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Issaquah School District Highly Capable Gifted Program

The Issaquah School District in King County, Washington provides a continuum of enrichment services to qualifying students in grades K-12, referred to as the “Highly Capable Program”. The program is different for each age group and for individualized needs. Enrichment programs include accelerated learning opportunities, pull-out and/or push-in model, AP, IB, College in High School, Running Start, as well as honors classes.

Further Information

The Highly Capable Program begins in Kindergarten with the Primary Enrichment Program, or PEP, which spans Kindergarten-2nd grade and provides services such as the pull-out or push-in model and/or differentiated instruction. Gifted students in grades 3-5 receive enrichment through the MERLIN program (Mind Education Right Left Brain Integration). MERLIN classes are self-contained programs for students in each school year. Students receive instruction at two elementary school sites–the Apollo Elementary and Endeavour Elementary, and are offered placement in either of the sites on the basis of current enrollment. Families may also elect for students to remain at local schools while receiving pull-out Highly Capable Services through the Special Approach to Education, or SAGE program.

The SAGE program provides enrichment to students in 3rd through 5th grades in either math and reading, with weekly instruction by SAGE teachers for curriculums of differentiated instruction in their areas of strength. 

Highly capable students in grade 6-12 are eligible for a variety of programs including Honors classes, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP), Running Start, College in the High School, and online courses. 

Qualifying for the Highly Capable Program

Students may be referred to the Highly Capable Program during two referral periods: the first, from September 1 through September 15–open to newly enrolled students in the district and those currently enrolled, with some restrictions. The New Student Referral Process begins after this period, and continues through the school year. It is open to new students who enroll in the district after the September window closes on the 15th. All students referred to the program will be screened and tested for eligibility. 

In order to qualify, students will be screened in kindergarten, and assessed again in the beginning of the 2nd grade. Usually, students must score in the top 2 percent to qualify for services within the Highly Capable Program. 

Testing for the Highly Capable Program

The testing process for the Primary Enrichment Program begins in the fall of kindergarten. Students first take the CogAT screener; those who qualify on the basis of their screener results will be invited to take two additional tests: the Iowa Achievement Test and CogAT cognitive abilities test.

Second grade students take three tests in order to qualify for the Highly Capable Program in grade 3-5, all of which are considered in determining placement for the following year: the Iowa Achievement test, CogAT cognitive abilities test, and Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT). The TTCT and CogAT tests are administered during a testing window from January to February, while the Iowa Achievement Test is given in March. 

Students scoring in the top two percent or above in all subject areas will qualify for MERLIN, while those scoring in the top two percent or above in either math or reading will be eligible for SAGE.

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