Equity and Excellence: Political Forces in the Education of Gifted Students in the United States and Abroad

  • Elissa F Brown Hunter College-CUNY
  • Leigh R Wishney Teacher M.S. 101 New York City Department of Education New York, NY


Divisive rhetoric and heated political discourse surround the identification and education of gifted students and lead to opposing philosophical issues of egalitarianism versus elitism.  Researchers have long chronicled the ambivalence in the United States over the concepts of giftedness and intellectual talent (Benbow &Stanley, 1996; see also Gallagher & Weiss, 1979). 

 Gallagher (2005) suggested that the two predominant social values reflected in American education are equity and excellence: “The dual and desirable educational goals of student equity and student excellence have often been in a serious struggle for scarce resources.  Student equity ensures all students a fair short a good education.  Student excellence promises every student the right to achieve as far and as high as he or she is capable. Because the problems of equity have greater immediacy than does the long-term enhancement of excellence, this struggle has often been won by equity.” (Gallagher, 2005, p. 32). The ebbs and flows of public perceptions of equity and excellence and political and historical events have significantly impacted the evolution of the field of gifted education in the United States and abroad.  In order to understand these influences on the respective “outlier” student, it’s important to consider the context of the country, significant events, overall educational reform efforts and the implications on the education of gifted students. This article provides a backdrop of the United States’ ambivalence towards gifted education as well as provides an overview of a sample of countries as frames of reference. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.


Apr 12, 2017
How to Cite
BROWN, Elissa F; WISHNEY, Leigh R. Equity and Excellence: Political Forces in the Education of Gifted Students in the United States and Abroad. Global Education Review, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 1, apr. 2017. ISSN 2325-663X. Available at: <http://ger.mercy.edu/index.php/ger/article/view/284>. Date accessed: 25 feb. 2018.


Gifted Education; Politics of Gifted Education, International Gifted Education; Equity and Excellence