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WASHINGTON, DC— In anticipation of the upcoming debate to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known in its current form as No Child Left Behind, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation last night which would make sure that federal education policy no longer overlooks the needs of high-ability students.

“We must train our teachers to identify and encourage gifted and high-ability learners, particularly in underserved communities,” said Casey.  “The potential of our children must be maximized for their sake and for the sake of our long-term economic growth.”

“America can no longer afford to ignore the needs of our brightest students and, by doing so, squander their potential.  Our legislation would make the modifications needed to federal education policy to develop and encourage the high achievement that’s possible for so many gifted and talented students and, in turn, enhance the future prosperity of our nation,” Grassley said.

The new proposal is called the TALENT Act, or the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act.

The senators said the provisions in their bill, S.857, are designed to correct the lack of focus on high-ability students, especially those students in underserved settings, including rural communities, by including them in the school, district, and state planning process that already exists under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The bill would raise the expectation that teachers have the skills to address the special learning needs of various populations of students, including gifted and high-ability learners.  It would provide for professional development grants to help general education teachers and other school personnel better understand how to recognize and respond to the needs of high-ability students.

The legislation also retools and builds upon the goals and purpose of the existing Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act so that education policy makers would continue to explore and test strategies to identify and serve high-ability students from underserved groups.  The senators said that these strategies should then be put into the hands of teachers across the country.

Casey serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is currently working through a bipartisan committee process to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Grassley has been a leading advocate in Congress for gifted and talented children.  Among other efforts, he sponsored legislation that became part of the original No Child Left Behind Act to expand the availability of gifted education services.