Examining the effects of gifted programming in mathematics and reading using the ECLS-K

Date of Completion

January 2009


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Researchers and educators have debated the benefits and possible drawbacks of gifted programming for decades. Unfortunately, little empirical evidence, particularly with a national sample, supports gifted programming effects on achievement or academic attitudes for either gifted or nongifted students. This type of research has been problematic because we cannot assign students randomly to receive gifted programming or schools randomly to provide it. Using multilevel propensity score stratification to analyze data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), this study explored the effects of school personnel-reported gifted programming in reading and mathematics in upper elementary grades on overall school achievement, on gifted students' achievement and academic attitudes, and on nongifted students' achievement and academic attitudes. The data and results represent a broad, national look at school personnel-reported gifted programming, without distinction as to type, length, or degree of programming. ^ The results indicate that, on average, gifted programming (as identified by administrators and teachers) provides no effects on reading or mathematics achievement or attitudes at the overall school level or for gifted or nongifted students (Cohen's d for each analysis < .10). No detrimental effects of providing gifted programming were found. The results suggest that if a school without a gifted program changed policies and provided one, nongifted students' achievement and academic attitudes would not change. However, the results also indicate that school personnel-reported gifted programs in reading and mathematics, on average, have no effect on gifted students' achievement or academic attitudes. ^ In light of inconsistent policies and programming practices nationwide, these results indicate that school personnel who report that they are providing a gifted program in mathematics or reading may not be providing an effective program in terms of achievement or academic attitudes. Therefore, stakeholders must consider whether research-based programs, instructional practices, and curricula are being implemented to serve gifted students. Future research must be conducted to determine which programs and curricula are effective at improving gifted students' achievement and academic attitudes. Furthermore, school personnel and parents should identify research-based practices and curricula to use with gifted children to increase their reading and mathematics achievement. ^