Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act

The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988 is the federal education act for gifted and talented education. The Javits Act, which was named after Senator Jacob Javits of New York for his role in promoting gifted education, defines talented and gifted students as those who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity or in specific academic fields. This entry looks at the legislation and its adequacy.

Legislation for the Gifted

Even before the Javits Act was officially enacted, the federal government was involved in gifted and talented education. In 1969, Congress dedicated an office to support gifted education. In 1972, after the publication of the Marland Report, a national report to Congress regarding the status of gifted and talented education, more attention was focused on gifted education. The Marland Report was considered a landmark study that made an important national impact, because it stressed the need to recognize diverse types of giftedness and talent. Specifically, the study identified six areas in which high potential might be manifested, including general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, visual and performing arts, and psychomotor ability. The Marland Report also influenced subsequent legislation, such as the Gifted and Talented Act enacted by Congress in 1978. Finally, in 1988, the Javits Act was passed to coordinate programs to meet the special educational needs of gifted and talented students.

In 1994, amid concerns over the state of America’s public schools, the Javits Act was reauthorized in order to build a nationwide capability in elementary and secondary schools to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. The reauthorization came after a 1993 study released from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement indicated that the regular school curriculum does not challenge gifted and talented students. This report also noted that American students did poorly on international tests when compared with students in other industrialized countries.

Most recently, the U.S. Congress reauthorized the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act as Title V, Part D, Subpart 6 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Javits Act is the only federal program that focuses specifically on the needs of gifted and talented students. This legislation supports the development of gifted and talented students by reauthorizing the U.S. Department of Education to fund competitive grants involving research into gifted and talented education. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, the grants are awarded to state and local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and other public and private agencies. Priority funding is given to efforts to serve students from underresourced backgrounds, disabled students, and limited-English-proficient students. At the national level, the Javits program funds the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, which is run by the University of Connecticut and the University of Virginia.

Adequacy Issues

The Javits program must be funded every year by Congress. In fiscal years 2003 through 2005, Congress provided funding for the Javits Act of approximately $11.2 million. In 2006, the Javits Program was appropriated $9.6 million from the U.S. Congress. However, the Javits Act has been repeatedly threatened during the federal budget process and is routinely slated for elimination. Some observers argue that this is too small an amount of money to provide for the nation’s 3 million gifted and talented students. In fact, researchers have noted that in 1990, less than two cents out of every $100 spent on public education was spent on gifted programs.

Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Javits Act does not protect the legal rights of gifted students. Therefore, the primary source of rights for gifted students is found in state laws, which vary widely in their approach to addressing gifted education. Every state has some type of existing program for serving gifted and talented students, but it is difficult to assess how many gifted students are being served in each state. The overall number of students participating in gifted and talented programs has increased, however, but students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not being served to the same degree as their nondisadvantaged peers.

Without the support of extensive federal resources, the Javits Act is not as comprehensive and widespread as some advocates would prefer. In addition to the call for more legislative action at the national level, many advocates desire a national mandate for the education of gifted students. However, progress has been slow due to several factors. The misperception that high-ability students do not need special services, the commonly held belief that gifted students will not be severely harmed by a lack of services, and the need to focus advocacy efforts on protecting the Javits Act rather than on expanding beyond that legislation all contribute to a delay in the arena of national gifted legislation. Along with a focus on federal legislation, advocates argue that strong state laws must be tailored to provide greater services than what federal laws, such as the Javits Act, may offer.

Suzanne E. Eckes

See also Gifted Education; No Child Left Behind Act

Further Readings

  • Russo, C. (2001). Unequal educational opportunities for gifted students: Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Fordham Urban Law Journal, 29(2), 727–759. 

Legal Citations

  • Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1994, now codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 8031 et seq.