Creating and Expanding Educational Environments for High Ability Learners


Board of Education Policy for High Ability Learners


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


High ability learner education is designed to extend the learning environment for high potential students. Services are defined as being 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 in grades 3-12.
  2. Providing services for identified students 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 – Screening

Students who have one of the following characteristics will be screened:

  • 120 or above on a Scholastic Aptitude Measure
  • Achievement level of 95th percentile or higher on a district approved standardized achievement test in the areas of reading, mathematics, or language arts
  • Nomination(s) by teacher, parent, self, or peer using a specific list of characteristics

Phase II – Data Analysis

Further analysis of data is conducted using district approved multiple criteria:

  • Ability Assessment
  • Achievement Assessment
  • Teacher Rating Scale

Phase III – Identification

Identification will be based on the following characteristics:

Pathway I

  • Composite SAS/SAI score of 140+ on a district approved ability test


  • 97th percentile or higher on NWEA MAP scores in BOTH Reading/Language Arts and Math (Elementary/Middle School)
  • Score at or above the 98th percentile composite score on a district approved standardized achievement test (Grades 8-12)


Pathway II

Students must meet minimum criteria, combining data from district approved ability and achievement measures.

Pathway III

Students must meet minimum criteria, combining data from district approved ability and achievement measures, and a teacher rating scale.

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 will be sent each September as required by the Nebraska State Department of Education.



Children in kindergarten are served primarily in the regular classroom with consulting services provided to the classroom teacher by the HALE coordinator. Small group sessions may be provided in collaboration with the classroom teacher.  Additional enrichments are provided when needed.


1st through 3rd Grade

Students who demonstrate characteristics of high ability potential are selected for enrichment services by their classroom teacher, with the support and guidance of the HALE coordinator. First grade selection is determined by assessments, observations, and successful participation in enrichment groups, while 2nd and 3rd graders are selected using MAP data. These small groups are flexible, based on the strengths and needs of the student, and the enrichment opportunities being provided.

4th  and 5th Grade

Students who have been identified for the HALE program have the opportunity to participate in various activities designed to challenge their abilities. A Thinking Skills curriculum (Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, and STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is taught to identified students in grade four. Fifth grade HALE curriculum units include Leadership/Affective Unit, Critical Thinking, Creative Problem Solving and STEM. Additional opportunities for high ability students may include literature groups, math and logic activities, field trips, and small group seminars on topics developed from student interest or as an extension of the general education curriculum. Academic competitions are conducted in cooperation with grade level teachers.

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 will encourage students to learn, to challenge themselves, and to contribute positively to society.  Working together with the classroom teachers, we provide various forms of services to identified students: classroom differentiation, classroom collaboration, seminars/independent studies, and competitions.

High School

At the high school level, students are invited to participate in honors classes offered by the English and Mathematics departments. Students in grades 10 through 12 have the opportunity to enroll in college level Advanced Placement classes.  Academic competitions that challenge and enrich individual areas of talent are available such as:  Academic Decathlon, Robotics, Mock Trial, Debate, American Mathematics Competition, Quiz Bowl, TEAM+S engineering, National History Day, and Future Problem Solving.  Olympus Club is a social and service organization with a mission to “promote and pursue academic excellence.”

HALE Seminar courses are taught by the HALE coordinator. Socratic methodology is used to challenge students to explore issues and develop understanding through dialogue.  This class focuses on the affective needs of high ability students by developing awareness of gifted characteristic, personality types, and multiple intelligences.  Future Problem Solving is used to develop creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.  Career and college exploration guides students toward setting personal goals and prepares them for college visitations and the application process.  The leadership unit defines five dimensions of leadership and provides students with an assessment of their leadership skills.

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

Revised August 7, 2014