Exploring the Underachievement of Elementary Gifted Students: An Analysis of Classroom Achievement and Standardized Test Performance

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

Summer 2012


Underachieving gifted students, described by Gowan (1955) as 'one of the greatest social wastes in our culture,' are a challenge to educational stakeholders and a loss to society. Gifted children, who are often identified at an early age, possess unique talents and abilities that set them apart from their peers. Young gifted children are highly inquisitive, learn to read early, have extensive vocabularies, and think abstractly. When placed in an academically stimulating and nurturing environment, the abilities of young gifted children can be monitored and developed. However, when gifted students underachieve, their potential to contribute their unique insight, different perspective, and unparalleled thinking is impacted. The idea that the intellectually gifted will self-sustain academically is a common misconception found in schools and educational settings today. The purposes of this study were to determine if underachievement exists at the elementary school level, discover the onset of underachievement, and identify patterns of underachievement in elementary gifted students. The underachievement of students was determined by examining the archival data that included report card grades and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and mathematics performance over a five year period. The existing data of students who were identified in their 1st grade year as Gifted and Talented (GT) were analyzed to discover the onset of underachievement. Additionally, attendance data were examined, to identify patterns of underachievement. Descriptive statistics revealed that students experienced semesters of academic underachievement in the elementary school years. The descriptive statistics also indicated that some gifted students experienced an onset of underachievement as early as second grade. Statistical significance was found in the duration of underachievement between gifted achievers and gifted underachievers. Statistical significant differences were also found in the TAKS Reading and Mathematics scale scores of gifted achievers and gifted underachievers. No statistical significance was found in the attendance patterns of gifted students. The results of this research suggest that underachievement begins at the elementary level. It is important that educators monitor the achievement of students across the core subjects and consistently review students' performance on standardized assessments in hopes to prevent underachievement.


Joyce Miller

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Leadership