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University of Alabama Launches Gifted Education, Talent Development Office

TUSCALOOSA, AL – The University of Alabama’s (UA) College of Education will help strengthen the state of Alabama’s gifted education programs through the recent launch of the Gifted Education and Talent Development Office.

The office will consolidate all of the college’s gifted education research, teaching, service, and programming and offer more professional development for educators and outreach to parents. Dr. Jennifer Jolly, associate professor of gifted education at UA, will direct the office. She hopes to begin the office’s outreach by identifying research partners in schools across the state.

“We’ll also begin learning more about schools’ early childhood programs to understand how this fits into our research agenda,” Jolly says. “Identifying children for gifted education at an early age is extremely important, especially for low-income kids.”

The goal of gifted and talented education is two-fold: identify students that exhibit the potential to develop beyond traditional benchmarks set for children their ages and add to their curriculum with enrichment and/or accelerated activities and assignments. States and countries allocate varying amounts of resources to gifted education and use different matrices to identify students, which can create variations in services and programming and disproportionality, Jolly says.

Jolly researched gifted education at the University of New South Wales in Australia for three years and for eight years at Louisiana State University. She said disproportionality, particularly for racial and ethnic minorities and students from low-income households, is common across contexts, in part, because of an overreliance on aptitude scores.

“I’d also like to get a better sense of what is happening with gifted education across Alabama,” Jolly says. “Anecdotally, from the teachers I’ve worked with in the state, if kids don’t get identified in the second grade, there’s not a lot of looking for them after that. I think the awareness drops off the radar. Those are things that are worth investigating, in terms of views and awareness of what that might look like in later grades, especially in middle school and high school, where kids may have hidden their talents, and are getting to a point in their schooling where they can take classes that they are really interested in.”

Jolly’s research has focused primarily on parents of gifted children and homeschooling of gifted children. She’s also written about the history of gifted education and recently published “A History of American Gifted Education.”

Moving forward, the office will offer a variety of materials for parents to access on its website.

“I want them to engage with us because they are so important in the education and success of their children,” Jolly says. “And definitely reach out to parents who may not naturally come to us.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect, and inclusivity.