Weighing the Benefits of Placement

Placement in a gifted and talented program is widely viewed as beneficial. In addition to providing instruction that is closely tailored to the students served, eligibility signals positive judgment of the student as highly capable. At the outset of this report, we noted a paradox in special education that is not present in gifted education. Special education provides additional resources to support the achievement of eligible students, yet eligibility singles out the student’s achievement or behavior as substandard in some respect. And while instruction that is tailored to the needs of high-achieving students raises expectations for their performance, instruction tailored to low-achieving students has the potential to undermine their performance by lowering expectations. Whether placement of minority students in special education in disproportionate numbers should be viewed as a problem depends in part on whether the trade-off is worthwhile. Is special education beneficial to the students it serves? Does the benefit of special education differ for students in different racial/ethnic groups?


A rapidly growing body of research details what interventions have been demonstrated to work with students who are identified for special education. We summarize these findings below, emphasizing at the outset

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