Gifted Talented education is a broad term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented. There is no standard global definition of what a gifted student is. It is estimated by the National Association for Gifted Children in the United States that there are approximately three million academically gifted children in grades K-12 in America, accounting for approximately six percent of the student population. Although there is no federal agency or organization collecting these statistics, the number is generated based on an estimate dating back to the 1972 Marland Report to Congress, which estimated five to seven percent of school children are "capable of high performance" and in need of "services or activities not normally provided by the school."
The way in which a pupil is judged as being in need of Gifted Talented Education varies from state to state. In the past, the traditional gifted child was one who possessed exceptional reading and writing skills - talents everyone could see. This usually meant children who scored well on standardized tests. However, new definitions of intelligence have in turn stretched the definition of giftedness and talent. This is due to each educational authority having their own definition, even when using the same IQ test, which results in discrepancies in who is judged to be a gifted pupil appearing within a state, district, or school. In the United States, each state department of education determines if the needs of gifted students will be addressed as a mandatory function of public education. If a state does not consider gifted education mandatory, individual districts may, thus the definition of what gifted is varies from state or district.
In contrast with special education, gifted education is not regulated on a federal level, although recommendations by the US Department of Education are offered. As such, funding for services is not consistent from state to state, and although students may be identified, the extent to which they receive services can vary widely depending upon a state or district's budget. Although most states are not required by law to provide an individualized education program addressing their needs, many actually do so. Director of gifted programs at Baylor School of Education Susan K. Johnsen explains in her book Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide (2004) that gifted children all exhibit the potential for high performance in the areas included in the federal definition of gifted and talented students: "The term ‘gifted and talented' when used in respect to students, children, or youth means (those who show) evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities."
In 2002, Congress allocated $7.5 million for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, which funds the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented and funds grants focusing on identifying and serving students who are traditionally under-represented in specific programs – namely, students from culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse backgrounds. It defines gifted and talented students as "those identified by professionally qualified persons who, by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance." The major characteristics of the above definitions are the diversity of areas in which performance may be exhibited including intellectual, creative or academic aptitude. The comparison with other groups such as being in the same class, education level or from a similar environment and lastly, the use of terms including capability, implies a need for development of gifted children.