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In 1993, the United States Department of Education published a report entitled National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent that began,

"In a broad range of intellectual and artistic endeavors, America's most talented students often fail to reach their full potential ... Despite sporadic attention over the years to the needs of bright students, most of them continue to spend time in school working well below their capabilities. The belief espoused in school reform that children from all economic and cultural backgrounds must reach their full potential has not been extended to America's most talented students. They are underchallenged and therefore underachieve."

Failing to challenge America's most talented students is not a new issue. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his famous essay on Democracy in America,

"In America a certain common level in human knowledge has been established. All minds have approached it; some by being raised to it, others by being lowered to it."

Studies show that when gifted children are challenged in special educational situations, they perform better than gifted children who remain in a regular educational situation. However, these special educational settings frequently require additional funds and, increasingly, states are reducing or eliminating the amount of state funding for gifted programs.

There is no federal mandate requiring states to educate their gifted students. Each state individually may decide whether and to what extent it will provide special services to the students who excel in their classrooms. States differ in how they define gifted children, how to fund gifted programs and how to evaluate gifted children. Some states choose not to address a public school gifted program at the state level at all.

This Issue Site will acquaint readers with state-level gifted programs and provides links to research and organizations focusing on education of gifted and talented students in order to raise awareness and understanding of this unique group within public schools.


Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 51 (Harvey C. Mansfield & Delba Winthrop ed., The University of Chicago Press 2000) (1835).

Golden, Daniel, "Brain Drain: Initiative to Leave No Child Behind Leaves Out Gifted," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 29, 2003.

National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, United States Department of Education, 1993.

Schemo, Diana Jean, "Schools, Facing Tight Budgets, Leave Gifted Programs Behind," The New York Times, March 2, 2004

What We Know About Academically Talented Students: A Sample of Our Findings, Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University, 2004.


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