Gifted and Talented

Gifted and Talented

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay about educatrional options for gifted and talented students. Written for HIS 324: History of American Education.


Gifted and Talented



Researching the topic for this discussion took me back to my own elementary school years, as I saw myself in nearly every article I read.  It is profoundly difficult for me to even imagine a good reason to not support separate programs for gifted and talented students in public schools, because I attended school in a district that did not "believe in acceleration" (Kearney, 1996, para. 21).  Still, I made an honest effort to find research that did not support separate programs for gifted and talented students.  There were remarkably few sources in that final group, as the majority of sources I read were overwhelmingly in support of separate programs.  Even those that offered arguments against separate programs did so only in passing, and were generally in favor of separate programs for gifted students.

Holly Hertberg-Davis (2009), writing for The Gifted Child Quarterly, observes that "gifted students are regarded as a diverse lot whose individual talents and needs cannot be met with a single 'gifted' curriculum" (para. 2).  From this observation, it may be construed that placing gifted students in a dedicated gifted program may retard the development of their individual gifts.  It might me argued that such students could find greater scope to excel in a differentiated inclusionary classroom than they could find in a separate gifted classroom.

Another consideration in support of placing gifted students in inclusionary classrooms is the idea of fairness, and of improving a student's self esteem by avoiding the stigma of being segregated from the student population for being different from the student's age-mates.  Glenn Hartz (2000), in an article for the Christian Science Monitor, notes that "the idea behind [the inclusion] movement is the notion, popular in the realm of politics, that fairness means equality.  Exclusion of any kind somehow means we value certain students more or less than others" (para. 6).  In our age of "everyone wins" sports programs and non-traditional grading practices (such as replacing the A-F grading scale with E, S, and N, for "exceeds expectations," "satisfactory progress," and "needs improvement"), it has become more important than ever before to shelter every child from ever being better, worse, or different from any child, and to ensure that no child's ego is ever bruised.

One argument in support of separate programs for gifted students is that teachers in inclusionary classrooms are not appropriately trained to meet the needs of gifted students.  In a 1994 study by Reis, Renzulli, and Westberg, it was reported that "61% of public school teachers and 54% of private school teachers at the elementary level reported that they had never had any training in teaching gifted students" (cited in Culcross, 1997, para. 10).  As a result of this lack of teacher training, "[m]ost regular classroom teachers make few, if any, provisions for talented students" (U.S. Department of Education, 1993, cited in Kearney, 1996, para. 23).  Hertberg-Davis (2009), sums up the problem of insufficient teacher training:

For all these reasons - lack of sustained teacher training in the specific philosophy and methods of differentiation, underlying beliefs prevalent in our school culture that gifted students do fine without any adaptations to curriculum, lack of general education teacher training in the needs and nature of gifted students, and the difficulty of differentiating instruction without a great depth of content knowledge - it does not seem that we are yet at a place where differentiation within the regular classroom is a particularly effective method of challenging our most able learners. (para. 11).

As supporters of inclusion argue the need to consider the emotional needs of gifted students, so do supporters of separate programs also offer arguments in favor of protecting the emotional needs of gifted students.  Rachel Mendleson (2009), writing for Maclean's, in reporting on the reduction in the number of gifted programs in recent years, notes that "[s]tudies have shown that gifted students, who make up about two per cent of the population, risk social alienation and boredom, which can give way to underachievement and behaviour problems" (para. 4).  M.J. Morelock (1992) reports that "[t]oo many extremely gifted children do not feel included [in full inclusion]; out-of-sync with other children developmentally, and with the cognitive capacity to know they are different ... they often find themselves in one-size-fits-all schools" (cited in Kearney, 1996, para. 30), and Ian Warwick and Matt Dickenson (2009)  agree that "[a] 'one-sized' view of G&T cannot be inclusive of all students" (para. 8).  It is important for administrators to consider the emotional and social needs of gifted students when planning educational requirements for this group.  As we see in our text, "[f]ollowing the NDEA ... [i]t was found that gifted and talented students often felt socially isolated and sometimes had difficulty in adjusting to group norms" (Pulliam and VanPatten, 2007, pp. 323-324).

As a gifted child who was hopelessly bored throughout elementary and secondary school because I was forced to participate in an inclusionary classroom setting, I strongly support special programs for gifted and talented students, to allow these students to be challenged at their own levels so that they may achieve their full academic potential.  As Richard Thompkins and Pat Deloney (2010) state in their article for Social/Emotional Development and Learning (SEDL), "gifted students are better served when they are able to work with other gifted students ... in a 'pull-out' program" (para. 11)


Culross, R.R. (1997, January/February).  Concepts of inclusion in gifted education.    Teaching Exceptional Children, 29(3), 24-26.  Retrieved January 20, 2010, from        ProQuest Education Journals database.

Hartz, G. (2000, January 11).  Inclusion or exclusion?  It all depends; [ALL Edition].  The    Christian Science Monitor, 13.  Retrieved January 20, 2010, from ProQuest   Education Journals database.

Hertberg-Davis, H. (2009, Fall).  Myth 7: Differentiation in the regular classroom is         equivalent to gifted programs and is sufficient: classroom teachers have the time, the skill, and the will to differentiate adequately.  The Gifted Child Quarterly, 53(4), 251-   253.  Retrieved January 20, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals       database.

Kearney, K. (1996).  Highly gifted children in full inclusion classrooms.  Retrieved January 19, 2010, from

Mendleson, R. (2009, March 2). No room for gifted kids.  Maclean's, 122(7), 40-41.          Retrieved January 20, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Pulliam. J.D. and VanPatten, J.J. (2007).  History of education in America.  Upper Saddle   River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thompkins, R. and Deloney, P. (2010). Concerns about and arguments against inclusion      and/or          full inclusion.  Retrieved January 19, 2010, from 

Warwick, I. and Dickenson, M. (2009, December).  Gifted and talented education -- the case for         inclusion: part 1.  Retrieved January 19, 2010, from inclusion-7708

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism welcome.

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, education, gifted, talented, gifted and talented, special education

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..