Definitions of Giftedness

“The Exceptional Children’s Educational Act (ECEA) requires all administrative units (AUs) in Colorado to identify and serve students between the ages of five and twenty-one, and age four in Administrative Units with Early Access, whose aptitude or competence in abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment in one or more domains are so exceptional or developmentally advanced that they require special provisions to meet their educational programming needs” (CDE Gifted Identification).

Gifted students include gifted students with disabilities (i.e. twice-exceptional) and students with exceptional abilities or potential from all socioeconomic and ethnic, cultural populations. Gifted students are capable of high performance, exceptional production, or exceptional learning behavior by virtue of any or a combination of these areas of giftedness:

  • General or specific intellectual ability: Intellectual ability is exceptional capability or potential recognized through cognitive processes (e.g., memory, reasoning, rate of learning, spatial reasoning, ability to find and solve problems, ability to manipulate abstract ideas and make connections).
  • Specific academic aptitude: Specific academic aptitude is exceptional capability or potential in an academic content area(s) (e.g., a strong knowledge base or the ability to ask insightful, pertinent questions within the discipline). All academic areas should be considered.
  • Creative or productive thinking: Creative or productive thinking is exceptional capability or potential in mental processes (e.g., critical thinking, creative problem solving, humor, independent/original thinking, and/or products).
  • Leadership abilities: Leadership is the exceptional capability or potential to influence and empower people (e.g., social perceptiveness, visionary ability, communication skills, problem solving, inter- and interpersonal skills, and a sense of responsibility).
  • Visual arts, performing arts, musical or psychomotor abilities: Visual arts, performing arts, musical, dance or psychomotor abilities are exceptional capabilities or potential in talent areas (e.g., art, drama, music, dance, body awareness, coordination, and physical skills).” (CDE Gifted Education, Chapter 3)

For specific information about Identification Procedures for each area/domain of giftedness, please see the following pages:

MCSD GATE Identification Process

The Montrose County School District identification process is aligned with Colorado Department of Education Gifted Identification Guidelines. We look at a variety of data for each student based on a "Body of Evidence", which will determine if a student needs specific programming beyond what is offered in the regular classroom or curriculum. Gifted students usually fall within the top 3-7% of the general student population in terms of potential abilities.

Early Access

Formal evaluation is required for any student PK-1 to determine if the student meets Early Access requirements. Early Access into kindergarten or first grade was established by House Bill 1021 and became effective in July 2009. To meet the needs of highly advanced children who have not yet entered kindergarten or first grade, Montrose County School District may grant early entrance to school. The process is not for typical children who miss the September 15th entrance date. HB 1021 limits early access to 4 or 5 year olds who are “highly advanced gifted children.” These children are academically gifted, socially and emotionally mature, and are in the top 2 percent of the population. For more information, see the Early Access page of the MCSD GATE Website.

Universal Screening

Universal Screening for identification occurs in the spring for all second graders with the administration of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT Form 7), which is used for systematic assessment of all students. Students who score high enough on the CogAT will be given a further assessment (CogAT Full Battery), which may lead to formal identification after a “Body of Evidence” has been collected. I-Ready Assessments (nationally normed achievement assessments) and SIGS are also compiled for second graders at or above the 80th %ile. These assessments are the initial components for a body of evidence to identify and begin serving students in the 3rd grade. Universal Screening provides information needed to determine if a student needs further assessment for gifted identification and to recommend students for a "Talent Pool". The child’s parents are required to give permission for further assessment and will be provided with more information.

K-12 Identification

Any student in grades K-12 may be formally identified at any time. Once a student has been formally identified, they are eligible for Gifted Education programming and services and will receive an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) that is developed with input from the GATE Facilitator, the student, the classroom teacher, and the student’s parent/guardian.

To be formally identified in one or more areas of giftedness, the “Body of Evidence”, which includes both qualitative and quantitative measures, is examined against qualifying criteria using various forms of assessment. The “Body of Evidence” may include the following types of assessment:

  1. Cognitive Tests that measure a student’s general intellectual ability: qualifying score at the 95th percentile or above (ex: CogAT Full Battery, K-BIT2, Naglieri Non-verbal Ability Test)
  2. Criterion- or Norm-Referenced Achievement Tests that determine a student’s exceptional ability in a specific academic area (including reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and world languages): qualifying score at the 95th percentile or above (ex: iReady, PARCC, other state level assessments)
  3. Norm-Referenced Observation Scales that allow students to display their exceptional abilities and/or characteristics (including leadership, motivation, memory, reasoning, creativity and sense of humor) : qualifying score at the 95th percentile or above (ex: SIGS)
  4. Performance Evaluations that allow a student to demonstrate exceptional talents that require a performance (such as art, music, theater, dance, psychomotor, creativity or leadership): qualifying scores judged as Exceptional/Distinguished/Advanced (ex: portfolios, student products, contests and competitions, and/or performance tasks judged by experts in that field)

Typically, students must qualify as exceptional in three of four assessments to be identified as gifted. In some cases, a range of other assessments that meet state gifted identification criteria may be used to gather a “Body of Evidence” to ensure multiple pathways to identification. Assessments are aligned appropriately for specific gifted areas/domains and require either scores above the 95th percentile and/or exceptional/distinguished ratings to determine exceptionality.

During the evaluation process, a student’s “Body of Evidence” for each of the three indicators is carefully evaluated and considered as a whole. The “Body of Evidence” includes both qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources and multiple types. The GATE Identification Review Committee does not base identification solely on any one indicator; the student’s test scores and classroom behavior are evaluated by all members of the GATE Identification Review Committee, which includes at least one member trained in gifted identification and may include the classroom teacher, the GATE Facilitator(s), Administrators, and/or other district professionals as needed. During the Review Process, the committee provides opportunities for input from all teachers working with the student and from the student's parents. Upon completion of the review process, a determination letter describing the decision is sent to the parents and retained on file as part of the student’s records; the determination letter will assist parents in understanding the identification results, and, if applicable, how the ALP will be developed and reviewed.

Possible Determinations:

  • Formal Gifted Identification
  • Identify student for a Talent Pool
  • Select new tools to collect additional data
  • Determine data do not support identification at this time
  • Determine a student may need to be referred for special education assessment in addition to his/her gifted identification (twice-exceptional students)

Once the evaluation has been completed, a determination letter indicating the results of the evaluation will be sent to the parents/guardians of the student. Prior to any changes in educational programming or services, parents/guardians will be notified.

Result of Identification

According to CDE, the "result of identification is programming" and the creation of a student ALP (Advanced Learning Plan). "Through the ALP, relevant academic and affective goals set the stage for developing academic academic and talent aptitude over time. The ultimate outcome of identification is that all gifted students attain postsecondary career and college goals, act with self-esteem and self-advocacy, and are creative, productive members of society" (CDE Chapter 3).

For more information about the Advanced Learning Plan see our ALP page.


In accordance with the Exceptional Children's Educational Act, MCSD ensures Portability for MCSD students transferring to other districts in Colorado and for students from other Colorado districts transferring to MCSD. This means that a student always retains their Gifted Identification when transferring within the state of Colorado.

We use state criteria for identification to ensure portability, and have a detailed procedure for the Portability Process when students transfer in or out of our district; this procedure is available on our website. We transfer ALP’s and necessary information when students leave the district or transfer to a different school in our district. Students transferring into MCSD whose parents have indicated the student was previously participating in Gifted/Talented services will have their records reviewed; we then examine their information within 45 days of entering the district and communicate with parents within 60 days. If portability requirements are met, the student is identified as Gifted in MCSD. If the “Body of Evidence” is incomplete or inconclusive, we will consult with the former district, parents and student, which may lead to reevaluation and assessment to possibly identify the student as gifted. If a student transfers into MCSD from another state, we will examine the “Body of Evidence” and determine if any additional assessments are required to make a formal identification. When a student transfers out of MCSD to another district, we retain the student’s cumulative file, which contains all GATE records is flagged with a GATE identification; the student’s GATE records (including “Body of Evidence”, determination letter, testing info, and ALP) are then ready to transfer to the new district.

As a “Sending AU”, we will place the following documents in the Gifted Student’s cumulative file:

1) Confirmation of GATE Programming

2) Determination Letter

3) “Body of Evidence” for identification

4) the current ALP.

As a “Receiving AU”, we will:

1) contact the student’s former gifted educator

2) review records for the “Body of Evidence”

3) determine if giftedness meets our AU criteria

4) consult with parents, students, former district to determine identification

5) assess, if necessary

6) discuss and implement programming options. Gifted identification determination will be made within 30 days (in state) and 60 days (out of state).