Frequently asked Questions about Gifted Education

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Frequently Asked Questions 


We are moving into Virginia. How will my child's previous identification as a gifted student be handled?

Each school division in Virginia establishes procedures for the identification of gifted students and for the delivery of services to those students, consistent with the Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students. In order to have your child assessed, you will need to complete a referral. It would be helpful if the information from the previous school was provided with the referral. Your child's strengths and abilities may be assessed by an identification committee, according to the division's approved procedures. For further information, contact your child's principal, teacher, or school counselor.

Why don't gifted students have IEPs and other safeguards similar to special education students?

Federal law establishes policies and procedures for special education, but gifted education policies and procedures are established by state law.

What is the difference between screening and referral?

Screening is the annual process of reviewing existing, generally available, or specifically designated data for all students to determine whether students should be referred for identification for gifted services.

Referral is a direct procedure that enters a student into a school division's identification process. Referral of a student requires the school division to administer all assessments and reach an eligibility decision as specified in the division's approved local plan for the education the gifted. Referrals may be offered by parents, teachers, community members, administrators, peers, or the student him or herself.

Why are identification procedures and services different from division to division?

Virginia law allows school divisions to establish gifted education policies and procedures according to the needs and interests of the local division. Divisions may choose to provide either General Intellectual Aptitude or Specific Academic Aptitude programs. While these areas of giftedness are both academic, they serve different kinds of learners.

What do I do if I disagree with the decision of the identification committee?

Parents and school personnel may appeal the decision of the committee by following the procedure established by the division, usually by submitting a letter to the local gifted education coordinator or to the principal of the school.

Who can appeal an identification or placement decision?

An appeal may be made by parents or guardians, and school personnel, including school counselors, teachers, and principals.

What is a cut-off score? How are cut-off scores determined?

Eligibility decisions must be based on multiple criteria which may include scores on valid and reliable tests or assessments. Tests and other measures are ranked or scored according to the procedures established by the division and approved in the local plan. No single criterion shall be used in determining students who qualify for, or are denied access to, programs for the gifted.

What requires a division to have a gifted education program?

Gifted education programs are required by Virginia law, as specified in Virginia Administrative Code, 8VAC20-40-10 through 8VAC20-40-70.

How are gifted programs funded?

The Commonwealth of Virginia provides each locality with an apportioned share of funds to support local program services, based on that locality's total student enrollment.

How much additional money does my division receive for programs for the gifted?

The money is apportioned according to guidelines in the Standards of Quality, and must be matched with a prescribed amount of local funds.

How may those funds be spent?

State funds administered by the Department of Education and local matching funds may be used to support only those activities identified in the school division's approved local plan for the education of the gifted.

What is a "local match"?

School divisions are required to match state funds with local funds based on the composite index (ability to pay) formula.

What is a local advisory committee?

Each school board must appoint members to a local advisory committee. This committee is composed of parents, school personnel, and other community members. The purpose of this committee is to advise the school board and the division superintendent of the educational needs of all gifted students in the division, and to review the implementation of the Local Plan for the Education of the Gifted.

What are the responsibilities of the local advisory committee?

The committee conducts an annual review of the local plan for the education of gifted students, including revisions, and determines the extent to which the plan was implemented for each school year. The recommendations of the advisory committee must be submitted in writing to the division superintendent and to the school board.

What is "appropriately differentiated curriculum and instruction?"

"Appropriately differentiated curriculum and instruction" means curriculum and instruction adapted or modified to accommodate the accelerated learning aptitudes of identified students in their areas of strength. Such curriculum and instructional strategies provide accelerated and enrichment opportunities that recognize gifted students' needs for

  • (i) advanced content and pacing of instruction;
  • (ii) original research or production;
  • (iii) problem finding and solving;
  • (iv) higher level thinking that leads to the generation of products; and
  • (v) a focus on issues, themes, and ideas within and across areas of study. Such curriculum and instruction are offered continuously and sequentially to support the achievement of student outcomes, and provide support necessary for these students to work at increasing levels of complexity that differ significantly from those of their age-level peers.

How are teachers selected for work with gifted students?

Localities develop specific procedures to select administrative and teaching staff to deliver services to gifted students. Teacher selection may be based on a demonstrated ability to create and carry out flexible, differentiated, and enriched curricular experiences which are suited to the gifted students' needs, or other criteria established by the school division.

What training is required for teachers?

The Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students (PDF) require that school divisions provide professional development based on the teacher competencies outlined in 8VAC20-542-310 related to gifted education. Each school division specifies the required annual training expected of personnel. This training or professional development should include, but not limited to, classes offered by the division, courses at a local university or college, conference attendance, and options tailored to meet the needs of the specific educator or group of educators. Teachers of the gifted may also choose to complete the coursework to obtain an add-on endorsement in gifted education.

How are high school students provided with differentiated instruction?

The delivery of services for high school students, as specified in the school division's local plan, may include options such as:

  • Differentiation in the regular classroom
  • Honors or advanced level courses, such as Advanced Placement, Cambridge, or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, that are differentiated for gifted learners
  • Seminars and special workshops
  • Mentorship's
  • Independent study
  • Counseling sessions
  • Access to secondary level specialized programs (i.e., Academic-Year Governor's School)
  • Access to dual-enrolled classes with colleges and universities

How are students selected for participation in Governor's Schools?

Academic-Year Governor's School

The Academic-Year Governor's Schools are established as "joint schools" by Virginia school law. As such, they are typically managed by a regional governing board of representatives from the school boards of each participating division. The regional governing board is charged with developing policies for the school including the school's admissions process. While these processes differ from school to school, all applicants are assessed using multiple criteria by trained evaluators who have experience in gifted education and the focus area of the specific Academic-Year Governor's School.

Summer Residential Governor's School

Any Virginia gifted tenth- or eleventh-grade student may apply for the Summer Residential Governor's Schools. Applications are made available in October through a Superintendent's Memo, and copies are sent to high school guidance departments of public and private schools, as well as each school division's gifted education coordinator. Each school division has a specific number of nominations it may send to the Virginia Department of Education. Nominations may be made by teachers, school counselors, peers, or by the students themselves. A school or division selection committee chooses the nominees from each school or division and forwards the nominees to a state committee. Consideration is given to students' academic records, test scores, extra-curricular activities, honors, and awards, creativity, original essays, and teacher recommendations. Students applying for the Visual and Performing Arts Summer Residential Governor's School participate in a statewide adjudication where they audition or present portfolios for review before a pair of professionals in the specific arts field. Because of the limited number of residential placements available, not all students who are nominated by their schools can be accepted for participation.

Summer Regional Governor's School

Gifted students may apply for the regional summer school in their area. The Summer Regional Governor's School director and the local planning committee with representatives from the participating school divisions at each regional site establish nomination and selection procedures.