News Release

Study snapshot: Do students in gifted programs perform better?

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Educational Research Association

Study: "Do Students in Gifted Programs Perform Better? Linking Gifted Program Participants to Achievement and Nonachievement Outcomes"
Authors: Christopher Redding (University of Florida), Jason A. Grissom (Vanderbilt University)

This study will be presented today at the AERA 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.
Session: On the Road to Equity: Studies of the Impact and Influences of Education Policy
Date/Time: Saturday, April 10, 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET

Main Findings:

Participating in elementary school gifted programs is associated with reading and math achievement for the average student, though the observed relationships are small. Black and low-income students do not see the academic gains that their peers experience when receiving gifted services.

There is no evidence that participating in a gifted program is related to nonachievement outcomes such as student absences, engagement in school, or whether a student leaves or stays in a school.


The authors note that the growing concerns about inequitable access have made public investment in gifted programs controversial in many school districts. However, some believe that gifted services provide necessary enrichment for exceptional students to succeed at schools.

Although prior research has shown participation in gifted programs in single school districts can have positive effects on student achievement, whether such positive effects hold on average across school districts is less clear.

For their study, the authors analyzed nationally representative data from the National Center for Educational Statistics that followed a cohort of 18,170 students who began kindergarten in the 2010-2011 school year through their elementary years.

In reading, the authors found that the typical student who ever received gifted services scores at the 78th percentile in years in which he or she does not receive services but the 80th percentile in years of service receipt. In math, the typical student scores at the 76th percentile in years he or she does not receive gifted services but the 77th percentile in years of service receipt.

Study findings indicate that Black and low-income students do not see the academic gains that their peers experience when receiving gifted services.

The authors found no evidence that gifted programs were positively related to nonachievement outcomes tested.

The study confirmed prior research that indicates Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in gifted programs, and students in gifted programs have much higher socioeconomic status. Students in gifted programs are more likely to speak English at home, be rated by their parents as having excellent health, and were slightly older when entering kindergarten.

The study does not find evidence that state policies--including the presence of a formal definition of giftedness, mandates for gifted services or identification, guidance on gifted identification, required teacher training in gifted education or monitoring of gifted programs, and funding for gifted programs--are associated with differential gains in math and reading.

"Gifted education has faced longstanding criticism that historically marginalized groups have insufficient access to gifted and talented programs," said coauthor Christopher Redding, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Florida. "Even among Black and low-income students who gain access to gifted programs, our results suggest that the benefits of gifted services may not be equally distributed."

"This amplifies questions by others about the capacity of the typical gifted program to support and enrich increasingly diverse student populations," Redding said. "We urge gifted educators to take a close look at their offerings to assess whether they are adequate for serving the needs of high-ability students from historically marginalized groups."

"State policymakers can also take steps to increase the effectiveness of gifted programs in their states, both on average and for diverse student populations," said Redding. "While our study did not find clear evidence of an association between state-level gifted policies and positive student outcomes, we suggest state policymakers closely review the guidance they provide on what gifted services should be offered and how students should be identified to receive them."

To request a copy of the working paper, or to talk to study authors, please contact AERA Communications: Tony Pals, Director of Communications,, cell: (202) 288-9333; Tong Wu, Communications Associate,, cell: (202) 957-3802


About AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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