Academic journal article Exceptional Children

State Definitions for the Gifted and Talented Revisited

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

State Definitions for the Gifted and Talented Revisited

Article excerpt

Over the years, additions and deletions of terminology and categories have transformed the federal definitions. The terms "giftedness and gifted" have been considered obsolete at times as educators and legislators try to shed the elitist attitudes and stereotypes associated with these terms. Regardless, the importance of having a strong and suitable definition is evident in part because limited funding is available for educational programs, and a description of the characteristics and needs of these extraordinary students is mandatory to ensure that they receive appropriate educational experiences. This article provides a historical overview of federal definitions for the gifted and presents each state's past and current definitions to assist state consultants, teachers, state legislators, boards of education, school administrators, parents, policymakers, and other concerned citizens in making informed decisions regarding the appropriate education for gifted students.


The federal definition of "gifted and talented students" has progressed through several transitions over the years, serving as a guide for states as they develop their definitions and policies regarding gifted education. One of the first federal definitions for gifted and talented students appeared in The Education Amendments of 1969 (U.S. Congress, 1970) which stated:

   The term `gifted and talented children' means in accordance with objective
   criteria prescribed by the Commissioner, children who have outstanding
   intellectual ability or creative talent, the development of which requires
   special activities or services not ordinarily provided by local education

In 1972, Sidney Marland, then Commissioner of Education, modified the above definition to:

   Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally
   qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of
   high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational
   programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular
   school program in order to realize their contributions to self and society.

   Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated and/or
   potential ability in any of the following areas, singly or in combination:

      * General intellectual ability

      * Specific academic aptitude

      * Creative or productive thinking

      * Leadership ability

      * Ability in the visual or performing arts

      * Psychomotor ability (Marland, 1972, p.5)

In 1978, the Marland definition, as the 1972 definition came to be called, was modified once again to:

   [T]he term "gifted and talented children" means children and, whenever
   applicable, youth, who are identified at the preschool, elementary, or
   secondary level as possessing demonstrated or potential abilities that give
   evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual,
   creative, specific academic or leadership ability or in the performing and
   visual arts and who by reason thereof require services or activities not
   ordinarily provided by the school. (Purcell, 1978, P. L. 95-561, Title IX,
   sec. 902)

This 1978 modification saw the exclusion of psychomotor ability as a category of giftedness. Furthermore, the term "preschool" was added along with "youth" to include young children and adolescents.

Senator Bill Bradley, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988 (U.S. Congress, 1988) which modified the federal definition once again to:

   The term "gifted and talented" student means children and youth who give
   evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual,
   creative, artistic or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields,
   and who require special services or activities not ordinarily provided by
   the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. … 
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