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Updated: Bipartisan TALENT Act Puts Spotlight on Gifted Students

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With schools placing so much emphasis on not leaving low-performing students behind, some advocates for gifted and high-achieving students believe these students have actually been the ones overlooked.

A bill introduced in Congress Thursday would expand the focus of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) to put a spotlight on students with needs of their own. The TALENT (To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers) Act would require that state assessments capture when students perform above grade level and report learning growth for their most advanced students on state report cards.

From a quick read of the bill's provisions, as outlined by the National Association for Gifted Children, some aspects of the measure seem to overlap with the existing Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 2001. Here's an outline of the proposal:

States would have to expand professional development opportunities for teachers in gifted education. The bill would also create a grant program for conducting school- and classroom-based research to develop innovative instructional practices.

To make sure minority students and those in rural areas—who are more likely to go unidentified when schools identify gifted students—aren't overlooked, Title I schools would have to create plans on how they would find and serve these children, including high-ability students who aren't labeled gifted. In states' Title I plans, they would have to say how they would help school districts support gifted and high-ability students and create recognition programs for districts that increase the proportion of their underserved populations of advanced students who score at advanced levels on state tests. And the Rural Education Achievement Program would be expanded to include more money and services for gifted and talented children in rural communities.

Also, the bill would establish a competitive research grant program to figure out the best ways to identify and serve gifted and high-ability students, and the U.S. secretary of education would have to collect data and report on the education of gifted and talented students.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Elton Gallegly of California and Democrat Donald Payne of New Jersey, and in the U.S. Senate by Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. It has the support of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Council for Exceptional Children.

"Too often, our society accepts the myths about students with gifts and talents, including that they will do fine on their own, even when research tells us the opposite is true," said Marilyn Friend, president of the Council for Exceptional Children. "The TALENT Act serves as a wake-up call to our nation and our educational system to recognize this forgotten student population."

Update: According to the Council for Exceptional Children, last week's budget cutting by Congress eliminated the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act.

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