Policymakers, educators, and parents want assurance that the nation’s gifted and talented students receive instruction that is sufficiently challenging and that will allow these students to reach their full potential.
Recent studies of gifted and talented programs indicate that the extent and quality of services available to gifted students varies from state to state, district to district, and even from school to school within school districts. Overall, the field knows little about how gifted and talented programs are implemented in schools, how long students participate and at what level of intensity, and whether these programs are effective in improving students’ academic outcomes. In addition, students of particular racial and ethnic backgrounds (i.e., African American, Hispanic or Latino, and Native American), students from lower income families, and students from small-town or rural communities are disproportionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. These students are less likely to be identified as gifted and talented in early elementary school, and those who are identified are less likely to have access to or persist in programs or activities for gifted and talented students as they progress through the K-12 system.
With funding authorized through the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (PR/Award #R305C140018) launched the National Center for Research on Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut to address these issues. During the first three years (Phase 1), the Center examined the extent of gifted programming and student participation in three states; identifying districts and schools that showed high achievement growth rates among gifted students, including those from underserved groups; and exploring how these sites successfully identified, served, and retained students from underrepresented groups in gifted programs. The Exploratory Phase 1 work focused on identifying gifted and talented programs that had a strong commitment to identifying and serving students from underrepresented groups and that showed promise for improving student outcomes. In Phase 2 (Year 4 and 5), we are examining the effect of attending dedicated gifted classes in core content areas on students’ academic achievement in reading/language arts and mathematics in a large, ethnically, economically, and linguistically diverse urban school district by comparing the reading/language arts and mathematics achievement of gifted students in three different settings: schools offering a full-time gifted-only program with gifted classes in all subject areas, schools offering a part-time gifted-only program with gifted classes in mathematics, and schools offering a part-time gifted-only program with gifted classes in reading/language arts. The Center’s work extends over a total of 5 years (approximately 3 years for Phase 1, and 2 years for Phase 2).