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Gifted 101

  • "Gifted and talented children" means those persons between the ages of five and twenty-one whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment are so exceptional or developmentally advanced that they require special provisions to meet their educational programming needs. Children under five who are gifted may also be provided with early childhood special educational services.”

    Gifted students include gifted students with disabilities (i.e., twice-exceptional) and students with exceptional abilities or potential from all socioeconomic and, ethnic, and cultural populations. Gifted students are capable of high performance, exceptional production, or exceptional learning behavior by any or a combination of these areas of giftedness:

    ● General intellectual ability

    ● Specific academic aptitude: reading, writing, math, science, social studies, world languages

    ● Creative thinking

    ● Leadership abilities

    ● Visual arts, performing arts, musical or psychomotor abilities

    Often, bright students – motivated, high achievers – are thought to be gifted by their parents and teachers. However, a truly gifted student will demonstrate specific unique characteristics.


    Bright Child vs Gifted Child - Psychology Today article

  • How are gifted students in the Telluride School District identified?

    The Telluride School District identification process is aligned with state guidelines for identifying students eligible for gifted education and advanced learning services. These guidelines support the approach of looking at various information for each student based on a “Body of Evidence.” This evidence will determine if a student needs programming beyond the regular classroom or curriculum.

    Gifted students usually fall within the top 3-7% of the general student population in terms of potential abilities.

    How can parents, teachers, students, and community members be involved in the identification process?

    Identifying a gifted child begins with a referral initiated by a parent, teacher, self, peer, or community member. Referrals are received by a teacher, principal, or the gifted coordinator. In the initial stages of identification, parents may be asked to fill out an inventory of gifted behaviors they observe at home. Parents are also invited to permit specific tests to be provided. After testing, parents review the results with the gifted and talented facilitator, teachers, and principal.

    When does the identification process begin?

    Teachers and staff are trained to recognize gifted behaviors and student strengths and use them to refer students of all grade levels, K-12. They use tools such as test data, observations, and universal screeners to help seek out and guide students for further assessments and possible identification. Parents, students, and community members may also initiate a referral by contacting their child’s classroom teacher, principal, or district gifted and talented coordinator. In addition, all students are given an intellectual screening test (CogAT Test) in 3rd and 6th grade. Those who score above a threshold are referred for further evaluation, and a Body of Evidence is collected.

    What is the Body of Evidence?

    A body of evidence is built to determine if a student meets the criteria for gifted identification. Evidence of exceptional ability is collected in four areas: aptitude, achievement, performance, and behavior. Evidence is examined against qualifying criteria. To be formally identified in Telluride School District, a student must qualify in at least two of the four areas and have three pieces of supporting data. The four areas are listed below, along with possible data that may be collected in each. Tests listed by name are the ones most commonly used in the District.

    • Aptitude: Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT-2), Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (KABC-ll)

    • Achievement: Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) at the exceeds expectations level, ACT, PSAT, SAT, iReady, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA)

    • Demonstrated Performance or Portfolio: portfolios, student products, contests and competitions, and performance tasks judged by experts in that field

    • Behaviors and Characteristics: Scales for Identifying Gifted Students (SIGS) or Gifted Rating Scales (GRS)

    A body of evidence should consist of quantitative and qualitative measures to determine if a student meets the criteria for gifted identification and to build a student profile of strengths and interests.

    What criteria are used to identify a student gifted in a specific area?

    Telluride School District uses a process and criteria developed by CDE for identifying students who meet the definition specified in section 12.01(16) and for identifying the educational needs of gifted students. 12.02(2)(c)

    ● Reading

    ● Writing

    ● Mathematics

    ● Science

    ● Social Studies

    ● Creative or Productive Thinking

    ● Leadership Abilities

    ● Visual and Performing Arts

    ● Music

    ● Dance

    ● Psychomotor

    If a child is not identified during the 3rd or 6th grade screening process, can he be placed in another grade?

    Yes, there is no “window” for identifying gifted behaviors. Identification of gifted and talented services is an ongoing process using multiple criteria. No single factor can eliminate a student from consideration. Teachers review assessment results and other data throughout the year(s) to understand students’ strengths, needs, and abilities. Several types of evidence may be used to identify a student.

    Can a child with a disability be identified as gifted?

    Yes, a student can be twice-exceptional and identified as eligible for special services in more than one area.

    Does Telluride School District consider areas of giftedness other than academics?

    Yes, all learners are considered regardless of academic achievement. Parents are invited to provide evidence of student strengths and talents in art, music, creativity, and leadership. Teachers may also recognize these strengths and talents and refer students based on their observations.

    Will students identified in another district continue to be served in Telluride School District?

    The Exceptional Children’s Educational Act (ECEA) requires that students who move from one Colorado district to another state district retain their gifted identification. This concept is referred to as “portability.” Suppose a child comes from another Colorado public school district with complete title and is identified according to state rules and regulations. In that case, the child’s Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) from the former community will be recognized and followed in Telluride School District. However, ALPs often differ from community to district.

    The rule for portability does not apply to students moving into Colorado from another state. However, the Telluride School District gifted education coordinator will review the student’s records for evidence of giftedness and determine whether additional assessment is necessary to confirm if the student meets the Colorado criteria for gifted identification.

    How can an identification decision be appealed?

    If a parent or teacher feels that an error has been made in the identification process, appeals shall be made in writing and given to the principal of their child’s school. The principal will meet with the BOCES gifted coordinator to review all documents and decisions. This review will be presented to the district superintendent. The district's superintendent will make the final determination.

  • Why do competent students need something different?

    Dispelling the myths around gifted education - How often have you heard, “Gifted students will do fine on their own?” This is just one of the many myths that become barriers to educating millions of high-potential students. The following is a list of the most prevalent myths in gifted education, accompanied by evidence rebutting each.


    For a student’s perspective, watch The Top 10 Myths in Gifted Education, produced by teens in the Baltimore County Public Schools for the Maryland State Department of Education.


    Is there a difference between "being in" a gifted program and "receiving" gifted programming?

    Yes. Although the wording may seem similar, the change from program to program represents a significant shift in how schools deal with student differences. Being “in” a particular program implies that some students are also “out.” The logical extension of that thinking is that we can quickly tell who should be “in” and who must stay “out” when this is not true. No one measurement can tell us who is “really” gifted. It is best to respond to the needs of children and youth. As students demonstrate strengths that need nurturing, the school should respond by providing exceptional services. Students identified as gifted have shown that they need “something different” than most other students. A “gifted program” is often fixed and pre-planned, while gifted programming is built around the students and can respond to their needs and interests.


    What is an ALP?

    The Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) is a legal document outlining programming for identified gifted and talented students and is used as a guide for educational planning and decision-making. It is also an accountability method for assessing expert student growth through progress monitoring of quantitative and qualitative goals in gifted student programming and social-emotional development. The ALP may be blended with an ICAP (optional) for secondary students. The ALP and ICAP requirements must be combined on the singular portfolio system where data is collected and goals are established and monitored.


    Foundational Principles of an ALP

    • It is a tool that drives instruction and social-emotional guidance.

    • It is a living document and may be revised as necessary.

    • It is a communication tool between students, teachers, and parents.

    • It is an individual gifted student planning document reflecting current levels of performance, curricular areas to be addressed, student goals, parent involvement, student involvement, timeline, monitoring, and review process.

    • It is used to measure student’s progress and the effectiveness of programming by including an indicator of success, self-efficacy, and next steps.


    What are the main components of an ALP?

    · Body of Evidence (BOE) – identifies interests, strengths, and needs of the student

    · Academic Goal – a standards-based goal for the area(s) of strength

    · Affective Goal – a goal that reflects the development of personal, social, communication, leadership, and social competency.

    · Programming Options and Strategies Matched to Strengths and Interests - supplemental curriculum, activities, specific programs or coursework, specific strategies, and extended or expanded learning opportunities available that match a student’s strength area(s) and support the goals;

    · Progress Monitoring – ongoing and yearly

    · Personnel – teachers, staff, community members, etc.

    · Parent Engagement and Input


    Does an ALP change every year?

    It may. Because it is based on student strengths as observed and documented, academic and talent goals usually remain essentially the same – educational purposes are directed toward growth in the area of stability or development of the talent area each year.

    At the elementary level, you, your child, your child’s teacher, and the gifted and talented coordinator review the ALP annually and make changes as needed.

  • What conditions must be met for a student to be considered for grade and subject acceleration in grades K-8?

    Students in grades K-8 may be accelerated to another grade if the following conditions are met:

    1. Current classroom performance indicates mastery of the material in the current grade level.

    2. The student demonstrates mastery of the grade to be skipped by scoring 90 percent or higher on standardized tests for reading, writing, math, science, and social studies for that grade level. (For example, a student accelerating from second to fourth grade must demonstrate mastery of third-grade subjects through testing.) or the student performs at the 75th percentile or higher on a norm-referenced administered for two grade levels above the student’s current grade.

    3. The acceleration would not harm the social and emotional development of the student.

    4. The parents or guardians and the student desire acceleration.

    5. The current school's principal, gifted coordinator, and teacher(s) agree that acceleration is in the student’s best interest.

    6. The receiving school must be included if the acceleration requires a building change.

    How do I initiate the process for a whole grade or subject acceleration?

    Could you submit in writing an inquiry to the building principal by the first day of the second quarter for a mid-year acceleration or the first day of the fourth quarter for a beginning-of-year acceleration? This gives the acceleration team enough time to collect data and make informed decisions.

  • According to the Colorado Department of Education, twice-exceptional students are those who are identified as gifted according to state criteria in one or more of the categories of giftedness (cognitive, academic, creative, leadership, or arts)


    Identified with a disability according to federal/state criteria – the disability qualifies them for either an IEP or a 504 Plan.

    Resource: Twice Exceptional Overview

  • Can’t find the term you’re looking for? Want more information on one of these terms? Try the NAGC Glossary of Frequently Used Terms in Gifted Education

    504 – A provision of the civil rights measure the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensuring equal educational access for those with disabilities; under section 504 of the ADA, the disability must have a significant impact on the student’s life; a 504 plan is often used to guarantee accommodations in the classroom for students with ADD/ADHD

    ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are neurological conditions characterized by difficulty concentrating, poor impulse control, and difficulty organizing thoughts and tasks. ADHD has the additional characteristic of hyperactivity – near-constant, unconscious, non-directed physical movement that usually is only absent in sleep

    Ability grouping – also called readiness grouping; placing students into instructional groups by academic need or readiness for the content; groups can be formed and reformed to meet varied instructional purposes (flexible collection)

    Accelerated learning – also called accelerated pacing; students progress through the curriculum faster as the teacher speeds up the presentation rate to match the quicker learning rate of intellectually and academically advanced students.

    Acceleration – the process of either shortening the number of years a student spends learning the K-12 curriculum (also called grade-skipping) or allowing a student to work ahead in a curriculum that is above their current grade level (subject-skipping); both forms of acceleration are well supported by research (see A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, downloadable at

    Achievement test – a test that measures both prior knowledge and current levels of performance in a specific subject or course

    Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) – an individualized educational plan required in Colorado that documents student strengths and interests and serves as an instruction guide. The ALP is based on student needs and interests and may include such programming options as acceleration, differentiated instruction, enrichment activities, and affective counseling and guidance.

    Affective – the domain of learning that addresses attitudes, feelings, values, appreciation, and perception of self and others; motivation is a part of the affective domain that greatly influences achievement and success

    Aptitude – undeveloped natural or innate potential or ability

    Articulation – the communication about the transition of students between grades and learning levels

    At-risk – a descriptive term for students who may underachieve, drop out of school, or come to harm. Unmet economic, physical, emotional, linguistic, and academic needs may inhibit a student’s ability to learn or to attend school.

    Assessment – formal or informal methods of determining learning progress, including mastery or prior knowledge of skills, knowledge, or concepts; assessment may occur before instruction (pre-testing or pre-assessment) to assess student needs and to set goals during education (formative assessment) to guide teachers in planning and to help students track their learning, and after education (post-testing or summative evaluation) to give feedback to teachers, students, and parents on education that occurred

    Asynchronous development – differing rates for physical, cognitive, and emotional development, also known as asynchrony, that occur in all children, but more remarkably in the gifted; for example, a gifted child may be chronologically 13 years old, but may appear intellectually like an 18-year-old, emotionally like an 8-year-old, and physically like an 11-year-old. The discrepancies are most significant for the general population at the chronological age of about 13. Still, the extremes displayed by gifted children have led some experts to define giftedness itself as asynchronous development.

    Bell curve – describes a statistically normal distribution of naturally occurring scores within a population. The pattern of all scores follows a curve that shows the most significant number of scores falling within the middle range and fewer scores in the fields on the outer ends on either side.

    Cluster grouping – the intentional placement of a group of students with similar ability or readiness in an otherwise heterogeneous classroom for a particular learning activity or a particular unit or course

    Cognitive – the domain of learning that addresses knowledge and understanding of concepts and facts and their relationships; the mental field also deals with thinking, reasoning, and creativity.

    Cognitive test – a test not linked to a specific curriculum that is used to predict a student’s future performance and general level of intellectual functioning; cognitive abilities are present at birth, are influenced by experiences both in and out of school, and continue to develop throughout the lifespan

    Cooperative learning – an instructional strategy in which small, usually heterogeneous, groups of students work collaboratively to accomplish a particular task; the purpose of such knowledge is to prepare students to work with others, to help them understand group membership and group dynamics, and to allow them to practice the skills of leadership and group membership

    Creative thinking – a type of thinking that includes skills for generating, focusing, and evaluating ideas, for synthesis, creating a new product, or problem-solving. Creative thinking comprises attitudes and dispositions such as openness to new ideas, a love of novelty, intellectual risk-taking, tolerance for ambiguity, and perseverance.

    Critical thinking – a type of thinking that emphasizes the development of analytical thinking for decision-making and making judgments. Critical thinking includes attitudes such as sustained attention to details and facts, a focus on accuracy and depth, and a willingness to allow one’s mind to be changed. Skills such as analyzing, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, seeing others’ points of view, and reaching sound conclusions are part of good thinking.

    Cross-grade/Multi-age grouping – a grouping strategy that mixes children of different ages for instruction

    Curriculum compacting is a process that gives students credit for what they already know by documenting their mastery of the material and replacing planned activities with activities promoting new learning. The curriculum is mastered in less time by eliminating repetition, minimizing drills, and accelerating instruction, enabling gifted students to engage with more challenging material.

    Differentiation – meeting the diverse needs of learners through adapting curriculum and instruction using modifications in complexity, depth, and pacing through various teaching and learning strategies; differentiation depends upon ongoing assessment of student progress and readiness so that grouping can remain flexible. The teacher makes adjustments based on the student’s interests, preferred ways of learning, and academic readiness. Teachers may adjust the learning environment, the content of lessons, learning activities, and assessments.

    Elitism – a frequent criticism of gifted education; gifted education designed to serve the legitimate needs of those who differ from the general population is not inherently elitist. However, if students receiving gifted programming or their parents act as if they are socially or morally superior, or if the process supports the social order rather than identifying and serving all talented students, then charges of elitism have merit. Ideally, gifted programming serves gifted students from all social classes and ethnic groups without regard to their area of giftedness, whether they are achievers, underachievers, or students with disabilities.

    Gifted – having a comparatively rare level of mental ability, intelligence, or potential in one or more domains of value to society. “Giftedness” identified during the school years is possible for the later manifestation of giftedness in an area of intense interest. Gifted students can grasp concepts and skills at a speedy rate earlier than their age peers and also exhibit unique affective traits.

    Grouping – dividing students into groups by academic readiness/ability, interest, or learning style for instruction. Groups can be formed and reformed flexibly to meet varied instructional purposes. Grouping usually refers to the within-class collection, although it may also refer to the cross-class bunch. (See also Ability grouping Cross-grade/Multi-age grouping and Cluster grouping.)

    Highly gifted students are those whose intelligence level is several years above their age level; due to the difference between them and children of more average abilities, their sense of isolation may be significant. Their affective qualities are often very different from the usual. They also may exhibit talent far beyond their years, in which cases they are often referred to as prodigies.

    Heterogeneous grouping – placing children of various abilities, interests, and learning styles together in a classroom or instructional group

    Homogeneous grouping – placing children of like abilities, interests, and learning styles in the same classroom or instructional group

    Inclusion – integrating students with unique needs into regular classrooms

    Independent study – self-directed learning, often using self-selected resources and driven by student interest; includes more or less teacher or mentor monitoring or supervision at regular intervals, depending on the age of the learner; generally culminates in a product or service related to the topic or issue; independent study may also refer to self-directed progress through a prescribed course.

    Individualized instruction – customized education that includes progressing through or bypassing the curriculum using learning activities that align with each student’s learning style, social-emotional concerns, interests, abilities, creativity, and task commitment; usually used in tutoring settings rather than in classrooms

    Intensities/Overexcitabilities – intense sensitivities experienced by people in various domains: psychomotor, sensual/aesthetic, imaginational, emotional, and intellectual; the term “overexcitability” was first coined by Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist who lived at the time of both World Wars. Dabrowski developed a complex, hierarchical theory of human development focused on moral and creative potential. One aspect of his approach is categorizing certain perceptual traits that appear to play a role in the upward movement of a person’s development on the hierarchy. Dabrowski and his colleague and pupil, Michael Piechowski, found that the overexcitabilities appear linked in frequency and intensity to intelligence levels. Gifted children will often exhibit behaviors of one or more overexcitabilities to a greater degree than their non-gifted peers.

    IQ (intelligence quotient) – a numerical calculation that represents the ratio of an individual's mental age to their chronological age multiplied by 100. Only a few cognitive tests yield IQ scores. Standard IQ scores compare the mental periods considered normal for all those of the same chronological age; the mean IQ for any age group is 100, representing a perfect correlation between mental and chronological age, according to that particular test. Cognizant of the body of research that shows little correlation between IQ scores and adult achievement, modern gifted educators often agree with this tongue-in-cheek saying about IQ tests, “Intelligence is whatever IQ tests measure.”

    Learning styles – the different ways in which an individual attends to, processes, internalizes, and remembers new and challenging academic knowledge (e.g., auditory/visual/spatial/kinesthetic; linear/global; sequential/random; analytical thinker/creative thinker; left-brained/right-brained; group-oriented/individual learner practical/analytical/creative)

    Mentorship - a cooperative arrangement between a student and a professional adult with common interests in a particular skill, domain-specific knowledge, or career orientation to educate the student (protégé) in the area of the adult’s expertise

    Multiple Intelligences – Howard Gardner’s theory that intelligence exists and can be expressed in various ways within a society. Gardner states that intelligence is defined through problem-solving, combining traditional views of intelligence, such as rapidly processed knowledge and skills, with creativity. The theory identifies at least eight intelligences: linguistic, musical, spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spiritual/naturalist, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

    Perfectionism- the desire to execute tasks flawlessly; gifted children may develop perfectionism upon entering school when they perform better than their classmates and believe they must continue to outshine their peers. Later, such perfectionism may lead to avoiding challenges to avoid appearing imperfect.

    Pretest – a test given before instruction to determine the current level of performance in a specific skill or current level of knowledge and understanding; results are used for planning education and setting goals (see Assessment)

    Pull-out – classes and activities held for certain groups of students during the school day but outside the regular classroom.

    Rubric – a scoring guide used as an assessment scale to determine performance levels according to pre-determined criteria in categories of importance.

    Tracking – full-time, often permanent, assignment to achievement groups across all academic areas. Twice Exceptional – a gifted student with other diagnosed learning/physical needs, such as ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, behavioral disorder, hearing or visual impairment, or a Specific Learning Disability – abbreviated adequately as 2e, although you will sometimes see 2X

    Underachievement – a significant discrepancy between recognized potential or ability and actual academic performance