Identifying and Serving Students Who are Gifted: 2021-2022 School Year

This webpage is designed to support districts as they identify and serve students who are gifted during the 2021-2022 school year. It addresses specific requirements of Ohio Revised Code 3324 and Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-15, the Operating Standards for Identifying and Serving Students Who are Gifted, as well as guidance specific to some frequently asked questions.

Identifying Students Who are Gifted

Districts identify students through whole grade screenings and individual referral opportunities using approved assessments. This section provides guidance for districts on the screening and identification of students who are gifted.

Administration of Test Levels

Districts should always administer the proper test level based on a student’s grade or age, as determined by the technical manual for that test. If districts have questions about the technical manual requirements, they should contact the publisher and ask to speak with someone who has expertise in the technical aspects of the test.

Testing Considerations  

Districts should always administer tests consistent with the specifications in the publisher’s technical manual. Scores can only be used for gifted identification if they are valid per the publisher’s technical manual.

Visual or Performing Arts Ability Identification Using Online Platforms

If students have reliable internet access and the proper equipment, districts may consider using online platforms to identify students in the area of visual or performing arts. For example, students may submit examples of work using digital portfolios or through live or recorded performances using digital or online tools. When a district uses online platforms, the quality of images or video should not factor in the evaluation, unless the district is evaluating the student for digital arts or photography.

Advice Regarding Flexibility

The intention of state law is to be diligent about identifying giftedness in any child. As schools and districts contemplate their approach to gifted screening and assessment, they should keep the intent of this law in mind. While state laws and regulations are designed to protect students from under-identification of gifted ability, reasonable flexibility can be exercised. The following considerations may assist districts in meeting program requirements while maximizing instructional time.

  • Time and place: For individual referrals, districts complete initial referrals and referrals of transfer students within 90 days of the date the referral is received. Districts have flexibility in extending whole-grade screenings for the school year over extended periods of time if completed by the end of the school year. For example, districts do not have to administer all required assessments in the same month or time of year (for example, fall). Districts can space out these assessments over several months during the school year. Similarly, assessments may allow districts to administer particular batteries or subtests over a period of time. Districts will want to refer to assessment technical manuals to ensure proper timing for administration.

    Districts also have flexibility in how the whole-grade screenings are administered within a grade band. For example, districts could opt to screen one grade level for specific academic ability and another grade level within the same grade band for a different area, such as superior cognitive ability. If districts choose this option, they will still need to ensure all students are screened in the four required areas at least once in each grade band.

  • Administration of assessments: Districts have flexibility in how gifted assessments may be administered if the evaluator meets the state and publisher's testing requirements (districts will want to refer to the publisher's technical and administration manual). To maximize instructional time, districts may consider utilizing staff members qualified to administer assessments other than general education classroom teachers. This might include gifted education personnel or other staff qualified per the assessment’s technical manual.
  • Strategic selection of approved assessments: Districts should strategically review the types of approved assessments utilized that can be applied to multiple identification areas or other requirements, such as the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. This review may assist the district in maximizing instructional time. For example, some achievement tests also are approved for the identification of superior cognitive ability thus meeting three of the four required identification areas for whole grade screening. Under this scenario, districts can use teacher-completed checklists of creative behaviors to screen all students for creative thinking. These assessments do not require students to sit for a test. The district would then need to administer cognitive assessments only for students meeting qualifying thresholds on these checklists. To learn more about strategic selection of approved assessments, districts can review the guidance document, Implementing Whole-Grade Screenings.
  • Strategic use of evidence to support referrals: Districts can use evidence such as prior-year assessments, current-year demonstrations of knowledge of learning, or teacher professional judgment based on demonstrations of learning when referring students for gifted testing. Districts also can use assessments approved for pre-screening to make gifted referrals. Schools and districts should be particularly attentive to the potential for giftedness in children who are members of population groups traditionally underrepresented in gifted education, such as minority students, English learners, those with disabilities or economically disadvantaged students.
  • Prioritize referrals: Districts may want to develop a system that prioritizes initial referrals and referrals of transfer students due to their legally prescribed timelines.


Written Education Plans

Districts develop Written Education Plans for students when they are identified to receive gifted education services. The Written Education Plan guides gifted education services by describing measurable academic goals and may include goals to support social and emotional needs. The following section provides guidance related to Written Education Plans.

Developing Written Education Plans

When districts determine gifted education services should be provided to identified students, they must develop Written Education Plans in collaboration with educators who hold licensure or endorsement in gifted education.

Educators develop Written Education Plans at the commencement of services; however, districts may find they need additional time for students to adjust to new educational settings and for educators to gather the information necessary to develop appropriate goals for the service. To the greatest extent possible, districts should have Written Education Plans in place at the commencement of services. Where districts need flexibility, the Department encourages districts to have Written Education Plans in place within a reasonable amount of time from the commencement of services.

Written Education Plan Goals for Supporting Social and Emotional Needs

Students who are gifted have diverse social and emotional needs that may need to be supported in order for these students to be successful. Districts may therefore add social and emotional goals and supports to a student’s Written Education Plan.

Parent Copy of a Written Education Plan

Districts must provide a copy of the Written Education Plan to parents. Some districts and educators do this during parent-teacher conferences. While formal meetings for Written Education Plans are not required, districts still may choose to meet with parents to further discuss the Written Education Plan or the student’s progress in services. Educators may hold these meetings in a virtual format, by telephone or in person.

Parent or Guardian Signature on a Written Education Plan

Districts must make a reasonable attempt to obtain a parent or guardian signature on a student’s Written Education Plan. Districts can document parent or guardian signatures in writing through standard mail or electronic means such as email attachment, scanned signature or a photograph of the signature. An email read receipt, however, does not constitute a signature on a Written Education Plan. In addition, a district cannot deny a student gifted services due to the lack of a signature on a Written Education Plan.

Reporting Progress Toward Goals 

In addition to describing the goals for gifted services, Written Education Plans also must include the timeline and methods for reporting student progress toward goals for the service. Due to local preferences, districts may consider alternative methods for reporting progress. For example, if a district typically sends home paper copies of quarterly progress reports, it could consider utilizing electronic forms of communication.


Gifted Education Services

Students who are gifted have diverse academic needs and require differentiated instruction that provides the appropriate level of academic challenge while allowing for the development of critical and creative thinking skills. When districts provide gifted education services, there will be noticeable differences in both curriculum and instructional materials compared to the general education curriculum. Such differences may include depth, breadth, complexity and pace, allowing students opportunities to access advanced content that is complex and challenging. This differentiated instruction should match students’ levels of readiness to allow for growth and align to goals on students’ Written Education Plans. The following section provides guidance for districts related to gifted education services.

General Guidance Related to Gifted Services

Districts need to ensure they appropriately implement the Operating Standards for Identifying and Serving Students Who are Gifted. With regard to gifted education services, this includes, but is not limited to, the development of Written Education Plans, parental notification (for example, no service letters, placement decisions and reporting progress) and ensuring designated providers of gifted services meet qualifications.

Providing Equitable Services

Districts should consider curriculum and instructional materials in the context of various forms of delivery such as remote learning or in person. Ohio law requires districts to provide identified students with an equal opportunity to receive any gifted service available in the district. Regarding the different educational options that many districts may provide to students, districts must provide access to any available services regardless of a student’s learning environment.

While districts have flexibility regarding the format with which they deliver gifted services across learning environments, districts must ensure services are of similar quality and align with the district’s gifted program, including the criteria for receiving services and service goals and expectations. 

It is important to note if districts do not provide students who qualify for gifted services at a particular grade level with access to gifted services, then districts cannot report services at that grade level to parents (Written Education Plans) or the Department via the Education Management Information System (EMIS).

Instructional Time

Districts must follow any instructional time requirements for particular gifted service settings. However, the methods for providing and documenting instructional time may differ in remote learning environments. Remote learning environments may include synchronous (in real time), asynchronous (not in real time) or a combination of the two as deemed appropriate for the grade level and individual needs of the student as defined in a Written Education Plan. In addition, some districts may utilize a hybrid education delivery model that combines face-to-face instruction with remote learning.

Regardless of the format used, the critical consideration regarding instructional time is how much time students spend engaged with the course materials and activities. Students must have direct access to the designated service provider who must monitor and interact with students in systematic ways, similar to a face-to-face course, by using the district’s remote learning platform or other methods established by the district. Districts may document instructional time in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, the use of teacher schedules, chat and communication tools, email or video conferencing.

Advanced Learning Opportunities

Whether districts educate students in remote learning environments or via face-to-face instruction, districts should consider advanced learning and other educational opportunities for identified students. Each Child, Our Future, Ohio’s strategic plan for education, aims to ensure every child is challenged, prepared and empowered to become a resilient, lifelong learner who fulfills his or her individual definition of success. This includes continuous access to advanced learning opportunities such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and College Credit Plus, as well as other educational opportunities such as internships, mentorships and early high school graduation.

Focusing on Potential when Determining Academic Placements

Some students may demonstrate potential for success in advanced learning placements but may have yet to achieve formal gifted identification. Therefore, districts may want to consider focusing on a student’s potential for advanced learning rather than identification status. While districts may not yet formally identify these students as gifted, and therefore cannot report gifted services to their parents or the Department, districts still may provide access to advanced learning opportunities to these students in gifted service settings. This will facilitate the equitable placement of students in formal gifted services once the district is able to complete the gifted identification process and also will help ensure students make adequate academic progress.

Professional Development for Designated Service Providers

Building teacher capacity through professional development in gifted education is necessary for teachers to meet the academic and social and emotional needs of identified students. By embedding gifted education in strategic planning, prioritizing adequate funds and resources, and providing designated service providers with professional development in gifted education, leaders sustain a commitment to instruction that is rigorous and challenging for all students.


Social and Emotional Needs of Students Who are Gifted

Students who are gifted require caring and supportive educators who are responsive to their academic and social and emotional needs so students can meet their full potential. Identified students not only need access to challenging and rigorous instruction, but also educators equipped to support their unique social and emotional needs. This includes supports for asynchronous development, underachievement, perfectionism and a heightened awareness of social issues. This section provides resources for districts related to supporting the social and emotional needs of students who are gifted.

Supporting the Whole Gifted Child

It is important to remember Ohio students, including students who are gifted, may require additional supports beyond those typically provided in classroom settings. These needs may include mental, behavioral, physical health, wellness, nutrition and safety needs. The Department offers many resources to help districts, families and community partners address the individual needs of each child.


Academic Acceleration for Advanced Learners

Academic acceleration is a research-based intervention that matches curriculum to a student’s readiness to learn and is appropriate for any student who demonstrates advanced knowledge of one or more content areas. While accelerated students do not require gifted identification, academic acceleration is often an appropriate curricular option for students identified as gifted.

General Guidance on Acceleration

Districts must implement acceleration policies, including early entrance to kindergarten or first grade, subject acceleration, whole grade acceleration and early graduation. Districts should use a variety of data to carefully consider students referred for acceleration to determine their readiness for accelerated placement. 

Early Entrance to Kindergarten

Ohio law requires public school districts to have policies for early entrance to kindergarten. School districts have the flexibility to determine their own processes and criteria for these evaluations when a child turns 5 years old after the district’s age eligibility date (either Aug. 1 or Sept. 30), but prior to Jan. 1. School districts are only required to use a state-approved process for early entrance when a child turns 5 years old Jan. 1 or later. 

Districts should use a variety of data aligned to state and local kindergarten expectations. This data should allow districts to carefully consider children referred for early entrance to kindergarten and include academic, social and developmental factors to determine a child’s readiness for accelerated placement. 

Acceleration Committee

Acceleration evaluation committees ultimately determine accelerated placements after careful consideration of a variety of data (for example, academic, social and developmental factors). Keep in mind, acceleration committees must include parents as members. Districts may hold acceleration committee meetings in virtual formats, by telephone or in person.

Written Acceleration Plan and Transition Period 

When acceleration committees determine a student needs acceleration, the district should carefully consider the supports provided to students during the transition period, including academic and social supports based on the needs of the student.


Reporting and Accountability

Districts should report cumulative gifted identification data and data for newly identified students and for screening, assessment and gifted services that take place during the school year. Districts can only report gifted services if they were provided consistent with the gifted operating standards, including any required professional development clock hours for teachers providing gifted services. Districts should use codes for gifted services that best represent the service provided to the student regardless of the learning environment.


For questions regarding gifted education, contact the Ohio Department of Education's Office for Exceptional Children at

Note: This webpage includes links to external resources. The list of links is not comprehensive, and the Ohio Department of Education does not endorse any products promoted at the external sites. The Ohio Department of Education is making the above external links available to support engaging students in learning.

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Last Modified: 11/15/2021 7:49:27 AM