Fully Developing the Potential of Academically Advanced Students

A new AEI paper by Jonathan Wai and Frank C. Worrell, “Fully Developing the Potential of Academically Advanced Students: Helping Them Will Help Society” argues that gifted students are often left out of education reform conversations. In the $59.8 billion 2015 federal education budget, one dollar was spent on gifted and talented education for every $500,000 spent on everything else. This lack of investment in talented students is remarkable, given their importance to maintaining national competitiveness, increasing gross domestic product, and enhancing societal innovation through developments in science, technology, engineering, and math; artificial intelligence; cybersecurity; and big data.

The authors review evidence for the disproportionate positive contributions of academically talented students to society and the economy, show that the talents of academically advanced students are relatively underdeveloped, and suggest that universal testing and appropriate educational interventions be provided. They argue that this would help identify and challenge advanced students, narrow opportunity gaps, and enhance societal innovation.

Key points

  • Much of education policy is focused on finding effective ways to help the majority of students, especially those who struggle academically. Advanced learners are frequently left out of education reform conversations, even though talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds have lower achievement than they should.
  • Research shows that academically advanced students contribute disproportionately to societal innovation and gross domestic product (GDP) as adults. Even a small investment in advanced learners would result in huge payoffs in innovation, GDP, and national competitiveness.
  • The opportunity gap between talented resource-rich and resource-poor students has broad implications for our society and our economy. Even if we do not fund gifted education proportionately, at the very least we should identify and target more resources toward low-income, disadvantaged, and spatially talented students.

To download the paper, please visit: http://www.aei.org/publication/fully-developing-the-potential-of-academically-advanced-students-helping-them-will-help-society/