For the past several years, VPS has been engaged in a comprehensive review of our Highly Capable Program offerings. We have developed new processes and programs to better meet the needs of highly capable learners throughout Vancouver Public Schools. The results of this program review provided an expansion of student learning options, including:
- A more inclusive learning environment at all elementary schools
- Expanded screening and assessment processes that will grow and diversify the program
- Additional opportunities for middle school students to begin working on high school graduation requirements
- Additional dual credit options for high school students to begin earning college credit while in high school
- A more comprehensive assessment process which will increase access to program options for all students
We are excited about the changes we’re making and are confident that our students and families will benefit from the comprehensive review.
- To identify students who are performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, environment, and experience.
- To provide a continuum of program services for identified students in grades K-12.
- To provide appropriate and relevant professional staff development opportunities that maximizes instructional effectiveness for highly-capable learners.
- To engage in ongoing program evaluation and revision.
Goals for students identified as highly capable learners include:
- Expansion of academic attainments and intellectual skills by pressing for high-level mastery of Washington State Learning Standards and depth of knowledge
- Development of critical and creative thinking processes
- Development of the ability to understand and work through complex tasks
- Analysis, synthesis and communication of information at a deeper level
- Engagement in goal setting specific to a student’s own intellectual, social and emotional learning
- Development of collaboration and lifelong learning skills
- Development of leadership skills and a growth mindset
Kindergarten and grade one:
Identified students will receive differentiated instruction at the advanced level to ensure continuous growth during kindergarten and first grade. These services will occur in the general education classroom at the child’s neighborhood school. These students will be referred to take the cognitive abilities screener during the winter of first grade for possible participation in the Highly Capable Services offered in grades 2-5.
Grades two through five:
Qualified students in grade two through five are served through two program service delivery models. Highly Capable students may receive differentiated instruction designed to accelerate and enrich learning at their neighborhood school. This model allows the student to receive needed enhancement while participating with other students within their school community.
In grades two through five, students who meet assessment criteria also may be invited to attend one of three elementary self-contained classroom sites. In this model, all students in the classroom are identified for Highly Capable services.
Students in grades six through eight attend their neighborhood middle school and take Honors level English/language arts courses which incorporate Pre-Advanced Placement and Pre-Baccalaureate instructional strategies. Students who meet placement criteria may take advanced and accelerated mathematics courses and have opportunities to begin earning high school credit in mathematics, world language and science.
Note: Students will need to apply to carry high school credit earned in middle school forward onto their transcript once they are enrolled in high school.
At the high school level, students can continue their High School and Beyond Plan by taking advantage of options for advanced coursework that give both high school graduation credit and the potential for earning college credit at the same time. School counselors can give students information on the following programs:
- Advanced Placement courses are offered at Hudson’s Bay, Fort Vancouver, Skyview, iTech Prep, Flex Academy and Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. Students taking these courses can take AP exams in the spring. State-sponsored colleges and universities have criteria in place to grant college credit for exam scores of 3 to 5 (score criteria vary by institution—check their websites for more information).
- Columbia River High School offers the International Baccalaureate program. Through participation in this program, students can earn an IB diploma, which is recognized by universities in 102 countries as a valid means of earning entry to postsecondary study. In addition, many North American colleges and universities also offer advanced placement for appropriate scores on IB exams (check their websites for more information). Students must apply for admission to the International Baccalaureate program.
- College in the High School is a program that allows high school students to earn credit for passing a course on a VPS campus that is co-sponsored by VPS and a post-secondary institution. This program is offered at some of our high schools in specific course content areas.
- The Running Start program allows interested students to take college-level courses on the Clark College campus tuition-free. Students earn college credits and high school graduation credits at the same time.
- Depth and breadth of learning
- Critical- and creative-thinking processes
- Real-world applications of learning
- Collaborative learning and effective decision-making
- Stimulation of intellectual curiosity, independence and responsibility
- Goal setting and reflection
- Responsible citizenship
- Interpersonal communication skills
During the winter trimester, Vancouver Public Schools reviews current data in the areas of language and cognitive development for all kindergarten students to determine if students are currently performing at significantly advanced developmental levels. These students will receive differentiated instruction in the general education classroom during Kindergarten and Grade 1.
Parents and classroom teachers of students who are performing at significantly advanced academic levels will also receive a letter and questionnaire (Scales for Identifying Gifted Students) to complete from the Highly Capable Services office. Eligible students will be invited for further screening during the winter trimester of the Grade 1 school year.
At the beginning of every school year, Vancouver Public Schools will screen ALL students in grade one through grade four to identify which students qualify for further assessment for Highly Capable services. Parents do not need to submit a completed referral form to have their child assessed for Highly Capable services. District identified screening assessments will take place in all 21 elementary schools during the fall trimester and will be administered by the classroom teacher during the school day.
The Highly Capable Services office will review district screening data in the mid-fall to identify which students are possible candidates for further screening for Highly Capable services. Once students are identified as a candidate for further screening, a letter of invitation for further testing will be sent to the student’s parent or legal guardian prior to winter break. Any additional assessments for highly capable identification purposes will take place with signed parent permission during the winter trimester and be administered during the school day by qualified district personnel.
Students identified for further testing will be assessed using multiple objective criteria to determine the selection of students eligible for Highly Capable services during the following school year.
Students in fifth through seventh grades are identified by teachers, counselors and administrators at each individual building to forecast for advanced-level courses at their neighborhood middle school in English language arts, mathematics, world language and science during the following school year.
Identification is based on specific course placement criteria, prior coursework completed by the student and multiple pieces of state and district academic performance data over time for the student. Prior completed coursework and student academic performance data give an overall indication of the level of academic preparedness for advanced-level coursework.
Students in eighth through 11th grades work with teachers, counselors, administrators and their parents at each individual building to forecast for advanced-level coursework opportunities in alignment with their High School and Beyond Plan during the following school year. Participation is based on specific placement criteria, prior coursework completed by the student and multiple pieces of state and district academic performance data over time for the student. Prior completed coursework and student academic performance data give an overall indication of the level of academic preparedness for advanced-level coursework.
The following students are eligible to participate in the district’s screening process for Highly Capable Services.
- Students who are currently enrolled in a school within VPS district boundaries and reside within VPS district boundaries have the opportunity to be assessed for VPS’ Highly Capable Program services.
- Students who are currently enrolled in a VPS school on a boundary exception and reside outside of VPS district boundaries are eligible to be assessed for VPS’ Highly Capable Program services.
- Students currently enrolled in a school outside of VPS boundaries are not eligible to be assessed for VPS’ Highly Capable Program services.
- Students who are currently attending a private school AND live within VPS district boundaries have the opportunity to be assessed for VPS’ Highly Capable Program services. These students would take the cognitive assessment at their neighborhood elementary site during a school day in the winter.
Students in grade one through grade four who are identified as candidates for further testing will be given the Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening assessment. The Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening assessment identifies candidates who will move on to participate in a more comprehensive cognitive assessment (Cognitive Abilities Full Battery Test) to determine their eligibility for Highly Capable services.
The Initial Screener consists of three sub-tests—Verbal/Picture Analogies, Number Analogies and Figure Matrices. These sub-tests measure important verbal and quantitative reasoning skills and processes. Based on nationally normed results from a student’s Initial Screening assessment, they may or may not continue on to take the Cognitive Abilities Full Battery Test.
The Cognitive Abilities Full Battery Test is a series of tests that measure a student’s learned reasoning abilities in the three areas most linked to academic success in school: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and nonverbal reasoning.
All students in grades one through four are assessed every school year using district screening tools administered in the fall. The Highly Capable Services office uses the district data collected to determine which students are eligible for further testing for Highly Capable Services.
The eligibility criteria for the 2016-17 school year for further testing for Highly Capable Services for Grades 1-4:
- 70th percentile or above on classroom administered fall diagnostic assessments in the content area of English Language Arts
- 70th percentile or above on classroom administered fall diagnostic assessments in the content area of Mathematics
Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening Assessment
Students meeting the criteria for further testing will take the Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening Assessment with written parent permission.
The criteria for the Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening Assessment:
- 65th percentile or above on the Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening Assessment
Comprehensive Full Battery Assessment
Students meeting the criteria for the Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening Assessment will then take the comprehensive full battery cognitive assessment (CogAT). The areas of Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning have the most direct correlation to academic success and parallel the elementary Highly Capable Services provided in the district. Students meeting the 2 qualifying scores criteria listed below are eligible to receive Highly Capable Services.
The criteria for the comprehensive full battery cognitive assessment (CogAT):
- 90th percentile or above in the area of Verbal Reasoning
- 90th percentile or above in the area of Quantitative Reasoning
Alternative Option for Eligibility
Students who have 1 Qualifying score in either Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning on the comprehensive full battery cognitive assessment (CogAT) have an alternative option in which they could meet eligibility criteria to receive Highly Capable Services.
In these cases, the district will gather and review more information on the child before determining their eligibility for Highly Capable Services. The child’s parent/guardian and the child’s classroom teacher will be asked to complete a Scales for Identifying Gifted Students (SIGS). The SIGS is a norm-referenced rating scale designed to assist school districts in the identification of students needing Highly Capable Services.
In addition to the SIGS information, the Multi-Disciplinary Team may also review past and current district assessment data in English Language Arts and Mathematics for the child. The analysis of current and historical information provided the team a broader perspective about the child in order to determine their need for the Highly Capable Services that the district has to offer.
The student’s parent/legal guardian will need to provide the Highly Capable Services office with the following documentation from the student’s former school district before a determination is made regarding specific program services for the student.
- Documentation of the student’s enrollment in the Highly Capable program
- Description of the Highly Capable program and placement criteria
- Student assessment data that qualified the student to receive Highly Capable services
- Any additional current student data that may be helpful
Individuals appealing the selection committee’s decision must submit a letter requesting a review of the selection decision. The written request must include reasons for the appeal and, to support reconsideration, provide additional documented evidence of significantly advanced cognitive or academic levels.
The appeal must be based upon one of the following conditions:
- A condition or circumstance believed to have caused a misinterpretation of testing results; e.g., incorrect birthdate or grade level used in calculating the student’s score.
- An extraordinary and temporary circumstance that negatively affected the validity of the test results; e.g., a traumatic event or extreme physical distress immediately preceding the test.
The appeals review will take into consideration whether or not the assessment results are consistent with existing student performance data over time.
The appeal request and supporting evidence must be submitted to the Highly Capable services office within 10 days of receiving notice that the student has been determined not eligible. The appeal request shall be mailed to:
Vancouver School District
Highly Capable Services
c/o Curriculum & Instruction Department
P.O. Box 8937
Vancouver, WA 98668-8937
Appeals are reviewed by an appeals committee that is composed of a classroom teacher with training and experience in teaching highly capable students, a psychologist or other qualified practitioner with training to interpret cognitive and achievement test results, a certificated coordinator or administrator with responsibility for the supervision of the district’s Highly Capable Program and any additional professionals whom the district deems appropriate.
The district’s appeals committee will review the student’s file, assessment profile data and additional evidence provided in the request for the appeal. The committee will look for evidence that the results of the testing are not a true representation of the child’s abilities.
The decision of the appeals committee will include one of the following recommendations:
- Identification of student as highly capable and eligible for Highly Capable Program services
- Not eligible for Highly Capable Program services
Parents/guardians will be notified in writing as soon as possible but not longer than 30 school days after the receipt of the written request for reconsideration. The decision of the appeals committee is final.
District Initiated Exit Process:
The exit process may be initiated by district staff to determine whether a student continues to benefit from Highly Capable Services. District staff will follow the Highly Capable Services office protocol for discontinuation of Highly Capable Services.
Parent Request to Withdraw:
A parent/legal guardian may request that the student be withdrawn from receiving Highly Capable Services.
Frequently asked questions
Differentiated instruction in the general education classrooms will be designed by the classroom teacher to accelerate and enrich the content taught (English Language Arts, Math, etc.) based on the needs of the individual student. The teacher will pre-assess students to determine their skill level and needs before they dive into teaching particular content areas. In a differentiated classroom, the teacher is constantly doing quick, formative assessments to determine the on-going needs of the student and where the instruction might be modified, if necessary, in order to ensure student learning is happening.
Not every student in the general education classroom has been identified as needing Highly Capable Services. The teacher in the general education classroom provides differentiated instruction to identified Highly Capable students in their classroom that is designed to accelerate and enrich the content taught based on the skill level and instructional needs of the individual student. These teachers also differentiate instruction to students that have not been identified as needing Highly Capable Services…this response to instruction will look different depending on the student need. This model allows the student to receive services while participating with other students within their neighborhood school community.
Any school site, or a team of teachers at a specific grade level, or a classroom teacher may choose to group students who have met the criteria to receive Highly Capable Services together for instructional purposes in a given content area based on similar needs. Each school site will make determinations of how they will meet needs of students. While the school sites have district support in making these determinations if needed, the determinations are not district directed.
The self-contained Highly Capable classroom option is on a space available basis. It is important to know that if parents prefer the self-contained classroom option and their child is placed at a site with the self-contained Highly Capable classrooms, their child will no longer be able to participate in the Language Immersion Program.
Parents do have the option of having their child remain in the Language Immersion Program. Their child’s teacher for next year will be notified that they have met the criteria to receive Highly Capable Services. The immersion teacher will be able to differentiate the target language (Spanish or Mandarin) and English instruction based on the skills and needs that your child has.
If your child is receiving instruction at an elementary self-contained classroom site AND the site is your neighborhood school, your child can access the school bus to and from school.
If your child is receiving instruction at an elementary self-contained classroom site AND the site is NOT your neighborhood school, parents are responsible for transportation to and from school.
The standardized ability assessments measure reasoning ability and include sub-tests in verbal, quantitative and nonverbal reasoning. Nonverbal reasoning might include spatial relationships, pictures, puzzles, etc.
Who administers the assessments?
The Cognitive Abilities Initial Screening assessment and Full Battery Cognitive Abilities Test are administered by certificated school district employees.
How long does the assessment take?
The Cognitive Abilities Initial Screener takes about 45 minutes. Students are given directions and several practice problems prior to starting each sub-test.
The Cognitive Abilities Full Battery assessment takes approximately 90 minutes to complete.
Can we teach our child so that he/she will do well on the assessment and become eligible for Highly Capable services?
Achievement scores are the result of learning and instruction. Reasoning ability (what is measured on a standardized cognitive abilities assessment) develops over time, which makes this kind of assessment less tied to direct instruction and difficult to practice.
Where and when will the additional testing take place?
Students identified as candidates for additional testing will be assessed during the winter trimester during school day at their neighborhood VPS school locations.
Whom should I contact if my child needs special testing accommodations?
If your child needs special accommodations during the assessment, parents need to call the Highly Capable services office as soon as possible once they have given permission for their child to continue with the assessment process.
When will I know the results of my child’s assessment?
Typically assessment results will be mailed to parents by the fourth week in March.
Do I need to pay a fee to have my child assessed?
There is not a fee for students identified as candidates for additional testing for Highly Capable Program services.
Can my student test again?
Students in grade one through grade four who were not eligible for Highly Capable services from a prior test will be included in the district-wide screening process the following year. Vancouver Public Schools will screen all students in grade one through grade four every year to identify which students qualify for further assessment for Highly Capable services.
How do I talk to my child about testing so he/she won’t worry too much about it?
Putting pressure on children to do well on these tests can be counterproductive. Children who feel great pressure to do well will sometimes not do as well because of the pressure. The best thing to tell children is that these tests are a measurement, just like getting your feet measured for shoes. We are trying to find out if the student needs something different in terms of fit for school. Just as it is important to stand nice and tall when someone measures your height, it is important for students to do the very best they can on the tests.
How do I talk to my child about his/her assessment scores?
Be very careful not to use words like “pass” or “fail” when referring to these assessments. The assessments are measurements, and just as you can’t fail or pass a shoe-size measurement, these assessments do not indicate failure or success.
If your student was not eligible: There is a range in highly capable students, just as there is a range of abilities. Many highly capable students are not eligible for services. For example, they may be highly capable in one area, but not in others. The Washington Administrative Code requires districts to place only the “most highly capable” with the understanding that resources are limited. Do praise your student for areas of strength and good effort!
If your student was eligible: Just as finding the right fit is important for shoes, the right fit is important for school. Being eligible for services means that there could be a change in the school placement for the student. It helps your student to talk and think in terms of “fit.” For students who choose to remain at their neighborhood school to receive services in the general education classroom, the changes won’t be as significant. But for students who choose to leave their neighborhood school to attend one of the Highly Capable elementary self-contained classroom sites, the changes are more impactful. Thinking in terms of “this is a better fit” helps them to explain to friends why they are leaving. Sometimes children feel guilt over leaving a school or teacher they love. This helps them think not in terms of one being better or worse, just as a shoe that fits isn’t better than the one that doesn’t. It just matters that it fits.
For questions about Highly Capable Program services, assessment or other program information, you may contact the Highly Capable services office.
Highly Capable services office (curriculum and instruction department)
Mailing address: P.O. Box 8937, Vancouver, WA 98661-8937
Physical address: 2901 Falk Rd., Vancouver, WA 98661