Board of Education Policy for High Ability Learners


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


High ability learner (HAL) 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. 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 – Screening

In Grade 3, all Elkhorn Public Schools students will take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). New 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 criteria

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 criteria:

Pathway I

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


  • 97th percentile or higher on NWEA MAP Growth in BOTH Reading/Language Arts and Math in the same testing window.
  • Score at or above the 97th 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 HAL 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.



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

1st through 3rd Grade

Since students in grades 1-3 are not formally identified, students who demonstrate characteristics of high ability potential are selected for enrichment services by their classroom teacher, with the support and guidance of the HAL coordinator. Students in grades 1-3 are selected based on assessments, observations, and teacher feedback. These small groups are flexible and are 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 HAL program have the opportunity to participate in academic enrichment activities that align with and extend the district curriculum in the areas of literacy and math. The program includes opportunities to explore advanced content while applying critical thinking, creative problem solving, and independent thinking skills and strategies. Academic competitions are conducted in cooperation with grade-level teachers.

Middle School

The goal of the middle school HAL 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, challenge themselves, and contribute positively to society.  HAL teachers and classroom teachers collaborate to provide various forms of services to identified students including 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. Seniors may apply for independent studies. Academic competitions that challenge and enrich individual areas of talent such as Academic Decathlon, Robotics, Mock Trial, Debate, American Mathematics Competition, Quiz Bowl, TEAM+S engineering, National History Day, and Olympus Club are also available.  The HAL advisor is also able to provide counseling services for 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 November 10, 2020