Nine Research-Supported Facts About Gifted Education

by Carol Fertig

In 2008, Dr. Sally M. Reis (University of Connecticut) prepared a National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) position paper listing facts that we know to be true about gifted education.

She limited this list to include only conclusive statements that can be supported by many years of research findings about gifted education. Certainly, she could have included others; however, the idea behind this list was to collect those statements that had so much solid support, they could be considered established facts.

As I read over Dr. Reis' list, I found it frustrating that what we do in schools diverges so radically from what we know is best for gifted kids. How many gifted children attend schools where most, if not all, of the facts listed below are ignored? How many parents have heard a school administrator reject acceleration as an option for gifted kids? How many untrained general education teachers "differentiate" for gifted students by just giving them more work? How many schools ignore high-ability learners in order to myopically focus exclusively on teaching minimum skills to struggling learners?

The NAGC position paper is helpful for gifted child advocates because it explicitly establishes what we know to be true about gifted education. Let me share the information included in Dr. Reis' report:
  • The needs of gifted students are generally not met in American classrooms where the focus is most often on struggling learners and where most classroom teachers have not had the training necessary to meet the needs of gifted students.
  • Grouping gifted students together for instruction increases achievement for gifted students, and in some cases, also increases achievement for students who are achieving at average and below average levels.
  • The use of acceleration results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners.
  • The use of enrichment and curriculum enhancement results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners, as well as other students.
  • Classroom teachers can learn to differentiate curriculum and instruction in their regular classroom situations and to extend gifted education strategies and pedagogy to all content areas.
  • Gifted education programs and strategies are effective at serving gifted and high-ability students in a variety of educational settings and from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations. Gifted education pedagogy can also reverse underachievement in these students.
  • The curriculum and pedagogy of gifted programs can be extended to a variety of content areas resulting in higher achievement for both gifted and average students. Some enrichment pedagogy can benefit struggling and special needs students when implemented in a wide variety of settings.
  • Some gifted students with learning disabilities who are not identified experience emotional difficulties and seek counseling. High percentages of gifted students do underachieve, but this underachievement can be reversed. Some gifted students do drop out of high school.
  • Gifted education programs and strategies benefit gifted and talented students longitudinally, helping students increase aspirations for college and careers, determine postsecondary and career plans, develop creativity and motivation that they can apply to later work, and obtain more advanced degrees.
Read the entire NAGC position paper, "Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education." The position paper includes references to the research studies that support each of the conclusions listed above.

This blog post initially appeared on the Gifted Child Info Blog on October 19, 2009.