Frequently Asked Questions: Profoundly Gifted Students & Gifted Education
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

These questions and answers have been compiled over the past decade during which the the Davidson Institute has worked to fulfill its mission to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.

What is the definition of “profoundly gifted”?

Profoundly gifted individuals score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ tests and have an exceptionally high level of intellectual prowess. These students score at least three standard deviations above the norm on the bell curve, so they are at the extreme end of the intelligence, or IQ, continuum. Please refer to “IQ and Educational Needs” for details about the bell curve and population statistics.

How are gifted children identified? What signs can parents look for?

Generally speaking, some signs of giftedness are:

  • An extreme need for constant mental stimulation.
  • An ability to learn and process complex information rapidly.
  • A need to explore subjects in surprising depth.
  • An insatiable curiosity; endless questions and inquiries.
  • A need for precision in thinking and expression-often answering questions with “that depends...”
  • An inability to concentrate on a task that is not intellectually challenging, including repetitious ideas or material presented in small pieces.

If a parent sees these signs in a child, then they may want to pursue intelligence testing so the child's educational needs can be properly addressed. For additional information, please read "A place to start: Is my child gifted?", an article  in the Davidson Gifted Database.

Are profoundly gifted students gifted in all areas of learning?

Like most people, profoundly intelligent students are unique individuals with varied and multifaceted talents and interests. Some demonstrate mastery in multiple areas while others excel in a single subject. 

Does race, gender or socioeconomic status figure in giftedness?

Children with extraordinary intellectual ability exist in all ethnic, social and economic backgrounds and in both genders. However, in order for their intellectual ability to be developed, it must be identified early and nurtured with an appropriately challenging educational program throughout their schooling years.

Why isn’t there more focus on profoundly gifted students?

A common misperception is that gifted students can fend for themselves. This is a false assumption – all students, including gifted ones, need to be nurtured with access to an education that helps them learn and achieve at a level appropriate to their abilities.

What is the national policy on gifted education? How does the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” affect gifted students?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act, includes several provisions to support gifted students. The ESEA Reauthorization signifies the first time Congress makes clear that Title I funds may be used to identify and serve gifted students. It requires states and school districts to specify how they will use such funds to train teachers to identify and meet these students’ academic needs. ESEA replaces No Child Left Behind and effectively shifts the bulk of involvement and authority in public schools from the federal government to states and local school districts.

At the state policy level, many states have no laws mandating gifted education and, of those with mandates, many have no available funding for gifted education. For a current list of state policies and funding, visit the Davidson State Policy Database.

What happens to gifted students in a traditional, one-size-fits-all learning environment where they are not allowed to soar ahead?

Many parents report that their children become frustrated, unmotivated and develop behavioral problems when they are not appropriately challenged in school. Students, especially girls, will “dumb-down” and hide their intelligence to fit in socially. As the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) points out, “There is physical and psychological pain in being thwarted, discouraged, and diminished as a person. To have ability, to feel power you are never allowed to use, can be traumatic. Many researchers consider the gifted the largest group of underachievers in education.”

Are there cost-effective options to help these students, or will it cost a lot of taxpayer dollars to serve them?

There are several low-cost options to serve gifted students, but mostly it just takes flexibility on the part of educators, such as teachers and administrators. Some of these low-cost options include: 

  • Early entrance to kindergarten or first grade
  • Self-contained, multi-age gifted classes
  • Subject and/or grade acceleration
  • Dual enrollment (middle and high school/high school and college)

Please visit "Twelve Cost Effective Educational Options for Serving Gifted Students" for more options.

What local, state and national resources exist for gifted students and their parents?

Depending on available funding, some states and local school districts may have a gifted education coordinator who oversees gifted programs. Sometimes local parent groups organize to focus on advocating on behalf of gifted students. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) in Washington, D.C. advocates at a federal level for gifted children and their families, and has affiliated state organizations throughout the country. To search our database filled with resources for and about gifted students, visit the database home page at  

Permission Statement


Contributed by: Student on 11/9/2008
Reading the "characteristics of profoundly intelligent people" made me say to myself, "I do share these qualities!".

Contributed by: Parent on 6/26/2008
I was in gifted programs when I was younger, and I now have a very bright child of my own, the funny thing is, I've always thought she was gifted but didn't want to seem like one of "those moms" until my sister in law who is a gifted teacher mentioned that she showed signs of being bright. I'm so glad I have found these resources and look forward to nurturing her "gifts".

Contributed by: Parent on 3/2/2008
I likely was one of these kids growing up, and had to bootstrap my way through. It was not a good way to grow up. My son definitely matches the descriptions provided. Parenting him has been a full-time job, and a real joy as well. Thanks for this information.

Show All Comments

The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.

Close Window