In the United States, our goal is to provide a free and appropriate education for all children. Yet children with advanced cognitive ability are likely to enter their classrooms having mastered over half of the curriculum before the first day. Gifted young people have an intense intellectual curiosity and are eager to explore and learn, but they are often destined for days filled with repetition, lack of engagement and boredom. This is a tragic circumstance for those with such great potential to change our country and our world for the better.
Advanced learners who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are especially at risk of being unidentified, underserved and thus unmotivated. Since the turn of the 20th century, educators and policy makers have grown increasingly aware of this issue, making small waves of progress at times in support of gifted students, yet nothing has taken hold.
The lack of services for these students is an issue that has been smoldering for decades and a crime for the individual and our community. According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, of the 37 states that mandate gifted youth are served, only four have programs that are fully funded, 24 are partially funded, and nine states mandate services but are not funded at all. Of the 13 states with no mandate, nine have no dollars going towards advanced learners, and five only have partially funded programs. These numbers are dismal.
As Chester Finn, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, once put it: “If we cannot bring ourselves to push smart kids as far as they can go, we will watch and eventually weep as other countries surpass us in producing tomorrow’s inventors, entrepreneurs, artists and scientists.”