There have always been children who were able to grasp complex subjects at a young age, and they are now labeled as gifted. For some parents and students, this label can cause issues with other children in the school. Less academically gifted children see them as nerds or geeks and tease them, and it has been a common problem throughout many school districts. Educators realize the downside, but they want to be able to find and encourage these students to learn as much as possible.
Every child learns at a different level in each subject, and gifted children are as normal as any other students in this regard. They might excel at mathematics or language, but their academic achievements in spelling, history or even geography might be lacking. Most of them will place near the top of their class in all subjects, and they will be many levels ahead of their age group in the subjects where they are considered gifted.
Labeling students is a complex process, and those who are far ahead of their peers find it a challenge. If they are left in all their regular classes, they tend to daydream or lose focus quickly. Education is not a challenge for them, and they can be seen by other students as failing a subject until it is time for a test. That is when they show their ability to the teacher, but discipline can become an issue if they are not challenged to reach their full potential.
Separating children within a grade into classes that will help them stretch their mental muscles has become common in many districts, and it helps those who need more challenges. For those who lag behind, there is extra assistance without being compared to those who might have mastered a subject in the first week of school.