Gifted Education Services (GES)
To support social and emotional development and provide challenging learning opportunities responsive to the needs of high-ability students using research-based, differentiated instructional practices applied, but not limited to, grade-level standards.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gifted Education Services
Q: How does the Goleta Union School District (GUSD) identify students with unique and high ability?
A: GUSD administers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to all students in third grade. The CogAT is a norm-referenced test wherein the national average is the 50th percentile. The primary goal of this assessment is to understand acquired reasoning capabilities of students and include this information in the student’s learning profile. Students scoring in the 95th percentile and up on one of two composite scores are designated as having high ability in our district. Students who are English Learners and/or are socioeconomically disadvantaged are designated when they score between 90-96%.
Q: How can I learn more about the CogAT?
A: Click HERE to download the FAQ document to learn more about it.
Q: Can my child be retested in GUSD?
A: It is possible. We have a process in place when a teacher, parent, psychologist or administrator feels that a child demonstrates characteristics of high ability and is not designated. A Gifted Education Services (GES) committee considers all applicants and decides on whether or not the district moves forward with retesting.
Q: Can I have my child privately tested?
A: Private assessment is considered in the identification process, as required by law.
Q: What percentage of students is identified in Goleta and how does it compare to the national recommendation for identification?
A: The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) says that the number of students identified should be between 6-10%. Nationally, the United States averages 7.5% of the population identified as having high ability. Currently, GUSD has identified 9% of its population.
Q: Once my child is identified, what does it mean for him/her in GUSD?
A: Goleta teachers in grades 4-6 have received extensive professional development in gifted education (equivalent or on par with GATE certificate programs offered by university extension departments.) Our teachers understand the characteristics, needs, and social-emotional issues that arise within populations of gifted students. A student’s designation of having high or unique ability in GUSD results in adjustment on the teacher’s part of an educational approach. Differentiation takes many forms in the classroom and is flexible, based on the teacher’s understanding of what is needed for the student.
Q: What gifted education strategies are utilized in GUSD?
A: Upper grade teachers in GUSD utilize three main strategies in their classrooms in order to support the needs of students with high ability. They are:
-Depth and Complexity
Depth and complexity is a set of 11 prompts that are one of the main strategies we use in GUSD to deepen and enrich learning. These prompts came from research on: (1) Advanced Placement exams, (2) the needs of high-ability students, and (3) the structure of academic fields of study. The concepts of Depth and Complexity represent what experts know about their field.
Thematic instruction is a long-standing approach to education. Use of a theme allows for connections to be made between and across several sources of information, disciplines of study, and/or works of literature. With thematic instruction, meaning-making is the goal. It facilitates the organization of facts and how they relate to a larger context.
Justification for use with high-ability learners: Students with unique and/or high ability tend to move through stages of abstract thinking more quickly. Thematic instruction promotes wider, more complex representations of meaning. It enables students to recognize the variety of ways in which people make sense of the world and organize knowledge across disciplines of study.
Independent Study is a means to differentiate curriculum for interests and abilities of individual students. The steps of independent study mirror the research process and include: identifying an area of interest, writing a research question, gathering resources, researching, summarizing, and sharing findings.
Justification for use with high-ability learners: Students with unique and/or high ability tend to identify strong areas of interest at a very young age. Highly curious, they often display a need for understanding about topics that, while may be academic, may not be covered in grade-level standards. Independent study offers students the ability to research interests of their own, while practicing reading, informative writing, and oral presentation skills.
Q: What does GUSD do when highly gifted students are in need of additional acceleration or enrichment?
A: Highly gifted students make up 1-3% of our total population. When a student is consistently achieving far above grade level and has scored in the 97% or above on the CogAT, additional steps may be taken to individualize or specifically differentiate for the student. We do this using a district framework called Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). More about MTSS can be found on the California Department of Education website here: For more information contact:
Q: Does SBUSD honor the identification criteria in Goleta?
A: Yes. The Santa Barbara Unified School District maintains identification of GUSD students as they matriculate into junior high school and high school.
Q: What is used to determine student placement in compaction or acceleration classes in junior high in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD)?
A: SBUSD determines the number of honors courses to offer each year based on the needs of students matriculating into 7th grade and 8th grade. Junior High Schools consider results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, CogAT, achievement tests from districts out of state, and a math performance assessment of their own that they administer to 6th graders from feeder districts. Gifted identification, based on CogAT results in Goleta, is one of a several factors that influence class placement in Jr. High.
Q: Does gifted identification influence a student’s ability to take Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate courses in high school?
A: No. High schools in Santa Barbara have open enrollment for AP and IB courses. Any and all students may enroll in these classes, if they choose.
Dr. Joanna Lauer
Differentiation Specialist (GATE/GES)
(805) 681-1200 x243