WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and John Boozman of Arkansas have introduced legislation that makes certain the needs of high ability students are included in federal education policy. The bipartisan proposal is the TALENT Act, or the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act.
"Federal education policy tends to overlook high potential students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds," Grassley said. "Often these kids aren’t challenged and they might even drop out of school, when they could excel with the right encouragement. Our bill would give attention to the students who are bright and capable but are in danger of falling through the cracks."
"As we look at how best to support jobs and opportunity to help middle class families get ahead and not just get by, we must look at how best to educate the children who will make up tomorrow’s workforce," Mikulski said. "I believe that all children deserve a chance to reach their full potential. Children with great potential need to have great opportunities. We need to be able to engage and encourage these high-ability and high-potential students, and hold them to high standards. This legislation will help ensure we educate and prepare these students well so that our nation’s brightest minds will get brighter each year and will not stagnate."
"We must train our teachers to identify and encourage gifted and high-ability learners, particularly in underserved communities,” Casey said. "The potential of our children must be maximized for their sake and for the sake of our long-term economic growth. This bipartisan legislation can help students with disabilities and those in rural communities get the instruction they need so they can be on the path to a successful life."
"Highly gifted students and their parents can face unique challenges, especially in high-poverty schools," Whitehouse said. "When these gifted students don’t receive the support they need, their potential can be stifled. The TALENT Act would help ensure that gifted students can learn and grow to their full potential."
"Any education policy pushed out of Washington should be about giving states and local school districts the tools they need to offer all our children the highest quality education," Boozman said. "Instead of creating a new one-size-fits-all mandate to address the problem, we propose empowering teachers with options that will help them recognize and respond to the needs of high ability students."
The senators said the provisions in their bill are designed to correct a shortage of attention given to high ability students, especially those students in underserved settings, including rural communities. The legislation would include these students in the school, district, and state planning processes that exist already under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The legislative proposal would specify that educators address the special learning needs of various populations of students, including gifted and high ability learners. The measure also stipulates that existing teacher-quality grants would be used to help improve the achievement of all students, including gifted and talented students. This would help general education teachers and other school personnel better understand how to recognize and respond to the needs of high ability students.
The senators said their bill also builds upon goals set in current law as part of the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act by encouraging education policy makers to continue to explore and test strategies to identify and serve high ability students from underserved groups. The senators said these strategies should subsequently be put in the hands of teachers nationwide.
The National Association for Gifted Children, the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Center for Learning Disabilities support the TALENT Act.