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Providing for Gifted Education through the No Child Left Behind Act

In 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was overhauled with a decided slant toward accountability, that is, toward making school districts responsible for students’ learning. For the parents of gifted children, the reality of this legislation (known historically as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is that it is clearly not designed for their children. The act’s provisions and funding are directed primarily at evaluating students who are deficient in basic skills and at eliciting a decided-on level of proficiency.

Parents of gifted children must be relentless in their pursuit of high-quality schooling.

However, there are funds allocated for gifted education. Parents just need to know what is available and how to ensure that their children’s school district applies for them.

To comply with the NCLB, states are required to have implemented grade-level standards in math and reading by this past school year and in science by the end of the 2005–6 school year. They must simultaneously come up with instruments to assess students’ annual progress in those subject areas and develop remediation plans for students who do not meet the grade-level standards.

While the NCLB does not seem to address the immediate learning needs of gifted students, some of its components can be used to enhance gifted programs. For example, one provision of the NCLB allows school districts to apply for grants to recruit and train teachers to work with special-needs students, including gifted students. In those grant applications, districts are required to explain the types of training that will be implemented. Parents can seek out this information and follow up with their children’s school district, first to ascertain if grant money was applied for and then to see the components of the grant that specifically address gifted education and the learning needs of gifted students.

Local schools, under the Innovative Education Programs provision, can obtain limited additional NCLB funds based on student population. Parents will want to find out how their district expects to use the money and whether a portion of it is allocated to gifted education.

Sections 5461–66 of the NCLB are known as the Javits Act, with which most parents of the gifted need to be familiar. This act provides money for research in gifted education, supports the National Research Center in Gifted Education, funds a position at the U.S. Department of Education that oversees gifted education, and allocates grant money for statewide gifted education programs and services. Parents and advocates need to ensure, by writing, e-mailing, or calling members of Congress, that the Javits Act continues to receive funding, which in 2003 amounted to $11.25 million.

Awareness of the NCLB’s provisions that apply to gifted education will help ensure that funds are allocated to appropriate programs in a timely manner. Practical ways to advocate begin with staying current on pertinent legislation, attending school board and Parent Teacher Association meetings, and educating less in-the-know parents of gifted children. It is crucial also to discuss concerns and funding for the gifted with school administrators, who are generally receptive to parental input and expertise.

—Susan Ludwig

Susan Ludwig is a teacher and freelance writer who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership, with an emphasis in exceptional student education, from Florida Atlantic University.

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