Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs from October 1, 2012 PAGE Meeting - Friday, October 19, 2012

Teacher Support and Evaluation

Question: How would you measure the success of a teacher who is teaching gifted kids?

Answer: The Bellevue School District and State of Washington set criteria and guidelines for teacher evaluation.

Question: How will you support current teachers and utilize current expert teachers in the program?

Answer: Gifted program teachers are being released for six four-hour meetings this year. In these half-day release sessions, teachers will be learning about effective instructional practices for gifted, be updated on current research, and review best educational practices for gifted learners. They will also have time to do curriculum coordination and planning in grade level teams.  Additionally, we have thoughtfully placed veteran and “new to Bellevue” staff at each site and in each grade level.

Sibling Placement

Question: How will you ensure that space is available for siblings to transfer into the same school as their gifted program siblings so families are no longer split between multiple schools?

Answer: There is no guarantee that siblings will be placed at schools due to space restraints at each location.


Question: Is the “budget” for gifted programs allocated in BSD proportionate to the number of students in the gifted program?

 Answer: The formula for allocating state money for gifted education is based on total gifted enrollment. 

Testing and Program Qualification

Question: If the new testing criteria are applied to all grades next year, it’s very likely that two schools (CC & SP) are not going to be big enough.  What’s the plan?

Answer: The criteria are currently under evaluation; however, according to our projections at this time, it is unlikely a third site will be needed.

Question: Elementary and middle school.  How do you foresee grades 4+ GESP, GMSP evolving after this year to accommodate changes in testing that has already been applied to grades 2 & 3? 

Answer: As we move through this process we are in a constant state of evaluation.  Based on our evaluations, the GESP domain specific model will roll up through 5th grade.  The middle school program is currently under research and no programming decisions have been made at this time.  There is no plan to change the testing; the assessments we use (CogAT 7 and Iowa Assessments) are the most frequently employed for identification of students requiring gifted services.  

Question: Testing process was very uneven this past year for the current 3rd grade.  Some were tested in 2 weekend days.  How can the testing process be standardized?

Answer: We are currently working on standardizing the testing process across the district and plan to test all students during three different Saturdays in January and February 2013.

Question: If the new testing criteria apply to the grades 2-8, how are the students distributed? And how many sites will have gifted programs?

Answer: Student distribution for the gifted programs is done by residential home school location. Students residing north of NE 8th Street attend Cherry Crest; students residing south of NE 8th Street attend Spiritridge.  The current draft plan is to apply the new selection criteria through 6th grade. The old criteria will continue to be applied to grades 7-10. The GESP will continue to be housed at Spiritridge and Cherry Crest. The GMSP (Gifted Middle School Program) 6th grade program locations haven’t yet been determined. Prism 7th and 8th grade will continue to be located at Odle Middle School, operating under the same program model.

Question: Our neighboring school districts test all the 1st graders for the gifted program. Is Bellevue School District thinking the same way?

Answer: We have no plans to blanket test a grade level at this time.

Question: This year’s gifted program entrance criteria changed.  How was the decision made?

Answer: We are still identifying students in the 98th percentile and above; that has not changed.  The decision to modify the identification and selection process came out of the recommendations from the Program Review conducted by Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska in the spring of 2011. The GAC Identification Sub-committee researched identification processes and recommended the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix because it was research-based and because it called for the same assessments we were already employing. 

Question: If my child is part of the Enrichment Program and I want to take part in the GMST or GESP program next year do I have to take the gifted test?

Answer: Yes; students must test for the GESP or GMSP program because the criteria indicating a need for gifted services are not the same as that used for entrance into the Enrichment Program and the indicators of need for gifted services require additional information not collected for the Enrichment Program entrance criteria.

Question: If my child is currently in the GESP program, do I have to have them retested?

Answer: No; once a child qualifies for the program no retesting is necessary.

Gifted Program Quality

Question: With all this program expansion, how will you maintain program quality?

Answer: Program quality will be continually re-evaluated as all district programs are evaluated, through surveys, student achievement data, etc. Modifications, refinements, and improvements will be made as needed.

General Education Differentiation

Question: Given the high achievement of many graduating students in the Bellevue School District what are the plans for differentiated instruction for high performing students in general education programs?

Answer: Differentiated instruction for all learners has been a primary focus of the Bellevue School District for the past three years. Gifted program and general education teachers are receiving staff development focusing on instructional strategies for classroom differentiation.

Bussing and transportation

Question: Is the Bellevue School District administration aware of what appears to be a lengthy bus ride for some students?

Answer: Transportation is always a concern when serving program students at specified locations. With the addition of a second site, some students’ bus rides were shortened considerably. Unfortunately, there will always be other students that must endure a long commute. 

Program Curriculum

Question: Is the GESP curriculum common to both school locations and grade levels within those locations?

Answer: The curriculum being taught at Cherry Crest and Spiritridge are the same. All curriculum is one grade advanced, remaining common to that of the rest of the Bellevue School District, except for the 4th and 5th grade social studies. Also, the Language Arts curriculum for GESP/Prism is a trifecta of three resources specially designed and written for gifted learners. 

Question: What’s your vision to preserve the prestigious status of gifted program in the Bellevue School District?

Answer: The Bellevue School District is very proud to be recognized for the level of expectations held for all students.  Our gifted program has received recognition for the preparedness of our graduates as they enter some of the top universities in the nation.  For that reason, we see no reason to alter the level of expectations that have been a part of the BSD gifted programs.

Question: Can we view specific curriculum (e.g., math) for different grade levels for the GESP program?

Answer: The GESP uses the district adopted curriculum in math, science, and social studies, typically one year advanced (exception being 4th and 5th grade social studies where topic is determined by the state); the Language Arts materials were written and designed for gifted learners. Copies of the Language Arts teacher manuals and student materials are available at the central office for viewing.

Social and Emotional Education

Question: What plans do you have for “emotional intelligence” and “teamwork” for gifted classes?

Answer: Education of the gifted includes their social/emotional needs.  Teachers have a myriad of strategies they use to develop teamwork and social and emotional intelligence. Additionally, all students receive lessons from the required “Second Step” curriculum.

Question: Our child is having a hard time transitioning socially. What support is in place for student school transitions?

Answer: School counselors at each site are available to support students with new school transitions. Additionally, it is always recommended to share your concerns with your child’s teacher who can provide him/her with support in the classroom.

Class Size

Question: What is your plan to manage growing classroom sizes?

Answer: While enrollment fluctuates from year to year, the calculation used for class size remains the same as that for the general education population.

Class Placement  (Verbal Score Placement)

Question: I heard that the current gifted classes were divided based on a student’s verbal score. How will students be placed in classrooms in years to come?

Answer: Students will remain in their Verbal domain groupings for the next school year. Students are intentionally placed into homeroom classrooms every year, just as in the general education population.  We do not currently have plans to re-test the students each year; however, all practices are constantly in a state of evaluation for effectiveness, including the placement of students.

Gifted Middle School Program

There were several gifted middle school programs questions posed at the October 1st PAGE meeting.  All organizational decisions, such as location(s) and one vs. two sites, will reside in the hands of central office administration. Bellevue School District’s administrative team will finalize all organizational decisions.

Other considerations will need to be made for the GMSP implementation. These considerations will be researched by the newly formed Gifted Middle School Program Steering Committee. The role of the steering committee will be to make recommendations to the Bellevue School District central administration regarding programming decisions, curriculum, professional development, and collaboration for the teachers, after considering feedback, input, and suggestions from the Gifted Advisory Committee. Central Office administration will make the final decisions regarding these recommendations.


Question: Is there a plan to roll the current 4th and 5th grade Enrichment students into a program that will address their needs in middle school?

Answer: Students entering middle school are encouraged to participate in the January testing for placement in the GMSP program.  Determination for need of gifted services in 6th grade students will be made the same as 2nd through 5th grade students.  Seventh and 8th grade students will be assessed under the criteria historically used for Prism placement.

Question: What is the plan to accommodate the Enrichment children not accepted into GESP?

Answer: Differentiated instruction for all students has been a primary focus of the Bellevue School District for the past three years. General education teachers continue to receive staff development focusing on instructional strategies for classroom differentiation. 

Question: If my child is part of the Enrichment Program and my child wants to take part in the GMST or GESP program next year does [he/she] have to take the gifted test?

Answer: Yes; students must test for the GESP or GMSP program because the criteria indicating a need for gifted services are not the same as that used for entrance into the Enrichment Program and the indicators of need for gifted services require additional information not collected for the Enrichment Program entrance criteria.


FAQs Regarding Transition of Program Services

All questions and comments regarding programming -- the actual way in which gifted students will be served -- are being provided to the GAC Programming Subcommittee for review as part of the committee's discussion process.

Q: What decisions have been made? By whom?

The following decisions have been made by the Bellevue School District Administrative Cabinet:

  • Beginning 2012-13, AEP will be discontinued.
  • Based on the recommendation by the Gifted Advisory Committee (GAC), Lohman-Renzulli Matrix will be used in evaluating 1st and 2nd graders to recieve gifted services in the 2012-13 school years as 2nd and 3rd graders.
  • Elementary gifted services will be offered at Spiritridge and Cherry Crest. Transportation will be provided to students coming from schools in the designated service area to either Spiritridge or Cherry Crest. (see map)
  • For 2nd and 3rd graders in the 2012-13 school year,  the Cabinet elected to implement the programming option recommended by the Gifted Advisory Committee:

    • The CogAT Verbal domain, as our best indicator of reading and comprehension potential, will be used to assign students to homerooms for literacy, social studies and science at each school, since success in these subjects is most closely correlated with verbal ability. 

    • Students scoring the highest on the CogAT Verbal tests will be grouped in one homeroom to ensure these students are taught at the depth and pace, in the manner suited to their intellectual gifts, and with peers who are equally capable of learning at comparable levels.

    • For math, students will leave their homeroom as needed and walk to the class most suited to their quantitative abilities.

Q: Did the GAC confer with the current gifted staff when making these recommendations?

Teachers representing the elementary, middle school, and high school gifted programs are active members of the GAC. These teachers interact with the other teachers at the schools they represent and bring their views into the GAC meetings. They participated in the subcommittee that recommended the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix for identification and are active on the programming committee which will be recommending how our gifted population is served. It is not possible for every teacher, every parent and every administrator to serve on this committee, so we depend on the representative members of the committee to bring others’ opinions into the discussions.  Additionally, anyone is welcome to submit suggestions or opinions via the Contact link on the GAC Website.

Q: How are 1st and 2nd graders identified for gifted services next year?

Click here for an explanation of the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix. Its will walk you step-by-step through the score evaluation. Click here for a one page explanation.

Q: What gifted services will be provided for GESP qualifying students that are opting to remain in their home school?

Students choosing to remain in their home school will receive general education services that are differentiated to meet each student’s needs.   The curriculum department will be to purchasing the Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program materials for 2nd -5th grades, as well as other extension materials, for general education teachers to use in extending curriculum for higher achieving students. 

Q: My child attends [a school other than our neighborhood school] as an Open Enrollee or Transfer-for Cause. If my child accepts placement in the GESP Program at Cherry Crest or Spiritridge, can s/he return to his/her open enrolled or transfer-for-cause school mid-year, or the following school year?

The child may re-enroll in the school s/he came from as an Open Enrollee or Transfer-for-Cause ONLY if there is space available.

o   Transfer-for-Cause may be granted mid-school year;

o   Open Enrollment application period occurs once a year and is open for one month, in January, prior to the requested school year;

Additionally, note that the Bellevue School District will not provide transportation if the child is granted Open Enrollee or Transfer-for Cause.


Q: Can you explain the change in identification procedures and which grades are affected?

We are now using the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix to identify students for gifted services as opposed to strict cut-off scores.  An explanation of the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix for identifying children in need of gifted services, which the Bellevue School District Gifted Programs has adopted, is on the GAC Website. A student need only qualify in one domain – reading or math – to receive gifted services. 

Implementation of this new process begins with 1st and 2nd graders for gifted services in 2nd and 3rd grades next year.  All other students will be evaluated using the current criteria

Identification for gifted services is based on student aptitude using the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and achievement using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). The Lohman-Renzulli Matrix will help us locate students with academic strength in one or both domains, reading or math.

Q: Why can’t the AEP and Enrichment students use their past test scores?

Because the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix requires additional information from what has historically been collected, students previously served by AEP-L and Enrichment will need to take the full battery of tests.  We looked at only collecting the additional information, however, that would result in combining information from two different test levels (last year’s grade level and this year’s grade level) which would render the outcomes invalid.  While we could require the current Prism students to test and qualify based on the Matrix, it wouldn’t be necessary since the criteria with which they originally qualified when put into the Matrix, will qualify them for services now as well. We anticipate that this new process will envelop many of the students currently served by AEP-L and Enrichment.

Q: Why did the 1st and 2nd grade students have to test twice?

Because the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix requires additional information from what has historically been collected, 1st and 2nd grade students who had previously tested in January were called in to take the additional subtests – Vocabulary, Math Concepts and Estimation, Math Problem Solving and Data Interpretation, and Math Computation.

Q: Does the new procedure apply to students testing in June?All 1st and 2nd grade students will be evaluated for gifted services using the Lohman-Renzulli Matrix.  For the school year 2012-13, all students 3rd through 8th grade will be evaluated for gifted services using the current method.

Q: We missed the first testing session. Now that the program is moving I want to know if we can have our child tested this June?

If your 1st or 2nd grade student did not participate in the January testing, but you would now like to have him/her evaluated for gifted services, you may sign him/her up for testing for June 2 on June 2 by sending an email to and having your child put on the list. 

If you moved into the Bellevue School District after November, and your child did not participate in the January testing, but you would now like to have him/her evaluated for gifted services, you may sign him/her up for testing for June 2 testing on June 2 by sending an email to and having your child put on the list. 

If your child is in 2nd grade receiving AEP-L services, and was not tested for any reason, you may sign them up for the June 2 test as well.

Q: Is the CogAT really a good measure of intelligence? 

The CogAT is not an intelligence test in the same way as the Weschler or the Stanford-Binet. The CogAT measures cognitive ability, or reasoning skills. It's not like a spelling or a math test which requires study or preparation. It is designed to measure a student’s aptitude to reason in symbol systems – words and numbers. The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) are achievement tests that measure students’ skills in specific subject areas; we test in reading and math. Using both the CogAT and the ITBS gives us a more comprehensive picture of what educational services will best meet a student’s cognitive and academic needs.


Q: Why does BSD plan to split the Prism program?

The number of students currently being served at Spiritridge has increased over time until it exceeds the capacity of one location. A second location will be opened at Cherry Crest and students will be assigned to the school in their service area (see map). Students living within the service areas of Eastgate, Lake Hills, Newport Heights, Phantom Lake, Somerset, Spiritridge will be offered gifted services at Spiritridge; those living within the service areas of Ardmore, Bennett, Cherry Crest, Clyde Hill, Enatai, Hunts Point, Medina, Stevenson will be offered services at Cherry Crest.

Programming decisions have not been made at this time, but the intent is to provide equivalent programs at both sites.

Q: Why can’t they put all the kids together in one school?

It is cost-prohibitive to open a school for just gifted students even if we have an existing building available. Each building requires a full complement of staff (e.g., counseling, administrative, psychology, custodial) and additional operating costs. In addition, moving kids out of their neighborhood school to make room for a gifted program would significantly impact the neighborhood served by that school and create additional transportation costs. Bellevue does not currently have a building that it can dedicate long-term for this purpose.

Q: Why can’t there be enrichment programs at every school?

There are not enough qualifying students at every school to support a site-based Enrichment program. Aside from the opportunity to learn with “like-minded” peers, bringing these students together will create a “critical mass” and allow us to provide them with more comprehensive services and more efficient use of resources like materials, administrative and counseling staff trained to work with gifted students.

Q: What about the importance of neighborhood community?

Bellevue School District does understand and appreciate the importance of neighborhood and community to our families. Our experience shows that community grows around every special program we offer, particularly when the students and their families share common educational interests. For those who are strongly committed to staying within their neighborhood community, parents always have the right to decline services and keep their child(ren) at their home school.  If you feel that your child’s educational needs are being met at his/her neighborhood school, then there is little reason to relocate him/her for gifted services.  Extension materials are available to classroom teachers to accommodate their students’ needs.