Board of Education Policy for High Ability Learners


Elkhorn Public Schools is committed to an educational program that recognizes each student’s unique characteristics and strives to advance all aspects of a student’s development to the fullest.


High ability learner (HAL) education is designed to extend the learning environment for high-potential students. Services are defined as expanded learning experiences for students who are capable of studying in-depth matters of an academic and creative nature.


The District shall attempt to provide educational experiences for students through the following goals:

  1. Assessing and identifying students of high academic ability. Students are identified through testing beginning in Grade 3 and are eligible for identification in every grade after that.
  2. Providing services for identified students beginning in Grade 4 that incorporate curriculum modifications/accommodations, teaching methods, activities, and/or instructional materials to meet the needs of high-ability learners.
  3. Communicating the various aspects and successes of the program for high-ability learners to staff, students, parents, and the community.
  4. Evaluating program goals, activities, materials, and procedures.
  5. Recognizing and nurturing educational excellence.


Phase I – Universal Screening

Universal screening for the High Ability Learner program is conducted, beginning in third grade, using both ability and achievement data, a best practice that acknowledges both a student’s performance and potential. All third graders take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in addition to MAP-Growth. New and current students in grades 4+ are also screened. Students who meet at least one of the following criteria move on to Phase II.

  • 120+ standard age score on any battery/index or total composite on a district-approved ability test, e.g., CogAT;
  • 95+ percentile in mathematics or reading on a district-approved standardized achievement test, e.g., MAP-Growth

Phase II – Data Analysis

An analysis of the body of evidence for each student is conducted. Evidence includes data from multiple district-approved assessments to measure ability, achievement, and high-ability characteristics. The most common instruments used are the Cognitive Abilities Test- CogAT (ability), NWEA MAP Growth and Pre-ACT (achievement), and the Scales for Identifying Gifted Students (teacher rating scale). The analysis includes computing data points for achievement and ability. The achievement data point is a mean of the two highest scores, e.g., MAP-Growth, within the past 12 months. It represents the student’s pattern of performance. The ability data point is the score that best reflects the student’s potential in the program area for which they are being considered.

Phase III – Determination of Eligibility

HALE program eligibility is determined when a student meets the criteria in one of three possible Pathways. Pathways II and III require data points expressed as z-scores to combine scores on ability and achievement tests.

Pathway I

  • HALE Math Eligibility- CogAT Quantitative (Q) or Quantitative-Nonverbal (QN) standard age score of 140+
  • HALE Reading Eligibility- CogAT Verbal (V) standard age score of 140+ 


  • HALE Math Eligibility- two MAP Growth-Math or Pre-ACT/ACT-Math scores in the 99th percentile within the past 12 months
  • HALE Reading Eligibility- two MAP Growth-Reading or Pre-ACT/ACT-Reading scores in the 99th percentile within the past 12 months

Pathway II

Minimum of 3.5 after combining z-scores earned on district-approved ability and achievement tests.

  • HALE Math Eligibility-the two highest MAP Growth-Math percentiles within the past 12 months paired with CogAT Quantitative (Q), Quantitative-Nonverbal (QN), or VQN (if Quantitative or Quantitative-Nonverbal is 120+)
  • HALE Reading Eligibility- two highest MAP Growth-Reading percentiles within the past 12 months paired with standard scores earned on CogAT Verbal (V) or VQN (if Verbal is 120+)

Pathway III

Students with a 3.2-3.499 Pathway II total must score 131+ on a teacher rating scale of gifted characteristics (Scales for Identifying Gifted Students- SIGS-2).

Phase IV – Placement

Parents/guardians of newly identified students will receive documents requesting consent for HALE services. Signatures are required before services can commence.

Letters of continued placement are sent each September as required by the Nebraska State Department of Education.



Although not formally identified for HALE services, children in kindergarten are served primarily in the regular classroom with consulting services provided to the classroom teacher by the HALE teacher. Small group sessions may be provided in collaboration with the classroom teacher. Additional enrichment opportunities are provided when needed.

1st through 3rd Grade

Enrichment units are provided to groups of first, second, and third graders. Students are selected using assessment data, teacher observations and feedback, and successful participation in previous enrichment groups. Students participate in enrichment units that match their specific academic strengths and needs. These small groups are flexible.

4th  and 5th Grade

Programming for students formally identified for HALE includes academic activities that align with and extend the district curriculum in literacy and math. The HALE program provides opportunities to explore advanced content while applying critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and independent thinking skills and strategies.

Middle School

The goal of the middle school HALE program is to recognize each student’s unique characteristics and create expanded learning experiences for each student. The program provides appropriately challenging educational experiences that encourage students to learn, challenge themselves, and contribute positively to society. HALE teachers and classroom teachers collaborate to provide various services to identified students, including classroom differentiation, seminars, and competitions.

High School

High school students are invited to participate in honors classes offered by the English and Mathematics departments. Students in grades 10 through 12 can enroll in college-level Advanced Placement classes and/or apply for independent study. Academic teams, tests, and competitions for those with talents in math, science, writing, history, and engineering are available and encouraged. These activities are meant to challenge and enrich gifted students at the high school level. The HALE Coordinator is available to guide college/career planning and underachievement.

At all levels, classroom teachers, building coordinators, and other specialists strive to discover student potential and design options to enhance students’ learning.

Revised April 30, 2024