Colorado Springs School District 11 Gifted & Talented Department Handbook

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Colorado Springs School District 11

Gifted & Talented Department


1115 N. El Paso Street

Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903


Table of Contents
Gifted Definition, Mission and Vision 2-3
Gifted Identification and Qualification 4-6
Gifted Programming 6-8
Available GT Programs 9-12
Advanced Learning Plans 13
Early Access to Kindergarten and 1st Grade 14
Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented Students 15
Gifted and Talented Resources 16-26
A Glossary of Common Terms 27-29

Colorado Gifted Education Definition

Gifted children means those persons between the ages of five and twenty-one whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment are so developmentally advanced or exceptional that they require special provisions to meet their educational needs. Outstanding abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor. Gifted students are capable of exceptional production or exceptional learning behavior by virtue of any one or a combination of these areas:

· General intellectual ability

· Specific academic aptitude

· Creative, productive thinking

· Leadership and human relations abilities

· Visual and performing arts

· Psychomotor skills

What We Believe
Page Content


All gifted students will accomplish challenging post-secondary workforce goals and become productive, creative citizens capable of succeeding in their area of strength.

Ensure gifted student growth and achievement through systems of support, programming and advocacy.
Philosophy Statement: In School District 11 we believe that gifted and talented students should receive appropriate differentiated instruction from trained teachers that address individual needs. We believe that the district gifted and talented program must have a broad base representation of students from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. These students will have resources to maximize their potential as appropriate to their educational needs and talents. In addition, the social-emotional needs of gifted students will be recognized and addressed.

Identification Process
District 11 uses a multi-step process for identification and appropriate service options. Multiple indicators of giftedness with information obtained from a variety of sources are used to determine eligibility for formal identification.
Step 1: General Screening or Student Search
The purpose of screening is to establish a pool of students who may qualify for services ensuring that no student falls through the cracks. The screening will begin with a group-administered abilities test (CogAT) for grade 2 in the late winter. Parents will be notified of the general nature of the tests that are being administered prior to administration. Parent permission will not be obtained, though any student may be excused from the group assessment at the parents’ request.

On-going comprehensive screening will also occur through a process that allows parents, teachers, administrators, counselors and the students themselves to make referrals. Referral forms are available at the district GT office, at schools sites and on the D-11 website. Once a student is referred, the Gifted Resource Teacher will begin to collect information regarding the student’s academic achievement: cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic background; and any disabling condition(s). GT students may be assessed individually or in a group using one or more of the following tests:

*Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)

*Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT)

*Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT 2)

*Test of Mathematical Abilities for Gifted Students (TOMAGS)

Step 2: Reviewing Students for Eligibility for Tier III Gifted & Talented Programming
The purpose of reviewing student data (Body of Evidence) is to determine which students will benefit from formal identification and services. Data will be recorded on a matrix form, reviewed at this point, and will include the following:

*Teacher Rating Scales

*Parent Rating Scales

*TCAP scores

*Ability test scores (CogAT or other)

*Achievement test scores (MAP or other)

*Informal assessments such as observations, work products, etc.

Formal identification occurs after the careful examination of the “Body of Evidence” for each referred student. Three possible outcomes are:

1) There is sufficient data for gifted & talented identification of the student for Tier III programming. (An Advanced Learning Plan will be developed and shared with the parents and classroom teacher).

2) The evidence does not support the formal identification of the student at that time.

3) Or, additional information is needed as part of this student's "Body of Evidence," in order to make the best determination of need. For students who show potential of a formal identification because they have high achievement and/or ability, but are missing other components of the Body of Evidence, the child can be placed in Tier II enrichment classes. Tier II enrichment is when the GRT gives accommodations or enrichment to a student, but they are not yet formally identified as gifted and talented. They may be tested again in the years to come. (Tier II requires a permission slip from parents).

Communication concerning the outcome of the student referral will be mailed directly to the child's parents or guardian. If a child is formally identified as Tier III gifted & talented programming, an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) will be developed based on student data, teacher observation and recommendations, student performance, strengths and needs, GT resource teacher input and requests from parents. The ALP should be updated twice annually.

An appeals process may be initiated by notifying the building GT resource teacher in writing. The appellant will meet with the school principal and GT resource teacher to review data. New information may be introduced to clarify inaccuracies, review decisions and decide a future course of action. If the appellant is not satisfied with the decision reached at this meeting, a written appeal may be made to the Facilitator of Gifted Education to review the decision.

Tiers of Gifted & Talented Programming

Tier III – Intensive Intervention: Gifted Identification

The Tier III gifted program offers formally identified gifted students a highly challenging instructional program. Students receive an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) with specific, measurable, and attainable learning goals. Tier III students receive differentiation in the depth, breadth, and pace of instruction, designed to meet the needs of advanced learners with a strong emphasis on higher level thinking skills. Adaptations are made to the curriculum in order to provide an appropriate level of challenge for gifted learners with a strong emphasis on critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. Teachers develop and implement units of study that lead to a deeper understanding of concepts, themes, and issues and their interrelationships. Students pursue independent investigations and ongoing research. They have ongoing opportunities for reflection and self-assessment that develop an understanding of the characteristics, demands, and responsibilities of advanced intellectual development. The number of students requiring intensive intervention in given populations ranges between 1-5%.

Tier II- Strategic Intervention: Talent Pool

Each year, members of our gifted education team screen all students for possible participation in advanced academic services. Students who meet the criteria for Strategic Intervention in gifted programming, and who show promising academic talents require strategic interventions to maximize their intellectual potential. Each school has a gifted resource teacher who creates various academic and interest groups, based on the talents and achievements of the current school population. Teachers invite students to participate in pull-out classes. These classes and groups are flexible and require parent permission. Students may enter and exit groups throughout the year, depending on the academic units being taught by the gifted resource teachers (GRT’s). In many cases, students receiving strategic interventions may go on to be formally identified for Tier III Gifted & Talented. Tier II Talent Pool students represent 15% of a given population.

Tier I- Differentiation in the Regular Classroom

Quality teaching, for every child every day, is the single most important factor in a child’s success in school. High-ability learners scoring below the 95th percentile may have academic and intellectual needs met in the regular classroom through quality, rigorous instruction, and a differentiated curriculum. Classroom teachers will provide various strategies to meet the needs of Tier I learners including, but not limited to, small groups, flexible groups, curriculum compacting activities, and inquiry units.

Qualifying for Advanced Academic Programming

Tier III

Students in Tier III programming will receive an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) with specific, measurable, and obtainable goals in their area of strength.

Intellectual Ability

95% or above in Verbal, Quantitative, and/or Nonverbal


95% or above in same category as intellectual ability (any category for nonverbal)

Advanced score on state test in same category (either category for nonverbal)

OR Second 95% intellectual ability score


Must include evidence from the characteristics/behavior box such as parent/teacher surveys.

Tier II Talent Pool

Intellectual Ability

95% or above in Verbal, Quantitative, or Nonverbal


85-94% in same category as intellectual ability (either category for nonverbal)

Advanced score on state test in different category than intellectual ability



Must include evidence from the characteristics/behavior box.

The determination as to whether a student qualifies for the Colorado Springs School District 11 Advanced Academics Gifted & Talented Program is solely within the discretion of the District 11 staff.

Portfolio Evidence for Tier II Talent Pool or Possible Tier III Identification

A portfolio includes:

*At least four academic work samples that clearly demonstrate the applicant’s advanced abilities in academic areas of strength including math, writing, reading, science, or social studies.

* Work must be completed independently.

* Hand-written samples preferred.

* Typed work with grades and teacher comments can be included.

* Work must be above age peers to qualify.

* Online videos or DVDs demonstrating the applicant’s academic abilities can also be submitted. Please include the applicant’s age and grade level at the time of completion, as well as the circumstances of the work (i.e. if it was completed independently or as part of a school project, how many times the work was revised, how and why the applicant completed this particular piece of work, etc.). 

Other Demonstrated Examples Include:

  • Distinguished level of performance

  • Juried performance

  • Advanced Portfolio

  • Awards/Recognitions

  • Performance Assessments

Identification Practice in District 11 will be ongoing, flexible and use multiple measures and include intentional efforts to find high potential students among traditional underserved populations.

Available Gifted Programs and Curriculum for High-Ability Students Throughout District 11

District 11 Gifted Magnet Program
Your child may be a perfect candidate for our self-contained gifted and talented program for gifted students in grades 3-8! We have two elementary sites at Stratton Elementary and Fremont Elementary. Our two middle school sites are at Sabin and West Middle School.
The District 11 Gifted Magnet Program understands and fosters the unique academic and emotional needs of gifted students. Students will learn to problem solve, develop creative products, display intellectual curiosity, and analyze and evaluate ideas. We will provide rigorous, engaging, interdisciplinary and thematic instruction, social and emotional education specific to the needs of gifted students, and opportunities for community responsibility and involvement.

Curriculum and instruction in the magnet program uses the state standards as a springboard toward advanced programming. Teachers deliver instruction by differentiating content, process and product, emphasizing complexity, multiple perspectives, ethical real-world issues, critical and creative thinking, problem-based learning and leadership/learning styles in a conducive learning environment. The program focuses on interdisciplinary units, in a more in-depth approach. Possible themes that may be covered include change, conflict, adaptation, form/function, systems, perspective, patterns and independence vs. interdependence.

There is an application process in order to enroll at one of our four sites. Applications can be found at

Elementary School Programs and Services

*Pull-out- enhancing specific talent areas

*Cluster grouping- classroom teacher provides extensions to small groups of gifted students

*Cross-grade grouping- student is accelerated one grade level in a specific content area

*Acceleration- student is grade skipped one or more grades in all content areas

*Competitions- Destination Imagination, Future Problem Solving, etc.

*Mentorships; e.g., Side Kicks


Full-Time Gifted Magnet Program

*Self-contained gifted program at Fremont and Stratton, grades 3-5

*Focus: interdisciplinary units; more in-depth approach, standards based curriculum

Middle School Programs and Services

Site based model:

*Honors classes- typically advanced math and language arts

*GT classroom as elective or required course- more in-depth approach, acceleration and typically focuses on one or more content areas

*Competitions- History Day, Destination Imagination, Science Olympiad, Math Counts

*Mentorships; e.g., Side Kicks


High School Courses

Site based model:

Advocate for gifted students at each building: counsels, provides social/emotional guidance

Advanced courses: Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CU Gold Courses, honors classes

Competitions: Future Problem Solving, Forensics, etc.


Dual enrollment options

Independent Study Elective: Facilitated by the Gifted and Talented teacher, students will participate in a year-long mentorship that includes the completion of an independent project. Requirements include: connection with a community mentor, developing a timeline and learning plan, and evaluation of process and product using original assessments. The independent project is designed to enhance and expand the meta-cognitive process of research, development and presentation as part of the life-long learning process.

Advanced Proficiency by Design - a quarter or semester class for GT middle school students to meet every day with intellectual peers and develop academic and social skills. Schools offering this class include Russell, Sabin, and Holmes Middle Schools. Teachers use a curriculum that is fast paced and complex for GT learners.

Math and Literacy Clusters for GT - Chipeta, Trailblazer, and Scott Elementary Schools have chosen a service delivery model, which clusters GT students for a portion of each day in area/s of strength (math and/or language arts).

Science Challenge - is an exciting field science program for fourth through eighth grade students. It is structured as a magnet with students from throughout the district meeting at a central site one day a week for six weeks. From that meeting place students travel to a variety of locations in the Pikes Peak region to practice science in a field setting.

The Science Challenge serves two purposes for gifted learners. First, it allows for intense, in depth study that is not commonly found in the classroom. Secondly, it gives students a chance to work with a recognized expert in the field. Since many gifted students have the intellect and motivation to excel academically, it is wise to provide powerful role models during a period of their life when the importance of academics may be put on the back burner. The program has garnered national and international recognition. The Science Challenge has been featured at the Colorado Association of Gifted Education Conference, the National Science Teachers Association Conference, and the International Conference on Geo-Science Education.

To help fund the program, fees are collected from the students who participate. Fee reductions are provided to help students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Students learn science and have fun while exploring the front range of the Colorado Plateau. Students with a passion for science should plan to join the School District 11 Science Challenge Team to investigate the unique geology found in the American West. Students travel by bus to various locations each Thursday for a six-week session in a choice of 3 sessions based on grade in school. For more information contact Mr. Jim Keating at

Bemis Art Program - An accelerated art program for elementary students in grades 3-5. Each semester building art teachers select students (using a checklist) who they believe are advanced in the visual arts and would benefit from the program. Students take art courses such as drawing, painting, printmaking and digital photography. The elementary Bemis Art program addresses middle school art standards encouraging students to extend themselves. The district Gifted and Talented department offers scholarships for students who need assistance, and there are satellite courses for students residing in the southeast (McAuliffe Elementary) and northeast (Freedom Elementary). For more information about the program, contact 520-2464.

​​​​West Elementary- EAGLES- Exceptional Academic Genuine Learning Experience Site delivers best practices in education for high-interest students through project-based approaches. Students can be identified as gifted and talented but do not have to be. At EAGLES, students are clustered in cross-grade grouping, receive differentiation according to strength areas and challenge areas more effectively. They engage in technology in the classroom setting on Learn Pads and laptops. The program focuses on developing creative learners in a diverse setting.

Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning

Academy ACL is a free public charter school in District 11 with a kindergarten through eighth grade program that specializes in gifted curriculum.

Advanced and creative content beginning in kindergarten

Multi-age classrooms

Standards-based, hands-on projects

Flexible skill grouping on a block schedule for math and language arts

AACL LifeSkills (TM) curriculum that supports unique social-emotional needs

Page Content

Advanced Learning Plans

Each formally identified gifted student in District 11 will have an Advanced

Learning Plan developed. This plan will document the student’s areas of strength and set goals for academic and social/emotional growth. This plan will also document the

programming that is in place to meet the needs of the student. These plans are developed and reviewed annually, with input from the teacher, student, parent, and gifted specialist.

Below is information from the Colorado Department of Education’s FAST FACTS

resource on Advanced Learning Plans (ALPs). You can access this full document to learn more information about your child’s ALP.

What is an ALP?

An ALP, or Advanced Learning Plan, is “a written record of gifted and talented programming

utilized with each gifted child and considered in educational planning and decision making.” 22-

20-103 Criteria for ALPs is detailed in the Rules promulgated by the State Board of Education.

ALPs may be electronic or paper versions, and are to be reviewed annually.
Why are ALPs important?

The ALP is a direct link between the student profile created during the identification process and

the implementation of programming services matched to the child’s strengths and interests. ALPs are a planning guide for making instructional decisions about materials, programming options and assessments for gifted students based upon strengths, interests, and social-emotional needs. They are critical in the transition of gifted students from one level of schooling to the next and from school to school.
What are the critical components for an ALP?

The ALP should include information about the student’s areas of strength and what curriculum

and programming options will be provided to match these strengths at tiers 2 (targeted) and 3

(intensive). It should describe the differentiation methods to be used for acceleration, depth and complexity, higher order thinking skills and content extensions. The ALP should include S.M.A.R.T. goals for student achievement and for affective growth. The ALP should affix signatures of parent, teacher, GT teacher and student.

Early Access to Kindergarten and 1st Grade
Early Access: General Information
Colorado House Bill 1021 provides the legislation necessary to allow highly advanced gifted students who are age four by October 1st to begin kindergarten, or age five by October 1st to begin first grade, if it is found that the student qualifies as both highly gifted and developmentally ready to begin school early. Please note that this option pertains to a small percentage of gifted students who score in the top 2% on both achievement and cognitive tests and require grade level acceleration.
The early access process includes a portfolio and interview stage, and if appropriate, the administration of achievement and cognitive assessments. Portfolios will be accepted up through the end of February, interviews conducted during March and testing administered during April. Decisions made by our Early Access committee concerning eligibility will occur by May of the school year.
Parents who are interested in the early access option need to download and complete the portfolio components available on our website at:

Next, submit COMPLETED portfolio to the district gifted and talented department (1115 North El Paso, Colorado Springs, CO 80903). Please note that the Gifted Rating Scale-P needs to be obtained from the district gifted and talented department by calling 520-2464.

State law: "Highly Advanced Gifted Child" means a gifted child whose body of evidence demonstrates a profile of exceptional ability or potential compared to same-age gifted children. To meet the needs of highly advanced development, early access to educational services may be considered as a special provision. For purposes of early access into kindergarten or first grade, the highly advanced gifted child exhibits exceptional ability and potential for accomplishment in cognitive process and academic areas. The Colorado Department of Education's list of guidelines regarding this process notes that "early access shall not be an acceleration pattern recommended for the majority of age 4 or age 5 gifted children who will benefit from preschool gifted programming that responds to the strength area. The purpose of early access is to identify and serve the few highly advanced gifted children who require comprehensive academic acceleration."

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