Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland have introduced legislation to make certain the needs of high-ability students are included in federal education policy.
The bipartisan proposal is the TALENT Act -- To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act.
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.
Grassley, Casey, and Mikulski 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.
"America cannot afford to ignore the needs of its brightest students and, by doing so, squander their potential. Our legislation would make modifications to federal education policy in order to develop and encourage the high achievement that's possible for so many gifted and talented students. By doing so, it would help to enhance the future prosperity of our nation," Grassley said.
"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."
"As our nation continues to look at how best to create jobs, how best to sustain jobs and how best to support high-paying jobs, we must look at how best to educate the children who will make up tomorrow's workforce," Mikulski said. "High-ability and high-potential students need to be engaged and held to high standards. By educating and preparing our students well, we will ensure that our nation's brightest minds will get brighter each year and will not stagnate."
Mikulski and Casey serve on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Grassley has been a leading advocate in Congress for gifted and talented children. He sponsored legislation that became part of the original No Child Left Behind Act to expand the availability of gifted education services.