Brain Drain of the gifted and talented from Connecticut

January 15, 2015

Connecticut’s Brain Drain Are Some Students Being Left Behind?
By State Senator Toni Boucher

Numerous articles have highlighted Connecticut’s brain drain. This trend continues as 5,100 more students left Connecticut in 2011* to enroll in out of state institutions of higher education rather than stay here. This is particularly troubling for throughout its history Connecticut has been known as the innovation state and has changed the worlds of Agriculture, Manufacturing, Commerce and Investments, Insurance, Aerospace, Arts and Bioscience.

For such a small state, it has produced some of America’s greatest inventions such as the dictionary, cotton gin, submarine, helicopter, and the color television. We understand that anything is possible by unleashing the ingenuity and intellectual talent of our people.

Furthermore, we value a first class educational system which is the best means to close the income gap and can hold the key to economic success in the future.

Last year, Governor Malloy signed into law important changes to our state legislation, paying particular attention to some still neglected areas of special education, such as dyslexia. I believe that the time has come to balance the scales and urgently provide services to another vulnerable student group, our academically and intellectually advanced children.

The fact that their needs are often left unmet, even in the best of Connecticut’s school districts, but especially in our economically distressed districts, has not been part of the education conversation.

There are many children in these districts who are not recognized for their strengths and abilities, and are not reaching their full potential. The most glaring evidence that we are failing to develop this population is the ever-widening Excellence Gap – the chasm between the percentage of high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers, and between white students and students of color.

There is a myth that gifted and talented students will “make it on their own.” Just like all children, they need to be challenged in school or they will tune out, act out and even drop out. Many in this group can have difficulty with social interactions and isolation that can result in severe emotional problems.

Our culture celebrates and funds the physically gifted. Participants in a globally competitive economy need to acknowledge and support their academically gifted as well. The challenging technological, financial and social problems of tomorrow will be solved by those who are encouraged to strive for excellence, not by those who were told by their teachers, “You’ll be fine.” We should not be creating achievement “ceilings”. We should foster a school environment where students can rise as far as they are able, instead of overlooking some because standards say they know enough.

With a renewed focus on education, the state’s brain drain can be reversed. Let’s harness the talent right in our own classrooms by identifying, nurturing and rewarding excellence. Incentives to keep these students in Connecticut colleges should be pursued for they could be the key to a better Connecticut.

For those looking for strategies to help these special students please visit the CAG website at The Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG) is a statewide organization created to provide parents and educators with information, resources and strategies in meeting the needs of their high-potential children. CAG also offers a Professional Development Program for all educators to learn about gifted education, which has been proven to help ALL students raise their achievement.

*StatsAmerica. Developed with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration