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Talent Development

SoWashCo Schools Talent Development and Advanced Academics (TDAA) believes in equitable access in developing talents in students of all abilities, races, ethnicities, languages, gender, and socioeconomic circumstances. We recognize the biases inherent in gifted education and are committed to eliminating those biases and barriers for students. We believe that all students of all ages have relative talent strengths, and schools should help them identify and develop their own special abilities.   

Our priorities within Talent Development and Advanced Academics include: 

  • Finding and developing the strengths and unique abilities of all students 
  • Providing opportunities for all children to develop critical thinking and advanced learning behaviors 
  • Honoring student experiential knowledge and giving students opportunities to play an active role in their own learning 
  • Increasing the complexity and depth of content to fit students’ learning needs 
  • Identifying advanced learners to provide them appropriately challenging instruction and programming which meets these students’ unique academic and social/emotional needs through enrichments and extensions not offered in core academic programming. 
  • Supporting students in achieving academic success and believing they are capable of realizing their dreams. 


Ben Lacina

Benjamin Lacina 
Talent Development and Advanced Academics Coordinator

Identification Process

Elementary Classroom

Advanced learners are students with outstanding abilities and capable of higher performance when compared to others of similar age, experience and environment. SoWashCo Schools screens and identifies students annually for talent development and academic achievement services.  

Each fall, all students in grade 2 are screened for advanced academic services using multiple criteria including:

  • CogAT 8 (Cognitive Ability Test Form 8)
  • MAP Growth (Measures of Academic Progress) achievement data in math and reading
  • HOPE (Having Opportunities Promotes Excellence) teacher rating scale for identification of advanced learners

All students assessed during the fall window receive the results of their CogAT and MAP assessments, independent of advanced learner identification.  Letters notifying families of  students identification for Advanced Academic Services are sent via U.S. Mail in late January.

Advanced Academic services include cluster classrooms at all elementary schools as well as the Gateway Program located at Valley Crossing Elementary School. 

Students do not need to be identified as an advanced learner to participate in enrichment opportunities and to receive differentiated instruction in their classrooms.

Students in grades 3-7 not previously identified but demonstrating outstanding abilities are screened for advanced academic services if they were not formally assessed in the prior year.

  • Achievement data, including the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, is reviewed annually and teacher input may be gathered to determine needs for further screening for advanced academic services using the Cognitive Ability Assessment (Cognitive Abilities Test/CogAT8). However, SoWashCo Schools does not typically assess students via CogAT across consecutive years.
  • Students in grades 3-7 also may be referred for further testing with the CogAT by a parent or guardian if they have not been assessed in the prior year.

Identification Process Questions and Answers

Cogat Questions and Answers

Levels of Service 

Talent Development and Advanced Academics services are provided at all SoWashCo elementary and middle schools through the Levels of Service approach.

Levels of Service Programming is:

  • Flexible: Programming includes many different people, places, and kinds of activities. It does not follow one formula, single curriculum, or set program of activities or services.
  • Inclusive: Programming that is appropriate, challenging, and developmental can be available to anyone. Programming includes a broad range of talents and does not serve just one fixed group of students.
  • Responsive: Programming responds to the positive needs of students. It guides planning and decision making and leads to modifications of instruction. The mission of programming is to design and deliver instruction through which we can bring out the best in every student.
  • Proactive: Programming challenges the teacher, school, district, parents, and community to take constructive actions for talent development. Taking initiative for talent development becomes everyone's business.
  • Unifying: Programming provides a structure and terminology for communicating effectively about talent development within and among home, school, and community.

Teachers do not assume that students who have a great deal of potential in one area have a high level of potential in all areas. Sometimes, students with high potential for math may not have high reading ability and vice versa. High ability in one area does not equate with high ability in other areas. LoS provides a framework for planning, delivering, and managing a wide range of responses to the needs of students. (Selby & Young, 2001)

Edwin C Selby, & Grover C Young. (2003, October). The Levels of Service approach to talent development: Parallels with existing programs. Gifted Child Today, 26(4), 44-50,65.

Cluster Classrooms 

Cluster classrooms place a small cluster of students that have been identified for advanced academic services in the same classroom with a teacher who has received additional training in teaching high ability learners.

  • Cluster classrooms have the same number of students as other classrooms
  • Students that have been identified for advanced academic services can continue to attend their boundary school and be grouped in a cluster classroom
  • Cluster classrooms include students with a broad range of abilities
  • Cluster classrooms allow high ability students to learn with peers of all abilities while also being able to group together for more challenging lessons

Research shows that clustering students of high ability increases the opportunity for instruction to be delivered at an appropriate pace and level of challenge. When grouped with students of like abilities, advanced learners make more educational gains than when they are separated into different classes.

Talent Development and Advanced Academic Services in SoWashCo Schools are curriculum based. The curriculum for students in the cluster classroom is based on our district's core curriculum which is differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Advanced learners may progress at an accelerated rate or at an in-depth level. A primary objective of the cluster classroom is to place greater emphasis on high level cognitive abilities and go more in-depth with the curriculum. All students benefit when teachers focus on expanding, and extending classroom learning opportunities.

Gateway Program at Valley Crossing Elementary School

The Gateway Program serves students in an all advanced learner environment using curriculum with increased depth, complexity and pacing as the primary lens for designing instruction.  Gateway immerses students in an intellectually challenging community that encourages academic risk-taking to develop students’ academic potential and supports their social and emotional needs as learners. 

Learn More

Gateway Interest Form & Timeline

The deadline to submit an interest form for the 2024-25 school year is:

  • Grade 2: 11:59 PM Friday, Feb. 9, 2024
  • Grade 3-4: 11:50 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 

Submission of the Gateway Interest Form does not guarantee placement in the program.

Families will be notified of their child’s placement by early March.

Additional information can be found on the Valley Crossing website.


Middle school accelerated math placement process

All students in grade 5 are reviewed for math acceleration as they enter grade 6 to ensure students are appropriately challenged in mathematics by analyzing Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) math data.

General Timeline

February: Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) math data is collected and analyzed.  

Mid-Feb. - Early-April: Grade 5 teachers may provide additional input about math achievement in the classroom. 

Mid May: Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) notifies all families of students entering grade 6 through e-mail of their child’s math placement. This communication includes details regarding an appeals process for grade 6 math placement through the TLS department. 

Early June: Parents can sign up for math appeals, which includes parent input and a required diagnostic test.  

Mid June: Families are notified of the results of the appeals process.  

2024 Grade 6 Math Appeal Form

Registration for the 2024 Spring Math Appeals testing has passed. Please contact for more information.

FAmily Resources and Enrichments

Expand the panels below to learn about additional resources and enrichment to support your child. 

Young Scholars

Young Scholars is an academic program designed to find and nurture advanced potential at an early age in students from historically underrepresented populations providing learning experiences that strengthen basic skills and require students to think and apply knowledge at higher, more complex levels. Young Scholars is committed to seeing and meeting the needs of students who prefer more complex and creative ways of thinking.


Colleen Redmond
Young Scholars  Coordinator

The primary goal of Young Scholars is to raise students’ personal expectations, support family involvement, and prepare students for more challenging and rigorous coursework in later grades. Young Scholars continues to develop and evolve based on the changing needs of our students.

Young Scholars lessons encourage and reinforce the following skills:

  • Divergent Thinking:
    • Students use brainstorming techniques to develop a variety of possible solutions to given problems.
    • Students practice using the characteristics of divergent thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.
  • Convergent Thinking
    • Students learn deducting and analytic thinking skills to solve problems using comparing and contrasting as well as classifying techniques. Graphic organizers are used to sort and classify information.
  • Visual/Spatial Thinking
    • Students learn to manipulate shapes and solve problems by identifying patterns and analyzing shapes in detail.
  • Evaluative Thinking
    • Students learn to develop criteria for evaluating possible solutions in a given problem basing their decisions on factual criteria not just opinion.

Young Scholars Newsletter Archive