FAQ

Advanced Learning Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question that is not listed here, please see our Programs and Services, or our Enrollment Information or Testing pages. You may also submit your questions to advlearn@seattleschools.org for inclusion on this FAQ page.


​1. How will my student find out about their testing schedule after the referral forms are turned in?
2. Why are referred SPS students in grades K-2 given the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Screening Form at the Saturday testing sessions instead of the full CogAT?
3. Why aren’t most students tested in their home schools?
4. Kindergarten students do not yet have achievement test scores. What tests will they be given - and when?
5. Under what circumstances does my student need to retest?
6. Can 8th grade students be tested and become HC eligible?
7. Is it possible to test and become eligible for the Highly Capable designation after eighth grade?
8. What tests will be administered during the high school eligibility evaluation?
9. What does my child receive if s/he becomes designated as Highly Capable in high school?
10. Now that my child is designated as Highly Capable, can s/he go to Ingraham or Garfield?
11. Does re-testing jeopardize a student's designation as an advanced learner?
12. What will testing conditions be like for younger students?
13. How do I know if I should refer my child for eligibility testing for Highly Capable Services?
14. What is the window for applying for eligibility testing?
15. Can families who move to the district after October apply for eligibility testing?
16. Where do I obtain the necessary forms in order to refer my student?
17. How does a child qualify for Highly Capable services?
18. What is Advanced Learning/Spectrum and how is it different from the Highly Capable Cohort?
19. Are the 95th percentile math and reading requirements hard lines, or is there flexibility for students who score a point or two below that?
20. Could my student participate in Advanced Learning programs or services if he or she is also eligible for special education support?
21. Will you use national norms for achievement test scores given to non-SPS students while SPS student scores are compared to state norms?
22. What changes have occurred in the appeals process?
23. What about out-of-district transfers?
24. How do we apply when my student is coming from a private school?
25. If my child is coming from a private school, what should I use for the student identification number?
26. If I live outside the Seattle School District boundaries, can I nominate my child for testing?
27. Why is ethnicity requested on the referral form?
28. Can parents observe while their child is being tested?
29. Can reading and math achievement tests be submitted for consideration?
30. What is the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee?


Testing


1. How will my student find out about their testing schedule after the referral forms are turned in?
Families will be notified of the testing date as soon as possible after the October 6 referral deadline. Testing will take place at four sites on Saturdays from October through January.

2. Why are referred SPS students in grades K-2 given the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Screening Form at the Saturday testing sessions instead of the full CogAT?
All K-2 students are administered the CogAT Screening Form, which represents one third of the full CogAT and includes the analogies subtests from Verbal, Quantitative, and Nonverbal Batteries.

Our decision to start with the shorter Screening Form grew out of concern for our students. Our experience with giving the full 2.5-hour CogAT 7 to all K-2 applicants last year demonstrated that many young students struggled with the length of the test.
The Screening Form helps us determine who should move to the full CogAT and informs additional considerations. K-2 students who reach the 94th percentile on the Screening Form will automatically be invited – in mid-January -- to take the full CogAT 7 battery. It is statistically improbable that a student performing below the 94th percentile on the Screening Form would achieve 98th percentile or above on the full test. Highly Capable criteria have not changed: Students must still reach the 98-99th percentile in cognitive abilities on the full CogAT, and 95th percentile in reading and math achievement.
1st and 2nd grade students who score between 87 and 93 this year have the potential to be identified as Spectrum/AL eligible without the need for further cognitive testing. Students who score below 87 will continue to be considered for identification as Advanced Learner/Spectrum eligible by the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC). There is no CogAT “cut score” for either AL or HC identification. The MSC uses several data points during the eligibility process for each and every student.
  • 98th (or above) percentile or above on two subtests of the CogAT and 95th percentile in both math and reading on achievement tests are required for HC eligibility.
  • CogAT scores are only one factor considered for Advanced Learning eligibility. Teacher Rating forms, achievement test scores and other factors may also be considered in each case.

3. Why aren’t most students tested in their home schools?
Advanced Learning eligibility testing occurs on Saturdays for most students at four school sites: Whitman Middle School, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, South Shore K-8 and Pathfinder K-8. In the past, students have been tested during the week at some schools and/or on Saturdays at the John Stanford Center.

The following considerations led to the change:
  • Lack of space. Our district is growing quickly. This means schools often must use every available space during the day. Along with that, the number of Advanced Learning referrals has increased. Most individual schools simply don’t have room for testing during the school week, and we have outgrown the John Stanford Center space.
  • Disruption. Eligibility testing during the school day often caused disruptions to the school schedule, pulled students out of instruction for 2.5 hours, and displaced classes at times.
  • Inconsistencies. Limited space and tight scheduling during the school week could lead to testing in less-than ideal spaces or settings.
  • Making sure that testing sites are as accessible as possible to families in each “quadrant” of the city.
The Advanced Learning office is aware of certain specific circumstances that a family may have (religious, logistic, illness, etc.) that could necessitate accommodations in the testing date or site. These exceptional circumstances are dealt with on an individual basis. Additionally, students who require accommodations are typically tested in their home schools on an individual basis.

4. Kindergarten students do not yet have achievement test scores. What tests will they be given - and when?
All kindergarten students are to take the winter MAP, which will take place in January. Click here to view the district assessment calendar (LINK needed)

5. Under what circumstances does my student need to retest?
All identified students maintain current eligibility as long as they are enrolled in SPS. Retesting is required for students who request a change in eligibility status or for students who leave the SPS system and return at a later date.


8th Graders and High School Students


6. Is eligibility testing available for eighth-graders?
Yes. The Accelerated International Baccalaureate Program (IBX) at Ingraham High School requires students to qualify for Highly Capable Services in order to enroll. Eighth-graders who do not wish to enter IBX may still be tested for Highly Capable (HC) eligibility at their neighborhood high school. Entrance to IBX is on a space available basis.

Eligibility testing is not required for entry into the standard International Baccalaureate (IB) program (offered at Sealth, Ingraham and Rainier Beach) or to access Advanced Placement (AP) courses (offered at nine high schools in the district). Counseling and other supports are available district-wide for Highly Capable high school students.

7. Is it possible to become eligible for the Highly Capable designation after eighth grade?
Yes. A referral opportunity will be offered during the second semester for students in Grades 9-12. Highly Capable eligibility flags a student for attention by the school counselor and notifies teachers of potential special needs. It does not provide access to a different high school, unless the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC) determines that the student's needs cannot be met at the assigned high school.


8. What tests will be administered during the high school eligibility evaluation?
The evaluation process for students in high school does not include additional testing. Instead, in January, students submit a "portfolio" of information and documentation including, but not limited to, transcripts, SAT/PSAT scores, essays, teacher ratings, and current course loads. The Multidisciplinary Selection Committee evaluates each student’s submissions to make an eligibility decision.


9. What does my child receive if s/he becomes designated as Highly Capable in high school?
  • High school students evaluated and designated as Highly Capable get priority access to Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes available at their attendance area high school and for which they have met all prerequisites (except in cases where seniors need course as a graduation requirement).
  • They also receive additional support regarding social/emotional and college/career planning issues appropriate for them as Highly Capable students.


10. Now that my child is designated as Highly Capable, can s/he go to Ingraham or Garfield?
Only students enrolled in the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) in 8th grade are enrolled in the HC at Garfield (which is the HC pathway high school.)

HC-eligible students may apply during Open Enrollment for the IBX program at Ingraham HS, but since Ingraham is not in the HCC pathway, assignment will be made based on available choice seats. If assigned, the assignment type will be "Choice".

Students in 8th grade who are not part of the HCC can go through the Fall/Winter testing cycle (of their 8th grade year) and qualify as Highly Capable to apply for a seat in Ingraham’s IBX program. Students who become eligible during their high school years will receive services at their attendance area high schools.


Re-testing


11. If a student is designated as an Advanced Learner/Spectrum and tests again in a later school year for a possible Highly Capable designation, does testing jeopardize the student's current eligibility?
Testing again does not jeopardize the child's Advanced Learner/Spectrum eligibility, even if the child does not test well for any reason.

12. What will testing conditions be like for younger students?
The CogAT Screening Form given to students in Grades K-2 consists of 3 subtests of approximately 10 minutes in duration, and students will be given a stretch break between each one. There will be one test administrator for each six kindergarten students and one for every eight students in grades 1 and 2.

The test is on paper and the students are asked to fill in the answer circle under the picture they feel is the best response. The test is read to them by the test administrators. The test administrators observe students closely to make sure they are giving all students enough time for each item, and also help students remain engaged and on task. If a student has a documented need for testing accommodations, testing will be scheduled on an individual basis.


Eligibility


13. How do I know if I should refer my child for eligibility testing for Highly Capable Services?
This list of common attributes of advanced learners may help you decide whether or not to refer your child for testing:
  • Has an advanced vocabulary for his/her age
  • Seems to continuously talk or ask questions
  • Can come up with many interesting solutions to problems; often makes up elaborate stories/excuses
  • Understands information quickly; remembers what has been learned; accurately recalls quotes
  • Wants to take on a great deal of challenge; wants to work on a particular topic all of the time; may fail to finish regular assignments to work on topic of choice
  • May be a perfectionist and/or become frustrated with mistakes
  • May not want or need a lot of direction for completing a task; likes to figure it out on his/her own
  • Is sensitive to the feelings of others and is concerned with fairness
  • May prefer to interact with students who are older and/or adults
  • Is a very strong reader, reading above grade level
  • Is very interested in math, works above grade level in math

14. What is the window for applying for eligibility testing?
In order for students to participate in the fall testing cycle, his/her application must be received no later than the deadline, the first week of October. Eligibility is for the following school year, except for Kindergarten. Kindergarteners who become eligible for HC services will begin services at their current school during the second semester.
All students whose applications were submitted by the fall deadline will be scheduled for testing. Current Seattle Public Schools families who missed the deadline must wait until the following school year to apply.

15. Can families who move to the district after October apply for eligibility testing?
Summer testing is available only for students who move to or return to Seattle after the fall/regular assessment cycle deadline. It is NOT available for students who wish to retest, private school students who lived in the city at the time of the deadline, or students in the system who missed the fall deadline.

These students must follow the fall/regular assessment cycle dates for placement consideration the next year.

16. Where do I obtain the necessary forms in order to refer my student?
Referral forms will be available on the Source. These forms will also be translated into 9 languages and will be available in hard copy format at all school sites serving K-8 students.
Forms are available online on our referral webpage.

17. How does a child qualify for Highly Capable services?
Students may be tested in grades K-8 during the Fall/Regular Assessment Cycle window for identification as Highly Capable, thus qualifying for the Highly Capable Cohort Program and Services.
  • 98th-plus percentile in at least two areas on the CogAT (e.g., verbal quantitative, non-verbal or composite scores.) In addition, HC requires a 95th percentile or above in reading and math on district administered or other nationally normed achievement tests.

Students in grades 9-12 not already identified will be offered an opportunity in the spring to determine eligibility for identification as Highly Capable for the upcoming school year. Eligibility is determined through portfolio submission.

For more information, please contact Advanced Learning Consulting Teacher Roger Daniels at drdaniels@seattleschools.org.

18. What is Advanced Learning/Spectrum and how is it different from the Highly Capable Cohort?
Advanced Learner is a designation with a lower eligibility threshold (see criteria below) than the Highly Capable (HC) designation required for Highly Capable Services such as the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC, formerly APP).

Advanced Learner is for students who perform well above average for their grade level and may require more advanced work to remain engaged. Flexible grouping options are offered in schools and within classrooms in order to appropriately serve these students.

An Advanced Learner designation does not formally follow students beyond eighth grade, but such students are encouraged to participate in the many honors or college-level AP or IB courses offered at most district high schools.

Eligibility Criteria (K through 8th Grades)
  • 87th+ percentile in cognitive abilities
  • 87th+ percentile on reading and math achievement tests
  • Parent and Teacher Rating Scale

19. Are the 95th percentile math and reading requirements hard lines, or is there flexibility for students who score a point or two below that?
As stated in the procedures, the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee considers all factors in determining eligibility. SPS's established eligibility thresholds are neither absolute qualifiers nor disqualifiers; teacher input is also an important consideration.

For example: A student may have achievement scores that do not quite meet the requirement. Although the scores are slightly lower than the required percentile, cognitive scores, achievement history, and the Teacher Rating Scale are taken into consideration to inform a final decision as to that student’s eligibility. Also, in order to provide equitable opportunities for all students, the MSC considers factors such as cultural diversity, socioeconomic status, linguistic background, and identified disability in its deliberations.

20. Could my student participate in Advanced Learning programs or services if he or she is also eligible for special education support?
Students who meet criteria for Advanced Learning and are also eligible for Special Ed/504 support are considered twice-exceptional learners. Seattle Public Schools' Advanced Learning Office recognizes the importance of identifying and serving these students both with specialized educational services and through 504 accommodations.

Rather than concentrating students in special programs based on their disabilities, our office collaborates with Special Education Services and our 504 Office to support their participation in the very same programs they would ordinarily join.

For more information about our district's services for twice-exceptional learners, please contact Advanced Learning Consulting Teacher Roger Daniels at drdaniels@seattleschools.org.

21. Will you use national norms for achievement test scores given to non-SPS students while
SPS student scores are compared to state norms? This seems problematic as WA state norms are generally higher than national norms.

We use national norms for non-SPS students. We also use national norms for SPS students on the MAP. National norms for Smarter Balanced Assessments are not yet established. In the past, we have used state frequency distribution information for WASL and MSP, and will continue this practice with SBA.


Appeal Process


22. What is the status of the appeals process?
There are no substantive changes to the appeal process. Superintendent Procedure 2190SP contains the current approved language.


Out-of-District Transfers


23. If my family is relocating to Seattle or has recently relocated, and my student attended an advanced learning program in the previous public school district, can the student transfer into SPS Advanced Learning programs or services?
Students may request to be evaluated for an Advanced Learning program as a transfer. Enrollment for programs after the on-time enrollment period are done on a space-available basis. The information required for evaluation includes verification that the student participated in an advanced learning program at the former public school; test scores used when found eligible; and recent achievement scores in reading and math.

Mail applications to: Advanced Learning, MS 32-936, PO Box 34165, Seattle, WA 98124-1165. Please include a cover letter with the child's name, grade and parent contact information.


Private School Students


24. If my child is coming from a private school, how do I turn in forms?
Private school families should mail materials directly to Advanced Learning or hand-deliver them to the John Stanford Center, along with the non-refundable $140 processing fee.

25. If my child is coming from a private school, what should I use for the student identification number?
If you have ever applied to enroll your child with Seattle Public Schools or have previously applied for testing, your child has a Seattle Public Schools ID number. Private school families who do not know, or do not have, an SPS ID number, should leave it blank. Do not use social security numbers.


Non-Seattle Residents


26. If I live outside the Seattle School District boundaries, can I nominate my child for testing?
No. Students must live within the school district boundaries in order to test for Advanced Learning services or programs.


Ethnicity


27. Why is ethnicity requested on the referral form?
Ethnicity is a required field when assigning Seattle Public Schools ID numbers and is necessary for all students who do not yet have an ID


Parent Observations


28. Can parents observe while their child is being tested?
No. It can be disruptive for children taking our tests. Children tend to perform better when they are not being observed by parents.


Submitting Outside Scores


29. Can reading and math achievement tests be submitted for consideration?
Students who are not currently enrolled in Seattle Public schools who took standardized reading and math achievement tests done in a school setting no earlier than March of the previous year may submit copies of score reports. Only scores that are nationally normed (e.g., ITBS, ERB) or scores from MSP tests can be considered. Submitted scores become a part of the student's testing record and are not returned.


MSC


30. What is the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC)?
In compliance with the Washington Academic Code: WAC 392-170-070, The multidisciplinary selection committee for the final selection of the most highly capable students for participation in the district's program for highly capable students shall consist of the following professionals:
(1) A special teacher: Provided, that if a special teacher is not available, a classroom teacher shall be appointed;
(2) A psychologist or other qualified practitioner with the training to interpret cognitive and achievement test results;
(3) A certificated coordinator/administrator with responsibility for the supervision of the district's program for highly capable students; and
(4) Such additional professionals, if any, the district deems desirable.


Important Additional Resources for the Advanced Learning Eligibility Decision Process:

Enrollment Information
Submitting a Referral
Testing
Results
Appeals Process
FAQ
News
Resources
Contact Advanced Learning
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