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TESTING


Who decides the process in terms of referrals, testing, eligibility, and placement?

The Washington Administrative Code governs rules for testing, eligibility, placement, and many other program activities. Each district is required to have a process for identification that is verified by OSPI.

Who can refer a child for testing?

Anyone can refer a child – a parent, a teacher, another member of the community, a scoutmaster, a custodian, a physician – anyone who feels the child needs to be looked at because of special ability.  It does take parent permission to test a child.

How does our district ensure fairness, equity and access to the referral process?

Anyone can refer a child for testing.  At EPS the notification of the registration process and registration packet are available in Russian and Spanish as well as English.  Notification is published in school newsletters, on the school and district websites, and provided in hard copy at school front offices.  Testing students in their neighborhood school buildings during the week – rather than at the district offices on Saturdays - is another way to ensure equity.  Also, in 2017 the EXCEL office will offer a screening for every student, across two grade levels - 2nd and 5th.

What kinds of tests and measures are used to determine eligibility for EXCEL Services?

We are required by the Washington Administrative Code to use nationally standardized tests in achievement and ability. We are also required to look for evidence of creative ability. EPS uses the CogAT Form 7, the ITBS Form E and Logramos (ITBS equivalent) for Spanish speaking students.

What are the tests like?

The tests are standard “bubble” tests with subtests including reading, language, and mathematics.  The ability tests assess reasoning ability and include subtests in verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal reasoning.  Non-verbal reasoning might include spatial relationships, pictures, puzzles, etc. The measure of creative ability is a scale survey.  All CogAT tests are administered online. ITBS tests are administered online and Logramos is available in the pencil/paper format.

Can we teach our student so he/she will do well on the tests and become eligible for EXCEL?

Achievement scores are the result of learning and instruction.  While reasoning ability develops over time, this kind of test is less tied to direct instruction.

How do I talk to a student 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 do less well because of the pressure.  They may even become ill during the test!  The best thing to tell children is that these tests are a measurement, just like getting your foot 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.

We just transferred into Evergreen from another district.  Do our former test results count? Can my student be in a HiCap Program in your district if he/she was in a program for gifted students in another district?  Do we still have to apply and test?

Prior programming does not guarantee placement in one of Evergreen’s programs.  Each state and district has different methods for determining eligibility. Sometimes the testing done previously is very similar to what we use here.  In that case, the assessment department can look at official testing results that parents or former schools provide and determine if the student is eligible in Evergreen.  If there is any question, the HCP office may use the expertise of the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MDSC). Sometimes the testing done is not similar to what is used in Evergreen.  In those cases, students will be asked to test here. They would need to fill out a registration packet and schedule a testing time with the HCP office.

Can a student test again?  What are the considerations for re-testing?

Students who were eligible from a prior testing may not re-test for score-raising purposes.  Students who were not eligible from a prior test may test again. The criteria for retesting are a) at least 6 months between testing sessions; and b) testing at the next higher grade level.  Because the tests are both valid (they measure what they say they measure) and reliable (the results are consistent across time and across similar tests), scores of a second or third trial are quite similar.  Children who are ill when they test may test higher when they are well. Children who have experienced trauma from a family situation, an injury, or a recent major move may benefit from re-testing. Children who are very young – before grade four – show a little more variability in test results (a little less reliability).  Children who speak a different language at home often do better when tested a year or two later, when language skills have developed.

What do test scores mean?  How do I read the report that was mailed to us?

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) & Logramos is a battery of achievement tests.  The achievement tests in reading, language, and mathematics are reported in normal curve equivalents (NCE), grade equivalents (GE), and in national percentile ranks (NPR).

  • Normal Curve Equivalents - are statistical scores by which we can compare one kind of test to another.  For practical purposes, they are not important to parents or teachers for interpreting tests.
  • Grade Equivalents are just that.  According to what your student answered on a particular sub test, the score is converted to where that student is in terms of grade level achievement.  For example, a GE of 4.5 in reading would mean that your student’s achievement in reading is at the middle of fourth grade. While these do not show specific sub areas of a subject such as inference or even decoding in reading, they do give a general idea.
  • National Percentiles (NPR) show what percent of students scored below a student on a particular test.  A student at the 70th percentile reflects that 70% of others who took the test scored lower.
  • The Survey Total on the achievement test shows a statistical average of the subtests.

The Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) is a battery of tests measuring reasoning ability.  The ability tests of verbal, quantitative and nonverbal reasoning are shown by stanines and national percentiles both by age and by grade.

  • Stanines are statistical groupings of scores into nine segments where the mean scores are 5, and the highest scores are 9.
  • National Percentiles by Age - In Evergreen we use age percentiles to determine eligibility.  This is done because some students are not with age peers in their grade in school.
  • The Composite on the ability test is a weighted statistical average of the subtests.
  • Both tests show graphing of percentile ranks.

How do I talk to a student about his/her test scores?

Be very careful not to use words like “pass” or “fail” when referring to these tests.  The tests are measurements, and just as you can’t fail or pass a shoe size measurement, these tests do not indicate failure or success.  It is tragic when students try their best and score quite high and are made to feel they have failed.

If your student was not eligible:  Giftedness is a range, just as there is a range of disability.  Many gifted children are not eligible for programming in Evergreen.  They may be quite gifted in one area, for example. The Washington Administrative Code requires us to place only the “most highly capable” with the understanding that resources are limited. Do praise your student for areas of strength and for good effort. Students who are not eligible for gifted programing, but who score at or above the 90th percentile in any academic area(s) (verbal, quantitative, reading, language, or math) are Target students.  See Other Questions for a full description of Target students.

If a student was not eligible from test scores, they may be admitted to programming via the Appeals process.  See the section on Eligibility and Appeals.

If your student is eligible:  Just as finding the right fit is important for shoes, the right fit is important for school.  Being eligible means that there will be some change in the school program. Perhaps your student will be placed in the Full-Time program or perhaps the Pull-Out program one day per week.  It helps your student to talk and think in terms of fit. Whether he/she leaves the neighborhood school for a day or forever, it helps the student explain to friends why he/she is leaving - this is a better fit.  Sometimes children feel guilt over leaving a school or a 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 one that doesn’t.  It just matters that it fits.

 

ELIGIBILITY AND APPEALS


What determines eligibility for a highly capable programming in Evergreen Public Schools?

Students scoring above the 90th percentile on the composite of the ability (CogAT) tests are eligible.  If a student does not score this high on the ability tests, a survey composite score above the 95th percentile on the achievement tests (ITBS or Logramos) with either verbal or quantitative subtests on the ability test above the 90th percentile will result in eligibility.  The State of Washington pays for about 3% of Evergreen students to receive services.  The above formula has been shown to be effective in identifying the 3% of our students funded by the State of Washington.

Who determines eligibility?

As prescribed by the Washington Administrative Code, eligibility is determined by the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MDSC) made up of at least one of each of these: an administrator, a teacher with specialized training in highly capable education, and a psychologist.

Should I submit an appeal if a student is not eligible?

Students who are not eligible can retest the next year, or they can submit an appeal.   Appeals offer the opportunity for a student’s file/work to be looked at by a committee in more depth than what test scores alone can reveal. By making an appeal, extenuating circumstances can be considered.  Perhaps the child was ill for part of the test. Perhaps he/she is not a good test-taker. Other evidence of student ability can be considered. If an appeal fails, then the student still has the option of testing again the next year. Appeals are not accepted for screeners or placement.

 

PLACEMENT


Who determines placement in HCP?

As prescribed by the Washington Administrative Code, placement is determined by the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MDSC) made up of at least one of each of the following positions:  an administrator, a teacher with specialized training in highly capable education, and a school psychologist.

What is placement based upon?

Placement is based upon several factors including parent requests, teacher recommendations, test scores and space availability. Because of language in the Washington Administrative Code regarding placement of the “most highly capable” when all other factors are equal, test scores determine placement. Scores are ranked, meaning that a statistical average is found for students and these are ranked in order. The MDSC has limited latitude when placing a student before another student with a higher rank score.  This happens rarely, and only with due professional consideration by the committee and appropriate documentation.  The State of Washington regularly audits databases of test scores and placement to ensure fairness in placement practices.

Can a student be in a HiCap class if he/she is in Evergreen on a boundary exception?

Because of space considerations, we do not place boundary exceptions in the Full-Time Elementary classrooms.  Students on boundary exceptions into Evergreen and can be placed in Pull-Out and/or Middle School programs if space is available after Evergreen students have been placed.

In considering a request for placement, what is the difference between Full-Time and Part-Time?  What do I need to consider before I make a decision on what program would be best suited for my child’s needs?

Because so many people would like to visit the classrooms to answer this question, we do not generally allow “program shopping” as it would be disruptive to the educational processes of the classrooms.

The Full-Time program is a self-contained, full time program where the basic curriculum is accelerated and presented in more depth and complexity. Students would go to a school where this program is located, and that would become his/her school. Our full-time program is considered a course unto itself and part-time enrollment will not be supported.

The Part-Time program is a one day per week enrichment program. Students are bused to the program location one day per week.  The other four days per week, students participate in a cluster classroom at his/her neighborhood school. This means that there are other identified gifted students in the classroom where possible. Teacher is trained to work with gifted children, offering extensions, flexible grouping, and other modifications.    

Informational meetings are held in the spring, for parents of eligible students, to explain program models and help parents with requests.  

When would a student not be considered for Full-Time?

We have more families requesting Full-Time than space allows.  Because we have to place by rank scores to satisfy the “most highly capable” language in the Washington Administrative Code, some students inevitably are placed in Part-Time when they request Full-Time.

Is Full Time better than Part-Time?

No. Each program option is based on the needs of each individual student, and is designed to engage learners in very similar ways. Full-Time is different from Part-Time in that it is an acceleration model, while Part-Time is an enrichment model.  Both models are shown to be effective in promoting academic growth.
 

OTHER QUESTIONS


If a child qualifies and is placed into a Full-Time classroom, what will be different about the instruction and expectations in this classroom from other classrooms?

We know from educational research that appropriate pacing of instruction, appropriate level of difficulty with depth and complexity, and working with intellectual peers are important for gifted children.  All of the Highly Capable Programs in Evergreen are geared toward providing these to children. This is accomplished in a full time self-contained classroom or one where children are clustered or pulled out for instruction with others at similar levels of achievement.

Does participation in an HCP open any doors at the high school level in Evergreen?

In high schools, the options increase.  There is a wider variety of classes and levels of classes. Advanced Placement (AP) becomes an option, as does Running Start at Clark College and College in High School.  Students are leveled in a number of subjects from math to foreign languages to band, depending upon prerequisites and prior instruction.  Generally, all of these options are open to all students. So, no, HCP participation in elementary and middle schools does not bear on what classes one can take. However, because of the rigor in HiCap classes, students are more experienced at handling the heavier load of work required in higher level classes. For example, students may be more prepared for advanced high school math due to the complexity and rigor of some options they have had in an HCP classroom.  The elementary and middle school programs are not prerequisite for any high school class.

What is a cluster?

A cluster is defined as a small group of gifted students placed in a classroom in the neighborhood school in which other identified gifted students have been placed. Teachers are trained to work with gifted children, offering extensions, flexible grouping, and other modifications. Part-Time students are usually in cluster classrooms the days they are not in Part-Time.

If a student is in a Part-Time classroom, does he/she have to do assignments for their Part-Time classroom AND their regular classroom for the days they attend Part-Time?

If the student misses something foundational without which he/she would have trouble with subsequent work, it should be made up in some way. This might be another student in the class explaining the concept, or an assignment from the teacher to read and/or do.  Tests also need to be made up. Finally, if a student is struggling in an area and practice would help, such practice should be made up.  Otherwise, the regular classroom work does not need to be made up.

What if a student gets into a Highly Capable classroom but doesn’t do well?

It is all about the fit.  The more extreme a person is, whether shoe size or math ability, the more difficult it can be to find a good fit.  Fortunately, in Evergreen we have a range of options, from cluster grouping to Pull-Out to Full-Time. If the fit isn’t good, we do allow a student to change his/her program, but we don’t allow repeated changes. When the fit isn’t right, parents, teacher(s), the student, and the school principal come together to decide upon the best option.  Sometimes students even leave programing for a year or two or altogether. Most of the time, this is the choice of the student. If a family chooses to accept placement in Full-Time EXCEL, we do not guarantee there will be space available to return to their home school  should the desire or need arise to do so. If space is available, they will return to their home school.  If there is not space available at their home school, the student will be enrolled in another Evergreen elementary school with space available at that grade band.  This applies to students who reside in boundary and those on boundary exceptions. Space availability is defined as follows:

  • students who reside within the boundary - any space under the hard cap

  • students who re-apply for a boundary exception - any space under the soft cap

Who are Target students?

Target students are those identified as gifted in at least one academic area, but their overall scores do not make them eligible for the EXCEL program services.  For example, the student may be highly gifted in math, but on or only a little above grade level in other areas. This student is a Target student. His/her name is put on a list of other such students with the area of giftedness identified. Each year, the building principals are given the list of Target students in their buildings.  This gives them an opportunity to group such students together so that instruction can be targeted to the group, and the group can work together to benefit from peer interaction. Target students are identified by having a score at or above the 90th percentile in any subtest in an academic area.  Target students stay targeted throughout their elementary and middle school years.

What happens if a student does not turn in our Agreement for Participation on time?

Parent permission for a student to participate in a highly capable program is mandated by the state WACs.  If a family misses the deadline, the HCP office sends out a new agreement to be filled out and return at the earliest convenience.  Children are not automatically dropped without a phone call at the very least to the family to find out why they have failed to turn in the agreement form.

Who can I ask about other questions or concerns?

Questions and concerns about things that happen in the classroom should go to the teacher or the building staff including the principal.  Classroom teachers and school liaisons are good sources of information about testing, registration, and other program information. If they cannot answer your questions, they will refer you to the EXCEL office.

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