Elkhart Community Schools is committed to the learning and well-being of all of our students. Some students have particularly high achievement and/or academic potential, requiring special services. Curricular programming depends on the needs of each student and will be thoughtfully designed and delivered by the staff at each school. There are many methods Elkhart educators use to nurture high ability students, all providing challenges and responsive support appropriate to individual readiness.
The High Ability program gathers elementary students with particularly high achievement and/or academic potential into common educational experiences suited for students with accelerated needs. High ability classrooms are designed to provide not only a specialized curriculum, but also rich classroom interactions with peers of similar achievement and/or ability levels. Formal identification begins in kindergarten and continues through the years. Program placement occurs each fall following the spring identification process. Instructional adjustments are made throughout the year as indicated by formative assessments. Every elementary building in the district has a high ability coordinator who oversees the delivery of services to identified students.
Upon identification, parents are notified of options to have their son/daughter attend a high ability centralized program or receive high ability services in their neighborhood school. The curriculum in both the centralized and the neighborhood delivery model includes alignment to high standards, differentiation, enrichment, relevance, acceleration, emotional support, and grouping with other students also identified with high ability. The difference between the models is evidenced in the numbers of students with similar needs in the same setting. The centralized program will include self-contained classrooms and large group placements as the numbers permit while the neighborhood program will be delivered in smaller groupings and possibly multi-age settings.
Students who qualify for high ability services in Grades 7 and 8 have opportunities to take high school courses offered at the middle schools. Such courses currently include honors algebra and honors geometry, as well as honors sections of language arts and social studies courses. Extracurricular clubs are varied and give students opportunities for quality experiences aligned with their passions.
High Ability high school students in ECS have extensive opportunities. College credit is available to students prior to graduation, helping students find career pathways and saving college costs. Hundreds of college credits are available to students from Elkhart Community Schools through their success with Dual Credit and Advanced Placement (AP) course work. Graduates from the High Ability program are prepared for success wherever their interests take them.
A formal process is used to identify students with high abilities. All ECS students in Grades K-8 participate in Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing provided by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Scores from the winter administration are used to identify students with high achievement levels. In addition, students in Grade K, 2, and 5 are administered the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAt) to identify those with high academic potential. Students with scores close to the threshold for high ability identification are rated on the Scales for Identifying Gifted Students (SIGS).
Students can be identified as high ability in the areas of math, English language arts, or general intellectual (both). Each spring families of students identified with high achievement and/or ability are notified by the district’s Instructional Leadership team of placement options. Students found with high ability in both English language arts and mathematics will have priority access to self-contained settings in cases where space is limited.
High Ability Transfers
If a student was receiving high ability services in a previous setting, standardized testing evidence from that agency can be submitted for review by the ECS identification team. If the student received scores at or above the required percentile on an acceptable test in that setting, the results may qualify the student for high ability services at ECS without any additional testing.
Students who are not enrolled, or not yet enrolled, with ECS may participate in high ability testing. The cost for participation is $60, refundable upon enrollment at Elkhart Community Schools. To register your child for testing, call the Instructional Leadership Department at Elkhart Community Schools, 574-262-5559.
NWEA results for all students in grades K-8 will be reviewed each year by a district team. Additionally, CogAT is used in grades K, 2, and 5 to look for cognitive potential for all students not already identified as high ability. This thorough assessment strategy precludes the need to request additional testing and allows for equal opportunities in considering all students.
Personalized Programs for High Ability Students with Special Needs
Instructional plans will be designed to meet the needs of all high ability students, including students learning English as a Second Language, students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and students with behavioral or health needs.
If your child with high ability is having difficulty in the High Ability program, first contact the educator providing high ability services. In elementary and middle schools, the High Ability Coordinator or the building principal may be able to assist as your next point of contact. Building principals are a good third tier of support if needed.
High ability services continue unless there is evidence that past testing is no longer relevant, when support plans have not been successful, or when a parent requests discontinuation of service.
Additional Information about High Ability
For additional questions and support, please contact Dr. Dawn McGrath, Deputy Superintendent, who serves as the district administrator of the program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-262-5559.