Nationwide, less than 7 percent of U.S. students participate in gifted education programs, according to an analysis of the most recent 2014 federal civil rights data.
In part, that’s because states and districts use different tests and criteria to identify students as gifted or talented. But it’s also because some states have a far greater percentage of schools that even offer gifted education programs than do others, as the chart below shows.
That’s based on an Education Week Research Center analysis of the 2014 federal Civil Rights Data Collection. The data are state-reported to the U.S. Department of Education for K-12 public school grades, though gifted programs tend to focus on grades 3-8, and the office for civil rights asks separate questions about high school Advanced Placement and International Bacchalaureate programs. (This analysis does not include juvenile justice facilities.)
According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Gifted Education, 23 out of the 42 states studied required schools to serve gifted students in at least some grade levels, but oversight of those programs ranged from audits and accountability report cards to basic program reports or nothing at all.
In schools that do have gifted education, black and Latino students and those who are English-language learners are disproportionately less likely to be tapped for the programs than white or Asian students.
States and districts may soon have more incentive to support gifted education in all schools. Starting in the 2017-18 school year, the Every Student Succeeds Act requires schools to report the number of their students performing at the advanced academic level, not just those who are academically proficient and below, and to include advanced-achievement data for specific student groups.
As New York gifted educator Angela Abend recently wrote for Education Week:
The need for gifted education programs in our public schools ... far surpasses the need for our gifted children to just be challenged academically. Gifted children do deserve stimulating school work that offers opportunities for them to stretch beyond what they already know and/or can learn very quickly. Their ability to think divergently needs to be celebrated while gifted students must also be challenged to develop appropriate growth mindsets at an early stage of their scholastic developments."
You can read more on state access gaps in gifted education—and how one Oklahoma district is working to make its gifted programs more equitable across schools, here.
Chart: An Education Week Research Center analysis of the 2014 federal Civil Rights Data Collection found Virginia led the nation in having access to gifted education at 90 percent of its schools.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.