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Gifted Education in Pennsylvania

April 23, 2024 12:00 AM
By: PDE Press and Communications Office

​The Commonwealth is a mosaic of many different talents, backgrounds, abilities, and dreams. We take pride in Pennsylvania’s history and the ability to celebrate all who call it home and help make it a welcoming, enjoyable place to live. One of our greatest strengths? Our students who make up the generations of current and future Pennsylvanians, and the educators who help prepare them for success in an ever-changing, ever-growing Commonwealth. 

Education is a key part of our ever-evolving state, and even though it is just one of Pennsylvania’s bustling sectors, millions of people contribute and make our schools, libraries, colleges and universities, preschools, and childcare facilities what they are today, teaching some of Pennsylvania’s youngest learners all the way through our most experienced learners. All learners have different skill levels, abilities, and interests, so it’s important that we have educators and activities to accommodate all different types of learners. 

Here at PDE, we know a lot about education. The mission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is to ensure that every learner has access to a world-class education system that academically prepares children and adults to succeed as productive citizens. Further, PDE seeks to establish a culture that is committed to improving opportunities throughout the commonwealth by ensuring that technical support, resources, and optimal learning environments are available for all students, whether children or adults. 

One of the ways schools help PDE to provide opportunities to students, is by offering various types of programs like gifted education. 

Gifted education dates back thousands of years. Plato advocated for providing specialized education for intellectually gifted individuals, China’s Tang Dynasty summoned child prodigies for specialized education, and throughout the Renaissance individuals who exhibited exceptional talent in art, architecture, and literature were supported with programs by both the government and private patronage. 

Not only has gifted education been around for thousands of years, but it exists in countries around the world. Countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Iran, Turkey, and more have programs both in and out of schools to provide assistance and enrichment for talented and gifted students.  

Gifted education in the United States, and Pennsylvania, largely began in 1957 after the Russian Sputnik launch. Following this, the United States Department of Education began funding programs to find intelligent individuals who would best profit the math, science, and technology fields. By the 1970s, the US began to think more broadly about gifted education to include not only academic achievement, but also leadership ability, visual and performing arts, creative thinking skills, are other more widely defined benchmarks.  

In PA, the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE) have worked to better provide ongoing support for school districts to develop and support gifted education programs.  

Today, in Pennsylvania and much of the United States, the main approaches to gifted education are enrichment and acceleration. Just like every individual in the Commonwealth has different needs and abilities, many students in our schools have different needs and abilities, one such need being classwork or projects that help keep their minds active and enriched.  

Other ways that gifted education can be supported in the classrooms is by providing enriching projects that don’t just explore how an idea works, but why and how the idea can be applied to real world ideas. This allows students to think more critically and openly about different subject areas, as well as provide them with valuable lessons that will better serve learners in higher education or in the workforce. 

As we reflect on the rich tapestry of Pennsylvania’s learning landscape, we can see that the commitment to nurturing gifted learners is part of our diverse educational history. Together, regardless of background, we can continue to allow all learners to thrive by providing them with personalized attention and enrichment to grow them into the leaders of tomorrow!  

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