Gifted education programs are often the subject of criticism based on claims that they are elitist and educationally unnecessary, consume funding and resources that would be better spent on more needy students, and cater to types of intelligence more readily identified in students from dominant cultural and socioeconomic groups. Because of these criticisms and the limitations of adequate federal and state funding to support all educational programs in a comprehensive manner, gifted education programs often are the targets of budget cuts and/or elimination.
Supporters of gifted education maintain that children who are gifted have an equal and intense need for specialized education programs as children who are underperforming their peers. The numerous studies of gifted underachievers and of the psychological and social benefits experienced by students enrolled in gifted programs provide evidence to counter the claims that the programs are elitist and unnecessary.
With regard to the underrepresentation of students from minority groups and lower socioeconomic backgrounds in gifted education programs, these discrepancies may be attributable to multiple explanations, including test bias; cultural values that may tend to limit learning in certain situations (such as attitudes against competition, sex-role stereotyping, emphasis on family over individual achievement, and disregard for education after high school); parents’ lack of knowledge of available programs and of educational rights under law; the unavailability of intelligence tests and proctors in languages other than English; the inability of teachers who do not speak the student’s language or hail from the student’s cultural background to recognize giftedness in the minority student; or teacher bias.
To aid in raising the numbers of students from underrepresented groups participating in gifted programs, some school districts and states have expanded the qualification criteria by which students are evaluated for eligibility for gifted programs. For example, rather than relying solely on an individual IQ score in the top 3 percent of the population as traditionally required for program eligibility, students may qualify based on achievement test scores, scores on tests of creativity, teacher recommendations, or a combination of these criteria. However, in states that have implemented a two-tier eligibility system (traditional eligibility criteria for majority students and alternative criteria for minority), these efforts have sustained criticisms as being unfair to majority students who are denied access to gifted programs when they have equal scores to those minority children who gain admittance under alternative criteria, and such systems have been subsequently challenged by parents and/or repealed by the courts.
- Colangelo, N., & Davis, G. A. (2002). Handbook of gifted education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- Miller, R. G. (1997). Gifted selection criteria and performance in sixth grade gifted science. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Florida International University.
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