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Howard County Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program

What is the Howard County Public Schools Gifted and Talented Program?

Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in Ellicott City, Maryland provides ample opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students to receive accelerated enrichment. The HCPSS Gifted and Talented program facilitates differentiated instruction and curriculums to students in order to recognize and develop distinct talents with program goals founded on the gifted program standards of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).

Howard County Public Schools Gifted and Talented Admissions

HCPSS’ Gifted & Talent program evaluates giftedness on the basis of a multitude of factors that draws on both talent development and academic coursework. To identify and nurture giftedness in students, HCPSS’ G/T program assesses the interaction of three basic clusters of human traits:

  1. Above average ability
  2. High levels of task commitment
  3. High levels of creativity 


Giftedness is also assessed on the basis of academic coursework, defining advanced-level learners as those “having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment.”

Howard County Public Schools: Elementary School Gifted & Talented Admissions

In every Howard County Public School elementary school, G/T Resource Teachers provide differentiated curriculum and accelerated learning opportunities in both Language Arts and Mathematics.

Admission into the G/T Mathematics Program is based on multiple criteria and performance measures, including the results of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) test, administered to students in Grade 3.

Schoolwide offerings also include a breadth of enrichment opportunities such as Primary Talent Development, whereby all Howard County Public School students in Kindergarten and 1st grades take part in eight lessons over the course of the year taught by G/T resource teachers for the development of analytical and creative thinking faculties and strategies.

Other schoolwide enrichment initiatives include G/T Instructional Seminars, which draw on students’ unique areas of interests to provide enrichment opportunities tailored to them. G/T Resource Teachers provide advanced instruction in various areas of study such as written, oral, visual communication skills, critical and creative thinking, research, technology skills in the visual and performing arts. Students pursue in-depth study and build creative products in their areas of interest, ultimately showcasing the learnings and products they cultivated during the seminar to the community. 

Meanwhile, Gifted & Talented Research Investigations are designed for students interested in a specific field and willing to pursue their interest at an advanced-level over the course of the year. Individual students, or small groups of students, study real world problems to generate novel solutions with instruction and mentorship provided by G/T Resource Teachers. 

Howard County Public Schools: Middle School Admissions

All Howard County public middle schools offer G/T classes in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Howard County Public School G/T Resource Teachers collaborate with G/T Content Area Teachers in an interdisciplinary planning team to implement a differentiated curriculum for advanced learners. G/T programs also include research classes and curriculum extensions to provide students with additional enrichment and opportunities for the development of critical thinking, questioning and research skills. These offerings vary by school, and include Writers Guild, History Day, and Shakespeare Troupe.

Acceptance into G/T content area classes is based on multiple criteria, including the testing of all students in Grade 5 using the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). CogAT eligibility ranges are as follows:

Gifted & Talented Math:

92-99 percentile Quantitative-Nonverbal Composite Score

Gifted & Talented English:

90-99 percentile Verbal score

Gifted & Talented Social Studies:

90-99 percentile Verbal-Nonverbal Composite Score

Gifted & Talented Science

91-99 percentile Quantitative-Nonverbal Composite score

In addition to eligibility determined by their CogAT scores, students may also be recommended to Howard County Public School Gifted & Talented content classes by their school’s Gifted & Talented placement committee, which evaluates multiple data points related to a student’s performance. These include student work samples, report card grades, curriculum extension unit participation, and additional assessment scores.

Families may appeal rejection from the program on the basis of testing by requesting a placement review, which includes criteria such as standardized tests, work samples and classroom observation. Furthermore, families may complete the Course Placement Review Form if they disagree with the Gifted & Talented Placement Committee’s recommendation, which would enroll the student in the requested class.

Howard County Public Schools: High School Gifted & Talented

Every Howard County public high school offers both Gifted & Talented and AP courses in English, science, mathematics, social studies, computer science, world language, art and research. Students may enroll in G/T and AP courses based on course prerequisites. A detailed description of specific G/T and AP courses can be accessed in the High School Program of Studies. 

Students in the Howard County Public School System G/T program may also participate in G/T Independent Research and Intern/Mentor Programs. Students design their own original research studies or creative productions in a self-selected area of interest. Their efforts focus on contributing new knowledge to their selected field, and G/T Resource Teachers facilitate classroom and internship experiences.

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