Leading organizations in the field of gifted education have developed various definitions to help guide decisions about meeting the needs of gifted learners. 

Federal definition

The current definition, which is located in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, describes giftedness as “students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”

State definition

Gifted/talented participation is included in federal civil rights reports. Gifted education programs, by design, capitalize on the special cognitive needs of students and should be distinguished from enrichment activities available to all learners.

Gifted and talented children and youth are those students with outstanding abilities, identified at preschool, elementary, and secondary levels. These students are capable of high performance when compared to others of similar age, experience, and environment, and represent the diverse populations of our communities. These are students whose potential requires differentiated and challenging educational programs and/or services beyond those provided in the general school program. Students capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement or potential ability in any one or more of the following areas: general intellectual, specific academic subjects, creativity, leadership and visual and performing arts.

Performance vs. ability

Psychologist Alfred Binet and physician Theodore Simon were the first to collaborate for the purpose of quantifying intelligence to determine success in school. Most definitions of giftedness refer to capabilities, skills or competencies evidenced by high performing levels that are measurable. 

While we often use performance indicators as measures of giftedness, there are other factors that must be taken into account. A highly motivated student may outshine a gifted student who is not motivated. A child who has been exposed to many enriching opportunities at an early age may build an extensive prior-knowledge base not equally accessible to all children. A gifted child may also have a learning disability that makes it more difficult to see or measure his/her strengths.

Osseo Area Schools staff includes measures of ability and performance when identifying students for pullout service. We cast a wider net by looking through more than one lens. Superior ability or superior performance results in service for the student in the pullout program.


Jeremy Willey