Controversies in Gifted Education

There are several controversies concerning gifted education.

Definition of giftedness

Many different educational authorities define giftedness differently — even if two authorities use the same IQ test to define giftedness, they may disagree on what gifted means - one may take top 2% of the population, another would take top 5% of the population. The theory of multiple intelligence would produce a different definition to the traditional IQ definition.

In Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, Susan K. Johnsen (2004) explains that gifted children all exhibit the potential for high performance in the areas included in the United States federal definition of gifted and talented students:

"The term 'gifted and talented' when used in respect to students, children, or youth means students, children, or 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 services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities."

This definition has been adopted in part or completely by the majority of the states in the United States. Most have some definition similar to that used in the State of Texas, whose definition states:
"[The phrase] 'gifted and talented student' means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment, and who:

exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area;

possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or

excels in a specific academic field." (74th legislature of the State of Texas, Chapter 29, Subchapter D, Section 29.121)

The major characteristics of these definitions are

(a) the diversity of areas in which performance may be exhibited (e.g., intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, academic)

(b) the comparison with other groups (e.g., those in general education classrooms or of the same age, experience, or environment), and

(c) the use of terms that imply a need for development of the gift (e.g., capability and potential).