Meeting the Needs of Students Who Are Gifted in Catholic Schools

The following article was contributed by Raul Escarpio, Director at Shepherd Educational Consulting in Miami, Florida.

Have you ever taken one of those online tests to determine if you are “gifted?” For most of us, this test would determine that we were indeed gifted but in reality, we are not. To be eligible for a gifted program, the individual must have an IQ of 130 or above. To put this number in perspective, the majority (68%) of the population has an IQ between 85-115 while those with an IQ of 130 or above only make up about 2% of the population.

Individuals who are gifted are as unique as their IQ. They can rapidly acquire, retain, and use large amounts of information. They can solve problems by reframing the question and creating novel solutions. Additionally, they can appreciate more than one and opposing points of view. Those that are highly gifted (greater than 145 IQ) have an intense intellectual curiosity, fascination with words and phrases, perfectionism, and have a tendency to be introverted. Incidentally, Renzulli (who developed the three-ringed model for giftedness), stated that gifted behavior can be also be demonstrated specifically in such areas as jewelry making, play writing, cartooning, and landscape architecture, just to name a few. It is not necessarily always in academics.

In looking at families of children who are gifted, the following characteristics (among others) come out: few children in the family, the gifted child is the oldest or only child, parents show high energy and love of learning, and parents are older and better educated than typical parents. What about young gifted students that are female? It seems that they are more influenced by their mothers than boys who are gifted, have high academic achievement, are often second born females, and are more like gifted boys than they are like average girls. Unfortunately, as they hit adolescence, their IQ scores drop possibly as a result of perceiving their giftedness as undesirable. They take less rigorous courses in high school than gifted boys but they will continue to have high academic achievement as measured by their GPA.


So how do we meet their needs? Academically, their overall educational goal should be the fullest possible development of their demonstrated and potential abilities.

  1. The curriculum and instruction should be appropriate, challenging, and respectful.
  2. The classroom should possess academic rigor-increased relevance, discipline, and depth of curriculum. Extra work should never be considered as rigor. Rigor is more of an enrichment of a subject area to bring further knowledge to the student and the class.
  3. The instruction should be thematic and interdisciplinary, include the structures, terminologies, and methodologies of various disciplines. In other words, how can the student who is gifted demonstrate application of the subject in other curriculum areas?
  4. The teacher should be responsive to and respectful of their learning characteristics and match students’ unique needs.
  5. The teacher should develop their leadership skills and ask them to lead by example.

Students who are gifted also demonstrate social needs that must be fostered. On average, they are well adjusted but with some students there may be immaturity issues compared with their academic performance. Teachers should remain consistent with their classroom behavior plan and reinforce what appropriate behavior should look like on a daily basis.

If they are looking at role models to emulate, have them look up St. Catherine of Alexandria or St. Gertrude of Nivelles, both saints who were gifted during their time.

If you would like to learn more about how to educate students who are gifted or any other exceptional learner, please make plans to attend the NCEA Exceptional Leaner’s Conference taking place on June 19-21, 2017 at the Hilton Orrington in Evanston, Illinois.


Renzulli, J., (1978). “What Makes Giftedness? Reexamining a Definition” Phi Delta Kappan, 60, p.184