs focus more on science and math materials to help challenge students for learning and development. Having these materials available for all students could offer more opportunities to help enhance learning performance for the entire classroom.