Senator Chuck Grassley yesterday praised key Senate committee passage of legislation to identify and serve high ability students from underserved groups. Grassley is the lead sponsor of the TALENT Act, or the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers Act. Much of the TALENT Act was included in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the chief law governing the federal role in K-12 education. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA was the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2001 and expired in 2007.
“Federal education policy tends to overlook high potential students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Grassley said. “Often these kids aren’t challenged and they might even drop out of school, when they could excel with the right encouragement. Giving attention to the students who are bright and capable but are in danger of falling through the cracks is an important achievement.
Grassley praised the HELP Committee for including provisions from his bill that 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 specifies that educators should have the skills to 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.
The HELP Committee also included a reauthorization of the current Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, which is focused on exploring and testing strategies to identify and serve high ability students from underserved groups. By putting these strategies in the hands of teachers nationwide, schools will be able to identify high ability students who are not being adequately served and develop their talents to their full potential.
The provision extending the Javits Act passed through an amendment sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is one of the lead authors, with Grassley, of the TALENT Act. Other provisions of the TALENT Act were included in the underlying bill negotiated between Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray as a result of the advocacy of Grassley and Mikulski.
“I thank Sen. Mikulski for her work in committee to advance the goals of the TALENT Act,” Grassley said. “She deserves a great deal of credit for the fact that the main components of our legislation were included in the Every Child Achieves Act. I look forward to full Senate consideration of the education legislation passed out of the HELP Committee.”
Supporting the TALENT Act are the National Association for Gifted Children, the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the American Psychological Association.