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Gifted in Arizona

By Mindy Riesenberg | Dec. 8, 2015


“There are misperceptions about what it means to be gifted. That it’s an elitist thing or an award for behavior. And it’s really not. It’s a learning difference.”

–Peter Laing
Senior Director, Gifted Education
Arizona Department of Education


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Arizona has a mandate stating that all public school districts must both identify gifted learners and provide educational programs and services for these students.

But without funding, schools are left to develop gifted programs with limited resources.

Gifted education was funded in the state for over 20 years, but in 2010 it was defunded due to fiscal budget cuts.

In over a dozen interviews with gifted programming experts ranging from educators to administrators to policy makers, an overwhelming theme was that there is a stigma that gifted children don’t need help because they are already smart and they will be “just fine.”

This makes it harder for gifted programming to compete with other programs for funding, and in many districts, it is looked at as something that is expendable.

An overview of gifted education in Arizona.

Because gifted students think and learn one way and the curriculum tends to cater to another way of learning, many of them become disengaged, contributing to Arizona’s drop out numbers.

Additionally, when children lose access to gifted programs, they sometimes find themselves not learning at all.

One mother stated that when her child finishes her work before her classmates, she is stuck helping other students when she could be learning.

As of 2015, there are 89,291 identified gifted and talented students in Arizona who rely on special programming to meet their needs.

The Arizona Department of Education recently gave the governor a budget that proposes a supplemental funding line for gifted education at the same level it was funded at before 2010.

A final decision will not be made until sometime in 2016.

Gifted education in Arizona is mandated yet unfunded.


Copy Editor | Mindy Riesenberg

Media Editor | Cory Kamerschak

Graphic Editor | Nicole DeRienzo

Web Editor | Eddie Keller

A collection of stories created by the 2015-2016 graduate students

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

555 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85004

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